Wednesday Walk: Destination 90s
Am I hungry for pizza or the memory of pizza? Plus good meat at your doorstep and how the cold weather is affecting my maple harvest
Welcome to Willoughby Hills!
As is typical every Wednesday, today I’m bring you a smattering of topics that I hope will make you a bit more curious about the world around you and give you something to think about later.
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Not So Sugar Snow
In last week’s Wednesday Walk, I wondered whether a recent snowfall might affect my DIY maple syrup activities. I quoted from Little House in the Big Woods, where Laura Ingalls Wilder described late winter snow as “sugar snow,” as it can slow the progress of spring and extend the maple sugaring season.
My optimism turned out to be poorly placed, as it we’ve now had a cold, snowy stretch of weather where the daytime temperatures have hovered around freezing. I’ve collected barely one gallon sap over the last seven days. When I check my taps, I discover icicles where sap should be.
As you may recall, it takes daytime temperatures above freezing and nighttime temperatures below freezing to pressurize the sap in the maple trees and allow it flow. I took a gamble starting my taps in early February when the weather was warm, but it seems to have paid off. Had I waited, I might have missed maple season entirely.
If it ever stops snowing, we may have another week or two of winter temperatures before it warms up and I might get some more sap to convert to syrup. If not, at least I was able to produce enough for 3 boils this year. Stay tuned to as this saga unfolds…
Nostalgia seems to be a theme I touch upon often in this newsletter. I like to consider my relationship to the past and how it informs my present.
I was feeling nostalgic recently when I learned that American Girl is releasing a new character in their line of “historic character” dolls.
People sometimes deride American Girl dolls for being too commercial. Endless accessories and matching outfits for doll and girl are definitely one aspect of the brand. But after reading several of the books with my daughter, I have been pleasantly surprised with how well these characters tell the story of our country in various eras, especially as it relates to the role of young girls in everyday life.
An article by Meilan Solly for Smithsonian Magazine looked at the enduring legacy of American Girl dolls last year and included this insight:
“Alexandra Piper, a program manager at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History adds, ‘People come into history with assumptions that it’s going to be boring, or it’s going to be dates, or the traditional history that they learned in school.’ By placing the focus on individuals, says Piper, American Girl made its characters relatable, opening an ‘entry point’ for children to immerse themselves in the nation’s history.”
Many of the “first wave” of historic American Girls tell the story of life in pivotal eras of our country, such as Felicity from 1774, Addy from 1864, or Samantha from 1904. Lately though, American Girl has started to focus on recent history, with dolls in the last few years like Melody from 1964, Julie from 1974, and Courtney from 1986.
Last week, American Girl announced that fraternal twins Isabel and Nicki Hoffman are the most recent historical characters being added to the roster, reliving that bygone era of… 1999?!
Even if it doesn’t feel like it, 1999 was nearly 25 years ago. When I was growing up in the 1990s, there was a huge wave of nostalgia for the 1970s, as evidenced by The Brady Bunch Movie, That 70’s Show, and new music from bands like Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, and the BeeGees. Similarly, children of the 1970s grew up with American Graffiti, Happy Days, and Grease.
My daughter is an ardent consumer of American Girl content and she’s taken an interest in 1990s culture lately, (we recently watched the 1998 version of The Parent Trap and she adored it) so perhaps this is a good fit for AG’s target market.
Besides, when looking at the accessories that are sold for the dolls, it’s easy to realize that 1999 was quite a while ago. The desk set, for example, includes a large computer with a CRT monitor, CD-ROM drive, and floppy disk drive. The desk also comes with a cordless phone.
But the doll accessory that seems to be getting a lot of buzz on social media at the moment is the recreation of a “Book It” personal pan pizza set from Pizza Hut, which sells for $32.
I’ve written about my nostalgia for old Pizza Huts. I used to love playing the arcade games in the Pizza Hut lobby when I would accompany my dad for a takeout order. I can recall many fun family meals or even friend’s birthday parties under that red roof. Pizza Hut is firmly planted somewhere in my brain as a core memory of childhood.
Because of all of this, you may assume that I’m ready to drop 3.2 Hamiltons to add this replica pizza to my collection of toys and knick knacks. But strangely, that was not the reaction I had to seeing this gift set.
There is something about that pizza that just felt too real. It was like watching a TV with motion smoothing turned on.
Just from a still photo of a plastic pizza, I could taste the gooey cheese. I remembered the feeling of the oil soaked crust. I suddenly recalled not feeling great after eating a personal pan pizza and in later years, feeling the acne wanting to pop out of my skin, just from taking a few bites, memories that were buried deep in my subconscious.
I haven’t eaten a Pizza Hut pizza in close to two decades at this point. Seeing a reproduction version reminded me why I stopped eating it once we had better choices in town, my taste buds matured, or some combination of both.
It turns out, the nostalgia that I’d held for the last 20+ years of eating at Pizza Hut wasn’t about the food at all. It’s probably more the memory of being a child and getting the treat of eating out. Or the joy of my dad passing me a quarter to try Pac-Man or Galaga or whatever it was for a few minutes.
Back in May, I wrote about how Pizza Hut has been attempting to recapture some of their golden age by renovating restaurants back to how they would have looked in the 1980s and calling them “Pizza Hut Classics.” At the time I wrote this:
“I’ve never eaten in a Pizza Hut Classic, but every photo I’ve seen or YouTube video I’ve watched about them rarely shows more than two or three tables full. Some of this may be a pandemic holdover, but I also wonder if tastes have shifted to the point that Pizza Hut Classics are great for social media clout posts but don’t offer quite the experience that they appear to.”
The more I think about it, the more true this seems.
Nostalgia isn’t about recreating old things in our current lives. After all, if something is still a part of our current life, it doesn’t need to be recreated, it just is. We’re nostalgic for the feeling we had at the time, not necessarily the actual details. Nostalgia is more like a watercolor painting than a photograph; the beauty is in how everything swirls together in our minds, not in what it actually is.
If you’re the opposite of me though and the current American Girl offering makes you hungry for a pizza, check outwho has a guide to all of the Pizza Hut Classic locations across the USA.
Finally today, I wanted to share some news about my local meat farm, Lilac Hedge Farm. The last time I mentioned them in this newsletter, they were reeling from a silo fire which threatened to take out much of their winter storage feed. They have thankfully been able to recover from that event and are even expanding their offerings.
Previously, Lilac Hedge Farm’s meats were only available at their farm, or at local farmers markets or home delivery within certain parts of Massachusetts.
But last week, Lilac Hedge announced on their Instagram that they are now shipping their meats via UPS Ground.
According to the farm, if you live in any of the areas in orange above, meaning as far west as Indiana and as far south as South Carolina, you can now order meat from Lilac Hedge and have it shipped to your door.
We’ve become big fans of this farm because the taste of the meat is so much better than anything we’ve ever had. This is at least in part due to their growing practices, which include pasture raising all of their animals and using rotational grazing techniques.
I recommend finding a local farm in your area that follows similar techniques, but if you live in the orange area and want to try Lilac Hedge, you can use this link to place an order and receive $10 off.
Thank you for reading! I always love hearing your thoughts, so please drop a line in the comments.
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Other Wednesday Walks
Freakazoid! Jeb! and Doris Kearns Goodwin
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Excited to see that farm offering their products by UPS! May be ordering from them soon.