Monday, December 31, 2007

Nothing Exceeds Like Excess

Let me be blunt: Christmas in America is an orgy of consumption within a society that takes convenience through consumption to new levels. There is nothing that you cannot buy here and no shortage of options and prices. A few general examples: bread in a can - yes you can buy canned dough - simply cut it into the required shapes and voila "bread rolls!" An old favourite of mine: stuffing that never sees the inside of a bird - just pour into an oven tray and there it is - "likestuffing". And there is even a discernible impulse towards convenience organic foods as health concerns and a rising desire for "fresh" drives people away from traditional convenience foods with their almost supernatural shelf life (everything lasts longer in the US: large megastores with long supply chains demand longer lasting foods to survive transport and shelf life).

When it comes to Christmas itself - the level of expenditure is unimaginable to this innocent Kiwi. Some of the toy rooms I have seen here are frankly unbelievable - what do you give the kid who (already) has everything? To be fair there is also a spirit of generosity in operation that should not itself be underestimated. But there was a stark contrast for me with some of the values we are trying to develop as a family. Not meaning to be precious, just taken with the contrast. So anyway some Christmas presents that have amused me:

1. Transformers Snow Globe - you know the ones you shake up and the snow drifts to the "ground" except this time its a transformer staring back at you rather than a cheerful snowman or idyllic alpine scene... (part of a "Transformers Christmas" for the recipient that included Transformers Risk, Chess, Wallet, T Shirt and much more I'm sure)

2. Paris Hilton fragrance - "nothing says tramp quite like Paris Hilton fragrance..." (not intended by the giver...)

3. Pepsi Lip Balm - for "more happy" lips!

4. SpongeBob Boxer Shorts - with an amusing slogan advocating removal within a sexual context (my mother-in-law picked these out for me which makes them even more disturbing)

There are some interesting foods on offer as well - pumpkin pie will be well known (and is a favourite) - but other main meal options like vanilla pudding with fruit in it, green bean casserole and corn casserole were just a little strange. On the other hand baked sweet potatoes were totally scrumptious along with the most amazing Mexican dip you'll ever taste - layered avocado, refried beens, tomatoes, cheese - delicious! We had beef and ham (not the stereotypical turkey) - the beef was particularly nice with gravy and mashed potatoes...
Last night we went out for ice cream in Jackson, a town where Kristen lived for 10 years (8-18 years) and the icecream had to be seen to be believed! The Parlour is a 50's style diner serving food and ice cream - the biggest dish boasted 21 scoops of icecream! You can check out the ice cream menu here.

It was cool to drive round town and have Kristen point out the places she had lived, worked and played. Biggest revelation: the worst thing Kristen ever did in Jackson was skip a Spanish class. But as she went to Taco Bell, it was at least justifiable as a cross cultural field trip!


BJ said...

I have been reminded that there are examples of excess in NZ in Christmas giving and that I shouldn't be so mean to Americans. I repent. Some of my best friends are Americans.

servant said...

Wouldn't it be a stretch to compare individual excess in NZ with cultural consumer saturation in America around Christmas?

There is a reason the Advent Conspiracy movement originated in the USA. To rebel, there has to be something to rebel against and generally it takes extremes to invoke such a response in people.

... and yes, some of my best friends are American as well... and the closest one would agree with me. :)

Rhett said...

But how are we to withstand the evil Consumerism and the devious Materialism (I love how they sound like X-Men baddies) in the face of an Optimus Prime snow globe!?

I know that I'd be hard pressed to...

I am weak!

Ken said...

hey brett,

have you ever had a Jones Soda while visiting the US?

they make an Egg Nog flavor... you should try it sometime!

BJ said...

Well I played Transformer Risk and that was pretty fun! If you need the snow globe you need it...

You know I have had one at Panera Bread - it wasn't egg nog and it wasn't actually that good!