The price of meat

February 4, 2016   ·   0 Comments

“Sunny Days, sweeping’ the clouds away,
On my way to where the air is sweet,
Can you tell me how to get
to… Sesame Street!”
– “Sesame Street” themeJoe Rawson eta al. 1969

To more properly celebrate the rise, and rise, of the Trudeau “dynasty,” I took one of my children to a city grocery store last November in the (grim-feeling) aftermath of the most recent federal election.  We got to the meat aisle – I always hum the old Dominion Stores jingle, “It’s mainly because of the meat!” in this aisle, and sometimes an older butcher joins in with me – and I spied someone behind the counter who was not too busy.  Appearing about 60, he was asked, “Did you vote for Trudeau’s father?”  Wearily, he shook his head slowly in the negative, maintaining a professional silence; and I said, “Neither did I; I wasn’t old enough!”  This nasty “dynasty” is definitely neither my doing nor my fault.

“What would you like today?” he inquired politely.  I said, without hesitation:  “I want a pound of beef.  Did you hear that, a pound!”  Of course, the senior Trudeau, a Eutrophic and an affected member of the sore-loserish left-wing ‘intelligentsia’ if ever there was one – as Prime Minister had changed us from our tried-and-true, if oddly idiosyncratic, system of weights, measures, sizes, temperatures, distances, etc., in the 1970s.  I remember this transition happening, the changeover, when I was – I believe – in grade 10 science.  And the ripples of this roughly rammed-home transition were still being felt in the 1980s:  I well remember the sheer panic of first-year engineering students in my residence at Queen’s approaching their first Christmas examination in 1982 minus the Internet:  Of a Sunday before the exam, a heavyweight affair to be sure, and one of their first which all would have to sit and which most would fail, not a single one of them knew the metric measure for gasoline consumption in a car which, of course, is litres per 100 kilometres and which – still, in these eyes – is a silly, backwards, and clunkerish measure compared to the sweet ease and straightforward simplicity of miles per gallon.

Meanwhile the clerk at the meat counter – mannered, patient and old-school – was happy to wait while I fumed silently.  I was to brown some ground beef for the evening supper of tacos I believe:  That much cooking I could do.  He put the lean meat on the weigh scale and it came to slightly more than $8.00.  Not his fault, I thought, and smiled sardonically.  Surely I could blame Mr. “Sunny Days!” Trudeau for this … hmmm.

Driving home, I was pleased with my small expedition.  At Sobeys in Orangeville, which I have always enjoyed frequenting at either location, and not just because of the more than adequate free samples, I had been miffed to find only the metric measure for beef weight and pricing given, and had declined to buy my meat there, although it was slightly less expensive than this purchase in Toronto when converted, which – yes, having learned the times-tables and long division whilst in grade school – I can do quickly in my head.  My wife Sabina disdainfully calls this form of math a.k.a. the basics of arithmetics – which she can’t do as she experienced the first wave of “the new math” (i.e. accurate and correct answers don’t really matter) wave during the 1980s  – “monkey-tricks mathematics.”

I remember another time in Ontario when beef was similarly pricey, obviously relative to its times.  In the 1970s, when my parents in Toronto labouriously and expensively transitioned us all – me and my two sisters – from our public schools to our Anglican-affiliated, Anglican-flavoured, or Anglican-rooted private schools.  I remember the discussion around my younger sister’s, H.M.’s, “going” quite clearly:  She had had a male teacher in grade 5 who had not helped her to improve her reading and had done very little meaningful math with his class; he appeared to be just putting in time; and, my parents were promised seven-ways-to-Sunday that she’d have a different teacher than this 20-year man in grade 6.  They “yanked” H.M. the next September when the same do-little male teacher re-appeared as “her” teacher in front of a hastily assembled grade 5/6 “split”, which still had some novelty then.  To this day I have no idea how my parents  paid for all three of us on my father Terentius’s solitary Latin-teacher salary, even as we were sustained as students on significant bursaries:  he purchased all the semi-smart teaching-clothes he possessed at church rummage sales as a consequence.  What I remember very well from these times is one year not being able seemingly as a family to afford beef, and being ‘treated’ to an ever-varying stream of beef substitutes on Saturday nights.  Some weren’t bad at all, but one was terrible on my plate then, and it left me in a puddle of tears as I had to, sorrowfully, put my “burger” down on a wetted plate.  I believe it was ground alfalfa-sprouts, pre-drowned by my conscientious mother in ketchup, and left (very) slightly temptingly on a bun.  Really, it was inedible from the first bite. This alfalfa contrivance even I, a hungry growing-boy, could not force down.

Quite recently, in the city, I ran into an acquaintance from early 1980s – he had, as a child immigrant from Guyana, played cricket on one of the first youth teams I coached.  Al is now a co-owner of an elite team I coach each summer in the GTA and he drives a rather swank “Range Rover.”  His business is a specialty (halal) meat-processing operation that is doing quite nicely at today’s prices.  I queried him about the expensiveness of beef at present.  He replied,  “Oh, there was a shortage of cattle starting about two years ago and, you know, lots of demand!”  He smiled a contented Cheshire-cat smile at me.  I nudged him playfully, and said:  “Now you’ll have to get your wife at Land Rover too!”

By Rob Bredin

Readers Comments (0)

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.