Senses and Sensibilities
I’ve been noticing this for decades, but this particular rant all starts with a Proustian moment I had eating lunch the other day.
For some reason, nostalgia dictated a can of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup, which I doubt I’ve eaten once in the last 40 years. Their tomato soup, yes, and it still tastes as fine as it ever did. But the noodle soup, no. It was flat. The noodles were wrong. The chicken was wrong. The broth was wrong. I was deeply not happy.
I wish I had kept the memory intact and unsullied. But there it is: food manufacturers seem to feel the need to tinker with the foods they make. For economic reasons mostly, I'm sure, but perhaps for aesthetics as well. I just wish to hell they wouldn’t.
But it’s hardly limited to Campbell’s soup. It’s Hostess cupcakes, and Thomas’s English muffins (especially heinous what they’ve done to the flour), and a whole buncha stuff.
The new versions don’t taste BAD, for the most part. Just characterless and wrong. (Well, no, they DO taste bad…)
And then there’s the Lost Products beloved by so many: Oysterettes, Melody chocolate sugar-sprinkled cookies, flat shiny-crusted raisin bars whose name escapes me, chocolate-covered graham crackers, devil's-food cake cookies, all killed off in a monstrous and unpublicized cookie putsch some years back—thanks SO much, Nabisco, you grubby bastards.
From long, long ago: Bird’s-eye fish sticks, the best ever, lovely white fish and a wonderful dark-crumbed coating. Gone.
And Silvercup bread, the best mass-produced white bread that ever walked the earth—dark, dark crust, beautifully rough-textured crumb. I could eat a whole loaf just by itself. Dee-lish. And now the Silvercup bakery is a movie and TV studio. NOT FUNNY.
It’s not just taste, of course, but all the other senses too.
Take sound: All my beloved old LPs have been soullessly remastered onto CDs, and where was the great protesting outcry from my peers, I’d like to know, when they were all squashed on top and bottom-heavied up?
On the disimproved “Gimme Shelter” you can barely hear Mick Jagger’s and Merry Clayton’s glorious singing, because the rhythm section roars so loud and thunders in the index. Nice to hear Keith’s guitar so up front, maybe, but not the drums and overriding bass, and certainly NOT at the expense of the vocals.
And I won’t even get INTO what’s been done to Doors songs.
Not only the Stones and the Doors; it’s pandemic. When I look for CDs to pop onto my iTunes and hence to iPod, I have to search out unremastered originals taken from vinyl.
Whoever murderously and sinfully remasters classic albums (sometimes it’s the original producers/band/engineers, and they should be shot for it) has obviously incurred major hearing loss in the service of rock and roll. If they can no longer hear the treble, that’s one thing, and very sad for them, I'm sure. But why should we suffer for their past amped-up auditory damage? They do a humongous disservice to those of us who still have quality ears left.
Smell? Ivory Liquid. It used to be pure, the same smell as the bar soap (only soap to touch my skin my whole life). But they couldn’t leave it alone, could they: they messed with the scent and now it reeks like a five-dollar Holland Tunnel hooker.
Sight and touch? Sure, plenty of examples, but I lose heart. I think I’ll go eat a baked potato, still blessedly the same, and listen to an unremastered cassette. Or, oooh, ORIGINAL VINYL. Yes! I still have giant wood-cased Altecs, and a TURNTABLE, and an amp and pre-amp. Luddite? Not so much as you'd think to hear me go on. I don’t live in the past---I just like to eat and listen there.
And a moment of silent reflection for the dead of Pearl Harbor, 65 years ago today...