Tuesday, February 04, 2014

The Dumbing Down of America

My college friend Rosemary, who will, I hope, appear again in my next post, lived for a while in Cincinnati in the 80's.  Amazing how sometimes a comment can stick with you for so long: she could not get over the way Americans made cakes—with a package and an egg, which she claimed was no easier than mixing up the five or so ingredients needed to make a cake from scratch. I just hated to tell her it was a lot easier for me, since I had not learned to make a cake at my mother's knee. I don't want to insult my mom, she did make cakes and a few months ago I had the biggest urge for a great big slice of Victoria sponge, but the 250g/9oz measurements that appeared on line were a little taxing for someone who has got used to measuring in cups. So Duncan Hines it was. And Duncan has not heard of Victoria sponge.

Lately I have noticed an annoying and growing trend on-line. When I look at some sites, they give a link to an article I am interested in reading. But when I click on the site, lo and behold there is that triangle which takes me to a video. I don't want to watch a video, I want to read an article. Apart from the unexpected noise that fills the house, the video contains sparse news and there is no background information or attempt to quote sources. Can't people read any more? No, I am not knocking America: the BBC news is one of the biggest culprits.

I am an avid reader of those sections of the newspaper which used to be called "The Woman's Section" and now tend to be called "Life." So it always astonishes me when I come across a previously completely unheard of person or trend. Often one which has slithered from "Life" to "Business." Such is Jenny Doan. I read about her in The Wall Street Journal. They gave the lucrative background to her YouTube tutorials in which she gives all kinds of short cuts to making quilts. Me being me, I went straight to them and yes, her short cuts are a dumbing down of of a wonderful artisinal skill, but boy are they useful. I am working my way through her videos—next I will start on the quilts.

Last Sunday was Super Bowl Sunday. The less said about the game the better, but earlier that week I asked the primo football fan in the house what he wanted for dinner Sunday night. "Tacos." I had most of the ingredients to hand, but I did need to pick up taco shells. I approached the shelves where taco shells are usually found, raised my hand to grab a couple of packets and what did I find? Taco dinner kits, and not only taco dinner kits, there were fajita kits and enchilada kits. What on earth would I have found in a taco dinner kit? Dehydrated onions and tomatoes and cheese and lettuce? I'll never know. I thought that was sinking as low as commerce could sink, but there was worse to come.

One of the quilt squares I found attractive was called the "snowball square." I had enjoyed Jenny's quick method of making one and joining it to other squares. Anxious to check out a few other quilt patterns using the snowball square, I googled "easy+snowball." Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present to you an easy snowball maker. Get your small children dressed up in coats and boots and scarves and mittens—and remind them to take this travesty outside with them, because after all, using their hands to make a snowball is way too onerous.

I'm not telling Rosemary about this one.

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