Harry and David, Maple Syrup and Bratwurst
Today I received my annual listing from Harry and David of all the gifts and things that I usually order for the holidays. Each year, the company is diligent in sending me great pictures of assorted fruits, candies, nuts and all sorts of wonderful snacks. It doesn’t seem to me, though, that Harry and David is as popular as it once was.
For those of you who are too young to remember, H&D was a company that specialized in having assortments of fruits delivered to your home each month that you subscribed to their service. They were one of the first companies to offer such a program and my grandparents subscribed each year. My grandfather was something of an easy mark for these types of things and I used to await the surprise delivery each month. Sometimes we would get grapefruit, or apples and several times throughout the year, we would get pears. Each piece of fruit came wrapped in tissue paper and then they were packed, twelve to a box, and sent with great care to your home.
It was kind of neat, because it was like getting a present every month. I know that we only received fruit; my parents and grandparents didn’t think it would be good for us to get sweets and candy, so I never faced that temptation. However, I never cared too much for fresh pears, as I thought they were a little gritty – in fact, I still do. And apples weren’t my favorite either….
It was never a mystery very long about what was received. Mom would always come home with several pieces of the fruit of the month and it became such a tradition that I don’t ever remember NOT receiving fruit until we sold my grandparent’s home when I was eighteen. That was some streak – my whole life as a customer of Harry and David. Several years ago, Janet and I thought about starting up the service with us. We have been married thirty eight years and haven’t had a piece of fruit delivered from H&D the whole time we’ve been together. In some respects, I miss it. But Janet, as always, has a point. I’m not really a fruit kind of guy – except bing cherries, but that was another post!
As a child, there were other food items that we received by mail as well. The family favorite was Pure Vermont Maple Syrup. Sometime, early in his life, Grandpa got on some list and had six gallons of syrup sent to their home each year. We grew up loving it! It was thick and rich and the real stuff. It came in green gallon containers and there was something like a twenty year waiting list to increase your order. It was crazy, but boy, was that great syrup. Grandpa would use it with cured bacon, on oatmeal, and his favorite thing was to put it on vanilla ice cream. Now to some of you, that may sound crazy, but we couldn’t get enough of it.
Finally, best of all – Usinger’s bratwursts. Originally, you could have them delivered, but eventually we had to go out and get them at select meat markets. You had to buy them at special stores, and they were always kept behind the counter. To some people, they are an acquired taste because they have the thick casing. To this day, and most people in Indiana don’t know this, but you can still get Usinger’s brats, knockwurst or franks at our local O’Malia’s stores. But as I said, you have to ask – they don’t put them out for the general public. I always keep a stash of them in our freezer.
As I get older, I realize how many events in our lives are marked by the foods that we remember. In fact, Bob Evans Farm Sausage built their restaurants on this premise – so young kids would become lifelong consumers of Bob Evans products. Buying them out of the refrigerator case when they reached adult status – because they remembered eating in those bright red restaurants. There was only one flaw with the whole program. They never expected the dining establishments to make so much money; and eventually, if you haven’t noticed, the buildings were all torn down and rebuilt to handle the volume. They still attract huge numbers of people to this day. McDonald’s, Wendy’s and other fast food venues follow the same idea.
So in many respects, our memories are patterned around food. And we’re not the first culture to do this. All the way back to the beginning of history, the Jewish nation has used festivals to celebrate different events in their heritage. And for those of us who are Christian, the same thing occurs. Chances are, you eat the same things each year at Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or Easter or the 4th of July picnic. And these foods bring back memories. Believe it or not, the sense of smell is the the strongest sense and this is what draws us to our past.
So, in honor of the feasts and family celebrations of the people of God throughout the ages, tonight’s verse is from Hos. 9:5, “What will you do on the day of your appointed feasts, on the festival days of the LORD?”
My encouragement tonight is to remind you that God wants you to celebrate and to remember your history. Keep traditions alive and share your family heritage with your children. My prayer is that you will ask God to help you make this holiday season one to remember. We all need memories of celebrations to help build our identity. And in the midst of all the holiday cheer, remember that God should always be at the center of our thoughts.