Thursday, August 31, 2006


To quote a Staples manager I interviewed with recently, it's fair to say I have NOT begun - as he ludicrously claimed he and his family did - to "bleed Wal-Mart blue". Indeed, it has succeeded mainly in reawakening my latent distaste for the consumer society, and the focus of my disgust has plopped neatly on the shoulders of soup. Honestly, if you need a stark reminder of the gross excess of consumerism, then it is in the soup aisle (aisle 6) of Wal-Mart in Pekin, Il - as well as many other aisles in many other supermarkets in many other places in the world I'm sure. Seriously, and I'll put this simply, NOBODY NEEDS, HAS EVER NEEDED, OR WILL EVER NEED THAT MUCH SOUP. Even a man woken from a two-hundred-year cryogenic freeze would shake his head when faced with such a monstrous selection. As a quick example, within eight feet of shelf-space we stock the following of ONE BRAND ("Campbell's", and I hope they are ashamed) of ONE TYPE OF SOUP. Ready?

'Vegetable Soup'
'Old Fashioned Vegetable Soup'
'Vegetable Soup made with Beef Stock'
'Vegetable Beef Soup'
'Beef and Hearty Vegetable Soup'
'Chunky Vegetable Soup'
'Chunky Vegetable Beef Soup'
'Microwaveable Vegetable Soup Bowl'
'Low Sodium Vegetable Soup'
'98% Fat-Free Vegetable Soup'
'Healthy Request Vegetable Soup'
'Kids Vegetable Soup'
... and best of all ...
'Vegetarian Vegetable Soup'

- that's MORE vegetable than vegetable, folks. Made only with the most commited peas and carrots Campbell's could pick (at the peak of freshness.) That's not choice, that's just offensive! I am just waiting for someone to come in and complain because there's nothing chunky for her vegetarian kid. And at that I will explode in a melee of SMALL CHUNKS OF BIGGER FOODS, FLOUR, FLAVORINGS, AND WATER. BECAUSE THAT'S ALL SOUP IS. There is actually a soup called "Chunky Italian Style Wedding" - that's totally weird and stupid and nonsensical!!! There is "Cream of Mushroom Soup", and then there is "Creamy Mushroom Soup". The differences in soup are becoming semantic! That's just folly!! Clearly soup is out of control, and we are at the wheel. And before anyone says "But I like soup, though, Jim" - of course you do! There's nothing wrong with a bit of soup. But, as cute as people look while eating it, the whole idea of soup has surely boiled over dangerously. After all, water keeps us alive but floods kill. And on that point, I refer you to the words of the great T.S. Eliot:

"This is the way the world ends,
This is the way the world ends,
This is the way the world ends,
Not with a bang but in an enormous tidal wave of soup."

I can't help wondering if Wal-Mart are picking up my vibes - last Monday night they put me on the juice aisle. But look at all the juice!!! Who the hell needs forty-nine kinds of JUICE???!!!


Kathie & Joshua said...

rock on Jim. kill all the soup.

Jim and Amy Rennie said...

I don't know if I can kill all the soup, but I did kill a bit of soup tonight - I dropped a can of Progresso Rich and Hearty Minestrone while stacking. Just a clumsy accident, or all part of my plan? You decide, but if you had been able to look deep into my eyes at the time, you would know the truth. (Clue: it was a clumsy accident.)