Crank's Corner: Commentary by Linda Marcas
Out With the New, In With the Old
By the time this column hits print, everyone will agree that we are really in the new millennium.
After all the Y2K buzz last year at this time, the year 2000 came in with more of a whimper than the bang
the doomsayers predicted. That was fine with me; the entire extent of my disaster preparations took the
form of me putting a flashlight in my purse. The sky did not fall, and that flashlight has come in handy
when I've had to dig for my keys. This year, while the rest of you are busily making New Year's
(are any of them the same resolutions you made last year?) I'd rather take a look at some old things that
have come back into view.
Readers of a certain age might remember those little plastic shower caps for bowls that our
grandmothers used, and re-used, and re-re-used, to cover leftovers and bowls of strawberries that
otherwise stink up the refrigerator, back in the days before plastic wrap. During thirty years of ever
better, stronger, clingier and more smell-proof plastic wraps, these little bowl caps became almost
impossible to find. If I was lucky, I'd spot some in an ecology-conscious or old-timey-store catalog and
send away for them (at great cost, by the way) because I've never really become quite adept at using
wrap. Then I'd use them over and over, washing and drying them carefully, until the elastic gave up the
ghost and I had to pitch them out. Now, at last, the plastic wrap companies have come out with their
versions of these handy covers, advertising them with catchy "Snap! You've got it covered!" slogans. An
old idea, but now it's new again, and it's about time.
When the great gourmet coffee craze got up to a full boil a few years ago, the coffee gurus dictated
strict rules for brewing the perfect cup. French infusion push-pots, water just under boiling, gold filters,
proper grinds, never reheat or even keep the coffee warm for any length of time, because that would ruin
flavor. Never, ever, ever use a percolator, because percolators "cook" the coffee, releasing bitter oils.
Grind the beans fresh for each pot, and store the beans in an airtight container. Accept nothing but a
pristine, freshly brewed cup of java, lest you be considered an ignorant, low-browed savage, so uncool,
tell the difference between a low-fat latte and a double cappuccino.
Coffee snobbery dripped down through the culture; eventually even gas stations and carryouts
offered a "gourmet flavor of the day" to customers desperate for a caffeine fix. Want to serve
your guests, but don't want to spend $200 on the necessary machine? Use an instant mix; if you make
gurggling noises in the kitchen while preparing it, your guests will never know the difference! (Speaking of
old being new, that commercial reminded me of the one where they fooled the restaurant patrons with
coffee made from instant crystals.) Eventually, though, we got tired of playing with our coffee instead of
just drinking it. After years of near-invisibility, electric percolators that brew coffee and then keep it warm
are back as the latest, hottest thing in catalogs and on store shelves, priced high enough to satisfy anyone's
gourmet pretensions. Luckily for me, I've never given up using the electric percolator my mom bought
during the Seventies; suddenly I'm stylish, and I didn't have to change a thing! But I did go out and buy a
nearly identical pot (the design hadn't changed in thirty years) for my husband's decaf.
Various television shows have re-popularized colorful flannel pajamas for adults; the new ones are
probably just as warm and comfortable as the kind we grew up with, but, with their designer labels, they
much more expensive. If you don't mind a mix-and-match approach, though, you can find the older kind
quite cheaply in thrift stores. And, speaking of flannel, what about flannel sheets? They aren't just for
grandma's house anymore, in tiresome pastels and single and double sizes. A couple Christmases ago,
mother-in-law had everyone choose their presents from the L.L. Bean catalog, and hubby and I chose a
of dark green flannel sheets. We keep it cool in here during the winter, and flannel sheets are a gooooood
thing. A while ago, I got so lucky as to find a set of flannel sheets at a thrift store. I think someone had
gotten rid of them because they had "pilled" a bit; otherwise, they seemed barely used. A few swipes
pumice stone made short work of the pills, and now I have more flannel sheets.
Still in the bedding department, sort of, recently I was wandering around in a fabric-and-crafts
store when I spotted what looked like sections of old chenille bedspreads, cut up and packaged to use
crafts. Upon closer inspection, however, I realised that this was new chenille, manufactured expressly for
craft projects. I was really rather relieved, because I'd hate to have people chopping up the vintage
for this purpose unless they were ones that had worn out in the center while the edges were still good.
Looking further, I saw bolts of new chenille fabric as well, probably for sewing retro-styled chenille
bathrobes and to go with the bolts of fun-print flannel for making designer-look-alike jammies.
The old-is-new trend is quite pervasive, if you look for examples. I saw a record player in a
catalog the other day, one that can actually play LP albums. Of course, it also has CD, cassette tape, and
AM/FM radio fixtures. Vinyl LPs have never totally disappeared; audiophiles can buy new turntables that
cost $10,000, no kidding! Most folks won't go that far to play their old LPs, but I predict that we'll be
seeing more inexpensive record players before long. If you have one that still works, good for you.
Celebrate the new year with old things that have come back into fashion: cover the leftovers, perk a pot
coffee, put on flannel pajamas and snuggle down into flannel sheets, play a record if you can. Turn off the
DVD and read a book, because, this year, it's out with the new and in with the old.
love letters or hate mail? email@example.com