Why I Write Romance Novels

I've wanted to be a novelist since the 3rd grade. Everyone has dream job, right? My fourth grader wants to design video games, my seventh grader wants to write comics. Novels were my thing.

So, after a twelve-year detour to Wall Street, I did. My first novel found an agent and sold to Penguin. That book was Julia's Child. It got great trade reviews and then died a fiery death at the bookstore.

"Weren't we in a Porsche in chapter four?"  "Shhh!"

"Weren't we in a Porsche in chapter four?"  "Shhh!"

Publishers Weekly had called the book "a witty, well-plotted fiction debut." And yet I was miserable, because I wanted a career, damn it. And my publisher didn't want to touch another book from me.

I decided that Julia's Child was too commercial--too easy to dismiss. So I went to work on a Big, Important Book. I spent three years on an historical novel with a groovy hook and daring writing. My agent loved it to death. She still does. And we got this close to selling it to a couple of really fancy imprints, like Algonquin. (I've been rejected by the best, baby!) But no sale. 

So now I was really depressed! I'd written a clever, important book my very picky agent loved. I knew it was solid. And nobody cared. One ugly day I got 8 rejections before noon.

Next I started noodling around with another entry for the women's fiction market. That book required a sex scene and I didn't know how to write one. So I downloaded a contemporary romance that had hit bestsellers lists. It was a snowy January day. I read it in a couple of hours.

That book was just shameless, and I don't mean the sex. It was just pure entertainment. Pure story. It wasn't clever. It wasn't trying to change anyone's life. It wasn't trying to outsmart the acquisitions team at Algonquin.

I thought: "I could do this." And a few weeks later I did. I wrote my first romance without telling a soul. It embarrassed me to write genre fiction. I thought I was meant to do something more with my expensive education.

But hell it was fun.

Still embarrassed, I submitted it to four publishers in the slush pile without my agent's help. (Authors, don't do this. My agent was nice about it but it was a stupid move.) Harlequin snapped it up and handed me a 3-book deal. They didn't care a fig that Julia's Child bombed. They didn't care because their readers don't care. Their readers are voracious, and only care about the story.

That book came out in 2014, and today I have a dozen published romances. I make an actual living now, because romance readers are ravenous. They read books the way some people eat Cheetos. It's the single largest segment of the book market.

So here I am with...Cheetos. But they're more fulfilling than I'd expected. I do have days when I think: "If I produced gourmet cuisine instead, then my work wouldn't be sort of a secret." 

But the bottom line is this: when I stopped trying to be laudably wise and clever, I started producing book after book that reviewers call wise and clever. I learned that when you write a really witty line of dialogue, or when that theme you brought on in chapter 2 reappears as a tableau in the epilogue, it feels amazing no matter what. Well-written is well-written, whether it's in the New Yorker or has beefcake on the cover.

Romance readers write the best fan mail, too. They're not in it for the bragging rights, either. They're not afraid to tell you when you've written something moving. They gush in their reviews. My favorite Amazon review actually says: "I wish my friends and I could move right into this book. We would be so happy!"

Then there are the moving letters. The same thing happened to me as happened to Bella in your book. Thank you for telling this story. Or, I had to set the book aside a couple of times because I was crying too much on the bus.

Those never get old. 

I've also figured out that authors of genre fiction have a lot more control over their own work. The market for book club fiction has consolidated to the point where there are very few gatekeepers. And I don't mean publishing houses. There's one buyer at Barnes and Noble. One at Hudson News. One at Costco and one at Target. If you're going to break out in a market still dominated by print, you'd better impress three out of those four people. And your cover art had better appeal to all of them.

Genre fiction is an ebook market and therefore democratized. My best selling titles are the ones I publish myself. I still do battle with Amazon's algorithms and the merchandizing team at iBooks. I'm running a small business from my kitchen. It's perilous but it's all mine.

So I'm going to keep this up for as long as it's working. The ideas I have for more literary works will probably wither on the vine. With so many people reading me these days, I just don't feel sad about it. And if the tears should strike I'll just do what Jennifer Weiner famously advises: I'll weep into my royalty check.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce: The Easiest Dish Ever

I serve homemade cranberry sauce often, because it's such a snap to make. It's great with turkey meatballs or pan-roasted turkey breast. And of course it's excellent for the big day in November. 

Because cranberries have so much natural pectin, they will "jam up" on your stovetop with very little effort. This is a dish that will cook itself while you make dinner. And if you've been thinking about learning to make jam, this might well serve as a gateway drug. Cranberry sauce works every single time.

Note: I add very little sugar, because I like it that way. If you like a sweeter sauce, double the sugar.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

1 12 ounce package fresh or frozen cranberries

1/4 cup sugar

splash water

 

Wash the berries and pick out any stems or shriveled fruit. 

Put the berries in a small saucepan, with a splash of water (to 1/4 inch depth at the bottom) and pour in the sugar. Turn on the heat and stir.

Simmer on low to low/medium for twenty minutes or so. (You will hear the berries popping.) Stir occasionally. The fruit will become bright red, and then darken to a rich maroon. It's done! Cool and serve. 

When Mom Gets Out of the Way, Great Things

I have always subscribed to the idea that children should sometimes be left to (safely) fend for themselves. But I don't know that I've been very good at following through with the ideal. And then sometimes life intervenes to prove that mom should just get out of the way.

Last night I had a somewhat fussy dinner planned. (By which I mean fussy to prep and cook--not fancy on the plate.) But my first grader had other plans. "Can we carve a pumpkin?" It's a fair question. We have 30 of them piled up from this summer's garden, including volunteers from the compost pile.

But I really couldn't say yes. "Not now. I have to dice. I have to sauté." 

"Can I do it?"

Pause. "You can start. But really--that doesn't mean I can jump in and fix it if you have trouble."

"Deal."

We have a $4 set of plasticky pumpkin carving tools that I never would have bought had I not tried them at someone else's house, so this was a safe enough endeavor. I put his pumpkin on the counter and drew a circle around the top. Then I went back to my unpeeled garlic, my broccoli, the filleting of a turkey breast, a hot pan...

Over in the corner he labored. I sort of registered that he'd got the top off successfully. He found the compost can and began scooping pumpkin guts into it. (Therefore seeding next year's crop in the compost pile.)

"I'm going to do one of these designs," he said, holding a pumpkin face stencil book. 

"Uh huh." Sure you are. With dinner late, I thought the likelier scenario would be frustration and a meltdown. But I was busy. I'd forgotten to boil the water. I hadn't measured out my orzo. He had produced some scotch tape and scissors. He was taping bits of paper to the pumpkin. Can't hurt himself that way, I thought. But it will never work.

There were milks to pour, a pan sauce to make, and a side dish to season. Finally, I yelled "dinner's ready." And I looked at his pumpkin.

He'd done it.

He had traced around the shapes he'd cut out of the book. I don't know how he got around the tape. I don't know how he fit them all into that little space. I don't know how he cut out those eyes without tearing through to the rim. But by the time dinner hit the table, he had the eyes and nose cut out already.

"I'll do the mouth after," he said. And he did.

Without any help at all, the little man made this Jack-o-lantern. And his feelings of victory--at doing even this modest project from start to finish--were evident. "Nobody helped me," he said. "Now can I light the candle?"

Yes, honey. Yes you can. I will try not to interfere.

A Restaurant as Old as a Memory

We visit our old stomping grounds in NYC a few times a year. Last month we made a quick trip into the city, and my husband and I had an evening alone. We walked the increasingly unfamiliar streets. Shops and restaurants have a short half life, and the meat packing district we strolled was almost unrecognizable, with its hipper-than-thou shops replacing, well, meat packers. 

"It's still here!"

So it was surprising to me to see the Mesa Grill sitting staunchly in its place on 5th Avenue in the Flat Iron. We went inside to have a drink. It was a Wednesday night, and happy faces in summery business attire crowded the tables. One time, that was me.

In the spring of 1994 I received a sudden promotion on the trading floor where I'd worked. The boss had quit, and the company was struggling with a scandal. And a 21 year-old college grad was handed the reins to a multi-billion dollar portfolio of options trades.

"Listen, Missy."

Overwhelmed, I worked many hours but still managed to feel outgunned all the time. One afternoon I was chatting with T.J., one of the interdealer brokers with whom I traded. Into his end of our direct phone line he said, "Listen, Missy. It's getting late and I'm tired of hearing you bitch into the phone. I'll pick you up in half an hour, and you can complain over dinner instead."

I didn't know T.J. very well, but his job (literally) was to change that. Making himself useful to my partners and I in the markets--and at the end of long days--was a broker's way of earning business for his firm. 

Too tired to argue, I went outside to find him waiting. I was young and completely oblivious to the NYC restaurant scene. But T.J. knew what to do. Over the next several years I would follow him into new '90s dining adventures, and taste the cooking of Bobby Flay, Danny Meyer and (T.J.'s favorite) Larry Forgione.

But that first night, I probably didn't even read the sign MESA GRILL over the door. I don't remember what I ordered, but it surely wasn't very adventurous. T.J. talked me out of my misery somehow, but not far enough that I would order dessert. "Okay," he said to the waitress. "The chocolate and raspberry thing, please. And two spoons."

And...wow was it good! We fought over the last few bites, and finally I laughed. At the time, I thought life was so difficult. But that was only youthful folly talking.

I'm older and (a bit) smarter now, at least wise enough to no longer count opportunity as a burden. What a lucky time it was to be young and so gainfully employed in the magical place that was NYC on the upswing. T.J. helped me find the fun in it. For more than seven years he was my friend--he and his wife Patty. And my husband was added to our dinner parties. There were many other business dinners, but those were the fun ones.

That was until 9/11, when he was stolen away from his family and his many work friends. I was only a couple of hundred yards away ("on the other end of our Habitrail" as he used to say) when the plane hit his building. The lives of so many of my colleagues--and all of lower Manhattan--were rendered unrecognizable that day.

But somehow our banquet is still there, against the northern wall of Mesa Grill. Last month my husband and I sat on barstools sipping champagne (a favorite beverage of T.J.'s) just a few yards from where he and I first sat sparring for raspberries. There is still the clatter of savory dishes set upon gleaming wooden tables, the sound of the cork pulling loose from a bottle, and the laughter of the young and well employed. Maybe levity comes to them naturally, but on that evening in 1994, I needed a friend to teach me how to lighten up.

Sufferin' Succotash Revisited

When I was a child, the dish "succotash," a Native American word, meant canned lima beans and corn mixed together. Can you imagine a less appetizing combination?

I actually riff on the infamy of lima beans in the novel Julia's Child, as the main character waits for her flaky farmer friend to announce what vegetable she would like to grow next. 

I mentally begged her not to suggest lima beans. There were some foods that couldn't be sold to children in any form.

Whether or not that's true, my friend Marcy inspired me to revisit succotash when she made a version which included potatoes and edamame in place of the lima beans. It was so very popular with the kiddos.

Now that our sweet corn and potatoes are ripe, I can shop in my garden for most of the ingredients. My version includes some onion, for flavor, and is roasted for convenience. I double the recipe when I need to serve a crowd.

Ingredients

Olive oil

1 pound potatoes, washed and diced

1 yellow onion, diced

3 ears sweet corn, kernels cut from the cob

1/2 - 1 lb. shelled edamame, fresh or frozen

Directions

Preheat oven to 400.

In a large skillet or roasting pan, toss diced potatoes with olive oil to coat. Salt and pepper liberally, then roast for 15 minutes until beginning to brown on one side.

Scrape and turn potatoes, then add onion and roast for another 15 minutes.

Add corn and edamame, cooking until the entire dish is sizzling again. Serve hot.

No-Noodle Lasagna: Zucchini in a Starring Role

In the summertime, you don't need noodles to make a great lasagna. With overgrown zucchini in the garden, the "noodles" are cut to order. When trying out this recipe, I'd worried that zucchini would be too wet to use in this capacity. But I was wrong. It worked out just fine.

If you're inclined to trick people into eating their vegetables, you could trim your "noodles" to hide their green skin. But this dish is so tasty, you probably won't have to.

No Noodle Lasagna

Ingredients

1 large or 2 small zucchini

1 pound "loose" sausage (or cut from casings) *or* 3/4 pound ground beef, plus half an onion and 2 cloves garlic

1 large jar of your favorite tomato sauce

1 15 or 16 oz tub of ricotta cheese

2 eggs

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (optional)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375. Oil a 9 x 13 baking dish, and cut the zucchini to a length which corresponds to the width of your baking dish. Slice zucchini thinly, and set out on paper towels to air dry.

Brown sausage (or beef, onion and garlic combination) in a skillet. When brown, add half the tomato sauce and stir to combine.

Place a layer of zucchini noodles in the bottom of the pan. Layer with 1/2 cup of the mozzarella and a tablespoon or two of bread crumbs. Cover with another layer of zucchini.

Combine the ricotta cheese with the two eggs and 1/4 cup of the parmesan cheese. Stir to thoroughly combine. Gently spread the ricotta mixture all over the zucchini layer.

Add another layer of zucchini "noodles." Over these, spread the meat mixture evenly. Cover with more zucchini and then add mozzarella and bread crumbs. Finish with one or two more layers of zucchini, mozzarella and bread crumbs, ending with zucchini. Spread remaining sauce on top, adding last bits of mozzarella and the parmesan on top. Bake for 45 minutes (uncovered) until bubbling everywhere and browning on top.

Cool for ten minutes, then slice into squares and serve hot.

Thank you http://www.sortacrunchy.net/ for making this post part of Your Green Resource!

Gazpacho Season Arrives

The farmers' market is full of ripe tomatoes, and my moment has arrived. 

I like my gazpacho (a raw, chilled tomato soup) pureed very smooth, but I'm not fussy enough to remove every tomato seed. Although I shot the photo plain, to show the color, some freshly toasted croutons are marvelous on top. Diced avocado is also nice.

Peeling tomatoes is a cinch. Set a saucepan full of water to a boil, and make a bowl of ice water beside it. On the bottom of each tomato, cut an X with a knife. Place each tomato in turn into the boiling water for 30 - 60 seconds. (Very ripe tomatoes will begin to shed their skins immediately. Less ripe ones will take more time.) Even if the skin looks firmly attached, remove the tomato with a slotted spoon after 60 seconds and place it in the ice water. After a couple of minutes, remove and peel from the X upward. (Tip: peaches are easily peeled in just the same way.)

Notes: I don't put salt in gazpacho, because it has so much natural flavor. (Bonus!) 

Traditional Gazpacho, Serves 6

6 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and cored

1/2 a large red onion (or a whole small one)

2 garlic cloves (optional)

1 red pepper, cored and cut into 8 pieces

4-6 tablespoons vinegar, to taste

1 large cucumber, peeled and de-seeded

1/4 cup olive oil

 

Using a food processor or a blender, puree the tomatoes in batches, transferring each to a large bowl. Next, puree the onion and pepper and garlic together with the vinegar. Add to the bowl. Puree the cucumber and the olive oil together, and stir into the soup. Refrigerate until ice cold, and serve with croutons.

Quickles (Quick Pickles)

My cucumbers have overrun us. I'm a fan of pickles, but I haven't ventured into full-on preserving techniques yet. So when I ran across a recipe for quick refrigerator sweet pickles over at In Erika's Kitchen, I had to give it a try.

So now I'm a convert. But I also wanted to make a savory, garlicky pickle, so I did a little experimenting. I made this recipe with both an expensive wine vinegar and grocery store white vinegar. Much to my surprise, the white vinegar (which I ordinarily use to clean my coffee pot, not for cooking) was the winner. Who knew?

Sarah's Quickles

1 garden cucumber, sliced

1/4 cup white vinegar

1/4 cup water

1 heaping tablespoon sugar

1 garlic clove, mashed

1/2 teaspoon of salt

Place the cucumber slices in a clean jar with a working lid, and set aside.

Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, garlic and salt in a bowl, and whisk until sugar and salt have dissolved. Pour over the cucumber slices. If the liquid is insufficient to cover, add one tablespoon of vinegar and then one of water until you're satisfied.

Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve cold. Pickles will keep for a week in the refrigerator.

Thank you to SortaCrunchy for sponsoring Your Green Resource, collecting posts like this one into a useful weekly menu!

Today's Green Washing Perpetrator: Faber-Castell

This is just not cool.In a craft that one of my children received as a gift was this card which raves about the eco-consciousness of the art supply manufacturer Faber-Castell. "100% of our children's pencils are made from re-forested wood," it shouts. "100% of our erasers are PVC and latex free." 

Isn't that great? There's only one problem. The card which carries this info--as well as that photo of a baby seedling about to be planted--is laminated so thickly that I cannot even tear it in half. There is a plastic coating on both sides. 

If a company prints its Eco praises on a non-recycleable piece of... paper? (It's hard to say what this is.) Then how devoted to sustainability can they really be? 

I'm not buying what they have to sell. Literally.

What I Learned About Chickens on my Summer Vacation

No, really. These are not edible.Our chickens are nine weeks old, and it's been a lot of fun so far. There have been a few startling things I've learned in the process, which I thought I'd share:

1. They really are "chicken."

They startle at the slightest noise, including the sound of a garden hose, a motorless reel mower, or a nine year old practicing his cello. To save themselves, they will run into a huddle behind their water can.

2. Instinct is amazing.

We raised these baby chicks from one day old, in a cardboard box. At one or two weeks old we began to offer them various foods to try, most of which were initially rejected. And just like a toddler, they will have a sour reaction to some foods, actually wipe their beaks off on the ground if a food displeases them.

But the first worm that my husband fished out of the compost heap for them inspired the most amazing reaction. It was as if Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket had just been dangled over the edge of the box. That wiggling shape set off a primal riot of desire, and one chick grabbed the worm, then ran all around the box looking for a place to eat it in peace. She was attacked by her neighbors, who took turns grabbing the worm and running in circles. Eventually it was pulled apart and gobbled down.

I'm told that spagetti will set off similar ardor, but I have not tried it yet.

3. They will peck at toenail polish! 

Note to self... wear shoes.

Pruning Tomato Plants (Who Knew?)

Before we learned about pruning tomato plants, we had some trouble. Larger tomatoes, especially, did not ripen up properly. They weren't getting enough light and air. Many tomato plant ills are water borne, and therefore good ventillation can help stave off problems. 

At Cedar Circle Farm in East Thetford, VT, my husband watched a pruning demonstration. "They're ruthless," he said. "On an overgrown plant, even beautiful looking green fruits are lopped right off, if they're growing in the wrong place." Ouch. Tough love. 

Before learning about tomato pruning, I had assumed that a tomato plant needed all of its leaves to stay strong and healthy. But that's not at all true.

Here's what we learned:

  1. Find the lowest branch with buds / fruits. Except for the branch of greenery immediately below it, cut off every branch below those. 
  2. Any greenery that is touching the ground should be trimmed off, either at the trunk stem, or half way out the branch.
  3. Every tomato plant needs to have a clearly identified main trunk, which should be supported. Secondary branches should be trimmed such that they do not touch the ground.
  4. Cut out all suckers. A sucker is a branch which emerges from the crotch between the trunk and a branch.

See that little extra growth between the trunk & branch?

The result is plants which look scrawnier. But the fruits can get air and light, which discourages bacteria and mildew from accumulating. 

Homemade Frozen Waffles, or, Some Lessons In Life Must Be Learned Over and Over Again

I have written about my general rule: Never Make Just One Lasagna. Yet it is easy, especially before 7:30 AM, and before drinking the first coffee of the day, to forget even the wisest rules. Once in awhile I buy frozen waffles for children who are very tired of cheerios and toast with peanut butter. But I don't buy them often. The organic brands are quite expensive.

Because school is almost out, and my kids are sick to death with the whole process, I finally wised up. I made a double batch of waffles, and froze half of them. My freezer contains waffles for two more hasty mornings, made with my whole wheat recipe to my own specifications. And I'm positive they're a whole lot cheaper than the commercial frozen product I sometimes buy.

If you make your own:

  • I like my waffles brown and crispy, but I underbake the ones I plan to freeze. Leave yourself room to crisp them up in the toaster without burning.
  • Freeze them flat, after which you can stack them any way you wish. But if you're not careful to keep them flat, they will freeze in torqued shapes which may not want to fit into the slots of your toaster.
  • Put a piece of waxed paper between them, so they don't stick together.
  • This is a great way to use up that quart of buttermilk you bought for the occasion.

Now if I could only find a way to make three days worth of packed lunches at a time...

Whole Wheat Strawberry Shortcake

It's finally strawberry season here in the north woods. To celebrate, I made Whole Wheat Strawberry Shortcake.

Now, I'm all in favor of whole grains. But I don't default to whole wheat for everything. It's nuttier, sweeter flavor does not always work best. But for strawberry shortcake, it's divine. It adds a layer of flavor that is missing from many commercial preparation. (And it adds it without any effort at all.) I use white whole-wheat flour from King Arthur because it maintains the proper pastry texture.

INGREDIENTS

1.5 cups white whole-wheat flour

scant 1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/3 cup butter (5.5 tablespoons)

1 egg, slightly beaten

1/2 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons milk

4-6 cups sliced strawberries

whipped cream

Preheat oven to 400. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper, or grease the sheet.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade, pulse together the first five (the dry) ingredients. Then cut the butter into chunks, add them and pulse until you achieve a gravel texture.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg, sour cream and milk together. Pour this mixture into the processor and mix just until combined.

Heaping tablespoons of the thick batter should be spaced about 1.5 inches apart on the sheet. (I make 8 large shortbreads.)

Bake for approximately 15 minutes until golden. Cool thoroughly.

Meanwhile, clean and slice the berries. They can be dusted with extra sugar to taste. (But unless berries are sour, it is fine to omit the sugar.)

Slice the shortbreads the long way. Spoon berries and whipped cream onto halves and serve immediately.

Staples Recycled Paper...in a Plastic Wrapper

I take the trouble to buy 100% recycled paper. (Printing is an occupational hazard. Typos which are invisible on the screen seem to leap off the printed page. Weird but true.) 

But I'd like to know why Staples, which claims to make things "eco easy" cannot simply wrap their 100% recycled paper in a paper sleeve? They even have the nerve to print: "every package for Staples brand paper is recyclable." And that's technically true... for those of us who have easy access to #5 plastics recycling. Which I do not.

But recycling paper and recycling plastic aren't the same process, with paper recycling the much more efficient and cost effective of the two. 

Oh my goodness, but this post sounds so grouchy and negative! Wait... let me change that. Reader, you're looking rather nice today. Did you change your hair? 

Truly, I'd rather applaud steps taken than disparage failures. But when a product brags about its eco sensitivity, it would be nice if it were actually true. Not long ago, all paper reams came in paper wrappers. Was that really so prohibitive? Really?

Dear Muir Glen, I Need More From This Relationship

Dear Muir Glen,

If you want us to be together, I’m going to need more out of this relationship. Hear me out, would you?

We broke up because you and I had different needs. I needed to be able to make pot after pot of chili without feeling like I was serving up BPA stew all the time. You needed to keep your price point reasonable, given that there weren’t any obvious substitutions you felt you could make to your can liners.

We had, in short, irreconcilable differences.

Then, we had a post break-up chat. I sent you this little breezy message:

11/10/09: I love your products, but I have a question. I see on the label that the can has a "white enamel coating." Have you tested for BPA? Thank you, S.P. 

You replied:

Dear Ms. Pinneo:

Thank you for contacting Muir Glen regarding bisphenol-A in food packaging.  Bisphenol-A is a critical component of protective coatings used with metal food packaging and provides important quality and safety features to canned foods.

Scientific and government bodies worldwide have examined the scientific evidence and consistently have reached the conclusion that BPA is not a risk to human health.  Recent examples include comprehensive risk assessments in Japan and Europe and a review by an independent panel of experts organized by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis. The can coatings used in Muir Glen packaging comply with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requirements for use in food contact applications.  These coatings have long played an essential part in food preservation, helping to maintain wholesomeness, nutritional value, and product quality.

We work closely with our suppliers to ensure that all of the food ingredients and packaging materials we use are fully in compliance with U.S. Food and Drug Administration requirements and meet our high quality standards.

We will continue to monitor this situation.  If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us.  Your questions and comments are always welcome.  For more information on the safety of metal food containers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration press office may be contacted at (301) 436-2335.

Sincerely,

Craig Grey

Consumer Services

 

To be honest, I didn’t like your reply very much. I felt the need to restate my objections. I wrote:

Dear Mr. Grey,

I have thus far enjoyed Muir Glen products, but I feel your approach is wrong-headed here.  It is no coincidence that the email address from which your reply comes is "Corporate.Response@..."  Your answer is very much a corporate response.  I am quite sure that the Muir Glen line complies with FDA regulations.  But the public tide against BPA is turning very much against this product.  In fact, it is likely to be outlawed a ways down the road.  Why not get ahead of the curve?  You make an otherwise wholesome product.  People are tired of learning that companies they've trusted use BPA in their packaging.  Every mother at our school is horribly annoyed at SIGG for the water bottle revelation.  

Get ahead of the game here.  Get rid of the BPA.

S.

 

And you wrote… nothing. And so that was it between us. And even though many of my friends really love you, and it was awkward at parties, we’ve been apart for quite a while now.

And I’ve been coping on my own. There were a few lonely Friday nights, but I pulled through. I flirted with other tomato products, I batted my eyes at tetra-packs and glass bottles. If you must know, I have a big crush on glass bottles these days. In my darker moments I wonder why you can’t just put your tomatoes in glass bottles, so that we could be together again.

Even the FDA has recommended limiting BPA for children, even if they're too wimpy to outlaw it entirely. And then there was that bombshell study published in Pediatrics, which (although it was a small study with a couple of flaws) has implications even more dramatic than I ever would have imagined.

So you were the last one I expected to pop up on twitter a few months ago, with a note just for me:

 

To which I said:

 

And then you said… nothing.  For months.

Listen, I’m flattered by this semi-recent gesture—really I am. And I do love progress. But I hope you know it’s going to take a little extra love to heal the rift between us.  If the problem is on its way to being solved, I’m going to have more than a few questions about how. If your new cans are BPA free, great. But I’m going to need to know what else might be in there. Is it something more stable? Less chemically interesting? Would I be able to spell it on the first try?

Parents’ trust of corporations has changed in the last decade. Remember when fast food restaurants felt free to advertise their “secret sauce?” Those days are over. We can’t take any more secrets, please. We’re more alert now. More knowing. So if you have an improvement to make, let it be good and thorough.

I’ve had my heart broken once already. I’m not going to go through that again. 

Tentatively yours,

S.P.