California – July 30, 2020.
I don’t usually lead off with a dateline, but stay with me…
Around this time of year, I’m reminded of several things, one of which was a conversation I had with one of my young cousins. She has an excellent singing voice, and takes music quite seriously. During our discussion, I mentioned country-and-western…and got a not-altogether-unexpected response:
Young Cousin: “Country-and-western? That’s crap!”
Which teed me up perfectly to advance her education with two introductions. The first was to Sturgeon’s Law. If you’re not familiar with it:
Well-Meaning Friend: “Ted, how can you waste your God-given writing talent on science fiction? Ninety percent of it is crap!”
Writer Theodore Sturgeon (in a return-of-serve for the ages): “True…but then again, ninety percent of everything is crap.”
The second was to what may be, against very stiff competition, the saddest and most beautiful country song ever. Now, we all know that the genre of country music is unique for its capacity to explore tragedy and plumb the depths of the human condition (“Now I don’t mind that she ran off with Fred/But they stole my truck, my dawg still sleepin’ in the bed…”). But songwriters Matraca Berg and Gary Harrison took things to whole new level with their masterpiece, CMA 1997 Song of the Year, “Strawberry Wine”. (It’s been covered by a number of artists, but my favorite, linked above, is also the most popular version, by Deana Carter.)
And the particular lyrics that come back to me at this time of year:
“A few cards and letters and one long distance call
We drifted away like the leaves in the fall
But year after year I come back to this place
Just to remember the taste
Of strawberry wine and seventeen
The hot July moon saw everything…*”
* Not to be confused with the Flatt & Scruggs bluegrass classic, “Hot Mule-Eyed June”.
And I can’t help but wonder if that last line inspired a really great consumer brand name: Late July.
What associations spring to mind from that name? Bar-b-cues, picnics, any sort of alfresco dining…and if you’ve ever been in the Midwest in late July, crops like wheat and corn coming to a perfect ripening…all In all, a lot of good connotations for a snack food company in the business of providing high quality crackers, chips, popcorn, and salsas. From one of their own packages: “Late July is the sweet spot of summer…”
I first tried them out in (of course) late July of 2019, when some friends put together a picnic, and I made a cheese spread…which we put on Late July’s answer to Ritz crackers. They also have several other cracker varieties, including saltines, and a head-to-head competitor of Cheez-Its. In late July 2020, our local health food store (the sort of venue where you may be more likely to find their products, which are non-GMO, vegan, kosher, etc., etc,) decided to have a sale on their corn chips, potato chips, and salsas.
Haven’t yet tried the corn chips, but the potato chips were outstanding. Picked up several jars of salsa, some for gifts, at least one saving for myself…to be enjoyed when I can find some (non-GMO) strawberry wine to wash it down with…
[And if you really want to know how corn is grown nowadays on big Midwest farms, you have to watch Laura Farms and her Vlogs on YouTube. 8000 Acres by one family and some big machines. Laura is a charming host and does all sorts of projects, including driving the mega big tractors, spreaders and harvesters – when they aren’t busy driving themselves! High tech ag-tech meets realities of earth, water, crops, etc. Very informative and their concern and care for the soil is very touching.