Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Jelly Good!

Norman Brinker is dead. And you have no idea how much you owe him.

If you like salad bars, that is. And who doesn't like a salad bar?

Brinker was the chairman emeritus of Brinker International Inc. and was one of the pioneers of casual dining. In 1966, he used $10,000 and a $5,000 loan to launch Steak & Ale, a chain that went bankrupt in 2008, and was also the creator of Bennigan's, which was also a casualty of the economic slowdown.

But Brinker's most famous contribution is the salad bar.

I wonder if he was also the one to invent the sneeze guard.

I also hate to think of how the sneeze guard idea came about.

Never mind.

The salad bar got me to thinking about other restaurant inventions.

Like the Daily Special. Or All-You-Can-Eat.

Or this one: jelly packets.

All hail the jelly packet!


Americana!


Where would we be as a society if we couldn't choose from strawberry or grape or apple jelly in cute, convenient little vacuum-sealed containers?

It's one of my guilty little pleasures: exploring the jelly packet tree on the table of the restaurant du jour when going out for breakfast.

Why? Because sometimes you get pleasantly surprised.

The usual suspects--the aforementioned flavors, are sure to be found.

But every once in awhile...

Raspberry.

Mixed berry.

Or, the coup de grace: Orange marmalade.

You find an orange marmalade (Smucker's brand, of course), then you've found a joint that's worth returning to, indeed.

Funny story.

Our daughter loves her hot tea. She especially likes it at restaurants. I think she likes the whole presentation--the tiny metal "pitcher" of hot water, the lemon wedge on the saucer.

So we order the tea and it comes adorned with another of Smuckers' vacuum-sealed containers.

Honey, we presumed.

The honey packet looks like the orange marmalade packet, turns out.

But that's how we found out that they carried marmalade.

Seriously, how DO they inject just the right amount of jelly into those little packets?

The helping is perfect. Smooth as a marble table top when you open it, so much so that you almost hate to defile it with your knife.

And to think that it's all done by machine.

It's almost comical, to me, to imagine an army of tens of thousands--heck, probably hundreds of thousands--of empty packets rushing down a conveyor belt contraption, ready to be given a shot of jelly on the way to the vacuum sealer.

Ah, but the finished product is simply wonderful.

By the way, it seems like the Smucker's people have the market mostly cornered on the vacuum-sealed jelly packet industry.

Too bad Norman Brinker didn't patent the salad bar.

Can you imagine the royalties?

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