Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.
The Wall Street Journal
There won’t be any classic candy hearts going around this year, since last year’s shutdown of the Necco company left a hole in the Valentine’s Day candy market. So candy-heart lovers are rationing stockpiled goods or resorting to lesser brands — Brach’s, Sour Patch — to express sentiments like “UR Hot” and “Be Cool.” But “Sweethearts lovers aren’t having it,” writes Annie Gasparro. “They say Brach’s flavors aren’t as strong, the candies are thicker and the texture is softer — some even say ‘pasty.’”
One company after another is getting into grocery delivery—except it’s barely catching on among consumers. “Until online grocery-delivery companies are delivering to hundreds of homes in the same neighborhood, it will be very hard for them to make a profit,” writes Alana Semuels. “Though it is an $800 billion business, grocery is famously low-margin; most grocery stores are barely profitable as it is. Add on the labor, equipment, and gas costs of bringing food to people’s doors quickly and cheaply, and you have a business that seems all but guaranteed to fail.”
The New Food Economy
Food companies worked hard during the middle part of the 20th century to promote their new processed products. “But in their race to turn the American home cook onto new and unfamiliar foods—not to mention shortening, sugar, and canned meat—the food industry and advertising agencies wound up conjuring lasting ideas about how we should feed our families,” writes H. Claire Brown. A new book details some of the bizarre ways advertisers attempted to market new food products.
Most saffron comes from Iran. But the best saffron comes from Kashmir. “Kashmiri saffron is the sweetest, most precious spice in the world,” writes Sharanya Deepak. “Its strands are thicker and more fragrant than its counterpart from Iran.” But “[d]ue to ongoing regional violence, droughts, and the still-unfolding effects of climate change on the land, Kashmiri saffron has slowly begun to disappear. ‘I tried to grow apples here on this land a decade ago, says Fehmida Mir, whose family has grown saffron in Kashmir for decades. ‘But they didn’t fruit! This land is meant only for saffron. Without it, it means nothing.’”
The Bitter Southerner
“[F]or many, I believe Ernie forged a portal into the South — a South unto itself — proudly bound up in all its contradictions,” writes Michael Adno. “He helped Southerners of all strata hold onto their roots, spanning the spectrum from blue-blood aristocrats to rednecks. But more specifically, he helped queer folks find that root in a place that — particularly during the AIDS plague of the 1980s — wanted to expel them.”