Christmas Music and Foods

A St. Olaf Christmas In Norway

Caught this on PBS HDTVtonight and it was spectacular (it’ll be on several more times overthe next week). The choirs were great, and the setting – NidarosCathedral – was extraordinary.

Norway is yet another list of countries that I’d really like tovisit and spend a month or so in. As a Canadian, I’ve always foundit odd that nationally we haven’t fostered more of a friendship andalliance with the smaller Northern countries (Sweden, Norway, theBaltic States, Finland): We share common political (e.g. smallercountries amongst heavyweights) and environmental conditions(cold!).

Speaking of togetherness – I’ve been to the Twin Cities(Minneapolis/St. Paul) in Minnesota quite a few times, and I wouldtruthfully say that the classic stereotype of Canadians (manymannerisms, friendliness, and so on) actually applies moreaptly to the great folks of Minnesota. That’s a beautiful statefull of great people, and in many ways it’s more Canadian thanCanada.

It’s the President’s Choice

A very large grocer up here in Canada is Loblaw’s(which operates under a variety of brands). They generally operatehuge supermarkets full of a good selection of fresh, qualityproducts. It most certainly isn’t the cheapest grocery store, but Ican honestly say that I enjoy grocery shopping when it’smulling around a Loblaw’s.

One of the greatest coups of Loblaws, and it’s one that hasbrands and retailers worldwide taking notice, is the President’s Choice brands.Originally begun as a rather corny “I’m the president, and thisis the stuff I like!” selection of items, it has evolved intoa very high quality brand (which is rare given that it’s a storebrand, which usually indicate a compromise in quality): If I’mlooking for a product in a realm where I don’t have a favourite,I’ll go past all of the well-known brands and pick the PCalternative if one is available. In any given Loblaws visit,probably 30% of the non-produce items I buy now are PC branditems.

Of course Loblaws doesn’t actually manufacture the brandsthemselves – Instead they get outside manufacturers to do it, oftenthe people whose products it will compete against. However it seemsevident that they spec out excellent products, and they demand avery high level of quality and ingredients (PC brands eliminated orminimized transfats long before that became a norm, for instance).The result is products that seldom disappoint.

Why do I mention this I mention it because the PC brand isgoing so well, and they’re earning so much namespace, that a goodthing can’t continue: Seemingly inevitably some blowhardfly-through executive will decree that if they are making $X, thenthey should reduce the quality of the ingredients and make $X*1.2!Perhaps I’m a cynic, but this cycle of self-defeat at the hands ofshort-term sacrificers is legendary when something starts doingwell.