I miss the days of Velveeta and ripple.
As a younger man, I considered myself a connoisseur of the finer things in life. Used Oldsmobiles, girls who parted their hair like Farrah Fawcett, and the occasional drink.
By occasional, I mean any occasion.
The late ’70’s were about as much like “That ’70s Show” as the ’50’s were like “Happy Days.” However, in the midst of all the manufactured nostalgia, what these two shows portrayed had a grain of truth to it.
We drank a lot of beer back then. The drinking age was 18, so it was legal to buy it. We all worked low-paying jobs and couldn’t afford the good beer, so a purchase was based on a dollar-to-quantity ratio rather than quality.
Seeing that I was obviously on a path to a yet-to-be-thought-of Jeff Foxworthy joke, my friend Steve decided to introduce me to some culture. He invited me to the Shakespeare Festival of Dallas in Fair Park.
At first I balked. I’d read Shakespeare and wasn’t impressed. To me, a Hamlet should be a menu item at Denny’s, not some play that you sit through in the middle of an amphitheater during a Texas August. However, after convincing me that I’d enjoy it and the price was right (free), I agreed.
We checked into our rooms near the park and Steve announced we’d now shop for wine and cheese. “Wine and cheese?” I asked. “Let’s splurge on good beer,” I added. Steve shook his head and said that he was making the call and that wine and cheese it would be.
As Steve shopped in one end of the store, I browsed the other. He found a bottle that cost $10 (a princely sum back then) and a block of Gouda. I’d never heard of either, but I had heard of Velveeta and ripple. The price seemed right on my find and we could get a whole lot more of both. Besides, I argued, if we left the Velveeta out in a bowl in the heat, we could bring a bag of chips and have dip, too.
Steve again shook his head and wine and cheese it was.
We took our place in the audience and saw “As You Like It” with Sigourney Weaver in the role of Rosalind. For this kid who’d never seen real culture, my eyes were opened. I began to appreciate what I was experiencing. All of it. Classic literature come to life on stage, real actors, real wine and real cheese. It was amazing.
The recent news stories of a Velveeta shortage made me think of all this. The Shakespeare, the wine, the cheese and Steve. Steve gave me an appreciation for a lot of things. He is the one who gave me my love of puns.
Steve died about 10 years ago, and I miss him.
This year, I’ll buy some Velveeta before it’s all gone and toast Steve with a glass of ripple. He wouldn’t find it classy, but he’d think it was a really Gouda joke.