Cheesed off

I’m becoming quite a fan of measuring by weight rather than by volume.  It seems so much more accurate to say “8 ounces of shortening” as opposed to cramming an amount of shortening that you HOPE is sufficient and lacking any sizable air bubbles into a one-cup measuring cup.

And now that I’m buying butter in one-pound bricks from Sam’s Club instead of quartered, paper-wrapped pounds from the grocery store, I’ve had to get good at doing the math in my head to convert volume measurements to weight.  Instead of just slicing off “one tablespoon” from the quarter-pound stick, it’s necessary to run through all the math and weight equivalents in order to calculate that one tablespoon of butter weighs a half-ounce.  And one half-ounce of butter will always be exactly that, doesn’t matter what form it’s in, a half-ounce of butter will always weigh a half ounce. But if I’m slicing a tablespoon off the stick, and the quarter-pound stick wasn’t wrapped absolutely straight at the factory, I may end up with more or less butter by depending on those little lines printed on the paper.

But oi vey, the MATH.  It hurts me sometimes.

As a result I’ve gotten pretty good at guesstimating the volume of food to equal the desired weight.  Doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s a solid like butter or shortening, or a grainy powder like sugar or flour, I can get pretty close just by eyeing it up! Cool, no? Or does this count as a “stupid human trick”?

In my younger days I worked as prep cook under an amazing Hungarian woman who could pour an absolutely correct amount of seasoning into her palm straight from the package.  Need a teaspoon of salt? Here it is. A half-teaspoon of cinnamon? There ya go. She might not always wear her teeth to work, but the day she showed me how she could use her palm to measure out tablespoon after accurate tablespoon of parsley, I was her biggest fan. For a long time I worked on being able to do the same, and now after 22 years I might be getting close.

Anyway, I ran to Food City a few days ago to get some beans and cheese for a batch of chili.  Only bought a half-pound of cheese because the price wasn’t that great and I only needed a little bit to grate over the chili.  So I’m studying the cheese, which is labled as an 8-ounce brick.  I’m looking at it, and thinking that it doesn’t look quite like a half-pound of cheese, so I get out my trusty digital scale:

No, it's actually 7 and 8/10 ounces. Not quite a half-pound.

Hmph.  I KNEW it didn’t look like a full half-pound of cheese. Whatever that may look like.

So, what does it matter, you ask?  So I didn’t get a full eight ounces of cheese, even though I paid for it–so WHAT? The problem lies in the fact that if every package of cheese is 1/5 of an ounce short, then the cheese distributor is selling that 1/5 of an ounce twice. We’re being charged for it, but we’re not getting it. The cheese people are shorting the individual consumer so they can make a little more money.

It’s a small bitch, but it’s my bitch, nonetheless. And if everything is inaccurately packed like this cheese, think how much each of us consumers are being cheated.

It’s one thing to watch the size of a candy bar shrink from 3 ounces, to 2.75 ounces, to 2.15 ounces, and remain the same price. It’s a given that food will get more expensive, and either prices must go up or we must get less food for the same price–check out the big tubs of yogurt the next time you’re at the grocery store.  They used to contain 32 ounces of yogurt and now the same-sized tub only holds 24 ounces.  There’s a 3/4 inch gap between the yogurt level and the top of the tub. Mmmm…vanilla yogurt with wheat germ…had to get a bowl as part of my ‘research.’  But I digress.

I didn’t take my digital scale to the grocery store to measure each of the packages of cheese there.  It’s possible that each package of cheese differs slightly, either above or below the listed weight.  Sure, some customers may actually receive 8 1/5 ounces of cheese.  Maybe it was just my day to be on the short end of the stick. But that isn’t ideal, either.  You should get exactly what you pay for, whether it’s eight ounces of cheese or eight ounces of blasting powder, and that package stated that it contained eight ounces of cheese.

Wanna know what 2/10 of an ounce of cheese looks like?  Here ’tis:

Okay, so it's grated. Try to use your imagination and picture it as a chunk.

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