Monday, March 22, 2010

Keepin' it Real

The McDonald's "Gimme back that filet-o-fish" commercial has officially been in my head periodically for a year. I'm so glad they brought that sad mounted fish back for another Lenten season.

Recently the screaming fish in my head was replaced by a smoother jingle. "When it's real. You know when it's real." Ironically when I saw this commercial today it was for a competing less-catchy fish sandwich at Wendy's. The commercial touted fish that was "Real without question."

This all seemed pretty trivial until one commercial later a K.F.C. commercial cited their chicken was prepared in their kitchens...."by a REAL cook." Really Colonel?

I even saw a mayonnaise commercial recently touting real ingredients with a maternal figure (who was way too happy about mayo) encouraging me to, "say yes to real."

This past week, while enjoying some chicken nuggets I noticed the container they were in said they too were made with "Real Chicken." And we all know that same joint serves 100% real beef in their burgers.

Apparently, real-ity is all around me.

"Real" seems to be the favorite word of food marketing companies nationwide. Is it the new green? But, what does it really mean? I just had some Chicken flavored Ramen for dinner. Did I imagine that? Tasted real.

I can't help but wonder what all of this advertising says about consumers. While I consider the beef we produce and eat in our home to be real...I'm not sure what constitutes this marketing sanction. As a beef producer I'm convinced I better figure it out, because judging by the work of market researchers this is a real priority.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

When I Lived Here

Mr. Optimistic and I both grew up in homes where a vacation was a trip to the State Fair. While I learned a lot about Midwestern culture, I was always a little jealous of my friend's Yellowstone and Florida stories. Thus, before Mr. Optimistic and I were engaged I made him promise me two non-cattle related vacations a year. Nothing personal, cows. While I felt a bit high maintenance at the time, I knew I wanted to see and understand things beyond a cattle show. Blasphemy?

So after calving and sale season and before burning and breeding season we took a quick spring break trip to Washington, D.C.

In college, I interned with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association's Public Policy Office in D.C. I loved the excitement of politics and the opportunities of the city. After a fast ten weeks, I was certain I would return and live out my days as a lobbyist. That didn't exactly happen. By exactly I mean at all. Somewhere between the summer of my junior year and graduation I fell in love with a few things outside of the Beltway. Namely Mr. Optimistic, Kansas, and regularly seeing actual cows.

To say that I've glamorized D.C. in the past seven years would be an understatement. I've missed everything from my morning walk past the White House to the bagels at Au Bon Pain. Finally, last week it was time to satisfy my craving for museums, monuments, and spooning strangers on the Metro.

I generally try to keep passing strangers out of my
pictures but this girl is a definite exception.

By the last day of our trip I'd eaten my weight in crab cakes and walked the length of a couple marathons. Vowing to buy more comfortable shoes. I'd cozied up to new friends on the Metro, gotten my museum fix, and thoroughly annoyed Mr. O with my "When I lived here..." stories.

Surprisingly though I was done. I wondered how my 20-year-old self didn't notice the noise, the crowds and the near-death cab experiences. Perhaps I'm getting old or perhaps the best kind of vacation is the one where you realize how great your home is.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Remember When

This morning I received an email from my favorite (and only) brother. It was short and to the point, "Remember that time you had a blog. That was awesome." Ah, one of the few people I know who doesn't need a sarcasm emoticon.

Yes, it's been awhile. But I have a decent excuse. It's called Sale Season. I swear something tightened in my stomach when I wrote that, and realized that Sale Season is only 354 days away.

Side note: Each year we help with Mr. Optimistic's family's cattle production sale the third Tuesday in February. They usually sell about 150 head of Hereford and Angus cattle. Then the first Friday in March Mr. Optimistic hosts the production sale of the operation he manages. Here they sell about 100 Hereford, Angus, and Simmental cattle, and a few horses. One year the two sales fell in the same week. It was the first year we were married. Luckily we were still so very much in love. Otherwise someone could have been killed.

Sales are stressful. One year my father-in-law was called to jury duty the day of his production sale. I remember him telling me the story. He said I told her, "Lady, I get paid one day a year, and that's Tuesday." I doubt he called her "lady." It's a pretty small town and this was probably the same lady that cut his hair or runs the gas station...but you get the idea. The point is - I've never had to worry about making the majority of my salary on one day of the year. And I take a lot of comfort in direct deposit. Ranchers however don't have this option. The risk involved is enough to make anyone go a little crazy.

So it wasn't until midway through the sales or perhaps right at the end that I realized how much I love this time of year.


1) We see old friends with like-minded interests.

2) The cattle are "right." A lot of effort goes into preparing cattle for sale, especially during a hard winter like this one. I can't believe I just said hard winter. All of that effort has finally come to a head. When it comes to cattle, the work is done.

3) It's almost over! Spring is a couple weeks away and it's time to grow more cows.

Mostly though, it's because we pull together. We get things done as a family. Sometimes out of necessity, but mostly because we like each other and the work. If my husband was a surgeon I couldn't show up at the ER to lend a hand. How lucky I am to work in an industry where everyone in the family can get involved. I'm thankful to have a Sale Season that reminds me of that.