I did a double take when I saw this sign the other day as I cut through the Safeway parking lot. Cheez Whiz an "Ingredient for life"? I had just passed a mom and her young daughter pushing their grocery cart through the snowy lot, with a jumbo box of Honeycomb cereal stuffed into it. There was a time when I, too, thought that Honeycomb cereal and Cheez Whiz were oh-so desirable foods. Now, I don't even think of them as food. But when I was a little girl, shortly after starting grade school and entering tv land with our new black-and-white tv, Honeycomb cereal and Cheez Whiz were the stuff of dreams.
Up to that point, living in Jumbo Gardens, my sisters and I had mostly been around other working-class Finnish immigrants. Then, going off to school, we discovered "Canadian girls." Our Dick and Jane readers impressed upon our young minds a whole other way of family life. And then, there were our 'lady teachers.' They were our role models. At school, we learned to dream about being Canadian, too.
One day at the dinner table we asked Aiti, "why can't we eat something different?"
"Isn't this good enough?" she retorted, ladling potatoes onto our plate.
"Why can't we eat like Canadian families? They eat different things, not always potatoes and meat."
Isa didn't say anything, just reached for another slice of rye bread, then slabbed a half inch of butter on it.
"Yeah, we want Canadian food. Like Cheez Whiz. Why can't we get Cheez Whiz?"
Next to school, tv gave us lessons on being "Canadian." Of course, many of the shows we watched were actually American, but to us that was the same. Amerikalaanen tai Kanadalaanen--all we knew is that they weren't like us. Finlanders. There were no Finnish families like ours or our neighbours on the tv. We used to watch Roy Rogers and Flipper, and sometimes Perry Mason (who was Canadian). My friend, Flicka. Petticoat Junction.
And from tv commercials we learned about Cheez Whiz. The pretty mom feeding her children Cheez Whiz was just like our lady teacher. Like the Canadian girls' mothers. We want Cheez Whiz! we shouted to Aiti.
One day Isa came home from ShopEasy, the new supermarket on Red River Road, with a glass jar of Cheez Whiz. You should have seen the excitement! You would've thought he brought home a new puppy! We immediately spread the glossy bright orange spreadable cheese product onto a celery stalk, just like we saw on tv.
We bit. We chewed. We looked at each other. We munched. We chomped. We pushed the slimy cheese spread around the inside of our mouths, and ....
Isa looked at us with his eyes twinkling. Don't you girls like it? he asked us in Finnish.
That jar of Cheez Whiz sat in the cupboard for months. Sometimes our little sister snacked on it. But, for me and my older sister, that was the end of our love affair with Cheez Whiz. The Honeycomb kid, however, on his white horse, well that sugary romance lingered.....