Addicts that we are, my mom and I were compelled to begin this afternoon at Stater Brothers supermarket in pursuit of half and half for the coffee.
There I made the acquaintance of something probably not new, but somehow previously unnoticed:
fat free half and half.
I'll say it again just for emphasis:
FAT FREE HALF AND HALF.
Ideally, you should now be about equal measures (e.g., half and half) incensed and incredulous.
The point -- the very point -- of half and half is that it is NOT fat free. That it has, in fact, more fat even than whole milk. That's what makes it so good. To think that you can have half and half without fat is . . . well, horrible.
This week I've been reading a book on Christ and the postmodern world, Above All Earthly Pow'rs, by David Wells. Wells's argument (which was new to me) is that postmodernism (the intellectual movement) and postmodernity (the lived-out practice) do not have a cause-and-effect relationship, but instead developed side by side under the influence of our modern lifestyle.
A lot of this stuff is over my head. But for some reason it always made sense to me, when I'd studied post-modernism before, that what started in the universities would "trickle down" into popular culture.
It wasn't until I went to the grocery store today that I fully understood Wells's point.
Fat free half and half is a thoroughly postmodern idea. The essence of half and half is its fattiness, its creaminess, its character as more substantial than milk. To say that you can take that away and still have half and half is to deny its very essence and to deny the meaning of the title "half and half."
[Am I going out on a limb?]
On the other hand, I'll bet that the dairy executives who approved this glaring heresy on the refrigerated aisle did not do so with Foucault and Derrida on the brain.
They did not say, "Language is meaningless. Half and half is meaningless. The age of milk is past. The age of fat is even more past. Yea, unto the end of the age of cows is at hand. Let us christen this -- this blend of plastic, this calorie-deprived concoction of liquid deception, this meaningless contradiction in terms and to tastebuds -- let us christen this 'half and half' and let postmodernity prevail!"
I think the grocery store has a different effect on me than it does on most people.