Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Foods You Will Enjoy by Bill Buffett

Foods You Will Enjoy

By Bill Buffet

Review by Catherine Nichols


To order:

Opposite Bill Buffett’s forward to his book Foods You Will Enjoy, there’s a black and white photo of the grocery store Buffett’s in 1937—a sign in the front window celebrates the store’s sixty-eighth year in business. The store has an elegant glass-brick transom over its wide front windows, and an array of tidily arranged goods. The book tells the story of the grocery store from its beginnings when Nebraska was frontier. In a way, this book—with its zippy design and nostalgia for a store that has closed its doors—just shows us how little has changed over the years. Food is a pleasure. The book’s visual style reels through the decades of fresh clean food, starting with 1860s’ ads for Troy brand evaporated milk (a silhouette of a boy chasing cows against a turquoise sky) through every kind of fruit, white vinegar, vegetable soup to, finally, Golden Valley Deluxe Plums—purple and green against a cream background—from 1969 when the store finally closed.

It was Sidney Buffett who opened the store in 1868 in Omaha, Nebraska. The accompanying photos show rough dirt roads and horses pulling carriages. The store has a display of peaches and melons in baskets outside the door. The business stays in the Buffett family, passed from father to son. While Buffett makes a point of showing these men’s personalities through their letters and business decisions, they all feel more similar than different. The Buffett men have a core of steady business decisions, unsentimental pride in their store, and savvy adaptations as the nineteenth century turns into the twentieth and beyond. Earnest Buffett placed a billboard between Omaha and Lincoln letting drivers know they’d gotten half way to the other city—and reminding them to buy at Buffett’s when they got home.

As Bill Buffett himself is able to take over with memories of his own and interviews and letters from the store clerks and delivery boys he worked alongside, the book grows even warmer toward the bygone store and its era. He remembers growing up as the son of a respected man, but not “treated with white gloves” as he worked in the store. He took all jobs from stocking the shelves to making deliveries, learning the trade at his father’s side.

The book is the biography of a business, but also a community, and a family. The store Buffett remembers may not be in business—though it does have its own museum exhibit—but its heart is still living.

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