« Pushy shower curtain slowly inflates around you | Home | Tactical BBQ Apron — Because you just never know when you'll have to put down a flare-up »

August 15, 2022

Ghost Foods: Where is the raisin bread with icing of yesteryear?


Those old enough to recall the 20th century will remember that supermarket cinnamon-raisin bread once came with wonderfully sweet white icing on top, making it the perfect food.

No longer.

It's been forever since I've seen a loaf of raisin bread with icing.

At first I thought perhaps they'd just run out, but as days stretched into weeks into months and then years and decades, I realized that somehow this exquisite product had been declared persona non grata in the bread aisle by the powers that be.

Alex Witchel, in an evocative essay which appeared in the February 28, 2007 New York Times Dining section, wrote about her madeleine issues; the piece follows.

The Ultimate Cruelty: Abandoned by Ravioli

IN New York things disappear all the time. Corner markets, tailors, opticians — one day they're there, the next day they're the branch of yet another bank you've never heard of. Just another fact of city life. But when food disappears... well, that's personal.

At least 10 years ago — pre-Internet — I hunted for a vanished hot sauce all over town, not to mention Northern and Southern California, and never found it. It made me so angry, I can't even remember its name.

More recently, my search was for Celestial Seasonings Grandma's Tummy Mint tea, a mix of peppermint and chamomile, which I drank for decades. After hitting every possible Duane Reade and Gristedes, I went online and discovered that my old reliable turned into Tummy Mint Wellness Tea. They've added fennel. I've lost interest.

I'm also in mourning for Diet Mazola. Please don’t tell me I shouldn't eat margarine. I like it — one of those childhood things. Lately I've been using Fleischmann's Light, which itself has been missing these last two months. I went online and found that I can buy it from Amazon. Well, before I pay airfare for margarine, I'm going to have to look harder locally. It's still on the company’s Web site. Maybe it's not an endangered species. Yet.

Because these things happen, you know. In America, I believe, it's called business. Even though I take it as a personal insult when foods I love are not selling, a company has no qualms about pulling the plug.

I discovered this a few years ago when, in a fit of pique, I tracked down some poor man at the Sara Lee Bakery Group and demanded to know where the brownies had gone (with that inimitable thatch of chocolate icing) and even more important, what had happened to that banana cake with the banana frosting that you could peel off and eat first — unless your mother caught you first.

The executive patiently explained that once supermarkets expanded to include their own bakeries, people stopped buying frozen cakes. The brownies were gone, but if I wanted to eat the banana cake regularly, he said, I could move to Green Bay, Wis., or Peoria, Illnois, where, God bless them, the townsfolk still buy enough to make it worth the company's while to supply them.

My most recent food loss was the broccoli rabe ravioli at Citarella. About 18 months ago it disappeared, just like that. This made for a problem in my house, where it has been a staple for years. I served it with grilled fish, and instead of tomato sauce, I tossed it with black pepper-infused olive oil. Other kinds of ravioli don't work as well in this combination: artichoke is too bland, vegetable too sweet, spinach and cheese too cheesy.

The beauty of the broccoli rabe was that the bitterness of the green offset the cheese. And the pasta was the perfect foil to the fish, making it a meal instead of a punishment. (If you have a kid who eats fish and salad and goes to bed happy, give $100 to the charity of your choice. You're blessed.)

But one day that ravioli was gone. Every week, I asked the managers where it was. None of them knew. I went to branches on the East Side and the West Side and in the Village. Nothing.

And you know what? I let it go. I did not call Joe Gurrera, the owner, and rail against the heavens. I looked at my pants and figured there was enough pasta in the world without this one kind. I needed to shake my obsession with specificity. I had to accept that everything in the world changes — except me.

I recalled a colleague, now retired, who once confided that she loved Citarella's smoked salmon ravioli so much she used to eat it raw, because she couldn’t even wait for the water to boil. Well, that was a little gross. (To each her own margarine.) But that variety was discontinued years ago, so I looked to her as a role model of strength and fortitude. If she could part with her obsession, so could I.

And I did. Until one day last June, when the broccoli rabe ravioli reappeared, just like that. I couldn't believe it. I grabbed a package and took it home. Perfect.

My curiosity got the best of me, and I called Mr. Gurrera. "It was raviolini before," he told me. "The small squares. You see it's bigger now? Now it sells."

I'm embarrassed to say I hadn't realized the difference. It tasted the same — that's all I cared about.

With my item newly stocked, I went looking for my Boyajian Black Pepper Oil. Citarella? Gone. Zabar's? Gone. Fairway? Gone.

No! All that time I had behaved so well. I weathered my loss like a grown-up. And now this. I was inconsolable.

My husband went online (boyajianinc.com), and I was soon the proud owner of two bottles. I went back to Citarella for the ravioli.

Out of stock. Not forever, I was assured. Just for now.

You know, when they say New York is a tough town, they're not kidding.

Readers are invited to weigh in about their most beloved ghost foods.

August 15, 2022 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


when Heinens took away my favorite cheddar, this after discontinuing my favorite crackers, I went past distraught to indignance.

trying all the other cheddars wasn't working

one day when griping to the cheese mongress, she asked did I try this one? Deer Creek Vat 17 from Wisconsin. No! it won't be as good.

wrong. okay, new favorite, better by far than the old favorite.

sometimes being forced to switch gives a surprise.

though they are not carrying my curry ketchup anymore.

Posted by: JohnM | Aug 16, 2022 7:08:06 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.