We Are Being Stalked (By an Unlikely Stalker)

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Kraft Smooth Peanut Butter, 2 kg

Unwanted: Kraft Smooth Peanut Butter, 2 kg

Life is punctuated by a series of enlightening, unexpected, and occasionally puzzling before-and-after moments. Some of the triggering experiences are universal—graduating, moving out, getting your first job—while other are… well, rather specific.

For us, there’s a before and after my in-laws’ Costco membership

Before Costco, my in-laws used to come over most weekends and fill our fridge with containers of rice-and-meat meals, dumplings and spring rolls plus special foods for Chinese holidays. It was kind of cute, often delicious and occasionally annoying because we were perfectly able to cook and we usually had leftovers already. But hey, parents, right? In all fairness, we didn’t have time to make Feng’s mum northeastern specialties from scratch and if my mum lived close enough to bring me a homemade quiche, I would accept it gratefully.

Then, at one point, my in-laws moved to a suburb of Ottawa and bought a Costco membership. They no longer bring homemade food, they dump giant boxes, cartons and jars of stuff we don’t need and don’t like at our place.

Stepping into the kitchen started to feel as if we had tasted some of the “drink me” Alice in Wonderland potion. Surely, we must have shrunk overnight, because familiar products had suddenly been replaced with a super-sized version we didn’t know existed. Open the fridge—the fancy 500 ml Crofter’s organic strawberry spread jar is now an E.D. Smith 1-litre raspberry jar! Gone is Mark’s 200 g Breton Veggie Bites cracker box, look under the table for a brand-new 1.35-kilo carton of 18 packs of Ritz crackers. Exit imported Nutella, enter two 1-kilo jars of Kirkland Signature Hazelnut Spread.

Obviously, we told my in-laws to stop. “We can’t eat that much food!” we argued. “Also, I kind of like buying stuff I actually enjoy,” I muttered to myself.

“But it’s cheap! You might use it!”

“But we won’t! It’s wasteful!”

At no point in life have I ever craved a mega-pack of 32 Babybel—and I’m French. Maybe it doesn’t make sense from a financial perspective, but I like to buy manageable quantities. We don’t live in Nunavut, there are four supermarkets within walking distance. I like fresh food. I like variety—I don’t want to “work” on the same cookie box for six months.

I get it, Costco has a fan base. Bigger families need bigger quantities—a former co-worker of mine swore by it because she had four perpetually starving teens at home. But we’re not running a hostel in the basement, just the three of us can’t handle Costco supersized life. And neither can my in-lawn who must weigh a combined 200 lbs, which is partially why they unload supplies on us.

And this is how the stalker entered in our life.

Meet the 2-kilo Kraft Smooth Peanut Butter jar.

Last year, the day we came back from France, it was waiting for us on top of the fridge. “You must be hungry after this long transatlantic trip,” it seemed to say. “Have a nice, soft PB&J sandwich. Go ahead, open me!”

Except this is totally not what we did. We stared at the jar in disbelief. “Peanut butter? Why?”

We’re not the kind of household where PB&J, the quintessential North American sandwich, is comfort food. We like peanuts—just not on bread.

Every culture has a favourite spread—Vegemite in Australia, Marmite in the UK, dulce de leche in South America, butter, cheese or Nutella in France… Each of them is an acquired taste and neither France nor China taught us how to enjoy peanut butter. We never tried to get Mark addicted to it either because of the school peanut ban. These days, putting a PB&J sandwich in your kid’s lunchbox would be like lighting up a cigarette in an office meeting room.

The jar stayed on top of the fridge until Christmas. We gave it to the food bank before we left for Brazil.

When we came back from the trip, the jar was back on top of the fridge. “Wait… did I dream the part where we dropped it off at Loblaws?” I asked Feng.

“Nope. Apparently, my parents bought a new one. I guess it makes sense from their perspective… they must have thought we finished the previous one.”

“Shall we keep this one forever as a decoy, then?”

“I’ll talk to them.”

A few weeks later, Feng proudly announced, “progress was being made.”

“With your parents?”

“No, with the peanut butter. I decided to eat the whole jar by myself. Look!”

Half of it was gone.

“Are you serious? That’s crazy!”

“Yeah, I’m kidding,” he confirmed. “My parents stopped by and I forced my dad to bring home half of it in a Tupperware.”

“Oh, great idea! Maybe they’ll get the message this time.”

Weeks went by, zero peanut butter was eaten and I started wondering when it would be polite to ask my in-laws to please, take the jar away…

… until a few days ago.

“It’s back,” Feng announced unceremoniously.

“What?”

“It regenerated. I was moving stuff and I noticed we had a new, unopened jar. My parents must have brought a new one when I was away this afternoon.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

He was right.

If you like peanut butter, please, give me a call. I’ll make you a sandwich. Or two. I can even supply you for a year.

Kraft Smooth Peanut Butter, 2 kg

Unwanted: Kraft Smooth Peanut Butter, 2 kg

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

23 Comments

  1. Ben dis donc … Je ne sais pas ce qui me choque le plus : que tes beaux parents s’autorisent à rentrer chez vous en votre absence pour y déposer de la nourriture dont vous n’avez pas besoin ( cela veut dire qu’ils ont un double de vos clés ? Impensable pour moi …) ou que Feng n’ait pas assez de cran pour leur dire de stopper cela … Je sais que tes rapports avec tes beaux parents ne sont pas simples, mais as-tu simplement envisagé de leur rapporter toute la nourriture dont vous n’avez pas besoin en leur disant “merci beaucouo mais on n’en veut pas” ?

    • Oh, ce n’est pas si simple! 🙂 Feng s’est souvent opposé à ses parents, j’ai vu des scènes monumentales depuis presque 20 ans qu’on se connaît. Ils sont âgés maintenant, on en a pris notre partie. Je peux t’assurer que j’ai tout essayé : le non poli, les arguments logiques, la colère… rien ne marche. Autant s’en accommoder! 🙂 Ah, rapporter des choses chez eux, on l’a faut aussi!

  2. Martin Penwald on

    > putting a PB&J sandwich in your kid’s lunchbox would be like lighting up a cigarette in an office meeting room.
    I would have in a pediatric care unit.

    I really don’t like Nutella, because of hazelnut. And peanut butter is very probably an acquired taste, I don’t like it.
    However, i discovered in a B.C Save-on-Foods (didn’t find it in AB) almond butter, and it’s very good.

    • I can’t say I’m a huge fan of Nutella. I mean, we have a jar at home and I can go months or even years without any Nutella “tartine”. You don’t like hazelnut? I do, but I find Nutella too sweet. I’ve never tried almond butter… I like savoury spreads better than sweet spreads I think.

  3. It must be annoying to you but reading it was funny!
    I LOVE peanut butter, grew up eating A LOT of it but I can not imagine buying 2kg. Or maybe only for cooking.
    Don’t you have cool recipes with peanut butter? Cookies, chicken, cheesecake…
    That said I sympathize. 😀

    • Where did you eat peanut butter growing up? (Sorry, I’m missing parts of your story, dear exotic woman!)

      I have a recipe for peanut noodles, which I love, but I find my Chinese sauce tastes way better than just plain peanut butter. And I hate peanut butter in baked goods :-/

      I shared the story because I found it funny… I still find it funny rather than infuriating. I’m not even mad at my in-laws, but I’m kind of annoyed with Costco and the fact that we are constantly sold more food than needed, even in regular supermarkets.

      • I grew up in France!
        But we used to buy Dakatine, the one sold in cans, maybe more in little shops that supermarkets 🙂 I could put peanut butter in everything!

        • That’s what I remembered from our conversation, but I couldn’t picture you eating (and mostly, finding) peanut butter in France! Maybe that’s a Brittany thing, but back in the 1990s, the only thing you could put on toast were salted butter, Nutella or jam 😆

          • That was for me the best part of growing up near Paris at that time, there was a HUGE community of people who arrived almost at the same time from all over the world (ok mostly all Africa and India with a few from Eastern Europe) where I lived and the shops reflected just that so I would eat peanut butter, sweet potatoes, Floup and things like that every day. I only had more «French» food at school, and like I remember discovering salted butter maybe around 10 only because of a friend.

          • Lucky you! We were so behind in “la province”! I remember having spring rolls (well, “nems”, the French-Asian version) when I was around 10, it was so exotic! I think we started to have world food and world products in the late 2000s, but before it was very “franco-français”, which I realize now because I take my multicultural Canadian environment from granted.

  4. Peut-être une idée de business ? Fournir des PB&J là où est la demande. Reverser une partie des bénéfices à tes beaux-parents. Qui reassortirons les stocks. Je suis sûre qu’il y a quelque chose à faire ! Sinon, bien sûr, les food bank, et considérer que tes beaux-parents font, en quelques sortes, de la charité.
    Où créer de la déco à partir de ça ? Un pouf pour enfant, un pied de table. Tu le revends très cher et hop. La richesse.

    Courage !

    • I love your entrepreneurial ideas! 😆 The food bank will be my option (for unopened food) but I’m toying with the idea of using the empty jar as a LEGO box… or maybe a pen holder that Mark could paint and offer his grand-parents? 😆

        • Figure-toi qu’ils ont fait irruption dans la cuisine ce soir (je ne les avais pas entendu arriver… enfin je n’attendais pas non plus leur visite). Bref, j’avais les mains dans la vaisselle et j’ai complètement oublié de leur refourguer le pot. Je m’en veux à mort 😆

  5. Wow, 2kg de peanut butter !
    Je pense que mes enfants (et mon mari) le mangeraient, mais je n’aime pas ça non plus. Et comme je te comprends, je déteste avoir des choses qui ne sont pas utiles, acheter plus que ce dont on a besoin, je déteste de plus en plus ce système où on nous pousse à tout prendre en grandes quantité juste pour faire toujours plus de profits… Chez nous, c’est les jouets qui apparaissent par enchantement, offerts à mes enfants par ma maman… ou mon mari.

    • Oh, les jouets! J’avais oublié ce “problème” quand Mark était petit… à un moment, on croulait sous les babioles, surtout à l’époque où il n’allait pas encore à l’école et donc était avec nous quand on faisait les courses. Y’avait toujours quelqu’un qui craquait quand Mark faisait une colère dans le magasin. Ça s’est résolu tout seul en grandissant : il connait la valeur des choses et apprécie plus les cadeaux pour une raison (anniversaire, Noël, etc.). Aussi, tout ce que mes beaux-parents achètent RESTE CHEZ EUX 😆 Doit y’avoir un magasin de jouet dans la chambre de Mark, mais c’est pas mon problème!

  6. Personne n’en mange à la maison, je serai bien embêtée! Personnellement ce que je déteste c’est que j’achète des choses précises chez nous. Que nous aimons, déjà. Mais qui en plus suivent notre charte personnelle, comme tu sais lol, question produits bios, moins de plastique possible, et qualité surtout. Quand mes in-laws sont là, ils achètent des lots de trucs cheap et on est coincés avec ensuite. Je comprends que chacun fait avec ses habitudes et qu’ils sont bien gentils d’acheter des trucs pour nous quand on les héberge à la maison. Mais je me lève à 5h00 du matin pour leur servir des gâteaux frais pour le petit-déjeuner, ils peuvent faire un bout de chemin de leur côté, non??

    • This is kind of my rule too: I don’t care what you eat, which products you use, etc. as long as 1) you don’t force me to adopt your way of life 2) you actually eat/use what you buy. Feng and I don’t throw away much food… the odd banana (yeah, I know, BANANA BREAD! Well, I don’t have time right now!) or stale bread (totally guilty of that, I like fresh bread, sorry).

  7. Je serai encore à Ottawa, j’irai le récupérer chez vous! Je ne me souviens plus de ma consommation, mais j’achetais cette marque (peut-être pas en 2kg qd mm…) même si c’est vraiment la merdique possible.
    Je ne reçois plus tes posts par mail depuis le 27 mai! Heureusement, j’ai pensé faire un tour… pour voir si tout va bien 😉

    • Oh, c’est bizarre… pour les articles par courriel et pour cette addiction au peanut butter! 😆

      Je te l’aurais bien envoyé par la poste, mais 2 kg, quoi :-/

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