I first met Penner Foods when I was a wee pants schieter, my legs kicking in the child seat of the cold medal grocery cart, my hands never as firmly gripped to the red handle as my mother would have preferred. I was, as Armin Wiebe would say “heista kopp” in love with Penner Foods.
I remember the rapple chap aisle. Old Dutch as far as the eye could see. Then row after row of bologna and luncheon meat with the macaroni embedded inside. Of course, you had to get it hand-cut and weighed and wrapped in pink butcher paper. We could get formaworcht, too, if it was a Saturday after my Dad got paid. And a free cookie at the bakery. Sometimes we’d even drop off a roll of film to be developed. After three or four hours of shopping and Low German conversation that I struggled to understand, we’d gather up our groceries and head for the checkout line, where a betrothed teenager would type each and every price by hand and another teenager, her fiancé, would bag our groceries. Paper bags, of course.
Then we’d be given a number on a plastic card, drop off our bags on the conveyor belt, and head for the car. And we’d go directly there and get in the parcel pickup line, unless I could convince Mom for a brief detour at the Clearspring Mall red carpet, which was the main source of entertainment for Steinbach children in those days. Or maybe, if she had some extra change, we could drop a quarter into a large vibrating elephant or airplane and it would shake us around for two minutes and we’d forget all about rolling around on the soft scarlet floor in the middle of the mall. Then we’d go pickup our parcels.
Penner Foods and I have been in love for quite some time, you know, even though Penners has gone through a lot of changes. Wider aisles. New products. They even got rid of the Tom Boy mascot. Penners has had a lot of work done. Then, a while back, she dropped the Penner name altogether.
But, you know, I made a commitment a long time ago. Sure, she’s changed. She’s even calling herself Sobeys now, but she’ll always be Penner Foods to me. And, frankly, I’ve changed too. I can’t fit in the grocery cart child’s seat like I used to.
(photo credit: Mack Male/CC)