Monday, January 09, 2006

Eating in South St. Louis

We really don't understand how this has happened, but a few blocks south of our house (just south of the venerable Del Pietro's) at 5815 Hampton there is now an establishment called The Pitted Olive. It is elegant looking, with rich earth tones and gleaming cold display cases. There are three eat in tables for two plus a tall bar type table for six. They offer a limited but tasty and reasonbly priced selection of wines and beer (John had Bass Ale for lunch today) and have several tasty sandwiches and salads on offer. They also have lovely things you can take home and heat up like stuffed pork loin, stuffed chicken breast, vegie lasagna and much else. Last week the special was a steak sandwich with blue cheese and caramelized onion sauce. The bun was nicely toasted, the steak was big tender chunks cooked to order (not the shaved well cooked beef often offered in steak sandwiches)the cheese and the sauce just delicious. The only problem was that it was messy to eat because it was so well filled. And it came with a choice of side salads. This week, the special was barbecued ribs which were served with a side of beand and rice with andouille sausage. The combination was smokey, spciy and delicious. John reports that the split pea soup is good and Mo gobbled down the chicken with wild rice soup and an oatmeal butterscotch cookie. Oh, and we had Creme Brulee for dessert. Very very tasty. How can this be happening, here on south Hampton where the last exciting restaurant opening as St Louis Pizza and Wings? Also, they are offering a service where they will deliver three delicious meals to your house per week for $30.00 per person plus a delivery charge... Check them out on south Hampton or on the web at:

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Funeral Home Marketing

We use candles on our table often and since we aren't smokers and our gas stove has a pilot and a Piezzo spark, we have to work hard at finding matches. So when I was first in St Louis, I discovered that one of the ways that funeral homes keep their names before the public is by leaving matches around for you to pick up in public areas. We have a number of packs of matches at our house picked up over the years from a well-regarded local funeral home, depicting its familiar horse and buggy logo, conveying, no doubt, that you can rely on them since they've been in business a long time.

I don't know what made me notice this, exactly, but I discovered at a "visitation" that this local funeral home no longer gives away matches but gives away emery boards (still with the name and logo) instead. For some reason this seems quite funny to me. I can understand why they might have chosen to phase out matches given the well established links between cancer and heart disease and smoking. It might make them seem at best insensitive, and at worst too eager for new clients.

So here is the question I have: Why emery boards? Are they trying to stem the tide of grief-related nail biting? Do men use emery boards as much as women do? And if not, are they aiming to increase market share among widows? But even as I am puzzling over this marketing ploy, I have to admit that I'm not sure what I would hand out if I were them. Kleenex? They are pretty generous with good quality name brand tissues in every room already. Hand sanitizer? Toothpicks? Obviously coasters and cocktail napkins are out (although at one point they did have styrofoam cups with their logo on them in the hospitality lounge).

On the same table as the dish of complimentary emery boards there was a dish of wrapped (yeah, in the logo) candies which I thought would be peppermints or lemon drops but which I discovered too late (after having spent a whole day with them floating around in my suit pocket)were in fact chocolate covered mints which don't travel well at all.

BTW, despite the familiar logo, this particular funeral home has merged with another (it has been merged for a while, but they now put it on their signs) and seems to be part of a big national company called Dignity Memorial which I imagine as being like the company that the family funeral home on Six Feet Under are always fending off. Maybe they vetoed the matches and brought in the emery boards. They also offer other services, like helping you sort out the estate of the deceased, which is probably very useful. But they offer courses for children on how to avoid kidnapping, too, which seems less obviously linked to their core business but I guess is supposed to be good marketing for boomer parents, or something.

I guess because I love our Episcopal burial office, and Episcopal funerals and memorial services with Holy Communion, I feel sad when people choose the symbols and rituals of funeral homes over a funeral or memorial service in church. Often, I think, people think it will be "less fuss" or "less trouble." In families which encompass a variety of religioust traditions, funeral homes can seem like neutral ground. But when I am at a funeral home, I find myself wondering what exactly they mean to convey, why they do the things they do. Their staff are almost always white males of a certain age, for example. Their default musical offerings are soft and full of tremulant. Here in St Louis, funeral homes have decor touches like a fish pond stocked with goldfish, a room decorated with images of the 1904 World's Fair, rooms designed to look like the great room of an English manor house and various chapels. What are they trying to convey? What hope? What comfort?