Maple Syrup, $50; A Sunday Tradition, Priceless

~By Sarah Pascarella

It’s funny how people determine what’s worth a good splurge, especially when it comes to food. In my house, most groceries were strictly no-nonsense. Nutritious, natural, nothing too fancy–these were the staples of our pantry. We clipped coupons and took advantage of weekly sales to make sure our grocery dollars went far. One might have even called us thrifty.

Which is why I was surprised to discover my parents recently paid $50 for six bottles of maple syrup–$25 for the syrup itself, $25 to ship it.

Not just any syrup, however–Golden Griddle, the “Cadillac” of maple, according to my father. That my mother was on board with this purchase, even though she eschews maple for Karo corn syrup or a fruit spread on her pancakes each Sunday, made the situation even more amusing.

You see, during my childhood, Golden Griddle used to be on every grocery store shelf, a maple motherlode that my father took for granted. And then, one week, it was gone, out of stock, not to be replaced. We tried several local grocery stores, even asked a few supermarket managers what the situation was. From what we could gather, the manufacturer was no longer producing in bulk, wasn’t delivering to our area, or simply wasn’t on offer any longer. I think we switched between a few other syrup brands, but it was never the same. My father never stopped looking, traipsing the grocery store aisles like a sailor’s wife across a widow’s walk, seeking out the long-lost love.

And then, a few years ago, my aunt and uncle came to our Christmas Eve feast with a huge gleam in their eyes. Once we finished our annual gorge fest and retired to the living room to open gifts, they handed my father a large, heavy box. He grimaced at its  weight, his face curious as to what the box could contain–and opened it up to find ten bottles of Golden Griddle inside. He broke into a huge grin, as though he had encountered an old friend or a favorite childhood toy. “Where did you find these?” he asked incredulously.

“In Pittsburgh!” my aunt said, excited. My cousin was then a student at Point Park University and, during a nondescript grocery run, she had come across the unexpected maple treasure trove. After that, whenever she came home for a break or my aunt and uncle went out to visit her, a few maple syrup bottles made the trek back as well.

But eventually my cousin graduated and the Pittsburgh trips stopped. And it seemed a little silly to make the four-hour trip out to Pittsburgh for a $3 bottle of maple syrup. So gradually my father’s supply dwindled, until one Sunday morning, during a visit home, I noticed he was all out and using Big Top Maple, the generic brand, again.

“It’s okay… for now,” he had said, turning toward the microwave with a pitcher of syrup. “If you heat it up, it’s not so bad.” And it was fine–as his pancakes were always light, fluffy, and delicious, it was hard to complain about a lesser-quality syrup.

And then came the recent visit, with the new well-stocked home supply of Golden Griddle. I’m not sure what made my dad decide to look online, as he generally avoids computers. Something about the possibility of it being out there, still available, somewhere, led him to the keyboard–and to his long-awaited syrup reunion! I guess, despite their thrifty ways, the combination of Golden Griddle drought, inferior substitutes, and nostalgia helped my parents determine there are some items that are worth a premium price.

I had his pancakes this past Sunday, with just the slightest amount of Golden Griddle (it’s now of course being rationed, and really, just a little bit is all you need). And it’s true: the Golden Griddle elevated the pancakes from delicious to sublime.

Do you have an ingredient or item that you’ll splurge over? Share your favorite indulgence by submitting a comment below!

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