Amazon – Whole Foods v Walmart Hysteria

Amazon is buying Whole Foods? When the Hell did that happen?

Big Red Car — going to be a great day in the ATX.

OK, so unless you were out of the country, you know that Amazon has put its loop around Whole Foods and is trying to buy them. Deal seems to be all but done.

So what does it mean? Haha, that’s the rub. Let’s explore it, shall we?

Everyone wants to peg it as a Amazon v Walmart grocery industry cage match. Is it?

Before we answer that question, let’s take a look at some numbers.

Relative size Amazon v Walmart gross revenue

Walmart gross revenue in 2016 was $485B. That’s $485.000,000,000. Grocery was 56%  of that number or $272,000,000,000.

Amazon gross revenue in 2016 was $136B. That’s $136,000,000,000.

Whole Foods gross revenue in 2016 was $16B. That’s $16,000,000,000.

So, if one were to add Amazon and Whole Foods gross revenue, one would have $152B v Walmart’s $485B. Walmart is 3 X larger than Amazon.

If one were to compare Walmart’s grocery gross revenue v Whole Foods, the ratio would be 17 X ($272/16 = 17). Check the math.

Walmart is way bigger than Amazon + Whole Foods; and, way, way, way bigger than Whole Foods.

Advantage Walmart.

Growth rate

It is in the area of growth that the comparison gets interesting. Walmart is looking at some very low growth rates and in 2016, Walmart sales declined.

Amazon is looking at very robust growth rates with 2016 at 27%. Nearly none of that is their fledgling grocery operation. One may argue it is an apples v oranges comparison. Fair play to you.

Whole Foods is looking at a declining growth rate from 10% in 2014 to 2% in 2016.

One of the reasons Whole Foods welcomed the embrace of Amazon is because its growth has been declining.

Another way to look at it is Amazon was able to buy Whole Foods for a fraction of what it would have commanded four years ago. Shrewd.

Advantage Amazon.

Research & Development

R & D is not something which translates directly to revenue or profits, but the Big Red Car finds it very interesting to consider.

Amazon spent $16B on R & D last year.

Walmart spent $0 and Whole Foods spent $0.

There are those who might opine that Walmart’s accounting system doesn’t do justice to the derivation of this number as its real R & D investment is in acquisitions like Jet.com which it spent $3B on recently. Fair play on that one. Not biting completely, but fair play.

Still, one is tempted to think that R & D spending is an investment in the future. Does it sell more produce?

Advantage Amazon?

Bottom line it, Big Red Car

OK, here’s the bottom line for y’all.

 1. After the hysteria, inquiring minds realize Walmart is much bigger than Amazon and Walmart’s grocery operation (largest in the country) is huge in comparison to Whole Foods. Think footprint.

 2. Walmart is making huge investments in its own tech. They are doing this through acquisitions. There will be more than a little monkey see – monkey do.

 3. The demographics of the Whole Foods v Walmart Superstore clientele are different. Whole Foods may be more urban while Walmart is more suburban. No surprises.

Revenue from Marble Falls (enormous Walmart Superstore), Texas is the same US dollars as from Austin By God Texas, y’all.

As to market share, there is a lot of America which Walmart will command and Whole Foods will never visit. Conversely, I’m not looking for a Manhattan Walmart Superstore. [Could just be me and my own biases, but sort of makes sense, no?]

There is a lot of suburban America out there.

 4. The whole Whole Foods organic shtick is an “other” thing which is under pressure from everyone in the grocery business.

In Austin, Texas, Central Market (HEB unit) has better produce than Whole Foods. [Personal opinion only.]

Places like Costco and Sam’s Club are right in there with produce though they do not have the organic shtick. Then, there is Trader Joe’s and other places.

Whole Foods had first mover cred, but that is gone.

 5. The growth rate thing is something to watch. Sure, the Amazon growth rate is driven by your collection of sneakers and my digital gadgetatti.

But, Walmart’s growth rate is flat. Whole Foods is sort of irrelevant because of their size. [Haha, a $15B revenue in the land of these giants gets you a “irrelevant” label. Tall weeds.]

So, the bottom line is MEH. The Whole Foods acquisition is smaller than what Amazon spent on R & D last year. Huh? Yeah, it’s a big lab experiment. See, you didn’t know that was coming did you?

If you’re interested in the actual numbers, you can look here:

Walmart Financials

Amazon Financials

Whole Foods Financials

Those are from Market Watch, a service the Big Red Car likes for its completeness, clarity, and ease of access.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Be good to yourselves and have a great weekend. Be kind to someone who needs a bit of kindness. Smile. cropped-LTFD-illust_300.png

  • Maf1127

    @BRC If only all finance writing could have this clarity. When you’re looking to get a feeling of a company, what is the process you go though in evaluating their financials?
    Ex.
    1.Revenue
    2. Gross Profit
    3. GP % of Sales
    4. Operating Expenses
    5. Operating Exp % of Sales
    Etc….

    Then do take a peak at the cash and liabilities on B/S? Eventually do you see if they’re generating CF on the CFS?

    Always appreciated,
    Mark

    • JLM

      .
      Go straight to Market Watch. They have the best public, free financials.

      Expertly and uniformly formatted making comparisons easy.

      BRC
      http://www.themusingsofthebigredcar.com

      • Maf1127

        Once you reviewed the financials, what are the top either metrics or figures you look for to determine the health of a company? Ex. (Sales growth, EBITDA growth, Debt to Equity etc..)

  • sigmaalgebra

    Yes, I, and apparently we all, neglected to consider the point that maybe Bezos will have some teams of his computer and automation people take a pass through the WF operations and find places for doing the work faster, better, cheaper and, thus, add to the value of WF?

    And maybe those people should install some monitoring and measuring and collect operational data and later from that data find improvements?

    E.g., sure, first cut, get some information on what products to include/exclude.

    E.g., can do some work in, say, statistical quality control.

    E.g., quite generally, can work on inventory and, more generally, supply chain optimization. This second is especially important in cases of perishable and/or seasonal inventory and, done carefully, is a special case of stochastic optimal control — can spend a lot of computer time doing that. This work is definitely not computer science. Certainly it is applied math, and much of it is now standard operations research.

    E.g., for a case of physical distribution, there is the grand multi-commodity network flow problem. “Multi-commodity” ? Yup, that’s where are shipping not just widgets from factories to warehouses to retail stores but are shipping widgets, nuts, bolts, screws, fresh eggs, and winter coats. Yup, it’s in NP-complete. That is, for just one commodity (good, variety of widgets), we have the powerful, blindingly fast, highly polished algorithms for minimum cost capacitated (e.g., some trucks can carry no more than 40,000 pounds) network flows. The multi-commodity case is more difficult.

    Due to the NP-complete issue, we don’t know of a really good algorithm. Clay Math in Boston has a prize of $1 million for the first good algorithm. Clay Math has several such prizes for various problems; their problems are challenging, and they don’t give out money very fast!

    Although in practice, the multi-commodity issue does raise the difficulty, it is not a show stopper.

    Besides, Bezos will be happy with any solution that saves significant money (without hurting anything else); the NP-complete criterion is saving the last tiny fraction of the last penny of possible savings, guaranteeing to do that, for any and all problems, no matter how pathological, always in good computer time, and Bezos will be willing to take the first $10 million in savings and f’get about the last $1000.

    The multi-commodity problem is precisely stated, but there are lots of cases where the messy real problem and the precise mathematical one are quite close. First steps, we’re talking saving on a lot of shipping costs. Also can get this to bleed into facility location (which is also often in NP-complete).

    Then try to tackle a bigger problem: How to grow and locate the warehouses and shipping means over time to do well on shipping costs, inventory costs, lifetimes of perishable goods, etc.?

    Likely the way to chicken out on attacking that problem is that don’t have enough precise data for what the business will need in 5+ years.

    Then Bezos might be bright enough to say “Okay, run off for us a lot of plausible scenarios. For proposed operational expansion plans, see how they do on the scenarios. Then pick a plan that, hopefully is still dynamic (changes over time by exploiting the values of random variables as they become known), saves money, and is robust. Actually, there is an R. Rockafellar idea “scenario aggregation” that stands to be helpful.

    Bezos should know Rockafellar since he is at U Washington!

    Starting as Director of Operations Research at FedEx and then my Ph.D., I got one of the best backgrounds in that stuff. But, the number of business executives who want to pursue such things is tiny. The main consumers were near DC, from government executives who wanted the math to cover their back sides; the customers in business were very few and far between.

    In such work, are selling some tools to some executives. Bezos is maybe bright enough to make good use of those tools. But, then, Bezos is the one making the big bucks.

    To make the big bucks, better to be the executive and where have picked a problem where some applied math can be a huge advantage. Then get both to apply the math and get the resulting big bucks. Or, don’t keep hoping that some executive will create a good job for applied math. Instead be that executive, create that job, and make the big bucks.

    Or if the existing executives are so reluctant to exploit some good applied math, then that is a sad situation the flip side of which is a golden opportunity.

    I.e., once have an applied math application making nice bucks, which of those executives who with iron determination rejected applied math will suddenly catch up and compete? And the candidates are all, most, few, tiny, one, and none. And may I have the envelope please [drum roll, please]. And in the unanimous opinion of the judges, the winner is, “RIP”, “NONE!”.

  • sigmaalgebra

    > Yeah, it’s a big lab experiment. See, you didn’t know that was coming did you?

    I agree and believe that, once announced, I did see it as essentially a lab experiment. So, for a mere $16 billion, Bezos and his staff and R&D operation can get an in person, up close, personal, hands-on tutorial of the relatively high end grocery business. And the lessons are relatively free because if Bezos concludes he doesn’t need Whole Foods, then he can sell it off, IPO, etc. again for little or no loss and maybe a gain.

    For Amazon getting into the grocery business, for anything like a marriage of the current grocery business and the current Amazon business, I see little hope. Net, IMHO, Bezos is wasting his time.

    I’ve put in a few orders to Amazon for some of their groceries: I wanted some Campbell’s Chunky Beef Soup. I wanted to buy 1-2 dozen cans at a time, occasionally eat two cans for dinner, maybe fixed up with Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, black pepper, some Campbell’s Beef Consomme (from the can, undiluted), and some loosely fried ground beef, use soft toast to soak up the last of the liquid, and have the stash last 1-2 months. Okay. But to buy the 1-2 dozen cans at my local grocery stores, including Wal-Mart, I had to lie down on the floor, look at the back of the bottom shelf, pick the cans from disorganized stock, and still not get the 1-2 dozen cans. Bummer. But at Amazon, sure, a few clicks and get a whole case of 24 or some such cans. And the cans shipped fine — no breakage problem. And IIRC, even with the shipping charges, I was, net, okay on cost per can. So, there Amazon groceries worked.

    French’s Yellow Mustard for hot dogs? Sure, got a small, 1/2 gallon size from Amazon — not available in local stores.

    So, get rid of all those itsy bitsy, tinny tiny, itty bitty, dinky twinky, cutsy, sweet little precious darling adorable housewife exquisitely designed consumer good packaged products nonsense with more money for the package design, the package, marketing, and trip to the grocery store than the mustard, and run out of the mustard too soon — have to make just mustard a standard TODO list item. Bummer.

    For those cans of Campbell’s Beef Consomme, sure, I also worked up a steak sauce recipe: Take one of those and a can of Campbell’s French Onion soup, strain out the onions and set those aside, combine the liquid from those two cans, boil down to about 3/4 cup to a dark, light syrup, add more sauteed onions, add the onions from the French Onion Soup, give it a dash of Worcestershire sauce, add 1/2 a stick of butter, add salt and pepper, add some sauteed mushrooms, and call it steak sauce.

    The basics there are heavily just from Escoffier’s techniques on working with brown stock and sauces.

    For me to make a good Escoffier brown stock would be a LOT of work — even to get the raw materials (I tried). In particular, if look at Julia Child, etc. for French Onion Soup, by far the one and only tough part is the brown stock, and for an individual in the US today that’s a show stopper. Similarly for nearly all the French beef stew efforts. At least some Italian, too.

    For the old kitchens, brown stock was easy. For now, in US home kitchens, brown stock is a total pain, and astoundingly expensive per quart just from the raw materials.

    But Campbell’s no doubt can make really good Escoffier style brown stock in vats the size of my house, easily, at relatively low cost per quart. Indeed, that brown stock is the main important ingredient in Campbell’s Chunky Beef Soup, French Onion Soup, and Beef Consomme. And to get those good puppies in good quantities, Amazon is good and about the only good source. Chalk one up for Amazon.

    So, I did buy some groceries from Amazon. Sorry, Jeff, as much as I liked getting those cases of Campbell’s products, 1/2 gallon of mustard, etc., Amazon as my main grocery supplier is not promising.

    E.g., yesterday I wanted just a few items so drove to my closest grocery store. It was terrific. The floor looked clean enough to eat from. The staff was nice. The selection was good. The store was attractive. The signs showing what was in each isle were good. The produce looked terrific, and some of the items, things I’d never seen before, some big, round, strange balls with spines sticking out all over, were even weird. For my main grocery shopping, it’s Sam’s and Wal-Mart, that share a parking lot, about 25 miles away. There I load up the back of my SUV.

    Again, I don’t see ordering at Amazon’s Web site, waiting 1-5 days, and getting some big boxes on my front porch.

    All that said, I believe that Wal-Mart, Amazon, and the grocery business are all missing out, big time.

    Where I believe they are missing out is information, crucial for the customers.

    Simple situation: The customers are short on information, desperately short, so short the businesses of Wal-Mart, Amazon, and grocery stores everywhere are missing out really, really, really big time. HUUUUUGE. Bigly. No joke. Did I mention HUUUUGE? No joke.

    The customers are missing out on (1) information to let them find what they want in the store inventory and (2) usually on what the heck to do with the products when they have them.

    Here are two examples, each of which is just a special case of many more examples and a general, huge situation:

    First Example, CDs and DVDs: (A) What the heck do you want, and (B) where the heck to get it? For (A), the situation is grim. Netflix tries to have an answer via their recommendation system, but (i) it sucks even just for what Netflix had in mind just narrowly for their business (their Netflix Challenge competition to have a good recommendation engine was badly formulated and used weak techniques) and is nearly useless otherwise. Given a good solution to (A), typically get a title and, then, at Amazon or elsewhere can get the CD/DVD and order it. But, bummer, at Wal-Mart, in the store, get racks and bins of CD/DVDs with no organization. It’s like all the books in a library in a big pile on the floor of the reading room, everything in a grocery store in a big pile out front, an Amazon warehouse after a tornado just went through.

    Solve (A) and can sell a lot more CD/DVDs. Solve (B) and Wal-Mart can sell a lot more CD/DVDs.

    Second Example, Home Cooking. Yup, there are cookbooks. Lots of cookbooks. Wanna cook at home? Okay, there are, did I mention, lots of cookbooks.

    Can get a stack of those and sit and read them. Can get some vicarious. escapist, emotional experience entertainment (VEFEEE) with some herbal tea and those books. Can imagine romantic, intimate dinners, cooking up the best stuff from the best kitchens in Paris, Rome, and Vienna, terrific party foods for the grade school kids and their friends, big family dinner gatherings, backyard events for the church young adults group, really good stuff to take to a potluck dinner, stuff can make on Sunday afternoon, place in the refrigerator, and with a microwave oven use for super fast dinners and late snacks all week, etc.

    Yup, can do that. Lots of reading. Lots of vicarious, fantasy, etc. But food? Actual food? At least good food? Nope. It’s like singing without making a sound. It’s like 22 rifle target practice with no ammo. It’s like the family taking a long vacation in the car, 2000 miles of driving, with lots of luggage, hiking equipment, cameras, laptop computers, smartphones, great car HVAC, coolers full of ice and soft drinks and/or great coffee, etc. all in the driveway without moving at all. Bummer.

    Why? The cookbooks are for the vicarious, escapist, fantasy stuff and that is ALL. For cooking, the cookbooks are at best just suggestions of research projects where each project can take hundreds of hours of work, hundreds of dollars in wasted groceries, lots of research from other sources, etc. What’s in those books is trivial, at best junk, or a significant research project.

    I’ve been through a lot of such cooking research projects. They are bummers. A few of the projects came out relatively well, but due to the additional sources I had to use and the particular solutions I found, I doubt if my results were much like the results of anyone else working from the same recipes.

    E.g., I know how to do a Coquilles Saint Jacques Parisienne that is just terrific. E.g., when my wife and I served this to my parents, at the end my dedicated social climbing mother, usually highly proper enough for Buckingham Palace, pulled the baking dish to her and used an index finger to get some of the remaining sauce. So, yup, my dish passed the KFC test!

    It is good. I don’t know if anyone in France would recognize it, but, still, it is good. It was a LOT of work.

    I’ve published some peer-reviewed papers of original research in applied math and mathematical statistics that were less work. I’ve written significant software that was less work. Once I saved FedEx from going out of business with some applied math that was much, much less work. And I’m good in a kitchen, e.g., made As in high school and college chemistry. I’m good in a wood working shop and at auto repair.

    And in the end, there are some biggie, unanswered questions: The sauce is basically a hot custard, and with all the best efforts I know of is darned unstable. Bummer. I believe it is possible to have a stable, hot custard sauce, but I have no idea how to do that. The cookbooks? They have no answers; indeed, they have no clue about even the issue.

    And I have some other successes starting with cookbooks. And I have some minor successes just improvising, e.g., the steak sauce I mentioned above. A recent minor success is hash browned potatoes. An older minor success is ersatz Memphis chopped, picnic pork shoulder BBQ done in just my home oven, with some dry rub and then some bottled BBQ sauce. The Memphis style coleslaw to go with it is a mystery, but I’ve got a partial solution with just green cabbage and bottled ranch dressing. Just how to cut the cabbage still escapes me.

    But, starting with what look like some of the best cookbooks, the list of failures — lots of wasted time, money, effort, groceries — is really long. I’m torqued. I hate the waste. The cookbooks are basically lies, invitations to waste time, money, effort, and groceries.

    Why? The main reason is that there is something of a cookbook industry. It has long been part of the usual book publishing industry, in particular, not the part of the industry for math, physical science, and engineering but the part for belle lettre, fictional novels, etc. So, like fictional novels, the cookbooks are for just vicarious fantasy, not cooking. Once in some high end software, a remark was “If you install that software as in the documentation, I’ll guarantee you it won’t work.”. Well, for nearly everything at all significant in the cookbooks, if you just follow the recipe, I guarantee you the result will be a mess. And, sadly, the situation on the Internet is much the same and rarely better.

    Here is a good, short, simple filter that will destroy essentially every general purpose cookbook in the world, at least everyone that pretends to have a good recipe for beef stew: Just go to the recipe on beef stew and look for the book’s information on the crucial temperature of 160 F and an explanation of its absolutely, crucial role. With this one filter, you will discard nearly every cookbook in the world that pretends to have a good recipe for beef stew. Yes, Virginia, the real situation really is that bad.

    So, what does this have to do with the grocery business? Here’s what: In simple, bold, blunt, bottom line terms, in the US nearly no one who shops at a grocery store or does home cooking is able to cook more than just a few worthwhile dishes from the ingredients in the grocery stores. Basically, the grocery stores are trying to sell ingredients to people who don’t know how to make productive use of the those ingredients. Promising? Nope. Is it working? Nope.

    Gee, just now I’ll get out a 2 quart glass casserole dish, add some canned pork and beans, add some chopped up yellow globe onion, some Worcestershire sauce, some yellow mustard, some hot sauce, some chunked hot dogs, maybe some brown sugar or molasses, mix it, add the cover, and warm it slowly in the microwave oven until some of the sauce is reduced and there is some browning on top, and call that an early dinner! That’s about the level we can expect. Bummer.

    I’ve got something similarly crude for hash brown potatoes (although my actual notes are in great detail).

    So, if the grocery stores want to sell more ingredients, then it is very much in their interests to provide people with information and instruction on how to make productive use of those ingredients.

    Should the grocery stores leave instruction on cooking to the cookbook authors? Nope: Those authors and in particular their publishers are selling vicarious fantasy, personalities, pretty pictures, etc. and lots of stuff except for actual, good, useful information and instruction on cooking. Those books are just lies to waste money on groceries.

    And just now, the opportunities in instruction in cooking are unique, surprisingly good, and maybe even spectacular — develop and publish videos on YouTube. Or better, still, put the videos on DVDs and sell those.

    In particular, there is a huge area of essentially total greenfield, virgin forest opportunity: Asian cooking. Somehow Asian cooking is learned by apprenticeship, hands on, and is nearly never written down in clear terms. It just isn’t. There have been a few efforts, e.g., by the BBC, but, still, the traditional Asian obscurity, mystery, suggestions of quasi-religious magic, inscrutability, etc. dominate; the combination of authors, publishers, etc. just will not, Not, NOT, NOT let themselves describe the work in clear terms. In particular, that whole area has super big problems right at the start — they flatly refuse to be careful about weights, volumes, times, temperatures, pH, and viscosity. Also, for each of those recipes, good, closeup, well lit, documentary instructional, NOT artistic or decorative, color photographs are crucial. Good, close up, well lit, slow motion, instructional video clips will also be good.

    The cookbook industry absolutely, positively, with iron determination, feet locked deep in reinforced concrete, just REFUSES even to approach being either informative or instructional.

    For a startup, I have another, better project, but cooking instruction is a wide open field, with lots of demand, nearly no useful supply, and just crucial for the grocery business.

    Wanna do better in the big-time grocery business? Okay, give people good instruction on how to cook and, thus, make productive use of the groceries.

    Wanna to do better in selling other things in Wal-Mart, Sam’s club, or Amazon? Okay, give people good instruction on how to make good use of the products.

    • SFG

      General Sigma, this has to be your LONGEST post yet! Yeah, home depot (used to anyway) has various classes on “how to”. But, I have not seen the classes in awhile as we all know how 1st timer tile jobs and the like come out. I suspect that even if whole paycheck came out with classes on how to prepare the ultimate protein algae shake mixed with homemade vitamin-enriched soy milk, it’s not going to drive more sales. The vast majority of people don’t really want to work in order learn anything new and if someone has a burning desire to learn the craft of cooking, they will have already found their cookbook or you tube video of choice! Oh, and the only instruction needed for a Wal-Mart shopper is “look for the lowest price”. Even if it sits in the closet, “I got it for cheap”.

      • JLM

        .
        WF has a cooking school. It is a huge operation, but I doubt it drives much in the way of sales.

        BRC
        http://www.themusingsofthebigredcar.com

        • sigmaalgebra

          WH has some cooking classes that don’t make money?

          Okay, then, let’s fix that. We’re going to “clean up this mess right now.”.

          (1) I’ve got a Beef Stroganoff recipe that passes the KFC text, the Buckingham Palace test, the Lutece test, the Mobile Oil five star test, and the Micheline three star test. Yup, in a word, it’s good.

          It’s a super great way to upgrade the WH customers to a whole beef tenderloin. That’s ain’t cheap and never will be.

          In addition need, all easy to get now, some big, white mushrooms, some yellow globe onions, some of the best sour cream, a little dry yellow mustard, and, IIRC, NOTHING else.

          It’s fast. Once you see how, it’s easy.

          And it’s about the best thing ever put on a plate with a fork.

          No joke.

          (2) Chicken, okay. But why not Long Island duckling as Caneton a l’Orange good enough for the best 1900 restaurant in Paris or the last of the French Atlantic ocean liners?

          Show people how to do that, and sell ducking instead of chicken.

          But really easy it’s not.

          And no short, printed recipe will be more than just a research project that wasted time, money, effort, and groceries.

          But for someone who actually knows how and a video producer who knows how to make a good video, for the customers it can finally be really easy.

          (3) Moo Shu Pork can be fast, easy, and good, but if and only if know the heck how to do it. Written down clearly? Don’t look for it. Don’t bother.

          Start with some people who do know, learn well from them, write it down, and show people, and then sell them whole pork tenderloins, really good shitake dried mushrooms, dried lilly flowers, wood ears, ginger, garlic, scallions, chicken stock, corn starch, dry sherry, eggs, some julienned carrots, some nice means to do a good job shredding a lot of green cabbage, and some good soy sauce. IIRC that’s about it.

          I worked up a good recipe of my own just by watching, observing, reading a little, etc. I have long, detailed notes. I get five quarts good for dinners for a week — reheats easily in the microwave oven.

          Some of the other things that can be done with pork tenderloin, say, with apples, etc., are good beyond all possible belief.

          Show people how to do it, and sell more pork tenderloin.

          (3) People actually like Memphis style, chopped pork BBQ. Well, actually, can do pretty darned well with just a fresh picnic pork shoulder, a roasting rack, a roasting pan, an oven at 220 F or likely lower, and a meat thermometer, some dry rub, and some bottled BBQ sauce.

          Nothing subtle or hard to get.

          Show people how to do this to get newbies an early success and interested.

          Actually, not many people know how. Even the BBQ experts seem not to know how. I grew up in Memphis where such BBQ was a major city industry! Similarly in nearly all of TN even over to Knoxpatch.

          So, put a dry rub on the cut surfaces of the meat and set it, likely skin side down (I’m not looking at my notes for this, but whoever is teaching a course should know more than I do) on the rack in the pan in the oven, with the meat thermometer, wait until the meat thermometer reads about 180 F and the bone is loose, about 16 hours.

          Set the shoulder in the roasting pan without the rack, remove the skin and bone and any loose fat.

          For the rest, that’s what you want.

          The traditional course is to coarsely chop some, add some favorite bottled BBQ sauce, place it on a large, lightly toasted white bread bun, top with some simple, all white coleslaw and the other half of the bun, and eat with cold beer and finish with cold dark chocolate topped with stiff whipped cream pie.

          Pass out some such sandwiches at the beginning of the class.

          Then sell all the ingredients and tools and get any newbies started on a really nice dish, never fail, MUCH easier to do than the rumors, TV shows, or BBQ expert books, for a summer in the back yard.

          (4) Get people back into doing really well with beef stew. Beef stew is one of the best family dinner dishes, dishes to help build a family. If know how, e.g., the 160 F, actually it’s easy. Without the 160 F, it’s a minefield.

          Start the class with a nice pot of this.

          Show people how.

          Sell them the associated tools and ingredients.

          Some heirloom organic garlic would be good!

          (5) Show people how to work with fresh, sour cherries, say, for American cherry pie or some French cherry tart with puff pastry.

          American cherry pie, all American pie, is a for nearly all US cooks, a short trip off a high cliff into disaster. There are some deep, dark secrets for how to do well making good pie crust for American pies.

          My father’s mother made an American apple or cherry pie once a day for nearly all her life. She knew how. Dad knew how. Mom cried rivers of tears learning, but eventually she let Dad teach her. Dad taught me.

          It’s super fast and easy if know how, really know the secret, and nothing but years of rivers of tears otherwise.

          I’ve never seen a cookbook or cooking show that really knows the secret.

          I’m not sure anyone at WH knows.

          But if know, then can sell a lot of fresh cherries, for likely nice, high prices.

          Cooking should be one of the most important US joint family activities, but on average the level of knowledge is not much above ordering a bucket from KFC.

          There’s GOT to be money in turning around that horrible situation.

          E.g., see how much Myhrvold cared!

      • sigmaalgebra

        Your post is a riot! Tune it up a little, and you will have a nice stand-up routine, that is not just funny but maybe closer to the truth than my post!

        But:

        (1) My hot water flow rate was declining rapidly. My NaCl charged water softener was a maintenance headache, not to mention all the big bags of NaCl. So, I had pushed the bypass valve so was not using it.

        So, I fixed the flow rate: First after a few tries I got a really good drill pump. After trying the cheapie Chinese copies, I got a good one, right, from Germany! Then I got a propane torch, some lead-free solder, some copper pipe, some associated copper joints and elbows, from the Internet some really nice looking ball valves and faucets, and some lengths of garden hose with standard fittings intended for connections for washing machines.. With a bucket, an old 1/4″ drill, some space on a shelf unit next to my furnace, a hacksaw, some little tools for working with copper pipe, a big sack of baking soda, NaHCO3, a gallon jug of Muriatic acid (28% HCl), some plastic drinking cups, some protective eye goggles. and some rubber gloves, I was ready to go. I turned off the water pressure, cut the pipes to and from the hot water coil, and using the torch, solder, etc., installed the valves and faucets in the appropriate places.

        Then making appropriate use of the hoses, bucket, valves, and faucets, ran some water into the bucket, dropped in one of the copper pieces as a monitor, turned on the drill pump, and got water flowing from the bucket to the pump to the coil and back to the bucket. With that flow running, I about half filled one of the plastic cups with the HCl and let the flow continue. Right the HCl found the CaCO3 lining the coils and quickly did the right thing (hot water dissolves less CaCO3 than cold water from my well) , IIRC, generated CaCl, CO2, and H2O. The CO2 bubbled. When the bubbles stopped, I confirmed that the CaCO3 was gone by adding another half plastic cup of HCl or just dropping in a little of the NaHCO3 to get some confirmatory CO2. The monitoring piece looked free of any corrosion.

        I dumped the bucket in the back yard (have yet to see any ill effects), got some more water in the bucket, got the water circulation going again, and kept adding the NaHCO3 until there were no more CO2 bubbles. Then I dumped the bucket, refilled, circulated again, and added more NaHCO3.

        Then I reset the valves and faucets and let the hot water run in the kitchen sink. Presto, bingo — the hot water flow rate was back to really good again. If I left anything in the house water system, it was only a little NaHCO3 and certainly no HCl.

        For that work, yes, I bought a book at Home Depot. The book wasn’t very good, e.g., didn’t tell me about the right nozzle to use on the propane torch. And the book is not all I had since long ago Dad got me going on solder, acid for drainpipes and acid-free for electrical and electronics. So, sure, on a water pipe, want both acid-free and lead free, and I got that.

        More instructions would have helped.

        (2) My brother and I got a used car. We drove it for years. Yes, the back seat was good for dates! At one point the whole front suspension was so loose that could turn the steering wheel 15 degrees or so in either direction without the front wheels moving.

        So, in a moment of total frustration, I used a bumper jack to raise the front end and set it on some concrete blocks (right, shouldn’t do that). I took out everything from the front wheels to the steering wheel, put all the parts on the garage floor, cleaned them all up, put the worn parts in a box, set the box on the parts counter of my local Chevy dealer, and asked for new ones! I took a pass by the city library and looked at a Chevy maintenance manual and saw a few good things.

        Then I put everything back together. Right, I needed a spring compressor. I didn’t have one and didn’t even know what they were. So, I did a very silly thing — carefully compressed both springs in place, slowly, together, using bumper jacks. Right, at one point the delicate arrangement went out of control and “BAM” as the right spring expanded and the lower A-frame did a super fast 180 pivot and hit the bottom of the center of the frame. The spring went somewhere. I got away without injury. On the second try, all okay, and I got the parts in place with the springs compressed. Had the front end aligned, and drove the thing for several more years.

        I could have used more instructions.
        E,g., right now I could use some instructions on how to remove and replace the dashboard on my SUV. My local mechanic want $1000 for that. I’ll pay $15 for a good DVD!

        (3) For the beef stew, after a lot of Internet searching, I discovered that beef has muscle fibers and collagen. The beef is tough only because of the collagen. The muscle fibers, from fillet to the hard working shin beef, are always tender.

        To cook beef with a lot of collagen, just have to melt the collagen. That happens at about 160 F and can take hours. Then, for food safety, just do NOT let the temperature get much below 160 F. And for the muscle fibers, do NOT let the temperature get much above 160 F for long — a few minutes at 180 F at the end might be okay, but otherwise NEVER. Why? Much above 160 F, the muscle fiber proteins change form, expel their water, and become hard, dry, and brittle, and no amount of additional cooking will correct that situation; to prove this last point, once I tried for 96 hours.

        That’s the crucial information on beef stew omitted by Julia Child, Jacques, Pepin, the NYT, and essentially every cookbook with a beef stew recipe.

        No doubt much the same holds for stewing American bison, elk, deer, fowl, etc.

        Stewing really can make nearly any meat tender if and only if know about 160 F, have a thermometer, and use it.

        My information about 160 F is powerful for making stew, basically correct, but crude, and needs more detail. But for stew, it’s great information. Lots of people don’t even know the 160 F. Bet the cooks at Campbell’s do!

        How much time, effort, money, and groceries did it take for me to discover 160 F? You don’t want to know, and I don’t want to remember. But, until I learned about 160 F, the stew recipes fill much needed gaps in the literature and would be illuminating if ignited.

        With the 160 F, then can worry about fine, not very important, details with the browning, flour, onions, carrots, garlic, red wine, brown, glazed boiler onions, etc. Without the 160 F, need a lot of luck or all the rest is worthless.

        Generally I could use more instructions. But, maybe you are right — that’s just me!

  • SFG

    Does the BRC do http://finviz.com/ Lots of fun/effective visuals on there.

    My last Walmart experience was about 5 years ago. Too much of a 3rd world shopping experience for my taste so I no plans to go back. It’s been a year or two since popping in on Whole Paycheck. Great place to get prepared hot food, but they don’t get that I also like to purchase some stuff that’s not organic and will hasten my demise. WP feels like a very dated post modern hippie experience.

    Costco is the go too for the bulk of inventory. Everything is fresher, better stocked, and they will sell me the highest quality food along with the stuff that will kill me. Everything about Costco is just about perfect by my eye.

    For convenience needs, the regular type local markets are just fine and I can self check out.

    Some Amazon Prime Mojo just might flick the switch for Whole Paycheck. Give them a fresh set of eyes to move beyond the far earthly left and wander a bit towards a more centralist upscale approach.

    Walmart is good, but Amazon is better. And that trend is only going to accelerate.

  • JLM

    .
    What’s the deal with the Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods and their competition with Walmart?

    Is this a real thing or is the Walmart grocery operation (largest in the US) 17 X as big as Whole Foods?

    http://themusingsofthebigredcar.com/amazon-v-walmart-hysteria/

    Let’s break it down.

    BRC
    http://www.themusingsofthebigredcar.com

    #walmart #amazon #wholefoods