Yes, We Have No Small Olives…

It all started when I was trying to explain America to a resident of Blighty. “America is a big country,” I wrote, “and nobody wants anything small, or so the marketing theory goes. There’s simply no such thing as a small olive on American supermarket shelves! One has to choose from such official USDA designations as large, extra large, jumbo, extra jumbo, colossal, super colossal, mammoth, and super mammoth. (Whether the “mammoth” olives are the least bit woolly is something I am unable to confirm.) This obsession with largeness is a tedious feature of American culture: large cars, large superheroes, large wars, large political scandals…”

Somehow, the rumors started flying… Hot Tin Cat went to the supermarket in search of small olives and couldn’t find any. What on earth were the small olives for? Small salads? Martinis for munchkins? Ammunition for an outsized peashooter? It’s gotten so bad that young schoolboys (and first-year law students) send me raisins surgically altered to look like olives with notes scrawled in crayon saying, “Hey Hot Tin Cat, are these small enough for ya?”

Time to clear up the confusion: I have never gone to the supermarket in search of small olives, nor would I have any particular use for them. I was merely citing them as an example. Nobody in America wants to buy anything labeled “small.” It might make them feel inferior. That’s why the official USDA designations are all transmogrified synonyms for “large.”

To be perfectly honest, I learned everything I know about the subject from educational television, specifically The Great American Dream Machine. Let’s grade the olives with Marshall Efron:


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