Real Cooking

I think I may have compromised my standard of ethics and morality this week.

OK, to be honest, after a period of reflection, research and soul searching, I know I am guilty. And the stupid thing is, the whole sordid thing revolves around a shirt.

A collared, sage green, button-up T-shirt with capped sleeves and a little pocket in a size small. It’s a shirt purchased for my daughter on a shopping trip to one of the Wichita malls. Innocent enough, right? I’m not so sure.

Meg, Alex and I decided we would take some time over our four-day break from school to go to the big city and see what the end-of-winter sales might have to offer. After picking up a couple of sweaters at Dillards for less than $6 apiece, we entered into the greater mall area and decided to stop by the new Abercrombie and Fitch.

Years ago, when Keith and I had taken weekend trips to Kansas City, we would always browse at the A&F located in the Country Club Plaza. At that time, it was much like an upscale Eddie Bauer or GAP, but with a more rugged, outdoorsy feel to the decor.

So, I felt comfortable walking through the door with my children in tow.

But I did get a little edgy when we walked into the first of many adjoining showrooms and noticed a table display featuring the store’s spring catalog.

Wrapped in brown paper, the stacked catalogs were sealed and a printed sign warned that no one under the age of majority would be allowed to purchase one. The catalog contained mature subject matter.

Before I could digest that bit of information, my daughter had spotted the aforementioned T-shirt and my mind went from catalogs to fabric content, washing instructions, size and price. We settled on the shirt and moved inward through the store in search of a cash register.

Walking deeper into the store was a rather eye-opening experience. At every turn, there were more and more pictures of young -and I’m talking late teens to early twenties-breathtakingly beautiful models wearing next to nothing.

In the first showroom, there were torso shots of shirtless buff guys, their Abercrombie and Fitch jeans riding low on their hips. OK, I thought. This is considered a high-fashion photo and is suppose to convey the message that this store and its patrons are young, beautiful, cool and sexy.

Yeah, yeah. Sex sells. I’ve seen it before many, many times. Nothing new.

But in the next showroom and in the next, the pictures on the walls escalated from shirtless guys to shirtless girls holding themselves to barely conceal what was necessary to maintain a modicum of modesty.

By the time we had entered the last room, I had marveled at pictures of couples skinny-dipping and a trio of progressive shots of a man taking off a woman’s bikini top. Just a romp at the beach, I guess.

I guess I was kind of dazed because before I knew it, Meg was standing at the counter with money in hand and buying the shirt. As I turned to find Alex who was trailing behind me, I came face to face with an 8-foot by 4-foot picture of a young man wearing nothing but a towel.

And he didn’t have the towel wrapped around his waist. Let’s just say his mother must have always told him to hang up his towel and he was just following mom’s instructions.

There must not have been a towel rack handy when the shot was taken.

I hustled the kids out and started wondering aloud why a clothing store would feature so many nude or nearly nude models to sell their product.

I know, I’m not stupid. Sex sells. But it seems that Abercrombie and Fitch, as well as some other companies have taken sensuality in the market place to a new level. And shockingly so. Maybe that’s the point.

When I got home, I went to the Internet to find out more about the company that I had supported with my dollars. It seems that Abercrombie and Fitch has been in the news a lot lately.

Last year the retailer enraged parents by offering a summer catalog filled with pictures of nude teenage looking models groping each other.

Then it went on to offer thong underwear targeted for girls 7-14. The panties themselves wouldn’t be so bad except that they were emblazoned with the words “wink, wink” and “eye candy.”

Again last year, the company also enraged Asian communities around the country by putting out a line of T-shirts featuring Asian cartoon characters with slanted eyes and coolie hats. One shirt which said, “Wong Brother’s Laundry Service-Two Wongs Can Make It White,” intended to be teasing and fun (so the company says), were pulled after protests were lodged.

It makes me sick to think this company is targeting kids my age and I gave them my money.

Abercrombie and Fitch has defended itself by saying their company promotes “a celebration of a youthful and spirited yet responsible lifestyle.”

I say, clean up your act.

* * *

I’m not sure what we’ll do about the shirt, but I do know what’s for supper.

Herbed Pork and Apples

1 tsp. dried sage

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. dried marjoram

Salt and pepper to taste

6 lbs. pork loin roast

4 tart apples-peeled, cored, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 red onion, chopped

3 tbs. brown sugar

1 cup apple juice

2/3 cup real maple syrup

In a small bowl, combine the sage, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, salt and pepper. Rub over roast. Cover, and refrigerate for six to eight hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place roast in a shallow roasting pan and bake for 1 to 11/2 hours. Drain any fat that may accumulate in the bottom of the pan.

In a medium bowl, mix apples and onion with brown sugar. Spoon around roast and continue to cook for one hour more or until the internal temperature of the roast reaches 160 degrees. Transfer the roast, apples and onion to a serving platter and keep warm.

To make the gravy, skim excess fat from meat juices. Pour drippings into a medium heavy skillet. Stir in apple juice and syrup. Cook and stir over medium high heat until liquid is reduced to half (about one cup). Slice roast and serve with gravy.

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