Earn a degree in grocery mangling

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This course is a prerequisite for all courses leading to a major in Supermarket Superintendence and the combined major with Customer Utilization. Students should select both lecture and laboratory sections. Early course work is devoted to Evident Assumptions of Weight and Perishability. Attention will be paid to developing students' capability to visually evaluate and categorize light and heavy food products as they move toward them along the conveyor belt at the checkout counter. Students will also discover which items can best be subjected to varying degrees of damage in the bagging process.

The students' Perishability lab work will concentrate on both packaged and nonpackaged food products including the fruits and vegetables that might be presented on the belt as packaged products, and, as students will come to understand, might require special attention to achieve proper bagging damage.

Students will see, for example, that broccoli, which quite often is sold in a rubber-banded or twist-tied bunch of two to four stalks, generally arrives on the belt in a plastic bag. Lab work will lead to a comprehension of the varying requirements for application of weight and pressure to the tender areas of the vegetable while disregarding the firm sections, which are known to survive the most determined efforts to mar them.

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Students will make a thorough study of grapes, which generally have been placed in a plastic sack by the customer. A customer's grapes can easily be crushed, split, and juiced by improper placement of the fruit at the bottom of a carryout bag followed by the introduction of any product of heft: a sack of potatoes, for example, or a canned item (multiple, if necessary).

Students will observe in further lab work that, in the case of grapes packaged in semihard plastic trays, damage still can be induced simply by dropping on top of the tray the aforementioned potatoes, a canned item (the 11-ounce coffee can has proven to be an effective choice because of its firm edges), or a five-pound package of sugar.

In the lab, students will have ample opportunity to measure the weights of suitable objects as well as drop elevations necessary to crack the tray and mash the grapes.

Students will observe that many small, soft fruits - raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, loganberries, and the like - are shipped from the grower in medium-firm, snap-top plastic containers. These present unique bagging challenges.

Students' lab work will show that these containers are quite resistant to conventional damage techniques and might bend only slightly - or dent somewhat - under the weight of seemingly suitable objects dropped or placed atop them.

Experimentation will reveal, however, that the integrity of these containers is based on "flat placement," and that when the container is bagged on its side, there is a reasonable expectation of suitable damage by a heavy object cracking the plastic - even causing it to open and spill its contents into the bottom of the bag. There the fruit will nicely be subjected to mashing, allowing the flowing juice to cause saturation and, possibly, failure of the carryout bag itself.

In lecture sessions, students will discuss philosophies of bagging - such as bananas' proper positioning as a firm or a soft food - depending on stages of ripeness.

Students will experiment with other soft foods including ground beef, tomatoes, plums, chicken livers, foil-wrapped cream cheese, Hostess pies, deli-sliced lunchmeats, marshmallows, English muffins, Milky Way bars, ice-cream cones (empty or frozen-filled), and Wonder Bread (long considered the ideal candidatefor bag-bottom mangling).

Lab work also will help students comprehend the dynamics of mixing the supposedly unmixable. They will learn, for example, of bagging sour cream with a spray can of insecticide, toothpaste with laundry detergent or drain cleaner, and mothballs with bath soaps (because of the inviting possibility of harmful skin contact by the customer). Small boxes of raisins go well with ant traps and score high on the Possible Contamination Scale.

In the area of Temperature Consideration, students will have the opportunity to explore various destructive combinations. Among these are bagging hot barbecued chicken with ice cream bars, or a pint of warm macaroni and cheese with a pint of chilled potato salad.

Halfway through the course, students will be invited to propose an Area of Inquiry of Self- Invention. This is an individualized project offering extra credit and can lead to advanced placement.

Papers submitted in the past have included "Damage by Weight," "Benefiting From Fragility," and "Victory Over Protective Packaging." Among student papers earning the coveted Dean's Egg-Crack Award were "Useful Degrees of Bag-Bottom Berry or Grape Juice Soaking Relative to the Customer's Car Location in the Parking Lot" and "The Positive Effect of 12 Assorted Campbell's Soup Cans Descending Individually in Rapid Sequence From Varying Elevations Onto a Box of Miniature Birthday Candles."

Instructor to be named.

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