Thursday, June 4, 2009

Party on, Garth

Every Wednesday night, before I go to sleep, I lie in bed wondering what Thursday will bring. Specifically, I wonder which of two Garth Georges (Garths George?) will appear in my paper: the angry, 'abortion is murder, wymyn are lesbians', foaming-at-the-mouth Garth, or the slightly senile, 'where have I put my glasses', 'I like pies' Garth. This week, he has truly confounded me - he is angry about pies - Georgie Pie, to be specific.

Now, he doesn't start out angry. In fact, Garth - a man who is given a column at the top of the Opinion page in New Zealand's foremost daily newspaper every week - takes the time to tell us his personal feelings about, and history involving, pies. When he would go down to the old Georgie Pie on "the corner of West Coast and Great North Rds, just round the corner from where I lived in Glen Eden" he would indulge himself in "large mince 'n' cheese, steak 'n' cheese, pork pies", the delicious chips - and how could we forget the "boysenberry pies with the sugar on top and a delicious apple pie served with icecream which I relished from time to time. But please, next time you're dining with Garth, don't offer him a seafood pie (or an abortion). In case you were wondering about Garth's attitude toward pies of the seafood variety, crease your brow no longer, and lose not another moment's sleep: he has "never been into" them. So what has got Garth so excited?
Anyone who has read this column for any length of time will know that I am a lifetime devotee of the hot pie, and consider that whoever it was who first decided that meat would go well in a pastry crust should have been allotted a large one of heaven's many mansions.
Anyone who has read his column for any length of time and has somehow stayed sane will know a few other things about Garth as well. Like he's a grumpy old hateful misogynist, and a self-proclaimed Christian who, I suspect, hasn't actually got up to the bits of the Bible with Jesus in them yet. But that's as may be. I ask again, why is he so excited about pies? Well, it's because of rumours that Georgie Pie "might be about to make a comeback".

Then Georgie Pie ceased to exist, bought out and closed down by McDonald's, which lusted after Georgie Pie's sites. I have always wondered why, and the answer has come at last.

McDonald's spokeswoman Kate Porter said the other day that McDonald's was "intrigued at the level of passion for the Georgie Pie brand and [we've] put some concepts into research".

It's sure taken a lot of years for this United States-based international outfit to understand Kiwis' love affair with pies, but then multinationals rarely take any interest in the countries they invade, seeming to take it for granted that what people in the US want, the whole world must want, too.

My understanding of the demise of Georgie Pie, largely confirmed by the excerpts from the Press on the internet here, was that it closed down for the same reason almost every business closes down: it was losing money hand over fist. I'm not sure why Garth is confused. Georgie Pie hemorrhaged money. McDonald's made money. McDonald's closed down the GP sites, and opened McDonald's, which then made money. *Shrug*. As for good ol' Kiwi battlers Georgie Pie fighting back the evil multinationals, Georgie Pie was, of course, owned by 'mom and pop' firm Progressive Enterprises, the supermarket giant and subsidiary of a maze of Australian and Hong Kong-based corporations. According to the Press, "It paid its staff even less than McDonald’s: it had hourly youth rates starting at around $5 for 15 year olds, compared to a base $8.41 at McDonald’s, regardless of age." So much for that myth.

As for the myth that Georgie Pie was shut down as part of some evil, Hamburgleresque conspiracy, I feel it's pretty easy to explain. When they had their $1 $2 $3 $4 value menu, they made no money - who would get a large pie for $2 when you could get two 'small' pies for $1 each? But when Progressive upped the prices, they were no longer perceived as good value. That doesn't sound like a sustainable business model to me, least of all now, when even McDonald's has to pretend to be healthy by selling salads and pimping out Sarah Ulmer. But this, for Garth, is the point:

Buy a pie and chips in a cafe these days and you get disapproving looks from pale, pursed-lip patrons picking at salads.

[...] These are the people who harp on endlessly - and dishonestly - about "junk food" and "unhealthy" food. They are liars.

Ahh, I knew we had to get to angry Garth at some point. It's one thing to get annoyed at puritans of whatever persuasion - anti-smoking, anti-drinking, anti-drugs, and yes, anti-fast food - but it's another thing to say that they're liars. I like drinking, and I'm damned if the Women's Temperance League is going to tell me not to, but that doesn't mean that when they say it's bad for me it's not true. And I like fish and chips (some vegetarian...) and, back in the day, Georgie Pie pies, but I was never under any illusion about their healthiness. However, Garth isn't known for backing down that easily:
Fast food is not junk. It contains legitimate, nutritious ingredients, is prepared in generally spotlessly hygienic surroundings and provides a convenient, tasty and filling meal without the need to prepare it or clean up after.
I would accuse Garth of being in the pocket of Big Pie if I didn't know he was just being contrary for the sake of it. Still, there's good news to be taken from all this: Garth's age, plus his lifelong diet of "fish and chips, hamburgers, fried chicken, pizza or pies", should mean he's not around to file that column for too much longer.


  1. Yes. That'll do. Well done, James.

  2. Solid effort, young Coe. Solid effort.

  3. And his lifelong consumption of cigarettes.

  4. Sometimes I think he tries to come across as a reasonable human being, so that when he shoehorns in his exremist beliefs at the end of the piece, you feel some obligation to take him seriously. Unfortunately, even before that there are a few telltale signs he's off the rails.

    1. Over-enthusiastic use of religious metaphor.
    2. He agrees with the majority on a 'Your Views' topic.
    3. Suggests a meat pie is a suitable 'Last Meal'

    Agh, I want it to be next Thursday already.

  5. I would never want to lie in bed and think about George Garth in any context.

  6. Don't be fooled by that curmudgeonly exterior.
    Underneath, he's even worse.

  7. I used to like pies.

    But then I learned Garth George likes them.

    So now I feel duty-bound to pronounce my disgust for the things. Another one of life's pleasures ruined thanks to Mr George.

    Keep hurting him, James!

  8. Are you allowed to use the 'As seen on TV logo', or are you asking for more trouble? Either way, looks good :-)

  9. Interestingly, although progressive foods sold the brand, they didn't sell the recipe as you could still buy a good old georgie pie (albeit labelled and packaged differently) from the hot foods counter at Foodtown if you so desired.

  10. "Unfortunately, even before that there are a few telltale signs he's off the rails."

    Brad, I think his erstwhile enthusiasm for the grog might have had a hand in that too.

  11. "allotted a large one of heaven's many mansions"

    Does God give knighthoods too?

  12. Georgie Pie never lost money until McDs bought them.

    Prior to this, GP made an operating profit of 1.3million in 1995, before being purchased by McDs in 1996.
    From there on out, GP systematically lost money hand over fist as McDs refused to invest any money in staff or product.
    Not to mention that they threw the dollar deals out the window.
    Why? Because GP was encroaching on Mcds territory.

  13. There was no such thing as a 'mince and cheese' or a 'steak and cheese', just the single option of a 'steak-mince and cheese'.

    Fact checks please Furious George!