Friday, June 20, 2008

As Good As Gone

White Lily flour, beloved jewel of southern bakers, is moving north.

When I first heard rumblings of the news that White Lily had been bought by J.M. Smucker Co., I tried not to concern myself unduly. I thought surely they would respect such a staple of southern baking, and not try to move it, or - have mercy - change the formula.

Then I learned they were closing the factory in Knoxville. The factory that had been producing this flour for 125 years.

OK, but surely they would NEVER - Heaven forbid - change the formula. Surely to goodness they would have enough sense to leave a good thing alone. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Right? Right (she asked in rising panic)?!

Oh, no, my friends. No, I'm heartbroken to report they did not. They are currently testing a new formula for White Lily.

Maribeth Badertscher, a spokeswoman for the company, said the new White Lily was the result of thorough product testing and promised that customers “won’t know the difference.” But in a blind test for The New York Times, two bakers could immediately tell the old from the new.

Ha ha, you see? We CAN tell. We most certainly can tell. And I have to ask, why on earth would you want to change to a new formula if it's (supposedly) indistinguishable from the old formula? Maybe it's just me but that seems such a waste.

Told of the results, Ms. Badertscher said, “White Lily flour continues to be made from the same quality ingredients and processes as when it was produced in Tennessee.”

Oh, no. No, no, no, it's not. You see, then it wouldn't be, well, new, would it?

I have used White Lily flour ever since I was old enough to know what was what. When I moved from Georgia to Connecticut I looked for it on the shelves to no avail (I take that back. I did find a 2-lb bag of it. At Williams-Sonoma. For $5). I tested brand after brand of flour before settling (faute de mieux) on Gold Medal. Luckily, I have a saint of a mother who would send care packages of up to 25 pounds of it at a time, and a wonderful mother-in-law who would pack up to 25 pounds of it in her luggage as well on trips north, both of which would be depleted embarrassingly quickly in a flurry of frenetic baking, until, on the last 5-pound bag, I would carefully ration it, afraid to bake anything, not knowing when I could expect more. When we moved from Connecticut to Texas, I hoped to find it on the shelves again, but alas, that was not to be.

You think I am silly for making such a colossal fuss about a simple bag of flour, of all things. I can assure you, it deserves more praise than I could ever give it. This flour makes the very best biscuits, hands down, that I have ever eaten.

We're travelling to Knoxville in August. I hope I'm not to late to stock up on old-formula White Lily one last nostalgic time.

I could just cry.

1 comment:

Kerrie said...

My goodness, Yankee me has never even heard of it.. could be because people in Pennsylvania think Tastykake is the ultimate in baking.
Have I ever mentioned how badly I want to move south? :-P