When Fluff is an East Coast Thing, Not a West Coast Thing

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Photo credit: Associated Press, NY Daily News

Is it just me or is fluff—that creamy egg-white-filled, liquid-marshmallow, comes-in-a-jar product called Fluff—not a West Coast thing?

Last week, I had gotten into a conversation with a few co-workers about lunch (this is in Connecticut). I had fancy homemade rice. One of them had a frozen burrito. We had just been at the microwave in the kitchen, as interesting as that sounds.

On returning to the desk, the topic came around to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And when “peanut butter and fluff sandwiches” came up, and when I didn’t respond, it was as if I had done something way out of line. Punched a computer monitor off a desk. Dropped the water cooler refill jug on the copier. Poured my lunch into someone’s lap. Typical office shenanigans that you’d expect would get you sent off with a box in your hands before rush hour.

Except this was about Fluff.

Everyone came in hollering about the “childhood magic” of “peanut butter and fluff” and how I “had not lived.” At least a dozen co-workers surrounded me, telling me the merits of this weird sandwich that, until moving to New England, had never crossed my mind. Who are these people and why are they so excited about this thing? Does life after the mid-twenties get that boring?

One of them made me swear that I would try it in the next week. Another told me that she’d bring in a jar of it for me to eat with a spoon.

The day left me spinning. I hadn’t made a fuss when none of them claimed to have eaten a peanut butter and honey sandwich. That was my “childhood magic,” my form of “living” on the West Coast, with the occasional addition of bananas.

So, either this office had something dark going on that I couldn’t see or they were really on to something about this fluff. I had to find out.

According to an Associated Press article published on NY Daily News, Fluff is not that well-known beyond the East Coast.

… Grocery stores in other parts of the country usually place Fluff in the baking aisle because it is used in recipes for fudge and other desserts, or in the ice cream section because it is sometimes used as a topping. But in New England, Fluff is in the bread aisle — right next to the peanut butter … (NY Daily News)

So, there were probably jars of the stuff in the baking aisles back on the West Coast. Having grown up in a pseudo-healthy household with mostly-vegetables and occasional-meats but rarely dessert-desserts (this is a terrible sentence), I did not often go near the baking zone.

I had skirted around this gooey thing-in-a-jar my entire childhood until I had moved to a town in Connecticut not two hours from Somerville, the place of its birth. This moment of enthusiasm and confusion from people who’ve grown up here was bound to happen at some point.

To make good on my promise, I purchased two jars of peanut butter and a jar of Fluff. This event occurred on a rainy Saturday afternoon, and it felt like an initiation. Some weird, New England initiation.

After a short search for the peanut butter aisle, and on entering and running my eyes down the shelves, I came across a sea of white jars. You know that scene in Game of Thrones with the endless rows and rows of wildfire sitting in barrels?

A scene from “Game of Thrones.” Someone pours wildfire into a large jug.

If not, think of a gigantic storage cellar at a vineyard or of that last scene in Indiana Jones with the ark getting toted off on a pallet truck into crate city

Image result for indiana jones ark last scene
The last scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

I had found the white jars.

The section was twice the size of the peanut butter section. And, while you’d think there’d be different brands—the big name companies; smaller, more expensive organic ones; a few non-profits; and then the nondescript, plain-ugly store-brand kind—there was just one brand of exactly the same size laid out five shelves high and six deep. FLUFF.

My first mistake was taking hold of the strawberry flavor. One of my co-workers said it was “the way to go.” She had said it with a cool, smoke-like demeanor as if she were slipping me a tip on how to try some new illegal drug. Strawberry is “the way to go,” hun.

My second mistake was not covering up the jars of peanut butter and fluff while waiting in an unusually long line at the checkout. I was seventh or so in line, and there were about five people behind me.

The older man standing ahead of me—he looked like he had just stepped off his aluminum vessel with worms, rod, and a cooler—glanced back, noticing the jars in my hands. He smiled. “Boy I wish I had me some of that fluff right about now,” he had said. Those were his exact words.

And then, without time to fully register the man’s words, or the presence of this fisherly man himself, a woman spoke up. “But you’re making the wrong choice with strawberry there.” She was with her husband or boyfriend. They both nodded, solemnly, at the older man.

“You don’t want strawberry,” the older man said. “Does he?” He nudged the man in line ahead of him—teenage, with three friends and a mom—and he and the rest of the people in line ahead turned toward me.

How had I failed?

The older man sent me off to swap out my jar of fluff, promising to keep my place in line.

If I fully recounted the happenings after purchasing the fluff, it’d be a disappointing story. I tried the fluff and it was, is, well… For five days straight, I have eaten oatmeal, apples, peanut butter, and fluff for breakfast. The fluff is just the right sweetness for oatmeal, but at 5 grams of sugar for just one tablespoon not too sweet to feel guilty about (because, as a millennial, I’m prone to feeling guilty about unhealthy foods).

Also, while half the jar is now gone, I don’t have to worry. That co-worker I mentioned earlier brought in a huge jar for everyone in the office.


5 Actual Ways to Get a Job, Especially When You’ve Left Your Hometown and Network

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Three weeks after I had graduated from college with two degrees and no job, my girlfriend, brother, and I hopped in my car and set off “East.”


The concept of East—of vast Montana sunsets and dark and silent South Dakota nights, of the warm shores of Lake Erie’s cape, and of stone walls laid like cracks on dry soil lurking throughout New England’s forests—of three-thousand miles east from Portland, Oregon to Hartford, Connecticut had appeared as all positives, as an adventure into the unknown, as my Bilbo Baggins moment.

But, after we had dropped my brother off at the airport in Boston, and while standing there at the drop-off gate, the car handle cold on my fingers, I knew then that “East” now glowered as all negatives. I did not have job. I did not have an income. I did not have friends or a network that I could contact.

If you’ve got those three worries on your mind, then the most beneficial thing that you can do for yourself is to believe that all three are temporary even if you don’t know for how long.

Three months have passed for me in Connecticut. I found a job within the first month and secured an income as a result. And I have friends.

Here is what I did, and what you can do, to get a job when you’ve gone AWOL on your hometown.

1. Call (not email) local businesses that are in your field of interest. Ask questions about those interests that will help you get to know the area. If the call goes well, ask if the company does informational interviews or shadowing.

Does the concept of cold calling a business make you uncomfortable? If you’re like me, then heck yes. Do it anyway. Within two calls, you’ll be desensitized to the discomfort of the task. You’ll have far more power to reach out to businesses, you’ll grow in confidence, you’ll improve your interview skills, and you may just add to your network if the call goes well. Say goodbye to bashful job hunting.

Informational interviews and shadowing get you in the door and face to face with the people who you may work with. In an informational interview, you ask them questions about the company. This is your chance to find out if you want to work for the company. With shadowing, you get to follow somebody around as they do their job.

2. Search on Facebook, Meetup, YouTube, and other social networks for groups that do things in your field of interest. Reach out to those groups.

I am an editor and videographer. I made a group of friends and got work for my portfolio simply by searching for groups local to my area and reaching out to them. Let them know that you’re new to the area, that you share their interests, and that you’d like to be a part of what they do. People will want to share what they’re passionate about, so tap into that.

3. Get a trial of LinkedIn Premium and kindly message recruiters at local companies that are in your field of interest.

Keep it short and simple. There are plenty of guides on Google for writing messages to recruiters. At the least, by reaching out, and if they respond, you will gain some knowledge about the company and area.

4. Contact local charities and non-profit companies to see if they would like to use you for work.

Charities and non-profit companies generally have deep, deep networks. Either by volunteering or giving them your skills for a project, you are, as a result, building your resume and network. Plus, you’re contributing to the community.

5. Participate in community events.

Speaking of community, there are always events going on in the area. See if you can get involved. Contact the organizers of farmer’s markets. Go to socials and ask business owners about their work. Invest yourself in the people around you and in turn they will invest in you.

The keys to all five of the ways to get a job above are to stay active and sincere. Always have something cooking in your job search. Those far and few sparks of goodness that give you a jolt of confidence to continue the hunt–when a recruiter calls you back, when a business owner gives you his or her business card, or when you are invited to an event by a group on Facebook–will not occur if you let yourself slow down. Stay active.

As well, stay sincere. Anyone can spot that resume in your bag, in your mind, on your face from a mile off unless you leave it at the gate. In other words, reach out to people who actually interest you, who you engage with in a way that is more than head bobbing and wondering when to pop the resume/business card question. If not, then you are wasting time for everyone.