Miller: Ode to a can o’ joy |

Miller: Ode to a can o’ joy

Alex Miller

Despite all the holiday joy we’re supposed to be experiencing this time of year, it can be difficult to conjure the requisite number of joyful thoughts to feel truly, well, joyful. One need only look toward Washington at the latest teeth-gnashing partisan impasse, or at the latest unemployment figures, or at one’s own anemic checkbook balance to feel the effects of what may be termed the joy deficit.

Are they happier in China, I wonder, where at least they have the profits from manufacturing all the plastic crap we’re buying up over here with the rent money?

Amid such dismal thoughts, I was happy to come across something to brighten my day. Recently, my wife came home from Target with a can of whipped cream. No biggee, right? We all love whipped cream, and it’s something we often see more of at this time of year.

But this particular can of whipped cream had something new (for me at least): peppermint flavor! Some kind of seasonal thing, I imagine, and I nearly swooned when first I tried it.

Where, I wondered – as the light cream and peppermint oil played across my tongue in symphonic fashion – has this stuff been all my life? Has it been on the shelf every Christmas and I’ve just missed it? Or did some genius at the Target Whipped Cream Test Lab in Skokie, Ill. accidentally spill some peppermint from the candy cane making machine into the batch of whipped light cream?

Joy in a can, that’s what this stuff is I thought, as I greedily read the yule-themed can for more information. The product is offered, I learned, for a “limited time only,” and the peppermint flavor is natural (phew!). The can’s contents are good until next June 9, which is both concerning and comforting: How can milk stay fresh that long, and how many cases of this product can I reasonably stockpile until summer? And would I even want peppermint-flavored whipped cream in the midst of mud season?

No doubt the thrill would wear off, which is why seasonal items hold such appeal. Pumpkin pie may be a delight in November, but you’d be hard pressed to find many enjoying it in August. The blowback against Christmas music that begins immediately after Halloween is part of our appreciation for the value of “special,” of “seasonal,” although it certainly hasn’t stopped the practice. My wife, who used to put up the tree in early fall and who listens to Christmas music year-round, assures me that, for her at least, the joy value of it all isn’t wasted on her out of season. The only thing that tempers her enjoyment of it is my kvetching about it, and as part of the ongoing and shifting marital pact, I’ve learned to mostly shut up about it (except when “Baby’s First Christmas” or “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” come on – there I draw the line).

But back to my can o’ joy: I realize its use must be limited and that it can’t solve even the smallest of the world’s ills. On the other hand, it’s useful to keep in mind that blasts of joy wherever we can find them should be deployed whenever possible. Sometimes it’s as easy as stealing an hour or two on that powder morning, listening to the sweet sound of our children’s voices as they contemplate Christmas or looking up at our snow-covered mountains and remembering what a wonderful place we live in.

And yes, perhaps it’s as simple as enjoying that last slice of pumpkin pie – now with peppermint whipped-cream topping! And at only 15 calories per 2-tablespoon blast, I’m riding this one all the way into the New Year …

Summit Daily editor Alex Miller can be reached at or (970) 668-4618.

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