17

Happy Easter Billy Bilby!

Image result for easter bilby

We’d like to introduce you to a special animal, the Easter Bilby. He’s a celebrity in Australia although he may be less known by some of you. The Easter Bilby is busy this time of year, so we’re going to talk to a close friend.

Billy Bilby, welcome to Cheeseland. Thank you for taking the time to introduce us to the Easter Bilby.

No worries, I’m happy to be here and spread the word about the Easter Bilby. After all, we bilbies are having a problem with our population declining and want people to be aware that we even exist.

Image result for bilby

On that note, can you tell us a little bit about bilbies?

We’re small, furry marsupials who live in the desert. Our bodies are about 55 cm/22 inches long and our tails about 29 cm/11.5 inches. We weigh about 2.5 kg/5.5 pounds. We have long noses (excellent sense of smell) and large ears (excellent sense of hearing and help keep us cool). The ladies are about half the size of the gents.

We have extremely soft fur that is mainly blue-grey with white tummies. Bilbies live in fancy burrows. We only come out and night and will eat anything.

Two fun facts about bilbies?

The word bilby is from the Aboriginal Yuwaalaraay language. (I wouldn’t try to pronounce it unless you belong to the group.)

We don’t drink water. We get all we need from what we eat.  (Like koalas)

So how did the Easter Bilby replace the Easter Rabbit in Australia?

Unfortunately, rabbits are not very popular in Australia. They were brought in by the Brits in the 19th century and reproduced until they had taken over the country. Rabbits drove some of the native animals and plants to extinction.

In the 1990’s, the humans decided that the rabbit had to go as the symbol of Easter. They wanted something native to replace it. Since we look something like a rabbit (ears only), we got the job. We’ve been around Australia for a very long time.

Image result for no rabbits allowed sign

And the tradition has stuck.

Yes, but we’ve lost the association with the anti-rabbit people. Now it’s more of a survival issue. You see, we’re endangered in some parts of Australia and vulnerable in others.

That’s awful. What happened?

The usual: loss of habitat, hunting. I am actually a Greater Bilby. There used to be Lesser Bilbies, but they died out about 70 years ago. (Unless the humans lost them.)

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Is the Easter Bilby tradition working?

It seems to be. There is much greater awareness of who we are and why we are important residents of Australia. In fact, The Commonwealth of Australian Endangered Species Program has chosen us as a mascot, so we’re becoming famous.

They have even started to introduce populations of us into places that haven’t seen bilbies in a very long time. Did you know that we once populated 70% of Australia? And that’s a big place!

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What does the Easter Bilby do?

Pretty much what the Easter Bunny does. Except he delivers chocolate bilbies instead of chocolate rabbits. And he runs rather than hops.

Do you think the idea of the Easter Bilby will spread?

Probably not. The rabbits pretty much have a lock on the market. But that’s OK. We only live in Australia and want to continue living here for a very long time. We have no plans to invade Britain.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.

I’m happy to share.

Image result for easter bilbies

Trivia – In March 1968, 9-year-old Rose-Marie Dusting wrote “Billy the Aussie Easter Bilby.” She published it 11 years later.

Sales Pitch: Chocolate bilbies are produced by Pink Lady and Haigh’s Chocolates. (Cadbury pulled out of the market shortly before Easter.) The companies give a percentage of sales to conservation efforts. Pink Lady parent company, Fyna Foods manufactures chocolate bilbies as part of the Australian Bush Friends Easter chocolates. A percentage of the Bush Friends sales is also donated to the Save the Bilby Fund.

 

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15

Why We Don’t See the Easter Bunny

Image result for rabbit in spring

At one time, the Easter Bunny roamed freely during the late winter and early spring. He handed out painted eggs and other springtime treats to animals and humans. It was a job taken on by one family and passed on through the generations.

As time went by, the process got combined with Easter. And the baskets began to get more complex. Chocolate eggs and jelly beans were added. Then marshmallow bunnies and chocolate bunnies. Finally, all types of candy went into the basket.

Image result for jelly beans

The bunnies decided to outsource some of the activities to the humans. It was a difficult decision to make, but the process had gotten out of hand. The bunnies handed off everything except the boiled eggs, chocolate eggs, and jelly beans for the humans. They would continue to bring treats to the animals at the beginning of spring.

They also licensed the name “Easter Bunny” to the humans and allowed them to create a more generic representation of it. The bunnies had made the baskets as a gift of friendship and assumed the humans would continue the tradition.

Image result for hopping bunny

Gunnar Kani, the current representative of the original bunny family, wasn’t sure he liked the deal his relatives had made. He really didn’t like humans since he had learned that they kill and eat rabbits. Gunnar went on a research trip.

He saw a sign that said “Homemade Easter Baskets.” He went in and looked around. The baskets were woven willow and filled with hand-painted eggs and various types of homemade chocolates. Gunnar thought that maybe he was mistaken about the humans until he saw the price tags on the baskets.

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Gunnar went outside to think. The baskets were very nice and had obviously taken a lot of work. And humans had to pay for the ingredients. He left the shop satisfied that they were properly representing the spirit of the bunnies.

He went further along the road into town and found another shop that said “Easter Baskets for Sale.” Gunnar hopped in and looked around. These baskets were made out of some type of woven reed and were obviously mass-produced.

Gunnar sighed and looked into the baskets. The only eggs in the basket were plastic and filled with some kind of candy Gunnar had never seen before. There were chocolate eggs and various types of candy.

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He expected that these were unfinished baskets that were waiting for additional treats. Then a human came in and told the person behind the counter how nice the baskets were and bought three of them.

Gunnar was appalled. There was a picture of a rabbit on the sign and these people were selling inferior baskets! His family would have been embarrassed to give out something like that. He continued into town.

He found something called a mega-store. There were signs advertising all kinds of Easter sales. He found a lot of clothes with sale signs. He hopped past these racks. He didn’t understand why humans didn’t just grow fur like animals.

Next Gunnar found piles of factory-made candy for do-it-yourself baskets. That wasn’t too bad. He also found dyes for coloring eggs. Not what he would do, but humans lacked the bunnies’ skills and traditions.

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Then Gunnar saw something that made him stop in his tracks. They were pre-made baskets. They weren’t the lovely ones he had seen at the first shop. They weren’t even the rather pathetic ones he had seen at the second shop.

These baskets were made of plastic made to look like reeds. Inside was cheap “chocolate-type” candy. But the worst was on the top. It was some type of cheap toy. What did that have to do with Easter baskets? It wasn’t even related to spring!

Gunnar was getting a headache. He left the baskets and looked around the store. There were stuffed animals for Easter. Some of the rabbits were rather handsome. But then there were bears, dogs, and even a dinosaur.

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He found door hangings and other decorations. He found signs for the front yard. There were even lighted plastic eggs to hang from a tree outside. And a few he thought were rather clever.

At the back of the store he found computer games and toys being sold as Easter presents. Easter presents! What was going on?

Gunnar could barely find his way out of the store. He sat on a bench in a daze.

Next week – Gunnar goes to the mall to meet the “Easter Bunny”.

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All pictures courtesy of Google Images

Ed. Note – Twitchy Twilight, who was interviewed last week, is moving to a new site. He is currently unavailable. We will let you know when he is all settled.

2

At Sixes and Sevens

I love this phrase because it’s just obscure enough that people think they should know what it means. (To be in a state of confusion or disarray.)

This post was intended to be about things that give me pause, but while checking on the phrase’s origin, I found some things to add to the list.

I had thought that the expression referred to numbers in a game of chance that were the riskiest and therefore led the gambler to some confusion about whether or not to make the bet.

That is true, but the better story comes from the possible second origin. I am still slightly at sixes and sevens about the whole thing.

England has something called an order of precedence for their livery companies. A livery company is a trade association and does not have anything to do with horses (which confused me very much the first time I read through the description of the dispute.)

The livery of Merchant Taylors (tailors) and the livery of Skinners were both chartered in 1327. They became the sixth and seventh trade associations in England. There is no surviving record of which was chartered first, but they started fighting about it almost immediately. Wouldn’t they have had to be chartered at the same place? Did someone bribe the clerk to change a date? The English were pretty fussy about their hierarchies.

It got so bad that in 1484 the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Robert Billesden, decided that at the Feast of Corpus Christi (how many know when that is?) the associations would swap places and feast in each other’s halls. It seems to be that skinners and tailors would attract a completely different type of crowd. Perhaps leg of boar one year and pheasant the next? Whiskey and mead? I love the mayor’s title.

The associations still swap places every year. They are still known as liveries. Both are part of the Great Twelve City Livery Companies (the top 12 in the listing). Sadly, the armor makers did not make the cut. English hierarchy remains alive and well in 21st century Britain.

One last note: the liveries maintain the word “worshipful” in their title (e.g., Worshipful Company of Fishmongers – #4). It’s not clear who they were worshipping, God or King. I think it was basically the same at the time. I would guess neither today. We just don’t have that kind of tradition here in the U.S.

Why do medieval English feasts always make me think of a bunch of people sitting around in the semi-dark eating greasy joints of some animal? Somebody there had to be eating the rest of it.

Moving on:

Was there anyone else whose first reaction to last week’s mega-storm on the east coast was to make sure it wasn’t going to hit them before it got to its destination? And be happy that it was going somewhere else?

Do politicians running for President get as tired of listening to themselves as the rest of us do? I think it should be like Family Feud: two candidates go head to head to see who can guess what Americans really want. Then they’ll know what they should promise (well aware that they won’t be able to do it.)

Why would someone come into a mega-store and ask whether we carry Amazon Fire Sticks? Do they not understand the concept behind Amazon?

Also unclear on the concept: the lady who returned her slow cooker saying that it cooked too slowly. (Yes, it did work correctly.)

If an airline can claim that they have arrived on-time even though they have to sit in queue for an hour and a half, why doesn’t that principle apply for arriving for the meeting they scheduled around your flight?

It’s ironic that they originally built Washington, D.C. on a swamp. I think some of the original residents may still be wandering the government halls.

I did not realize that there are Lego sets now that need to be locked down because they cost more than $100.

I think I need to buy one of the tablets they make for toddlers. They look totally indestructible.

How many kids appreciate (or can even see) the color gradations in a 156-color box of Crayons?

Why can you buy (really) inferior brands of chocolate at Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter that are not available the rest of the year? Is it just a sideline for a wax company?

Is your beloved cheap, broke, or chocolate-blind if he/she buys you one of those atrocities? Is it worse to be cheap or chocolate-blind?

Why can’t I find any cards to send for Groundhog Day?

2

The Easter Bunny Explains All

Hello, I am the Easter Bunny; the animal you see every spring. I would like to thank Cat for the opportunity to clear up a few things before Easter this year. I would also like to thank Kommando Kitty for giving up her spot as this week’s guest writer.

I am a rabbit; a real rabbit.

I look like this:

rabbits are everywhere don t worry i don t mean that literally they ... (not a photo of me)

Not like this:

The Easter Bunny Shoplifter Due In Court The Day After Easter [Video]

I understand that children like to see who brings them candy. However, I think it is important for adults to understand that I do not walk on two feet or have plastic eyes.

I use magic to deliver eggs.

If your children wonder how one rabbit can get eggs to everyone within 24 hours, tell them they don’t have to worry that I will get tired before I get to your house. I do pretty much the whole thing from home.

I used to be a regular rabbit. One day I was running from a small child and jumped down a hole. But it wasn’t a rabbit hole. The place was full of faeries. One of them flew over to me and said, “Thank goodness you made it! We were almost finished.”

I tried to tell her that I wasn’t her rabbit. But before I knew what was happening, she turned me into the Easter Bunny. My job was to find a band of bunnies from everywhere they celebrate Easter.

Those bunnies tell me how many children there are in their neighborhood who will be receiving treats. (Here’s where the magic comes in.)

I conjure enough treats for each bunny to deliver and make sure they get there in plenty of time to be sorted and tagged. (It’s a trade secret how the baskets actually get to the children.)

I don’t know Santa Claus.

I’m hibernating when Santa visits down here. I would never visit a place with that much ice and snow. Rumor has it he has a private island for his down time in the spring and summer.

I don’t have the same job as Santa Claus.

I understand where this idea came from. The Germans were the ones who dreamed up both Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. They decided that we would each decide who was naughty or nice. Then we would bring all kinds of goodies to the nice children.

They got Santa’s job right, but were way off on mine (rather surprising considering how precise they usually are). I originally was responsible for coloring (hen’s) eggs and distributing them. More recently, they added chocolate eggs and jelly beans.

Modern baskets are a combined effort.

Sometimes the parents help me by adding other types of candy to the basket. The home-made cookies and candies are particularly nice.

Any brand-name candy is not from us. I would never buy commercial candy to hand out. My bunnies are busy enough as it is. However, it is very kind of people to buy this candy for children (particularly someone else’s).

And a word about chocolate rabbits. We work hard to get the eggs and candy out. I really don’t appreciate people putting chocolate rabbits in the baskets to be gobbled up. Perhaps you could replace them with dogs or hawks, or something else that harasses rabbits.

Those pre-filled baskets that have been appearing in stores the last few years? An abomination! Not the pretty chocolate ones filled with chocolates. The big ones filled with ugly toys. No child should ever believe that the Easter Bunny is responsible for something that commercial.

If you want your child to have a toy for Easter, buy your child a toy for Easter. Let them appreciate that we both care for them.

Thank you for your time. If you know a rabbit who might be interested in joining my network, please pass their name along to Cat. We’re always looking for good help.

And of course:

Happy Easter Bunny Images Background HD Wallpaper Happy Easter Bunny ...

8

Easter Dinos? Seriously?

The store has an interesting ad running over the public address system. I don’t remember the exact words, but it says something like, “Chocolate bunnies are nice but why not do something a little more special? Give an Easter basket full of toys this year.” They are trying to get people to buy those cellophane-wrapped baskets that are in the center aisle of most stores this time of year.

I think they’re sending us down a slippery slope. If you give your child a basket full of toys this year, will he want to pick out what toys he wants next year? Then he will want cash because he doesn’t play with toys anymore. Or your daughter will want a new sweater. Before you know it, we’ll have Christmas in December and also in the spring.

Of course, they think that Jesus was actually born in the spring…..

As a chocolate addict, I’m probably prejudiced. But chocolate has no age limit. I asked my teenagers if they were too old for Easter baskets this year. They said they didn’t need the baskets, but still wanted the chocolate. My mother made Easter baskets for us well after the Easter Bunny stopped coming by the house.

Of course, Easter candy has degenerated some too. It used to be that the stuff in the basket had at least a passing relation to the holiday. Chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies, jelly beans. I guess jelly beans are a bit of a stretch – are they supposed to represent eggs?

Now the candy section has Nerds and Smarties and Airheads and all sorts of generic candy. Maybe they’re going for a run against Halloween. Wouldn’t it be great if Easter became some sort of cross between Halloween and Christmas? Conspicuous consumption and gluttony. What could be more American?

Actually, when the kids were little, I put together Easter baskets and topped them with a stuffed animal. It worked out well. My son’s favorite animal was a rabbit. Back then, Easter was the only time you could find them. (Once he outgrew it, they were everywhere.) You had a choice of three animals: lambs, bunnies, and calves. Logical. All springtime animals.

Our display is expanded. You can get puppies, kittens, pigs, cows (adult), or pretty much any animal you might want.  My favorite are the stuffed dinosaurs. Are they included because they come from eggs so were probably born in the spring? Out of some sense that reptiles were not adequately represented in the Easter menagerie? Or is someone really confused and thinks there might have been a few hanging around Jerusalem a couple thousand years ago?

Speaking of animals, there’s still time to get your small pet their outfit for the Easter parade. They have furry ones if your dog or cat wants to be a chick or a bunny. They have butterfly wings. (It seems those were around at Halloween, but I could be confused.) There are also raincoats in the same display. I guess they wear it over the outfit if it rains on Easter.

There is an accessory with a picture of a cat on the hanger. It goes around the neck and looks like a clown collar made of tulle. At the points of the tulle are little bells. The cats I know (and have known) would be out of it before the bells would be of any use in announcing their presence.

Nothing for hedgehogs. Probably has something to do with the quills.

Our cats will be sleeping away most of Easter (like every other day), so I’m saving that money. I can spend it on molds to make Easter goodies (as the box says). These look like small cakes or cookies that then get decorated with fondant and icing. Which makes them more work than Christmas cookies.

There’s a cute cake pan. It says it’s for making a 3-D cake in the shape of a lamb. Aren’t all cakes 3-D? The problem with that type of cake is that you can’t slather frosting on them. You have to use a pastry tube to cover it with little rosettes of frosting. Various colors of frosting.

Thinking all this through is giving me a headache. I’m going to go eat some Cadbury eggs (the really, really sweet ones that look like they have a yolk inside) and fall into a sugar coma. I’m sure someone will wake me in time for church on Sunday.

5

Dollar Disappointment

My family has always exchanged stockings on Christmas morning. When I was little, the goodies always included a red apple, a yellow apple, an orange and a tangerine. I remember being disappointed that Santa was so health conscious. All I’d ever seen him eat were cookies. Years later, my son commented on always receiving shampoo and body wash in his stocking. You never see Santa bathing or changing his clothes either. I’m guessing Mrs. Claus has some influence on what gets included.

At one point, I spent a lot of money on stocking stuffers. (The amount I spend has never had any direct correlation with the amount I have, by the way.) I would wander the malls looking for things that would fit in a stocking. There are more than you might imagine. One day, a friend finally explained to me that the concept behind a stocking was that it was filled with little inexpensive things like candy canes and chocolate Santas. Oh. Like the idea that you break up with someone before you give him the expensive gift. I never was good with money.

Enter the dollar store. My first experience with dollar stores was not positive. It was located in a strip mall where I worked. The neighborhood had seen better days (I hope). It was poorly lit, crowded with merchandise, and not very clean. From what I looked at, the reason it was crowded with merchandise was that no one would take that stuff at any price. I could not understand why everyone was raving about dollar stores. Were my friends really that cheap?

A few years went by. I got another job, and drove past a dollar store every day on the way to work. One day I stopped to look around. It was incredible. There were office supplies, craft supplies, school supplies, candy, wrapping paper, all sorts of things. They even had the metallic pipe cleaners my son used to make rabbits (they look better than they sound). I’m not really a shopper, but I looked at everything. I was totally hooked. At Christmas, I fully stuffed all the stockings for under $50.

My dollar store was not part of a chain, so you can guess what happened next. I drove by one day and the owner had sold the shop. The new owner must have been related to the first shop owner I encountered. I was traumatized. I was not going back to spending $7.95 for a Mylar balloon. I had to find a replacement.

My next stop was what I’ll call a pseudo-dollar store. It’s a national chain. A lot of the stuff was one dollar, but the rest was brand-name at discounted prices. This store was the source of most of the health and beauty supplies I bought for a few years. They even had fashion-name make-up for a dollar. It had to be labeled ‘discontinued color’, but in Michigan who knows the difference? The odds of running into Beyonce wearing last year’s eyeliner are pretty low. Alas, I had just made the full commitment when it disappeared.

They opened a dollar store a few miles away from our house. Coincidentally, it’s the same chain that has a store on my way to work. My daughter wanted to stop by one night. It was great! The candy, the pens, the wrapping paper. All was well in the dollar world again. Last Christmas I even bought some nice wrapping paper at the one close to work.

Things were a little crazy this year getting ready for Christmas. Both my daughter and my mother have been ill, so shopping took a back seat to that. I didn’t get to stocking stuffers until two days before Christmas. No big deal – I’d just stop by the dollar store on the way home and I’d be set. We’d have a few more pens and pads of paper than usual, but it’d be OK.

Imagine the look on my face when I opened the door to find that the only wrapping paper left was covered with Justin Bieber. (I didn’t need paper, but it was still traumatizing.) I moved on to the candy. It was appalling – I could only get chocolate-flavored or chocolatey. There was no actual chocolate! Luckily I did have a back-up plan for that – I had bought some of the family’s favorites at work because I knew I would never find it in the dollar store.

I went to toiletries. No nail clippers. No floss. Icky toothbrushes. No body wash for men. No make-up. Large bottles of lotion from some company I’d never heard of, in a scent I didn’t know. This was totally unacceptable. What was I supposed to do?

I went to office supplies. Very few pens. A few memo pads. I tried to think of where else I might go as I wandered the aisles. I finally found some snacks – trail mix, peanuts, etc. Stain remover pens. Socks (not even from China). Packaged, non-Christmas candy. At the counter I found some lip balm.

When I filled the stockings, all was well (although there was LOTS of candy). I’m already planning to stake out the dollars stores next fall to find the best place to go.

In the meantime, I’m going to size up the fruit.

2

Holiday Indulgences Don’t Have to End With the Holidays

Back in the days before kids, I bought my husband a membership in a wine-of-the-month club. It went well, so the next year I tried the spa-item-of-the-month. That was nice too, although I think we may still have a container of powdery stuff that’s supposed to go on like lotion (or something like that).

In case you might be interested in sending this type of gift, I have done you the service of researching a few. You don’t have to thank me, chocolate will be fine. If you’ve been paying attention the past few months, a couple of these should come as no surprise.

“When Pigs Fly: American Bacon Club” is brought to you by the Ann Arbor-based Zingerman’s deli. What could be better – bacon from the home of my alma mater? You can get 3 months for $99, but you might want to go for the 6-month plan at $189. It includes Balinese Long Pepper Bacon. I assume that the long pepper is from Bali, not the pig. But the recipient would never know.

Next we move on to Murray’s Cheese of the Month Club. You can get a four-month membership starting at $275. Each month the recipient will get 1.5 pounds of cheese from various sources (cow, goat or sheep). I would make sure your loved one likes to eat almost anything. One year a friend got us cheese hand-made by monks in some famous abbey. It was a soft cheese and when we melted it, it smelled (and tasted) like dirty socks.

My personal favorite is the 12-month, $480 plan from master chocolatier Jacque Torres. Once a month, they send something something chocolatey to your chosen recipient. The gifts range from brownie mix to truffles and everything in between. (Men: this may sound like the perfect monthly gift to your wife. Just make sure she’s not planning a major diet for after the new year. Unless you don’t think she’ll mind you eating top-notch chocolate in front of her.)

Want something sweet but not chocolatey? I’m not sure what’s wrong with you, but try a quarterly shipment of Capogiro’s gelato. (It’s kind of a creamy sherbet for you provincials.) They send six pints at a time in what they call hyper-seasonal varieties. I’m not cosmopolitan enough for these flavors, but perhaps someone you know is. They include honeysuckle, rhubarb and sweet potato. Only $240 for the year.

Then we have the above-mentioned wine clubs. The most cost-effective (cheapest) option I found was a $29.98/month club offered by wine Library TV. You get a red and a white for that price. It is the same price I paid 15 or so years ago. I’m guessing these are not of that quality. But I could be wrong.

Looking for something stronger? Stirrings offers a 12-month plan of drink mixers for $180. They are advertised as flavorful, original, and all-natural. Once again I would recommend that you only send this assortment to someone who will try almost anything. Flavorful and original mean different things to different people.

Not a drinker? How about the Counter Culture coffee plan? The beans are fresh-roasted and seasonal. Don’t all coffee beans come from more-or-less the same part of the world? The hot part? How seasonal can it be? You can get a 3-month subscription for only $79.95.

These final three clubs are for those of you who really want to impress. We start with the Organic Vegetable Club. (Disclaimer: The ad is addressed to people shopping for a woman. If you are shopping for a man, this is not an appropriate gift.) It’s kind of an open-ended offer. You can choose how much you want to send (5-15 pounds) and the number of deliveries per year. Five pounds for 3 months costs $119.99. It doesn’t say anything about being seasonal (or local), so you might need to keep an open mind.

A little more indulgent? Holy Smoked Salmon has a smoked salmon of the month club. There are more types of smoked salmon than you might imagine. Once again remember the open mind about flavors. It is described as silky, spicy, salty, supremely good salmon. Hopefully it is as good as its copywriter.

Finally, for the well-off Ernest Hemingway types, I recommend the Kobe and Cab Club. It is offered by Signorello Vineyards in Napa Valley. Three times a year someone would receive “a rich, buttery, marbled piece of Kobe beef (note single serving) and a tremendous glass of Cabernet (I assume they send an entire bottle).” At $390 per shipment, it’s probably too expensive to send to get even with the evil vegan who just broke up with you.  But it might impress the father of the new one.

Upside to these gifts: you don’t have to wrap it. Downside: if they don’t like it (or you), they will be reminded every few weeks throughout the year.