Stay Tuned/Some Bad New Ideas

From Eccentric Flower


stay tuned

Some Bad New Ideas
2 November 1997

Those of you who read a fair number of the Sunday Papers columns, which these are descended from, were probably surprised that the first three of these columns focused on a single topic, instead of rambling all over the map as was my previous wont.

Well, don't worry. There will be more than enough rambling, piecemeal columns in the new regime to go around.

I haven't stopped clipping newspaper ads, after all. I'm just reporting on them in larger batches now, giving the ideas time to accumulate. I have a "coins and stamps" pile, and an "alternative medicines" pile, and a "fraud" pile (the latter pile overlaps, in some instances, with the former two).

And, of course, I have the ever-popular "what were they thinking?" pile. Some of which we shall clean out today.

Betty Crocker - whom I swear is aging backwards - has apparently decided to split her line of canned, prepared frostings in half. One half is the "Soft Whipped" line, the other the "Rich and Creamy" line. (There is also the "Sweet Rewards" low-fat line, but they advertise that separately.) The ad says:

[background of white icing] Heavenly Light and Fluffy ...
[background of chocolate icing] Sinfully Rich and Creamy!
[banner separating two halves] The Choice is Yours!

In other words, one of the frostings has more air whipped into it, resulting in less frosting per can. The choice is indeed yours.

I continue to have a problem with the idea of "pizza" formed on the surface of a bagel (i.e. put cheese and pepperoni slices on a half bagel and stick the beast under a broiler). First off, making pizza out of a Jewish food strikes me as morally wrong (not to mention exceedingly un-kosher). Second, bagels, to my mind, get cream cheese or lox. There are no other toppings in my canon. (I am a bagel conservative. The bagels that the local Au Bon Pain outlets are introducing turn my stomach - flavors such as apple streusel and mocha chip swirl. When they introduce a cappucino bagel, I'm boycotting.)

Third, and possibly the only objection which extends beyond my personal tastes, a bagel is a lousy surface for a pizza. It's really chewy and hard to tear with your teeth, which is not the best thing when trying to bite into scalding, greasy foods. You are almost certain to splash hot pepperoni grease onto your nose when trying to consume it.

Nonetheless this item seems to be continually being introduced by one company or another, be it frozen or fresh. I can only hope that all the introductions are merely one company after another watching it fail to sell.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch, the cereal which goes soggy in milk in fifteen seconds and sinks below the surface of the milk, leaving a film of cinnamon floating on top (don't ask how I know this), is apparently not far enough into madness for General Mills, which has now introduced French Toast Crunch. Since french toast, when I make it, mostly tastes like a custardy mixture of egg, butter, and sugar, I admit I'm interested to know what this cereal can possibly taste like. Purchasing it, though, may take more gumption than I can muster.

"Slow Roast" brand beef gravy in a jar, from Franco-American, the people who brought us improbably orange, improbably sweet canned pasta products. "Made from natural meat stocks and juices, just like you'd find in your own pan drippings." I've railed against this once already, I think, but once is never enough. Make your own gravy. It's easy. Honest. Especially if you already have pan drippings ....

Oh, and since this is America, we also have "Fat Free Slow Roast brand beef gravy." With a green label instead of a blue one. Of course.

"Try New Flavor Blasted Goldfish snacks." I admit to an unreasonable prejudice which the rest of the world apparently does not share: I hate Goldfish crackers. If I had my way, the Pepperidge Farm people would confine themselves to making bread and cookies, and at least fifty percent of their output at any given time would be devoted to Milano cookies. But I recognize that I am a crank.

I don't like Goldfish crackers because they all seem to have an underpinning of that horrible artificial cheese flavor, and because they're too small to eat effectively. However, bland as they are, I do not think that adding more flavoring agents to them (Nacho, Extra Cheddar, Extra Pizza, and the inevitable Sour Cream & Onion) will make them more interesting to me, because these are all flavorings I avoid as vile in the chip arena anyway. And I think that describing the objects as "flavor blasted crackers" where the bag used to just say "crackers" is a bad idea. That, plus the neon sunbursts on the bags, undermines the respectable, staid image which - actually - I consider one of Pepperidge Farm's assets. Pepperidge Farm may be junk food, but it's not supposed to look like it.

(Cue Bill Griffith: "When did we all decide that pandering to 15-year-olds was our top priority? Did I miss a meeting?")

The most interesting thing about the Goldfish ad is its inadvertent honesty: At the bottom, and on both coupons, it says "Available in the salty snack aisle." Now that's telling it like it is.

Ahem. Here's a good one. Kraft has begun introducing flavored spreadable cream cheeses, right? Now, I have no objection to this concept per se - I'm partial to the honey walnut cream cheese they use at Bruegger's myself - but Cheesecake Flavor cream cheese? Huh?

To quote the person who handed me the ad: "What do they think cheesecake is made of, anyway?"

Honest, folks. I have no idea what flavoring agents are in this cream cheese to make it taste any different from regular cream cheese. Besides sugar.

Last item for today: the slap-happy folks at Borden have introduced chocolate condensed milk.


Condensed milk is an amazing thing and I love it - it's great in coffee - but if this is not the definition of wretched excess, then it should be.

Actually ... now that I consider it ... I withdraw that comment. The nice Borden people have thoughtfully attached the definition of wretched excess, right here in the ad.

Chocolate Toffee Bars

1-3/4 cups unsifted flour
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup cold margarine or butter
1 (14-oz) can Eagle brand Creamy Chocolate Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 (1.4 oz) milk chocolate-covered English toffee bars, cut into small pieces
[i.e. Heath bars - damned trademark restrictions, eh? -c]
1 cup chopped nuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 for glass dish). In medium bowl, combine flour and sugar; cut in margarine until crumbly. Press firmly on bottom of 13x9 inch baking pan. Bake 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in medium bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk, egg, and vanilla; mix well. Spread evenly over prepared crust. Top with toffee pieces and nuts if desired. Bake 20 to 25 minutes longer or until bubbly. Cool. Cut into bars. Store covered in refrigerator.

You're lucky I didn't give you the pie recipe as well. It was a near thing.

That's all. They're not all going to be long columns either.

Other Business

Pillsbury, last week's victim, has just introduced a new variety of Hungry Jack biscuits, with cinnamon embedded in all the little layers. See? They're evil. Pure temptation. I must buy some immediately.

It took a surprisingly short time for the first Princess Diana death-commemorative merchandise to crop up in my usual media haunts - a set of stamps from the republic of Togo, which were apparently printed before her death but pounced on by the ads, and an ugly plate from the Bradford Exchange. The woman's pop culture iconography is secure. In case you had any doubt.


[February 2007:] I'm not sure if it will be noted again later, but the cinnamon-laced Hungry Jacks turned out to be one of the legendary unfound products of Stay Tuned lore. I never saw them in a supermarket. And I looked.

Kraft, Borden, and General Mills (which includes the Betty Crocker stuff as well) all have web sites. Their URLs are left as an exercise for the student.

I tried to avoid nasty comments about fat content this time. I felt it would have been inappropriate, since I was eating leftover Hallowe'en candy the whole time I wrote it.

I am perfectly aware that Betty Crocker isn't a real person, but it amuses me to refer to her as if she is. I wish she'd wear some other color besides red for a change. It's a little too Nancy Reagan for my taste. Although Betty has certainly aged more gracefully than Nancy.

and now back to our program

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