Another Corporate Fail

Something a little lighter than Tuesday’s discussion of Google’s plans to build the first generation of our Robot Overlords this year.

Lighter, yes–though I fear no less depressing. Sorry about that. Stop back tomorrow for cat picture therapy if you need it.

Anyway, we’re going to add another item to our list* of bad reasons to make a change.

* Did you know we had a list? I didn’t until I sat down to write this post.

We’ve already got “Because we can,” “Because the schedule says it’s time,” and “Because we need to generate artificial excitement“. Now we can add “Because everyone else is”.

That’s right, it’s the Jumping Off a Bridge model of product development.

Look, I like Pop-Tarts–specifically, the frosted blueberry variety. I make no apologies for keeping a box around for the occasional weekend breakfast, and I’ll cheerfully ignore any comments expressing dismay over my pastriotic orientation.

Really, Kellogg came up with the perfect ratio of crispy to crumbly in the pastry, just the right amount of sweetness in the filling, and an unbeatable capper in that sweet, sweet sugar frosting. Even the multi-colored sprinkles, which I initially regarded with suspicion, turned out to add a nice bit of texture.

But somebody in Kellogg Sales’ Marketing Division looked at all the lovely cash Nabisco was raking in with its Oreo flavor variants, and decided to follow suit.

They couldn’t easily do wild flavor variants. For one thing, there are only so many colors they could dye the filling. For another, there are already plenty of Pop-Tart flavors.

So they fell back on Nabisco’s other trick. If “Double Stuf” could usher in a couple of generations of “innovation” in Oreos, why couldn’t it do the same for Pop-Tarts.

The result of that high-level brainstorming? A couple of months ago, my Frosted Blueberry Pop-Tarts package gained a new banner: “Now with MORE FROSTING!”

Uh-oh.

Of course I tried them. In fact, I’ve tried three boxes, made several months apart, just to be sure the flaws in the design weren’t just aberrations in a single batch. They’re not.

Yes, there is more frosting. In fairness, there’s not very much more. The additional frosting does not overwhelm the other components as I feared it would.

But, y’know, sugar is expensive. To keep the price of a box the same, something had to change. Kellogg executives were smart enough to realize that tampering with the traditional “two pastries to a pouch” packaging would be likely to cause massive consumer dissatisfaction and rioting in the streets.

They might have gotten away with reducing boxes from eight pastries to six or shrinking the size of each Pop-Tart, but that would have meant a box redesign and cost even more money.

So they decreased the amount of filling instead.

I can’t prove it. I don’t have any “Classic Pop-Tarts” handy to measure. But to my well-trained eye, it’s obvious. And, more importantly, it’s even clearer to my teeth. Less filling + same baking time = crisper pastry.

There’s more variation in texture than before the change, but even at its best, the pastry shell is crunchier than before; at its worst, they come off as more cracker than pie crust.

And, most importantly, Kellogg missed an important part of the “Double Stuf Lesson”. When Oreo introduced their “more sugar” treat, they made it optional. You could still buy regular Oreos. You still can, even if you have to hunt through the shelves to buy them.

You can’t buy regular Frosted Blueberry Pop-Tarts (or any of the other flavors that now have MORE FROSTING!)

I don’t expect a New Coke fiasco, with Kellogg recanting and offering the two products side by side. Pop-Tarts, for all their popularity aren’t an iconic American offering like Co’cola. The outcry is likely to be limited. Probably to this blog, to be honest.

But I won’t be buying any Pop-Tart with MORE FROSTING! Which means I won’t be buying any Pop-Tarts for my weekend breakfasts any more.

That’s undoubtedly better for my physical health. But is it better for my mental well-being?

Chili

I can’t believe I’ve never written about chili here. It’s a great cold-weather food, freezes well, has an infinite variety of recipes, and comes with an impossible-to-resolve debate. It’s hard to think of another food that matches it for taste, flexibility, and entertainment potential.

We’ve been making chili for about thirty years, and it’s a bit embarrassing to realize how little our recipe has changed. A definite case of “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

It began as a fairly literal implementation of the one on the Carroll Shelby’s Chili Kit box. (Have I mentioned that we’re lazy cooks?) Over the years, we’ve tweaked it for even more laziness–but also more flavor.

Yes, it’s heavy on cans. There’s that lazy thing again. And also yes, it is a crockpot recipe. That’s not laziness, that’s convenience.

As for that debate? We’re firmly in the pro-bean camp. We’ll cheerfully eat bean-free chili, but if we make it ourselves, it’s gonna have beans. Sorry “real” Texans.

Ready? Great.

Ingredients

  • One bottle of dark beer. Please, not whatever’s cheap. Get something you might actually want to drink. Lately, we’ve been using Guinness. Apologies to any Irish readers who believe contact between stout and solid food is sacriledge.
  • One fifteen ounce can of kidney beans. Go for the low-sodium version. There’s quite enough salt coming in from other ingredients.
  • One fifteen ounce can of black beans. Again, low-sodium. Sure, you could use two cans of black or red beans, but why? They’re both tasty. Embrace the power of “and”.
  • One fifteen ounce can of crushed tomatoes. Just tomatoes. No peppers, no spices. If you can find a salt-free or low-sodium variety, even better.
  • One six ounce can of tomato paste. I’ve heard people claim this is a thickener. Nope. Just a flavor magnifier.
  • Optional but recommended: One onion, chopped. It adds flavor and a little bit of texture. A very little bit.
  • Three tablespoons (plus or minus one, depending on how much of a kick you want) of chili spice. Not mix. This, by the way, is where most of the salt is going to come in.
  • Optional but recommended: Additional spices to taste. Got an interesting barbeque rub? Toss in a tablespoon or so. We think highly of Penzeys’ “Arizona Dreaming”.
  • One pound of stew meat. Beef is good. So is lamb. We’ve never tried it with poultry, but if you do, go for chicken thighs or turkey. Chicken breasts don’t have enough flavor to bother with.
  • One pound of ground meat. Again, think beef or lamb. If your provider offers a “coarse” or “chili” grind, go for it–unless they pre-spice it or mix in peppers. Bell peppers in chili aren’t an abomination in the same way mayo on a burger is, but they take the flavor profile in the wrong direction.

Preparation

  1. Combine the beer, beans, tomatoes, and tomato paste in your crockpot.
  2. Add the spices and stir well.
  3. Toss in the onion if you’re using it.
  4. Stir in the meat. Many recipes recommend browning the meat first. We don’t usually, but if you do, add the fat and liquid that cooks off. You don’t want to lose that flavor. If you don’t brown the ground meat, don’t toss it in as a brick, crumble it.
  5. Cook on low until you’re ready to eat, at least six hours. If possible, stir it once about halfway.

Be aware this makes a very wet chili. One might even go so far as to call it a soup, rather than a stew. Rather than thickening the pot with masa as many recipes advise, we lazily suggest allowing diners to thicken their own portions to suit their tastes:

  • Crumble in a good handful of crackers–we recommend saltines or oyster crackers, but we’ve been known to use Ritz crackers.
  • Serve with a substantial bread, something with a thick crust and dense insides. Dip the bread to soak up chili juice, or drop in bite-sized pieces. Done right, the bread can take on a very dumpling-like texture.
  • Maggie swears by Parmesan cheese as a thickener. I’ll refrain from comment.

As I said above, this chili freezes well. It also keeps well in the fridge and reheats nicely in the oven. Have some for lunch while you watch a Spring Training game!

A Cold Truth

While I’m thinking of it–I just got back from the store–Saturday is Ice Cream for Breakfast Day.

As TFoAHK reminds us, this holiday is not a corporate invention. There’s no mascot, no gifts to wrap*, and you need not give a single cent to our corporate overlords**.

* Do not hang tubs of ice cream beside the fireplace unless you like cleaning up sticky messes.

** I’m too lazy to make my own, hence the aforementioned trip to the grocery store (Tillamook Mountain Huckleberry, if you’re curious). But don’t let my laziness prevent you from digging out the ol’ churn.

Even better, ICfB Day is an international celebration, not something confined to the United States, or even the North American continent. Nearly everybody loves ice cream, so observing the occasion can only bring us all closer together. Imagine how much calmer the country would be next week if Robert Mueller and Donald Trump shared a Saturday morning sundae.

Okay, maybe that’s a little optimistic. But it can’t make their relationship any worse–at least not as long as nobody hogs the hot fudge.

Anyway, before you start leaving me nasty notes about good nutrition in the comments, I’m well aware of the issue. And, to preempt the comments from the other side, I’m also aware that the much-touted “ice cream for breakfast” study has been roundly debunked. (If you missed it, the study supposedly showed that eating ice cream for breakfast improved alertness and mental performance. What it actually showed–if it was even performed; there’s some doubt about that–was that eating anything for breakfast wakes you up and helps you think. So don’t skip breakfast, but don’t feel obligated to eat ice cream. Except for Saturday.)

No, eating ice cream for breakfast isn’t the greatest thing you can do for your body. Not even in the top ten. But unless you’ve got an overriding medical issue that requires you to avoid ice cream under any circumstances, a scoop for breakfast once a year isn’t going to do you any significant damage.

Live it up. Give yourself a treat. Cone optional, because I’m too chill right now for an argument over cake versus sugar versus waffle.

Hot Cider

I had a lovely Christmas, thanks, and I hope yours was as pleasant as mine.

We slept late–one of the advantages of not having small children in the house–and waited until the caffeine was ready before we opened gifts. I’d like to be able to say we opened them slowly and with due appreciation, but…We’ve been bludgeoning adulthood into submission for enough years that we’re not about to go grown-up now.

We stayed in our jammies all day, talked to family on the phone, watched one of our favorite Christmas movies*, had a nice dinner, gave the Backyard Bunch gooshy fud instead of the usual Kitty Krunchiez, and largely ignored whatever’s was going on in the outside world.

* It’s got its flaws, but it’s also got some of the most quotable lines ever.

Oh, yeah. We also tried a new spiced cider recipe. Since it was wildly successful, I’ll pass along our modified version. For those of you stuck in colder realms, it’s the perfect drink to accompany watching someone else shovel snow.

Credit where credit is due: the original recipe comes from Christine Gallary at The Kitchn. We’ve merely tweaked it slightly and adjusted it for a smaller crockpot.

Hardware and Ingredients

  • A 3-quart slow cooker
  • A tea infuser, small cheesecloth bag, or other similar device for confining spices
  • 1/2 gallon of apple cider. Not the alcoholic stuff (much as we love that) and not the sparkling stuff either. If you can’t get cider, get juice–preferably unfiltered. The important thing is to check the ingredients. If there’s anything other than apple juice listed, put it back on the shelf.
  • 1 baseball-sized orange. Maybe a little bigger, but don’t get up into anything suitable for softball. And no, you can’t substitute a couple of those little clementines that are so popular this time of year. The ratio of flesh to peel and pith is all wrong. Cut it into quarter-inch slices and discard the ends and any other pieces that don’t have much flesh.
  • 3 cinnamon sticks.
  • 1/2 tablespoon of whole cloves
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of whole peppercorns
  • A few pieces of crystallized ginger (yes, a very precise measurement), cut into half-inch squares.

Instructions

  1. Pour the cider into the crockpot. Hardest thing you’ll do all day.
  2. Toss in the ginger, orange, and cinnamon. Gently: don’t splash.
  3. Restrain the cloves and peppercorns into a single packet and drop it in.
  4. Put the lid on the cooker, set it on Low, and leave it alone for two hours.
  5. Stir. Make sure to shove the orange slices under the surface of the liquid. They’ll float back up, but it helps distribute the flavor if they’re damp on both surfaces.
  6. Leave it alone for another couple of hours.
  7. Ladle it into thick-walled mugs and enjoy.

Note: You will get bits of orange and ginger in your mug. Don’t sweat it, just drink around them. Or eat them. Your choice. Mopping up the spills after you try to pour the contents of a hot crockpot through a filter into another pot just isn’t worth the effort.

Proper Construction

It’s that time of year again–when zillions of people across the country are making a mess of their leftover turkey sandwiches. And that’s a real shame. The noble turkey should never be wasted on an inferior sandwich.

And it’s so unnecessary. We covered the making of a proper turkey sandwich four years ago.

To be fair, the blog had fewer readers then. So if you’re new here, check out that post and spread the word. As a bonus, you’ll get our mindlessly-easy recipe for turkey soup.

But that aside, there’s another sandwich-related problem plaguing America–a worse one, as it strikes at the very foundation of indigenous American cuisine.

As we noted four years ago, mayonnaise is the devil’s condiment. So why has it become the default on hamburgers*?

* Let’s not get into the argument about the ancestry of the burger. Sure, every meat-eating culture has a dish involving ground meat. It’s a great way to use up the leftovers. But the hamburger qua hamburger? American born and bread. (Sorry).

I blame Canada. No, seriously. Forty years ago, Canadians were the only people so lost to virtue as to put mayo on a burger. Today, everywhere in America, if you don’t say “NO MAYO, DAMN IT!” you’re going to get a thick, slimy layer of that white stuff on your burger.

Yeah, a thick layer. Even if I was prepared to accept mayo on the bun–which I’m not–it would have to be as a condiment, like the ketchup and/or mustard* it’s ostensibly replacing, not as an ingredient in its own right. But no, the default is a giant scoop of the evil stuff, outweighing the bun. Heck, I’ve occasionally gotten a burger where I’m fairly sure there’s more mayo than meat.

* You may be surprised to learn that a person of such definitive opinions won’t take a position on the ketchup/mustard debate. The reason is simple: my preference in the matter changes. Some days I want one, some the other, and sometimes both.

It’s a deplorable situation, folks, and it’s only made worse by the ever-increasing tendency for burgers to include lettuce.

I’m not talking about a big wad of shredded lettuce intended to make a fast food burger look as though it’s got some nutritional content. No, I’m talking about an allegedly legitimate food burger with a wad of iceberg big enough to have sunk the Titanic.

Does anybody think this is a good idea? Really. Serious question. Lettuce adds no taste. On a burger, it does two things, neither desirable. It bulks the burger up to the point where you can’t possibly open your mouth wide enough to eat it, and it delivers water straight to the bun, making it soggy.

Really, people, get with it. You want tomato on your burger? Go for it. Onion, raw or grilled? No problem.

But when it comes to lettuce, follow Nancy Reagan’s advice and Just Say No.

And that white, slimy stuff?

Hell No to Mayo!

SAST 09

With just a tiny bit of luck, this will be the last Short Attention Span Theater for a while. Barring unexpected events, Like Herding Cats will go out to the beta readers this week and I’ll be able to stop stripping my mental transmission by jumping back and forth among writing, re-writing, and copy-editing.

Which brings me to the first production on today’s program. I could use another beta reader. Now, before you immediately deluge me in requests, let me remind you what beta reading is and is not.

It is not an opportunity to read a book before anyone else. Well, okay, it is, but it’s also a requirement that you read the book critically. I’m not looking for “Hey, great book. I love it!” I want to know what doesn’t work. To that end, along with the book, beta readers get a laundry list of questions like, “Were all of the plot twists properly supported, or was there a point where somebody acted out of character in order to change the story’s direction?” and “Were there any jokes that just didn’t work for you?”

I don’t expect every reader to answer every question, but these are the things I need to know to make the book better, so the more you can answer–and especially, the more faults you find–the happier I’ll be. I want beta readers to find the problems, not agents and editors!

Still interested? There’s one more qualification: you must be familiar with modern urban fantasy, by which I mean you’ve read several works in the field which were published within the past five years. “Several” means “more than one, and by more than one author”.

If you’re still interested, drop me an email. Do NOT apply via a comment on the post, by Facebook Messenger, or by Twitter reply. Thank you.

Moving on.

And, speaking of jobs, I got a weird offer in email recently.

We bought our car from a dealership, and we take it in for maintenance every six months. They’ve got my email address because I like getting a reminder that it’s time for the next visit and because they send out occasional special offers. Yeah, imagine that, advertising done right: opt-in.

So then I got this latest note from them. “Join our team!” says the subject line. Uh-huh. Job listings. And not just sales positions. They’re looking for a mechanic and for a person to check cars in and out of the service department.

Apparently they consider recruiting to be a type of advertising. The email has their boilerplate at the bottom reminding me that I opted-in to receive occasional ads.

I find it slightly amusing, but also more than a trifle creepy. Imagine if the idea catches on. “Hey, I hope you liked the espresso you bought last week. How would you like to be a barista?” “Thanks for making your last credit card payment on time. Wanna join our team? We’ve got openings in the boiler room calling the deadbeats whose payments haven’t come in.”

There’s a place for everything–and that’s not the place for job postings.

Next time I take the car for maintenance, I’ll ask how many job applicants the email generated–and firmly request they remove my name from that list.

Moving on.

It appears our cats know there’s a place for everything. And once in a while, they take a vacation from playing “Gravity’s Little Helper” to put things in the right place.
14-cmf
We’ve taught them that fish comes in cans. So yes, that’s the current incarnation of Mr. Mousiefish, carefully place in a gooshy fud can–presumably so he can be eaten later.

Moving on.

14-psps
I can’t decide if this is so meta it’s hilarious or so clich√© it’s painful. Though I lean toward the latter.

Joe, ya shouldn’ta oughta done it.

Uh-Oh Again

Let’s start the week with a quick follow-up to an earlier post. Partly inspired by the Android Oreo discussion back in August, Jackie took a chance on “Mystery Oreos”.

I bow to her bravery. I’m a fairly adventurous eater, but I wouldn’t have dared try something even the manufacturer can’t–or won’t–identify.

She reports that they taste like Circus Peanut candies.

This is not a good thing. There’s a reason Circus Peanuts are a niche product, after all. (The niche seems to be “people who were traumatized by them as children feeding them to their kids”. Who says abuse isn’t a learned behavior?)

If anyone wants to take the rest of the package off Jackie’s hands, drop by her blog and leave her a note. Odds are, she’ll be happy to send them to you.

Does Nabisco really need to wander into the wilds this way? I think not. Granted, their parent corporation, Mondelez, cut about 9% of its workforce last year, but the layoffs weren’t because the company is in any trouble; according to the Chicago Tribune, they were part of ongoing cost-cutting measures.

And Oreos are doing just fine in the marketplace. According to Statista, Oreos are the top selling cookie in the U.S. after “Private Label”.

I’ll pause here to allow you to contemplate the nature of a “generic cookie”.

And no, that’s not a combined figure for the approximately ninety-eleven varieties of Oreo. That’s for Oreos, plain and simple. Note that the chart also has Oreo Double Stuff as a solid Number Four.

All those flavors? Window dressing and loss leader. Based on those sales figures, I can only assume that people are buying small packages of “Oreos Weird Flavr” and then following that with a big bag of “Oreos For Reals” to get rid of the taste of the officially-sanctioned imposter.

If so, a clever move on Nabisco’s part, but it can’t last. Sooner or later, they’re going to run out of vaguely plausible flavors, and we’re going to start seeing Sriracha Oreos, Bacon and Eggs Oreos*, and eventually Salmon and Toothpaste Oreos.

* All artificial flavors, so the cookies can remain kosher and vegetarian-friendly. (Note: Oreos can be cross-contaminated with milk. This is not, apparently, sufficient to impair their kosher standing, but it is enough to render them unfit for vegans.) The latest word on which varieties of Oreos are kosher may be found here.

What comes after that? Well, Nabisco will get a certain amount of press for the lawsuits over the Arsenic and Old Lace Oreos (“Now with even more lace!”), and we all know no publicity is bad publicity. But even that will only get them so far.

I don’t have a solution here–there’s a reason I’m not working in advertising–but Nabisco needs to come up with something.

Hopefully it’ll come before the world is introduced to Cuyahoga River Oreos.

Beeting the Heat

Greetings from the San Francisco Bay Area, where the temperature is no longer into three digits.

Yeah, we had the hottest Labor Day weekend on record this year–several cities around the Bay had all-time highs, more had high-for-the-date days. The gods were punishing the Bay Area for something I did.

Well, maybe I’m overly self-centered. It might have been something Maggie did. “But how,” I hear you ask, “do you know it was your fault?”

Simple: Our air conditioner broke. We’re not sure exactly when, but it was either Friday evening or Saturday, when the heat was at its worst. Big thanks to our HVAC company for having somebody working Monday and for keeping their holiday service surcharge to a reasonable level. Of course, by Monday, temperatures were back down to normal levels–but we still had to run the AC for a couple of ours to get the temperature indoors down to normal.

Of course, the problem with this sort of punishment–smiting everyone in the area over the sin of one person–is that the gods never drop you an email to tell you what it was you did wrong. Which means you’re doomed to make the same mistake over and over again. So if you hear that the state of California has finally fallen into the Pacific Ocean, you’ll know whose fault it is.

So it wasn’t quite a restful a holiday as we might have hoped, but it wasn’t an entirely unmixed curse. Rufus, no fool he, spent most of the weekend in the master bathroom, one of the few rooms in the house with an uncarpeted floor. Not only is that new territory for him, it meant he had to interact with the other cats more than usual. As a result, this morning has been unusually free of feline drama.

Meanwhile, the Oakland As were so happy to not be playing in the heat here, that they kindly lost all three of their games in Seattle. Of course, once they left Seattle, Houston moved in. And it seems that floods don’t induce the same sort of friendly attitude. Can’t have it all, I guess.

And, on a more personal note, I discovered a new taste treat.

Yeah, I know. About four-fifths of you are making gagging noises. I’m well aware that beets aren’t a popular food item. I’m fairly sure they remain in salad bars almost entirely through inertia–and vendors not wanting to spend the money to retool their production lines.

But for those of us who appreciate a good beet, Trader Joe’s offering is rather compelling.

The beet flavor is present, but not so strong as to be overwhelming. The texture is similar to a thick-cut potato chip, crunchy on the outside and a little chewy in the center.

And check that ingredient list! How can I resist a single-ingredient food? No salt, no preservatives, just pure beety goodness. Yeah, there’s some natural sodium, and a lot of potassium–though that may be a good thing for some–but they’re low fat and cholesterol-free. Even better, unlike most prepared foods, the stated portion size is generous. Trader Joe considers these to be single-serving containers, but I got two quite adequate snacks out of the package. And they’re clearly somewhat dubious about their own recommendation, as they included a zipper seal on the package.

Two tasty snacks for three bucks? That’s a darn sight cheaper and healthier than the vending machine. Even if you’re not normally a beet fancier, you ought to give these a try. You might just be converted.

Uh-Oh! Oreo

The new flavor of Android is “Oreo”. I have mixed feelings about this.

Not because it’s a corporate tie-in. You may recall that I was in favor of Android Kit-Kat. And let’s be real here: Android itself is a corporate offering; it’s not like a little message cross-promotion is diluting some kind of ideological purity.

Nor is it because I dislike Oreos. Quite the contrary, in fact.

The problem is that I’m not sure what an Oreo is these days–and neither is Nabisco. Really. Have you looked at the cookie aisle of your local supermarket these days? Here’s mine:

Go ahead and click the image to see it full-sized. Soak yourself in the knowledge that there are now at least 21 varieties of Oreo. Yeah, I counted. (In case you can’t read the labels, even in the large image, they are:

  1. Heads or Tails Double Stuf
  2. Oreo Chocolate Creme
  3. Oreo Peanut Butter
  4. Oreo Mint
  5. Oreo Thins Lemon
  6. Oreo Thins Golden
  7. Oreo Thins
  8. Oreo Thins Chocolate
  9. Oreo Thins Mint
  10. Oreo Thins Coconut
  11. Oreo Golden Double Stuf
  12. Oreo Golden Birthday Cake
  13. Oreo Birthday Cake
  14. Cinnamon Bun Oreo
  15. Red Velvet Oreo
  16. Oreo Mega Stuf
  17. Oreo Golden Lemon
  18. Oreo Reduced Fat
  19. Oreo (aka “Milk’s Favorite Cookie”)
  20. Oreo Golden
  21. Oreo Double Stuff

The bottom shelf is larger packages of the same things that are on the higher shelves.)

And you know what? They don’t taste like Oreos.

Maggie and I did a little taste test.

Cinnamon Bun Oreos do not taste like any cinnamon bun I’ve ever eaten–and I’ve had some bad ones. That’s not to say these are bad cookies. There is a slight bitter aftertaste, and the cinnamon is partly artificial (the ingredient list includes both “cinnamon” and “artificial flavors”). But for a cheap, cinnamon-flavored cookie, they’re not bad. I know that sounds like damning with faint praise, but it’s really the best I can say for these things.

Then there are the Red Velvet Oreos with their “Cream Cheese Flavored Creme”. The creme does not taste like cream cheese. Neither one of us could decide what it does taste like (other than sugar), but it’s not cream cheese. I’ll give them this: these cookies taste more like red velvet cake than the cinnamon bun cookies taste like cinnamon buns. And I’d be more likely to buy these again. Especially if they dropped the Oreo branding.

In an earlier, independent tasting, Maggie had some Key Lime Pie Oreos, which are not currently available in our local store. She reports that the somewhat-graham-cracker-crust-like cookies were reasonably successful, and the creme did taste sort of lime-like.

I haven’t tried any of the “Golden” cookies, and frankly, I don’t plan to. That’s just too far off-message.

Look, I’m old enough to remember when Double Stuf Oreos were introduced–I was nine–and I thought that was pretty darn neat. Even today, when I’ve decided that the original version has just the right balance of cookie to filling, I don’t have any problem with Double Stuf, or even, God help us, Mega Stuf, because they still have the pseudo-chocolatish cookie paired with the faintly vanilla filling that defines an Oreo.

As I said earlier, if they weren’t branded as “Oreo,” I might buy more of the red velvet cookies, and Maggie had a similar reaction to the key lime pie variant.

The name “Oreo” conjures up a very specific taste memory–and let’s not forget that psychologists say that scent/taste memories are among the strongest and longest lasting. By labeling these randomly-flavored items with that name, Nabisco is fighting with customers’ expectations. It’s an uphill battle that probably can’t be won.

Instead, Oreo is diluting their brand to little effect and fragmenting their own market.

Which, come to think of it, is exactly where Android stands. With thirteen flavors of Android in the market (“Cupcake” through “Oreo”), each of which has been re-skinned and reworked by hardware manufacturers and wireless carriers, there are almost as many varieties of Android on the shelves as there are of Oreos.

Is that really the image Google wants Android to present?

Fair to Middling

We’ve moved from July to August, and you all know what that means. No, not that. It’s county fair season again.

After a year’s absence, we returned to the Solano County Fair. And, much as I hate to say it, it wasn’t as good as last time.

There was a complete absence of Xathanael Todd in the art show. Yes, there were some nice pieces–I particularly liked Stephanie Liu’s “Succulent Pot Costume”–but nobody stepped up to give us the sustained off-kilter artistic vision Xathanael did so well.

Once again, the fair failed to provide strawberry shortcake.

And, while I can’t give firm numbers, I’m fairly sure there were fewer critters. Certainly the carousel lacked anything more than boring horses, but even the live animals seemed sparser than I recalled.

All that said, don’t think I didn’t have a good time, because I did. Just not quite as good as in 2015.

A few highlights.

This year was the year of the rabbit nose twitch for me. I just found them insufferably cute and took several videos.

I’ll note in passing that some of the artwork that wasn’t part of the art show was more entertaining than what was. In particular, the deconstructed chicken–part of an educational sign detailing “The Digestive System of Chickens”–should have gotten a blue ribbon.

It’s the row of violets on the ledge below the art that really puts it over the top.

This year won big on music. Two years ago, we didn’t hear anything particularly distinctive, but this year we caught Metalachi.

Full disclosure: We didn’t stumble over the band at the fair, we went intending to catch their show.

Heavy metal done mariachi style. Great concept, well executed. I’d like to hear them take on some original compositions. There is, after all, only so far you can go as a cover band. But in fairness, not every musician is a composer. And on that subject, need I mention that I was hoping they’d go for the multi-cultural trifecta and do a BABYMETAL number? I was and they didn’t. Perhaps a bit too much to hope for.

The video isn’t great. Between the backlighting and the demolition derby next door, I’m surprised it turned out as well as it did. If you go in search of better videos, be warned that they tone down the act for the family friendly venue.

And then there was the food. The “Shark on a Stick” folks were back, but I again declined. A BBQ beef sandwich did quite nicely for protein and vitamins and set me up well for the obligatory “only at a fair” food dessert.

Behold this wondrous offering from the “Everything Deep Fried” food truck!

Granted, the caramel comes off as something closer to syrup, but frying the sandwich turns the peanut butter into a delicious oozing mass and the jelly is transformed into sweet streams of liquid. The cereal adds a nice note of crunchiness that the syrupcaramel can’t soggify. It was well worth the experiment, even knowing I’ll be visiting my doctor to discuss my cholesterol later this week.

In all, despite the minor disappointments, it was a successful day at the fair. And remember: the Solano County Fairs for ewe.

No, really, it says so right over the entrance, lack of apostrophe and all!