The Worst Pies in London, Emma Thompson-style!

29 Sep

Hope you caught the recent PBS airing of the Lincoln Center staged version of Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” which premiered this past weekend!  Here’s a short clip of the always-talented Thompson as Mrs. Lovett and Bryn Terfel as Todd:

Times is hard!


The Decline of Breakfast Cereals, Explained…

29 Sep

There was terrific article from Ad Week in August about the gradual pooping out of breakfast cereals in American life.  TV used to be a veritable festival of cereals ads during the childhood years of baby boomers, with many aging boomer guys hanging onto their favorites till the present day.  But the growth years seem to be over, as you will learn when you read the article, available by clicking here:

Why Don’t Americans Like Breakfast Cereal Anymore?

The once-loved product whose sales went soggy


A Final Salute to Schultzy and Farewell to Ms. Ann B. Davis…

4 Jun

Ann B. Davis as AliceThe passing last weekend of veteran TV actress Ann B. Davis brought a tear to the eye of fans of The Brady Bunch and to older aficionados who loved her in The Bob Cummings Show in the 1950s.  Davis had the kind of face that was made for comfort; it was kind, capable and reassuring and not only was she popular on TV series but also as a TV commercial spokeswoman for various products in including several food items.

Ad Age had a terrific article on Monday about Ann B. Davis’ contributions in the TV ad world — you should definitely read it here at this link.  She also co-authored a Brady Bunch-themed novelty cookbook in 1994 though she wasn’t particularly a cook in her personal life. Brady Bunch cookbook

There were a number of good obituaries of Ms. Davis, here are links to a few:  from The Huffington Post here; a story about her later life from People here; a very complete obit from The New York Times here, and another nice one from The Los Angeles Times here.Davis as Schultzy

The Egg McMuffin Celebrates an Anniversary

10 Aug

The Egg McMuffinYou’d think it had been around forever, but McDonald’s Egg McMuffin is only 40 years old. Actually that probably sounds like forever for a lot of people, but this perennial early-morning favorite has never gone out of style. In fact, there’s quite a movement on to get McDonald’s to offer the breakfast sandwich all day long. That could do wonders for the visibility of eggs, plus now it seems like a particularly good idea.  The fast food giant has introduced a new healthier version of the McMuffin using only egg whites instead of the whole egg, and evidently it tastes all right, too.  I’m not sure if the always available McMuffin has officially happened yet, but it’s on the nearby horizon.

Ad Week had a wonderful article this week by Robert Klara all about the Egg McMuffin’s history and dominance in the marketplace; read his “The True Steamy Story of the Egg McMuffin” here.

My favorite variation which I haven’t had in a long time, not since I left Canada, was their $1.00 Sausage McMuffin which skipped the egg but substituted a nice sausage patty.  Now that was delicious!

My only other comment is that while the new yolk-less McMuffin has changed yellow cheese out for white (evidently for estheticEat This! reasons), if somebody doesn’t want to eat the egg yolk they probably aren’t crazy about the fatty cheese, either.  I guess you can have them hold the cheese, but if you’re that health conscious, you really should be eating something at home, right?  I mean, it IS McDonald’s, after all.

Anyway, read that Ad Week article and find out more about whither the Egg McMuffin.

And do people fall in love over an Egg McMuffin? In Canada they do…

It’s also fun watching McDonald’s Exec Chef Dan Coudreaut making a real homemade Egg McMuffin while in London for last year’s Olympic Games.

Eggheads, Pick Up Your Spatulas!

9 Jun


Great news for you physics-minded cooks out there, or you culinary-inclined physicists — edX, the year-old free online collection of courses open to anyone, is hitting the kitchen this fall!  Beginning in October you can participate in the class Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science, described thus:  “Top chefs and Harvard researchers explore how everyday cooking and haute cuisine can illuminate basic principles in physics and engineering, and vice versa.”  Here’s their intro video:

More details about course content and instructors is available by clicking the link here.  The great thing is that you can choose to merely audit the course or else take it more seriously, take the exams and get a Certificate of Mastery.  That last option will really appeal to folks who like to have framed things hanging behind their desk, but  you can have the course served up any way you like!

edx-logo-headerFor more information on the edX program in general, you’ll enjoy reading their “About Us” page, available hereedX, started by Harvard and MIT, has been at the forefront of the open access learning movement, an exciting development that brings the classes and instructors from great universities to your very own computer screen.
This course might be the perfect way to dive into this exciting new phase in global brain development!  There are courses starting soon in a vast array of subject areas from science to sociology, and yes, cooking and physics!  Don’t miss this wonderful opportunity to participate!  And the price is right!

Remembering Ann Miller and the Campbell’s…oops…Heinz Great American Soup Commercial

12 Apr

Thank you to commenter Alan Hait for correcting my Heinz error — shows what trouble Heinz had trying to make inroads on Campbell’s!

Ann Miller

Being a soup lover and also classic movie lover, these dual devotions end up intersecting directly over the late great Ann Miller, the talented larger-than-life musical entertainer and ace tap dancer who was born on this day in 1923.  Ann passed away in 2004 at the age of 80 after a movie and theater career which began when she made her big screen debut at the tender age of 14.  She continued working her way from obscure roles to finally headlining at MGM studios, the top-of-the-line destination for song-and-dance specialists.  Even after musical films lost their box office appeal, Ann Miller kept her name in lights through TV appearances both acting and on the talk show circuit where she had the gift of gab.  Miller was in demand as a symbol of old Hollywood glamour, complete with trademark hairdo and glitzy make-up and clothes.  Also an indefatigable musical theater performer, she skillfully rode the wave of entertainment nostalgia which started in the early 1970s.  Teaming with fellow former MGM superstar Mickey Rooney, they succeded in bringing back vaudeville in the popular revue Sugar Babies which opened on Broadway in 1979 and toured for years afterwards.

What, you ask, does all this have to do with soup?  In 1970 renowned advertising guru and comedian Stan Freberg devised a TV campaign for the Campbell’s rival Heinz line of Great American Soups playing off the extravagance of Golden Age Hollywood musicals — that entertainment nostalgia thing again.  The commercial became a sensation and is famous for allegedly costing so much money that there wasn’t much left to buy airtime, but I certainly remember seeing it a lot and whatever it cost they got real bang for the buck.  Perfect casting helped — Ann Miller starred as the housewife, with character actor Dave Willock as her husband, and the rest is history.

There’s also a shorter version in which you hear Freberg narrating as if this is a movie coming attraction trailer.

Pure gold and now it’s time to watch a selection of clips with Ann Miller in her heyday at MGM.  No one was bigger or brassier, and all the pizazz was wrapped in a gorgeous pulchritudinous package. Here she is in her first movie for MGM — 1948’s Easter Parade — doing “Shakin’ the Blues Away” by Irving Berlin.

How about the totally goofy “Prehistoric Man” number from 1950’s On The Town, here with Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Jules Munshin and Betty Garrett…

Here are two terrific numbers from 1953’s Kiss Me Kate, the scorching “Too Darn Hot” and the sweet and sassy “Always True to You in My Fashion” — songs by Cole Porter, of course.

Here’s some Miller and Mickey from 1988 when they performed an excerpt from Sugar Babies (they had taken the show to London) for the Royal Variety Show which was also broadcast on British TV.

And finally, how about Ann Miller from 1998 giving us that ballad just made for old show business broads — and they always kill with it — “I’m Still Here” from Stephen Sondheim’s Follies.

They just don’t make them like her anymore, and nobody makes The Great American Soup anymore, either.  Times change, but talent is always delicious!

We’re Goin’ Crackers!

11 Apr

New Triscuit Varieties

We’re reading today about Nabisco’s Triscuit brand branching out yet again into versions of their square wheat snack crackers with sweet potato, red beans, and brown rice.  These days I see these ingredients in the cat food I buy, so nothing really new here but it’s a departure for Triscuit.  There’s an interesting article in AdAge that you can access by clicking here that tells all about the corporate decisions behind this brand extension and includes a fairly cute new commercial for the product.  Looking at the box I detect that there’s a bit of a problem making a sweet potato not look like a summer sausage, an issue not entirely solved but it may be the first time a full-on sweet potato has taken front and center position in such a prominent product.

Already potential fans are calling for these to be gluten-free which they’re not; the brown rice is an additional ingredient rather than a substitute for the usual wheat in these.   With the gluten-avoiders running rampant these days, it seems like another version that would make a lot of sense.

Rosemary and Olive Oil Triscuit

My favorite Triscuit is the Rosemary and Olive Oil which was itself a newbie not too many years ago.  Quite delicious, not overwhelming and plays well with friends, especially blue cheese or hummus or other usual suspects.  I’ve tried most of the others but always return to the R&OO!

In terms of historical crackers and their intersection with television, the top of the heap is the Andy Griffith-Ritz Crackers collaboration during the 1970s.  You know the tagline — “Everything tastes better when it sits on a Ritz!” — and boy did that come in for a lot of hilarious revisions when I was younger.  (“Toe Jam on a Ritz!”  was among the more palatable of them.)


I think he deserved another Emmy just for being able to say “crisp Ritz Cracker” — you try it!