Consumers should ask questions about products and their marketing

I spend a lot of time in my kitchen. I love to cook. I love to eat. I love to share my love for food with others. It is no surprise then that my kitchen would be the subject of a lot of my thoughts.

While stirring a homemade sauce, I find my mind wandering and my eyes settling on a candy bar wrapper on the microwave.

What happened to “instant win?”

I’ve noticed a creep in promotional efforts toward contests directing us to websites where we have to fill out a bunch of information before we actually find out if we have won. This is not instant. Opening a candy wrapper and reading “sorry try again” was instant. Going online and giving up my personal information is not an instant win. I want the “instant win” not “win instantly — see back panel for details.” I feel tricked.

When the sauce was finished, I reached for a pan and lasagne noodles, leading to my next query. Why don’t the no-boil lasagne noodles fit in a standard 9×13 pan?

Is this a conspiracy to get me to stop making lasagne myself — to drive me to buy packaged versions? Perhaps it is to force me to use the boil-first noodles because they can be easily overlapped in the pan? I’d hate to think that the makers of the noodles are still making noodles the same size as their cook-first cousins out of tradition. It could, of course, be that they are simply using the same production equipment. Please make my life easier and make noodles that fit in a 9×13 pan side-by-side, as you are instructed to do with no-boil noodles. Next time companies have to reorder lasagne noodle equipment, how about making noodles narrower and shorter? Or could the noodle boxes contain different widths? I have a hard time breaking lasagne noodles lengthwise. I don’t think I’m alone here. Has someone out there got a way they get around this? E-mail me.

After a frustrating and messy noodle-breaking and puzzle-making experience called homemade lasagne (and yes I use low-fat cottage cheese with spinach, not ricotta) it was on to dessert and yet another question.

Why is nutritional information still so divergent in its presentation on the side of packages?

I have been buying Dr. Oetker desserts, thinking that they are way healthier than their counterparts. But the other day, I noticed that the Dr. Oetker information is presented for what is in the box and does not factor in the ingredients you add. This would drastically change the nutritional value once you add butter and eggs.

Some products, like cereal, seem to show the nutritional value for their product prepared and unprepared. This is handy information, but its lack on the Dr. Oetker products probably won’t stop me from buying the lava cakes — they are truly sensational.

Cleanup is something that I try to do throughout the cooking process, but I inevitably face a crush of last-minute dishes as I attempt to time a meal to the table.

As I put back some supplies in the fridge and place dishes in the dishwasher, I have to wonder, is stainless steel for the neat or the disorderly?

Overall, I am happy with my new stainless steel appliances. Not simply because I got them on clearance at Home Depot, and I love a deal, but because they look slick, are energy-friendly, and are quieter than my old ones.

Yet, I wonder if they are for the orderly or the messy. The stainless makes my less-than-modern kitchen look fresh and completely updated (i. e. for the neat). I’d heard the worry about fingerprints and my appliances quickly reflected two children at waist level and just above, with sticky hands seeking out snacks for themselves and then starting to put dishes in the dishwasher. I tried washing the appliances with water –forgetting the stainless cleaner provided by one of the manufacturers — to no avail (not for neat freaks).

However, there is another side to stainless that I hadn’t considered until I had them in my kitchen. Were stainless-steel refrigerators created by a neat freak who didn’t want clutter on his or her fridge? My daughter went to put a picture she’d made at school on the face of the refrigerator and was disappointed when the magnet would not stick to the steel. (Neat freaks will take solace in this feature as the front of the appliance stays unadorned.)

A final note about my kitchen — if you are considering home renovations, take a new look at easy-to-install and maintain linoleum. Tile is hard on backs, hardwood is expensive and crumbs fall in cracks, but linoleum has hip new looks, like slate or tile patterns, that people will definitely agree is not your grandmother’s linoleum.

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