Product Review! Dole Apple Cinnamon Fruit Crisp: it’s what’s for meal.

I try to play my part in the hilarious global production of Let’s Pretend There’s Time to Fix It, and generally abstain from prepackaged fruit cups for the little ones, instead buying my mandarin oranges and pears by the large tin, then transferring them to plastic containers once opened. Our membership to BJ’s, however, thwarts my efforts on a monthly basis.

If you belong to a warehouse club, you’re aware of the fruit and vegetable aisle (not to be confused with produce), where subtle halos beam from behind hundreds of neatly stacked boxes of every kind of fruit cocktail imaginable. I’ve steeled myself against the snack-pack aisle, but every now and then the left side of that fruit aisle (I ignore the vegetables on the right) calls to me as I try to pass it, like a siren, with whispers of “hey, your kid will absolutely eat this!”

Sometime within the last six months, I fell for the pleasantly packaged, health-ish Dole Fruit Crisp Apple Cinnamon cups, and it turns out that, no, they absolutely will not eat this. Their refusal is for the best, as these little sugar bombs have virtually no nutritional value, aside from the circumstantial fiber present in the “all natural fruit.” You can imagine my growing resentment of eleven oddly shaped containers taking up real estate in my pantry, and several days ago I could no longer stand it. I can’t throw away unspoiled food, and the easiest way to get rid of them would be to just eat them myself. The thirty seconds I spent waiting for my first “apples” to warm were not hopeful ones, and I assumed I’d toss the remaining ten cups into the food drive bin after one bite.

I’m currently down to two cups, with an emergency trip to BJ’s slated for tomorrow afternoon to pick up some more. While the apple adhesive is similar to that in the filling of a Table Talk pie, the apple chunks maintain an admirable level of bite-resistance. The “crispy, crumbly topping” pairs well with the sugary syrup by distracting from its own sweetness with a hefty smack of salt.

The product’s biggest selling point, at least to caretakers of small children, is how impressively quickly you can consume it. Twenty-eight seconds in my microwave yields the perfect temperature, just shy of scalding, and the cup is small enough to hold behind my back as I side-step one or more suspicious toddlers, dart into my office, throw a chair under the doorknob, and pretend to be shuffling through papers out of sight while scarfing down 160 calories of “lunch” in about ninety seconds. I don’t encourage such dietary habits in general, but until my wards stop literally stealing my breakfast, I have to eat on the sly or wait for reinforcements to arrive for dinner.

All in all, a positive rating from the moms-who-should-eat-better-but-don’t demographic. This product should be kept away from children after 4PM to avoid a Gremlins-eating-after-midnight effect, and anyone who takes pride in a healthy lifestyle should probably steer clear as well. That wouldn’t be me, what with my trinity of addictions (nicotine, caffeine, and aspartame). Although I give my gym’s treadmills a good what-for several days a week, it’s really more for bottled-rage management than fitness, as well as the free childcare (thank you, once again, Mr. and Mrs. S!).

Product Review! FUN da-Middles: when bad branding happens to good cake.

Grocery shopping has become something of an effort, and yet we go to the market at least three times a week; it’s just our favorite place. Our local Hannaford has a nice stockpile of buggy carts that seat two up front, making them one of our easier jaunt destinations.  Like every other constant in our lives, Billy the Kid has developed a strict grocery shopping routine with specific checkpoints which, if met, maintain his cheery disposition and obedience. Apple selection, flower sniffing, cheese slice sampling, meat patting and check-out candy display perusal seem an appropriate trade for a well-tempered public toddler.

A new item has snuck into the ritual grocery checklist over the past few months. As the girls approach the walking stage, I have less time to bake from scratch with BK, so a while back I started letting him choose a mix from the baking aisle every now and then. A few weeks ago I made a huge mistake that didn’t even register until the next time we went to the market; I had authorized mix selection on two consecutive trips, thereby silently acknowledging that this is now something we do. So I’ve spent the last month reviewing all of Betty Crocker’s, Pilsbury’s, Ghiradelli’s and Krusteaz’s confections.

I was exceptionally not excited when BK selected a product with one of the most forced and infuriating excretions of marketing drivel I’ve ever seen. First of all, what exactly is FUN da-Middles trying to do with “fundamental?” Is there anything fundamental about a chocolate cupcake housing a melted glob of marshmallow fluff? Awesome, absolutely. But really, fundamental? What troubles me more, however, is the single dash between “FUN” and “Middles.” It causes the “da” to seem more like a “the,” but then “FIND” seems more appropriate than “FUN.” I feel a little bad for FUN, all alone while the other letters are working on some sort of performance piece together. Combine that with the seizure inducing punctuation tantrum that’s going on, and I did not want to like this. Not one bit.

But I did. Even more than did Billy the Kid. I appreciate that the package omits frosting, since the middle makes up for it in sugar content, and I was surprised that the cake itself didn’t have that super-sweet, chemical undertone that even some of the chicest mixes can’t elude. And the yield was twelve cupcakes exactly. No waste, no batter dinner, no guilt.

I will continue to purchase your wares, FUN da-Middles subdivision, but I will malign you even as I follow your three easy steps, and I will mock you even as I enjoy your delicious and reasonably-sized cupcakes. I’d be tempted to take my concern all the way to Ms. Crocker herself, were she an actual person. There really is no excuse, and I’d like to see every attendee of the product naming meeting receive a good thrashing for their failed bravado and crimes against letters.

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