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Uncle Orson Reviews Everything
April 1, 2002

First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC.


Bottled Water, Google, and Graham Crackers

I think the bottled water craze is wonderful.

Used to be that when you got thirsty away from home, you had to look for a drinking fountain -- and take whatever nasty, murky, brownish, metallic-tasting stuff came out of the faucet.

Now you can pop into almost any store and pay obscenely high prices for the packaging of purified tap water (Dasani and Aquafina) or spring water (like Poland Springs, Springtime, and others).

But it's worth it to me. I happily drink any of the brands I just named. On car trips, on my bicycle, beside my desk while I'm working -- it's rare that I don't have a bottle beside me.

Even in theaters, where the already high price is doubled, I'd rather drink bottled water than something that fizzes or pumps me up with caffeine.

I actually got my taste for bottled waters in Brazil, where the tap water wasn't safe -- most Brazilians drank only filtered water, and foreigners like me, who had no resistance to the local microbes, would be doomed if we went for the tap.

Didn't matter. On any street, we could step into any bar (a bar in Brazil is a combination of saloon, convenience store, and delicatessen) and pick up Agua Lindoya.

It tasted so good ... but when I came home to the states, there simply wasn't any bottled water to be had. It took twenty years for us to catch up and get bottled water on every corner.

I've never seen Agua Lindoya in the States, but restaurants offer plenty of other fancy imported waters.

Now, I can't tell you a thing about bubbly waters, natural or otherwise, because I don't like any of them. I only drink still waters, so those are the only ones I can review.

Everybody's taste is different, of course, but I've given up on French waters. Evian is everywhere, of course, but there are others, like Vitelle and Volvic, and they all have a weird aftertaste that I just don't care for. It's hard to describe flavors in words, of course. The closest I can come is to say that these waters taste as if they've had extra blandness injected into them.

I've had some British waters that I enjoy -- the Marriott Marquis in New York offers one (in a dark blue bottle) whose brand I've forgotten but whose flavor I remember well. But my favorites all come from Italy.

The best -- or at least the one I like most -- is Panna. It's bottled by the San Pellegrino people, and it has, whether cold or room-temperature, the best flavor of any bottled water I've ever tasted.

So in restaurants, I'll take tap water over Evian any day (especially in New York, where the tap water is delicious) -- but when I can get Panna, I drink so much of it that, well, it's a good thing it isn't wine.

*

For years the only internet search engine I used was the one that came with America Online. I assumed they were all the same.

Then I read a review in PC Magazine that made a case for Google being markedly better than any of the others.

Well, after years of having mostly porn sites come up no matter what I was searching for (and I promise you, I was never searching for porn; you don't have to search for it, since porn-pimping email is even more common than viruses and password-stealing scams), I was ready for a change.

Google is it, folks. I have found everything I ever looked for, and found it fast. Porn sites almost never show up in my search results, and usually the exact site I needed is one of the first five or six. Http://www.google.com.

*

Ken Bezilla wrote to me with solutions for some of the problems I've had with my backyard garden. About cilantro: "Yep, it does bolt and go to seed fast in the summer. You have to plant it every month in hot weather."

That makes sense. Seeds are cheap!

About the problem with tomatoes bursting, it's the contrast between dry and wet that gets them. Keep the soil moist, and it shouldn't happen.

To prevent tomatoes from getting fungus infections, he suggests using drip irrigation to keep the leaves from getting wet, and mulching the soil with straw so the plant surface stays dry (while the soil stays moist).

Also, if you have the room, he suggests rotating tomatoes ("and other nightshades like peppers, potatoes, and eggplants") between different planting boxes so you don't grow them in the same soil more often than once every four years.

Thanks for helping me give Rhino readers better information than just the stuff I happen to know!

*

Did you know that Hostess Ho-Ho's are back? They first came out in -- what, the sixties? Basically the same stuff that is in the cupcakes, only layered and more delicate. I never liked the cupcakes, but I loved the Ho-Ho's.

Then they went off the market. Didn't see them for years.

Last week I spotted them again.

You know what? They're exactly like I remembered.

But I've eaten so many better things since then that, apart from the nostalgia, the Ho-Ho's just didn't carry the old thrill.

I guess I've grown beyond them. Or we've grown apart. The bloom is off the rose.

It's over between us. But we'll always be friends.

*

A few months ago I found Scrunges again in Albertson's, a western grocery store chain. Last week I spotted them in Giant, a chain in Virginia and points north.

They're still the best scrubber for everything from stuck-on pots to fine china.

And they're getting closer to us every day ...

*

Nabisco's Teddy Grahams are my favorite cooky on the market today. They're little, so they trick you into thinking you're eating nothing -- though of course I eat them by the handful, which rather defeats the purpose.

I'm glad they're selling them in smaller, resealable packages now, instead of just the boxes, since no matter what size the package is, I will finish it within about a half hour. (Ten minutes if I'm not trying to pretend I'm "just having a few.")

If graham crackers are one of the basic food groups for you, as they are for me, the best graham cracker of all is Carr's Wheatolo Biscuits. Whether you like them with butter, cheese, or chocolate icing, they're always great.

Not long after Teddy Grahams came out, however, Pepperidge Farm introduced a new variation on their Goldfish crackers -- Goldfish Grahams. It takes nothing away from Teddy Grahams to say that the Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Grahams were better. I liked both the honey and the plain varieties.

But, because I thought they were the best, naturally they have been removed from the shelves in every grocery store I shop at. Oh, I still find the chocolate chip and cinnamon ones here and there -- but I don't like them.

It's the same thing that always happens to me. Only the flavors I dislike remain on the shelves -- and since nobody else likes them either, they remain fully stocked all the time.

It makes you wonder if grocery stores do their reordering by walking the aisles and taking note of what items they have a lot of. Instead of reordering the items that run out within days.

But no, they're all so computerized by now, it can't possibly be that they deliberately order more of the things that don't sell. That would be dumb.

And they're not dumb. They're just malicious.

Harris-Teeter has keyed in on my VIC Card and whatever I buy a lot of, they discontinue.

I know they open up the Rhino Times in their offices and read all my whining about favorite items they've discontinued.

How gleefully they laugh, twirling their mustaches and rubbing their oily little hands together.


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