“Our hot air poppers are not designed with an on/off switch.”


Didn’t I just email & tell you that?  I think I did.

Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself again.  Did you read all about the Evil Popcorn Popper?  It wants you to tempt death by electric shock each time you feel like making a tasty air-popped snack.  Others chimed in on Facebook with their tales of appliance treachery.  In the comments, I formulated an email. I sent it.  Here it is:

Hello Presto®!

I recently bought one of your popcorn poppers because we had one when I was a kid and air-popped popcorn is always better than that microwave stuff. We can agree there, right?

I have a few questions about your design choices.

First… The butter tray. Why doesn’t any butter that I put in it melt? I’ve tried actual butter and “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!®” both to no avail. Did you guys test this out in the factory? Does anyone there own one of these poppers? They’ve never pointed out this problem? I can certainly melt it in the microwave, but it’s amusing to me that the popper has a butter tray that clearly doesn’t work (even long after all the popcorn has popped). Yes, I have sat there stubbornly for a while waiting for the butter to melt for many minutes after the last dead kernel spits out of the popper. When I was a kid, our popper had a metal tray. I think it did a better job of conducting heat & melting the butter. I think it even fit an entire artery-clogging stick (as long as my parents or the babysitter weren’t looking). Do you guys have any poppers for sale that actually pop popcorn AND melt butter? I’d like to see one.

Second (and more importantly)… The power switch, or lack thereof? It’s kind of scary. You guys seem to gloss over it on the video located on your site: http://www.gopresto.com/products/products.php?stock=04820

Is that guy a chef and an electrician? Is he certified to plug in live wires? Do you guys not see the spark(s) when you plug the thing in? Have you ever actually plugged one in? Do you feel that it’s dangerous? I almost want to plug it in to a mulch-outlet power strip with an on/off switch and use that to turn it on so I don’t accidentally put my thumb in between the prongs as I’m plugging it in.

Speaking of switches, you can get a nice rocker switch from Grainger relatively cheaply: http://www.grainger.com/Grainger/CARLING-TECHNOLOGIES-Rocker-Switch-1A822

I’m sure you can get them even cheaper if you buy in bulk… and I’m sure they’re not all that difficult to install.

Can you imagine if other electrical products didn’t have an on/off switch? Toasters? Curling irons? Hair dryers? (They almost all come with circuit breakers now!) Electric knives? Electric hedge trimmers or weed whackers?

You really don’t feel that it’s dangerous? Not so much as a warning label adorns the power cord? Do you use gloves to plug yours in? Why was the plugging done off camera in the video?

I really look forward to your thoughts on these issues. I might go make some popcorn while I wait. I’ll be sure to melt the butter in the microwave first, and I hope I’m not electrocuted when I plug the popper in so I can read your reply!

Inquisitively,
-Waldo

This was the reply:

From: Presto Customer Service <contact@gopresto.com>
Date: Thu, Nov 29, 2012 at 3:01 PM
Subject: RE: Where’s the switch?
To: Waldo Lunar <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>

Good morning,

I’m sorry to hear of your dissatisfaction with your hot air popper.    We have not received complaints of butter not melting in the butter melter.  Please note that the instructions do indicate that soft/room temperature butter or margarine needs to be used, refrigerated butter will not melt during the short popping period.  I do not recommend that you let the unit run after the corn has popped, as this could cause the unit to overheat.

Our hot air poppers are not designed with an on/off switch.  I talked with our Quality Manager and he indicated that there are no plans to change the design to include a switch.  The unit has been tested very thoroughly and meets all UL mandates.  If you read and follow the instruction manual,  you can feel assured that this appliance is safe to use.

Have a good day.

Colleen
NPI Customer Service
Shipments made to U.S. or Canada only

Well, that was unsatisfactory.  Letting it run empty to melt butter is bad, but plugging in a live appliance is OK?  I call shenanigans.  Shenanigans because we keep butter in the ‘fridge, and shenanigans because plugging something in that sparks feels kind of dangerous.

I do find the sentence “I talked with our Quality Manager and he indicated that there are no plans to change the design to include a switch” highly amusing.  They had a discussion about my email.  This has never come up before?  Say it with me: Shenanigans.  I’d like to know what the quality manager really said.

Who exactly are Underwriters Laboratories and why do they put their logo on everything?  How did they decided that plugging in a live wire is safe?  Maybe I should write to them and ask about it?

⚡⚠⚡ The Evil Popcorn Popper ⚡⚠⚡


A while ago I bought a popcorn popper similar to one we had when I was a kid.  It’s a rather simple appliance, and I have many fond memories of making a mess by trying to use a bowl that was too small and putting way too much butter on it.  I still like popcorn, and the stuff from a popper is leaps & bounds more awesome than the microwavable kind (but not as cool as the little foil pan that puffs up when you hold it over an oven burner).

Presto® PopLite® hot air corn popper
Presto® PopLite® hot air corn popper

I have a popcorn popper that looks a lot like the one in the photo, I think it’s a Presto® PopLite® hot air corn popper.

The one we had when I was a kid was a little fancier… it had a cup that you filled with a trap door where the butter cup here is… and a butter tray made of metal about the size of a stick of butter in front of that. The one pictured here is like the one currently at home, and it sure doesn’t melt butter… even if you leave it long after all the popcorn has popped.  Did anyone test this at the factory before they boxed & shipped it?  No one that works there has ever tried to use this thing?

One similar feature to the one I remember form my childhood is a distinct lack of a power switch.  Don’t believe me?  Check out the video from their site:

One of the first things you learn as a child after the word “no”, not sticking things up your nose, and not eating stuff you find on the floor is to not stick your fingers (or anything else) into an electrical outlet.  Everything else comes with a warning label. directly on the electrical cord.. like your hair dryer, a toaster, or even a lamp.  This thing just plugs right into the outlet with a crazy little spark and a jarring whir of sound.

Perhaps one has to be a chef to operate the thing?  Maybe the guy in the video is just in a costume, I don’t know.  Maybe he’s an electrician.  Do they have professional popcorn chefs?  Was he trained to properly plug a live cord into a receptacle?  I like how they don’t show you that part.

I can’t think of anything else that’s on as soon as you plug it in.  You can buy a rocker switch rather cheaply.  Are they that hard to install?  Are they that much more expensive?  Should I write to Presto and ask them why they let his dangerous chaos continue?  I just might.

What kind of popcorn popper do you have (if you have one)?  I’ve never tried one that uses oil… or on of the ones that looks like a tiny cart.  Do you have a tricky death-tempting popcorn popper at home, or any other appliance that dares you to dance with 110v?

Bob Evans Follow-Up Bob Evans Follow-Up Bob Evans Follow-Up


Jelly! Jelly! Jelly!

Jelly! Jelly! Jelly!

You read about the Bob Evans fallout and follow-up, right?  In the interest of fully full disclosure, we went back, got a free meal, and had a nice normal dining out experience.  It went well.  LeAnn from Bob Evans wrote to check on me, and I thought I’d share the dialogue.

From: “Purdy, Leann D”
To: [Me]
Sent: Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Subject: RE: Bob Evans – Reference # 720520 / Blog post about Bob Evans

Hi Eric!

 I wanted to follow up with you to see if you had been back, if not I understand.  I do hope that you do at least use your gift certificates to get some of our amazing Wildfire BBQ sauce!

I know you had concerns with what action was taken after your call/email, I can assure you that all of your feedback is used for training purposes, we did forward your comments to the area coach and general manager so that we can ensure that we are providing excellent service.

Have a great day!

Jelly Jelly Jelly!

bef.gif

LeAnn Purdy
Representative, Guest and Consumer Relations

Supporting Bob Evans Restaurants, Bob Evans Food Products & Mimi’s Café Restaurants
3776 South High Street
Columbus, OH 43207
Bob Evans Guest and Consumer Relations: (800) 939-2338
Mimi’s Café Guest Relations: (866) 616-6464
Fax: (614) 492-4971
Bobevans.com

And, my response:

From: [-mE.]
To: “Purdy, Leann D” ; Riggs A.
Cc: [The Wife]
Sent: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Subject: Re: Bob Evans – Reference # 720520 / Blog post about Bob Evans

Hello LeAnn,

Thank you very much for the follow up!  We actually did get the opportunity to take advantage of a free meal last Thursday night, at the same Bridgeville location.  It was a wonderful experience.  It wasn’t too busy when we arrived… and we seemed to get there right at a shift change, but the service was smooth nonetheless, and we only had to ask once for jelly!

Asking once for jelly & receiving it struck me as a possible bad omen.  Upon arrival, the first thing we heard as we were seated was the waitress at the table next to us (oddly not our waitress) telling her customers that something had been comped or removed from their bill… and the customer was spouting off about something unintelligible.

We had an excellent waitress then waiter, there was no shouting from the kitchen, the food was prepared well.  Some of the carrots with my turkey dinner were dry/cracked, but you’ll get that anywhere.  I didn’t see a manager on duty or patrolling the dining room, but things were running quite smoothly without their presence.

If you talk to the area coach/general manager/managers/team there again, please pass on our thanks for another great meal that was back to what we would call a normal Bob Evans experience.  I didn’t present my BE gift money until the end of the meal, but it didn’t produce any speed bumps and we still have one left!

Thank you for the gift, and both you & Nate for your time, and sincere follow-up!  (Follow-ups?  Follows-up?)

“Jelly! Jelly! Jelly!” may be a good ad campaign.  “Pizza! Pizza!” worked for Little Caesar’s.

Thanks again,
-Eric

Bob Evans Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Can I have jelly? Can I have jelly? Can I have jelly?


Bob Evans Restaurant on UrbanspoonI submitted this to Bob Evans’ contact form:

Last night we had a ridiculous visit to what is normally a decent restaurant.

We arrived shortly after 5:00pm, were seated quite quickly, and were alone in our section (the farthest away from the entrance).  The waitress came to us right away, seemed a little frazzled, and brought us drinks.  By this time another table had been seated in our section.  Our order was taken, a Rise & Shine breakfast for me, BBQ chicken for the wife.

We had actually just dined at this location on Friday evening and had discussed how despite otherwise excellent service & great food, generally my wife has to ask 3 times for jelly.  The standard procedure is that when we order and she gets biscuits, she asks for jelly.  When the biscuits come, with honey and butter but no jelly… she again asks for jelly.  When the meal comes, it’s the 3rd time that she asks for jelly… and usually we get jelly with the check.  It’s like you have it under lock & key or there’s only 1 magical jelly carrier.  I actually suggested that perhaps it’s like the movie Beetlejuice.  One must say “Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse!” to get the title character to appear.  Perhaps one must break the Bob Evans jelly code and ask for jelly three times at once.

No matter how much I wanted her to, she wouldn’t try it last night.  She asked for jelly just one time, and surprisingly, it came with the biscuits.

At this point, the manager walked by and asked if all was OK.  Truthfully, at this point, it was!  We nodded in satisfaction as we said “yes”.

Eventually, shortly before 6:00pm (yes, an hour later) after several other customers had been seated, had ordered, and been served, our waitress apologized for the wait and offered us more biscuits and a free dessert.  We told her the wait wasn’t her fault as she seemed to indicate it was due to a problem in the kitchen.

About the time where I was ready to get up, pay for our drinks, biscuits, jelly, and then leave to go to the nearby Sonic… our food arrived.  I understand that breakfast foods are greasy but my eggs & home fries were sitting in a pool of some oily or buttery liquid, and one of my over-easy yolks was already broken.  The bacon was fantastic.  The potatoes had so much grease on the outside, that when I dipped them into a pool of delicious Heinz ketchup they came out absolutely clean & ketchup free.  I managed to get the yolk out of one of the eggs with the biscuit that had sat there daring me to eat it for an hour.  I left the second egg and most of my potatoes out of disgust for the food and the service.  It had been a particularly trying couple of days and we chose Bob Evans because of the general consistency of the quality & service.  My wife indicated that other than the chicken being slightly over-done, her meal was excellent.  It’s crazy to believe that Bob Evans (the breakfast-food people) messed up such an incredibly simple breakfast.

Bob Evans

Bob Evans

The waitress had indicated some problems in the kitchen without any specifics, but we could hear arguments in & around the kitchen area for our entire visit.  I have no idea why we didn’t just get up & leave after the first 2 tables seated after us had received their food.  Perhaps we were in awe at the chaos.

I declined my free dessert, and my wife decided to get an apple pie to go just because it had been offered as compensation for our wait.  I was too disheartened for dessert, my friends… free or not.  Our waitress offered to refill my iced tea.  I said “no, thanks.”  She came back 10 minutes later & filled my iced tea anyway.  Still no pie.  I just wanted to go.  I was on the verge of just freaking out at the ridiculousness of it all.  We sat for another few minutes as the waitress took care of others around our section, before standing up to just finally go.  My wife just asked for the check as I was exasperated.  The other customers couldn’t wait for 2 minutes while she put a pie in the to-go container, since we had waited over an hour for a simple simple meal?

The waitress had apparently just placed my wife’s apple pie on a plate as we stood to make our escape… my wife said, “Never mind, we just need to get out of here.”  The waitress insisted on sliding the now decimated piece of pie into the Styrofoam box.  We went to pay, and for the first time ever were not asked something to the effect of “how was everything tonight?”  I believe there was small talk about my wife & I coincidentally wearing the same color green.  I think I remained silent for fear of just snapping.  We left a 15% tip, & took home a comment card.  (As a person with a severe allergy to shellfish, I have a small circle of places where I feel safe…  Bob Evans currently has no deathfish on the menu, so we frequent there and I generally tip 20% or more as I’m confident we’ll be returning soon & often.  I have even received excellent communication from your corporate level regarding food allergies & where things are prepared in the kitchen.)

This rant is obviously too long for a comment card.  I may blog it.  I may just leave it in the contact form at the Bob Evans site.  I may print & mail it.

Something was going on last night at Bob Evans in Bridgeville that was not good.  It was a comedy of errors.  The kitchen apparently had trouble producing eggs & home fries in a timely manner, keeping yolks whole, and draining grease/oil/butter from the fried meal.  The waitress was visibly and audibly frazzled as she complained to the customers that she was excessively busy even as most of the section was empty… at dinner time.  Perhaps she was covering two sections?  I’m not sure.  We saw her quite often… just not with our food.  How many others were seated after us & served before us that we couldn’t see?  We heard her arguing with a mysterious voice yelling out from the kitchen.  The manager did not appear to intervene or even suggest that perhaps they not argue so loudly within earshot of the guests… or even to step in, assert her role as a manager and solve the problem.  There was a waiter who appeared to be training a new waitress, happily ignoring all the chaos around them.

We did, however, receive jelly after asking only once.

[Funny note… upon posting this & grabbing a link to UrbanSpoon, I saw an old somewhat bad review that I posted… but we’ve had perfectly reasonable service there since that visit in ’08.]

Girl Scouts vs. Gas Prices


More than 6 ways to cook a hot dog.


A while ago, I blogged about stumbling on to an article listing 6 ways too cook a hot dog.  We all know there’s more.  Here’s a much better list.  OK, maybe not better… but bigger. Thanks to everyone for their suggestions submissions here and on Facebook, I hope to include them all here.

Oh well, on to the list…

  1. Grill ’em. The general consensus seems to be that if you’re going to cook a hot dog, it needs to be grilled.  I would agree with this.  I usually don’t break out hot dogs unless I’m already grilling burgers.  They’re there for those weird non-burger people, or a topping for your burger.
    • Charcoal Grill – This is old school grilling, get it hot let the flames & coals cook the dog with some nice grill lines or looking like the victim of a flame-thrower accident.  There are good instructions on grilling w/ gas & charcoal here (as if you need them).
    • Propane Grill – It’s a little easier to control the heat, & you’re less likely to produce the same flame-thrower victim effect if you keep an eye on ’em. There are also good instructions on grilling w/ gas & charcoal here (again, as if you need them).
    • Foreman Grill – Or any of the imitators & whatever they’re called.  I’ve seen a Hamilton Beach one, I’ve seen them called electric grills, counter-top grills, whatever… you know what I’m talking about.  I’ve had little success with the Foreman Grill & hot dogs… which is odd, because it cooks other stuff quite easily.  Here’s a video on how to cook ’em on the Foreman Grill, …because I can’t find good text for it anywhere.  They don’t list a time for hot dogs in the book that comes with it.  Maybe they assume their grill is for convenience, and it’s more convenient to nuke or boil your dogs.  If anyone has $99 to spare, I’ll take the USB iGrill from Think Geek.
    • Infrared Grill – I know nothing about this newfangled contraption.  It looks like you can burn a hot dog in 0.5 seconds on one.  Learn about infrared grills at Wikipedia.
    • Griddle/Flattop Grill – If you have one in your house, you are awesome.  You can certainly cook a hot dog on one, and don’t need me to tell you how.
  2. Open Flame. Who doesn’t love hot dogs (or anything really) cooked over a campfire? …Or a bonfire, trash barrel fire, or while the neighbor’s house is burning down? With these methods, You can also wrap the dog with biscuit or croissant dough from those creepy popping tubes, and it will cook nicely over an open flame.  If you want to get really crazy, slice it down the middle & stuff cheese in it, or wrap some cheese around it before the dough.
    • Skewer – We use roasting forks or or just sticks.  You can get the forks at any sporting goods or camping store, in a store that has a camping section, or in a store near your camping site.  You can get sticks in the woods, or from a lone, sad tree.  You can also get inventive, like this guy.  Be careful choosing sticks and being inventive… you don’t want anything that will poison your hot dog… like toxic wood, metal treated or painted with anything, and of course plastic.  I can’t seem to find a guide online of safe & unsafe tree branches to use when cooking over a fire.  Anyone have a boy scout handbook?  (I asked Yahoo!, apparently nothing out there will kill you, but stick with a non-sappy wood.) With this method, get your fire going, and hold the hot dog over it… but not in the flame unless you like black crispy possibly carcinogen-laced hot dogs.  If using a store-bought fork, it’s up to you if you want to put the dog on long-ways, or double/triple ’em up the forks.
    • Pie Iron – If you’ve camped with me, you’ve cooked with a pie iron… or you’ve watched me cook with one.  My favorites include pizza ones, and Reubens… but I’m sure you could stuff a hot dog into one.  They also have ones that are shaped to cook hot dogs.  This would most likely result in a nicely cooked dog without the singe marks, maybe flavored with some onions (gross!) or sauerkraut.  If you’re buying  a pie iron, buy one made of… iron.  This sounds dumb, but they make aluminum ones, and I have melted them with no problem.  I don’t think you want aluminum flavored hot dogs.
    • The Cage – Burger basket, grill basket, vegetable basket – all different names for a similar utensil.  I’d use it like I would a fork for hot-dog cooking… may be sort of useless unless you have a burger in it too.
    • The Rack – If you can find some sort of rack or grate that you can secure safely over the fire that’s also safe to cook on, you can cook like it’s a charcoal grill if you’re more comfortable with that.  Just make sure the flame isn’t eating your hot dog before you do.
    • Foil Pack – You could use the bread dough & any toppings/sides here as well.  Wrap the dog & even the bun in foil, and place it on a grate over the flames, or in the coals around the bottom of the fire like you would with a baked potato.
    • Oven Burner – That’s right.  Pit it on a fork or roasting fork, and hold it over the flame on your stove top.  This might not be safe, but I bet it would be fun.
  3. Boiled – I’m sure you’ve all had ’em like this.  I think it even suggests to heat ’em this way on the pack.  I’m not a fan of boiling anything any more, unless it’s soup or pasta.  It just seems like a lot of flavor goes into the water… and where hot dogs are concerned, it’s not like you have a lot to work with to begin with.  I’d suggest boiling hot dogs in beer, even though I’ve never tried it… it sounds pretty awesome.  You can even get crazy with beer, ketchup, and brown sugar.  Maybe some beef broth or bullion would be cool here too… but that may make ’em to salty?  I dunno.  Boil at your own risk.
  4. Nuke ’em – I guess that besides grilling, this would seem to be the most obvious method of cooking hot dogs.  On the last pack we bought, this method was featured larger than the other methods.  Just 30 – 40 seconds in the microwave … wrapped in a paper towel?  I never use the paper towel.  Is that to hold in moisture, prevent explosions, or what?  Apparetly there’s an art to this, because I have found the articles How to Cook a Hot Dog in a Microwave and the possible passive-aggressive How to Cook a Hot Dog in the Microwave Without Exploding the Ends.  As I write this, I have an urge to make some hot dogs explode in the microwave.  I may be developing a disorder.
  5. Lovin’ from the Oven – You can certainly cook hot dogs in the oven, you may split ’em open or poke them with a fork first.  This method would be ideal for the croissant-wrapped hot dogs, smothered in some awesome cheese.  Just make sure if you use the 1st linked method, that you put the foil in the oven before you heat it up (like they so diligently mentioned)… or don’t do that, burn yourself, and stay off of the internet.
  6. Deep Fried – They call these Rippers in New Jersey, no?  I don’t have a fryer… but I suppose I could do this in a pot on the stove, or in my turkey fryer.  I’ve never had one, but I’d imagine it’s a pretty good thing.  Corn dogs could be lumped in here too, I guess.
  7. Steamed – This seems to be a popular method, but I know I’ve never done it, or really seen it done.  I guess there are commercial steam cabinets for hot dogs… but I bet you could steam it like you do with vegetables if you have a steamer.  Perhaps, like boiling… you could steam it with beer…?
  8. In the Skillet. – Or frying pan.  Just fry it on the stove top with a little bit of oil.  I guess you could slice it open first if you wanted to, so it doesn’t pop on you.  Or, you can elevate it to an art form.
  9. Crock PotPop ’em in the crock pot with some sauerkraut (maybe along with some beer), and you’re good to go.
  10. Car EngineWhy not?
  11. In Stuff – Okay this isn’t one specific method, but I didn’t feel like all of these should have their own #’s on the list.  You know you’ve chopped ’em up and added them to baked beans, mac n’ cheese, or even done a hot dog & potato bake.  Here I’ll also inject that I once got the SpaghettiOs with hot dogs.  They were inexplicably gross.  This is your final warning.
  12. Goofy Single-Purpose Appliances – I have hot dogs only occasionally.  I can’t imagine getting one of these hot dog cookers that serves only one purpose.  Our counter-space is quite limited.. and I can’t see that breaking one of these things out would be worth the novelty after more than a few uses…
    • The Hot Dog Toaster – Besides looking creepy, these also apparently cook hot dogs.  It looks to be just a toaster with hot dog-shaped holes and bun-shaped holes.  I wonder if it really cooks the thing through very well?  May be quite convenient.
    • Solar Hot Dog Cooker – This might be fun for campers or science geeks.  Solar ovens are pretty awesome, this one and this one are especially geared for hot dogs… this one might work.
    • The Roller – These apparently come in several varieties, but all look to be the same concept… Cooked on rollers like the ones you see at the convenience stores.  Brookstone makes one, there are a bunch of professional ones, and Nostalgia Electrics offers the Roller & “Ferris Wheel” varieties.
    • The “Roast My Weenie” guy – More of an accessory, this really just needs to be seen.
    • Electrocute it – My cousin told me a tale via Facebook of a hot dog cooker for electric chair, taser, and Tesla enthusiasts… called the Presto Hot Dogger.  Mad scientists can try it at home with a few things from around the house.  This actually looks pretty awesome.  This vintage one looks like a torture device.

Well, those are all the methods I can think of right now.  Well, other than going to Sheetz or Dormont Dogs… you should be able to get your hot dog fix by one of the methods described here.  If you have another technique, please list it in the comments below!

If you need more info… check out the list of hot dog variations.

Also up for discussion… now that you know how to cook one, what do you want on your hot dog?