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Can This Meringue Be Saved?

September 13, 1990

In a remarkable act of public-spiritedness, the Sheraton Grand Torrey Pines Hotel in La Jolla provides a hotline for questions about food, from home as well as professional cooks, on any subject at all: nutrition, ingredients, menu planning, even recipes via fax. Executive Chef Jim Coleman or one of his main staff members handle the questions. The number is (617) 450-4527 (there's no charge but the phone company's), and the best time to call is from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, though they do take calls at other times.

But He Still Gets Carded

The Pillsbury Doughboy is 25 years old this year, and he's had a full, rich, lite 'n' flaky life so far.

In the past quarter century he has popped out of 5,760 cans of dough, appeared on 25.4 billion packages, inspired a giant ectoplasmic manifestation in "Ghost Busters" and has been belly-poked on TV no fewer than 32,000 times.

Pickled Pups

A food chemist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture laboratory in Philadelphia has created a pickled hot dog that doesn't have to be refrigerated. The problem was keeping the dogs from turning to mush in the pickling solution; James B. Fox's solution was adding the thickening agent xanthan gum--more or less giving the hot dogs a collagen injection.

Fox describes the flavor as tasting like a dill pickle with a pickled meat flavor. "If you happen to like pickled flavors, you'll like this," he says. "I have carried them on backpacking trips."

There's a Grub in Your Future

What's in an insect? Take away its wings, legs, body armor and disgusting antennae and stuff and it's basically the same sort of rich, tender invertebrate flesh as those bugs of the sea, the crustaceans. Or eat it when it's still a grub; throughout the tropical world grubs are considered delicacies, and with the growing interest in things Australian we will soon get the chance to try the native Aussie delicacy known as Witchetty Grubs.

That name will be a marketing problem, though.

Let's call them . . . Land Shrimp.

It's Only a Naive Domestic Tap Water But You'll Be Amused by Its Surface Tension

Last week the American Institute of Wine and Food held a tasting of tap water from 12 California communities, collected in accordance with professional water tasters' guidelines (which exist). The best-tasting water, according to seven food and wine experts, came from Huntington Beach, which gets its water from local wells. Huntington Beach water had only 299 milligrams of dissolved solids (minerals) per liter; 11th-place Santa Barbara tap water had 800 mg/l.

How do water tasters cleanse their palates between waters? Eating crackers.

Department of Practical-Sounding Inventions

We all know the biggest lie in the world is, "To open, tear on dotted line." A couple of years ago this was brought home to a fellow named Gregg Converse when he saw his girlfriend using her expensively capped teeth to open a cereal box just so she wouldn't break a nail trying to tear on a dotted line. He invented a solid plastic tool called the Boxtopper to do the job. If you can't find them in stores, they're available for $2 postpaid from Boxtoppers, P.O. Box 2349, Bath, Ohio 44210.

Call Him Mr. Tea

Making tea is about as hard as boiling water and then sitting down; imagine how hard it must be to sell people on buying tea in canned form. T. Hasegawa Co. of Japan is taking on the challenge, though, with its new development, canned carbonated tea. The flavor is said to be "clearer and more defined" than that of the usual canned tea. Plus you can shake up the can and squirt your friends with it.

--CHARLES PERRY

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