Nabisco's latest is another version of Wheat Thins crackers. It's Wheat Thins Flatbread, long rectangular crackers (with a sprinkling of grains other than wheat), in Tuscan Herb or Garlic & Parsley flavors.
As with virtually every new version of an existing grocery product these days, Wheat Thins Flatbread costs much more per ounce than regular Wheat Thins. The 5.5-ounce box sells for the same price as the 10-ounce box of regular Wheat Thins, so it's 82 percent more per ounce.
And, as often seems to be the case lately, the packaging seems designed to obscure the amount within, if not to be outright deceptive. The boxes are the same size, but while the regular crackers are loose in a bag, the Flatbread crackers are in a tray.
The tray might be needed to keep them from breaking, but the crackers are about 4 1/4 inches long and the tray has huge shoulders that make it about 6 3/4 inches long. It's in a bag that adds another 1/2 inch, and there's another 1/2 inch of empty space above it in the 7 3/4-inch-tall box.
Again: Crackers 4 1/4 inches, box 7 3/4 inches.
The new flavor darling
The flavor of the moment is hibiscus — ruby-red, lemony-tart and berry-rich. It's flavoring sparkling beverages and oolong tea, not to mention vodka and tequila. Chefs do hibiscus-poached rhubarb, or hibiscus gelee as a dessert topping.
The hibiscus in the food is not exactly the same plant as the one in the backyard. What's used to brew the teas and make the beverages is the part called the calyx, or the outer shell of the flower.
Why pepper? Q. Why are salt and pepper on every table? I understand salt, because of its ability to enhance flavor. But why pepper?
A. Maybe we keep pepper on the table so we have something to put in the "other" salt shaker?
Actually, both salt and black pepper have ancient histories. Salt, of course, is necessary for life in addition to all of its other properties, such as preserving food and enhancing flavor. It was so valuable that Roman soldiers were paid in salt, giving us the term "salary."
But pepper was just as important. Historians call it "the king of spices," and it was once so valuable that it also was used as a form of money. Its heat and taste also enhance flavor.
When we look into culinary history, one point that shows up is upward mobility. Things that start with nobility trickle down through society — everyone wants to do what the social class directly above them does.
Since salt and pepper started out as precious and expensive, it may have been a way to show your wealth, to put both of them on your table for anyone to use.
That tradition is finally starting to dwindle. Now that we understand pre-ground black pepper loses its heat and flavor quickly, pepper grinders and even salt grinders are starting to replace all those cute salt-and-pepper sets.
I work for tips: Compiled from wire reports. Send local food and restaurant news to Lisa Davis, email@example.com, 235-3555.