I first saw them on a menu at a McMenaminsoutpost somewhere in Portland. I thought, Wow, just like Mom used to make heat up in the oven. And they were offered with the option of ranch dressing, not just ketchup. How sophisticated. “Tater Tots,” with capital “T”s, a registered trademark, has become almost a generic term, like “kleenex” or “coke.” Now they’re everywhere. Food writers in cities around the country write up their “10 Best Tots” lists. It’s now hip to eat oldsters’ childhood memories.
Like me, Tater Tots were born in Oregon. Ore-Ida foods, a processor of frozen corn and potatoes in eastern Oregon, hated sending the potato detritus resulting from slicing French fries out for livestock feed. They came up with the idea of chopping the scraps, mixing in a little flour and seasoning, then pushing the mush through an extruder and cutting into bite-sized pieces. Deep fried, then frozen, they arrived in grocery store freezers in 1956.
Tater Tots was a poor seller. Ore-Ida implemented the marketing strategy later employed by Starbucks and others. They raised the price. Consumers decided if they cost that much, they must be good. Sales took off.
H. J. Heinz purchased Ore-Ida in 1965. Americans ate nearly 4 billion of the potato gems in 2017; that’s 70 million pounds.
As we all know, Facebook has recently had some well-publicized problems: Russian bots, a precipitous one-day drop in shareholder value, privacy issues et cetera. In response, they’ve launched an advertising campaign to reassure us all that Facebook is a safe and comfortable place.
In case you missed it, HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” premiered Facebook’s latest advertisement.
In case you have any lingering delusions about privacy, read the Boston Globe’s summary of how your every movement is being tracked and sold. We’ve come a long way since Kramerbooks bookstore fought voyeur Kenneth Starr’s subpoena of Monica Lewinsky’s book purchases.
If you are no longer amused by the idiocy of the current occupant of the White House, you may be ready for some of Bob and Ray’s political humor.
Remember Bob and Ray? Of course you don’t; you’re probably not old enough. Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding made their name in radio, beginning in 1946 with their earnest, dead-pan “news reporting.” They transitioned to a new medium with a fifteen-minute program on the nascent NBC television network from 1951 to 1953. Two decades later they appeared on the “Saturday Night Live” in its early days.
They made regular appearances with Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show” and later showed up on David Letterman’s late-night program.