hi, remember me?

Time is the enemy of Earth

This is my final “reflection” I did for an Environmental History course at UMass Amherst.

Charles Daraghy
HIST 383 – American Environmental History
May 7, 2014

Is the Party Over?

As historians, or in our case, students who study history, we have a predisposition to think of history as a series of events which happened across a multitude of dates. When we think about history, we naturally think of dates and time and prepare ourselves to memorize factual events tied to dates. In this current study however of American Environmental History, we have discovered the events we humans were participants in, and how they shaped the history of our country and our planet.

Historians will often point to the actions of an individual or a group of people in how that action shaped history. The decisions of men and women through the ages has altered the course of history, like a series of forks in the road. Freedoms won and lost due to words and actions of people. Yet through all this, in the background, was the land.

Like a silent character, forming the backdrop for human-driven history, the land itself has a history of its own. Some would argue that without man’s presence, or any human interaction for that matter, the life of the land would go on quite abundantly. As sure as the sun rises and sets, the moon’s glow across the night sky, or the tides flowing, the Earth would sustain itself and the Nature abound it.

The Earth is said to be approximately 4.54 billion years old. Although some meteors have dated to 4.8 billion years old which is the upper limit to the Earth’s age. Others argue the Earth is between 6,000 – 10,000 years old. The ocean covers 71% of the Earth’s surface and provides 97% of the planet’s water. The volume of water is 321 million cubic miles of water. These are constants, with data courtesy of noaa.gov to give some scope to the size of our planet.

With these values in mind, it is easy to feel so small and insignificant with regard to one’s impact on the planet. “What kind of burden could I possibly put on the planet?” “What sort of dent, if any, will I leave on the environment?” were not the sort of questions Homo sapiens were probably thinking when trying to learn to walk upright. With the planet’s population rapidly approaching 7.2 billion people, it is estimated we will approach the lower end of the sustainability threshold around 2050 when the population is expected to exceed 9 billion people. Journals such as Scientific American seem to feel that 10 billion people is about the number where food production becomes an area of concern.

As we have observed in this class, early settlers did not seem to have much of an impact upon the land. But even variations in Northern New England tribes versus more Southwestern New England showed seven times the number of people per cubic mile. Farming techniques such as planting legumes with crops to replenish nitrogen were learned and passed on by these early people. These techniques are still valid today, as one article in Organic Gardening explains the importance of crop rotation as such:

“There are other crops that also use up nitrogen rapidly. They tend to be the leafy and fruiting crops, such as lettuce, cabbage, and tomatoes. In contrast, root vegetables and herbs are light feeders. Peas, beans, and other legumes add nitrogen to the soil but need lots of phosphorus.

The general rule of thumb for balancing out soil nutrients is to avoid planting the same general category of crop (root, legume, and leafy/fruiting) successively in the same place. It’s best to follow nitrogen-fixing legumes such as peas or beans with nitrogen-loving leaf or fruiting crops such as lettuce or tomatoes. Then, follow the heavy feeding crops with light-feeding root crops.”

So with all this knowledge and experience, and the traditions humans have been witness to, and the stories told over generations, we find ourselves in the year 2014 experiencing first-hand, extreme weather conditions and evidence of depletion of natural resources. Global warming has gone from being an issue of great debate, to gaining widespread acceptance for the reason behind many problems of drought and extreme weather. Most adults would agree the frequency and severity of these events has only been evident the past 20 years and seemed inexistent 30 to 40 years ago.

So could it be, we have so damaged our planet Earth in less than 160 years?

No doubt the industrial revolution and advent of train transportation in the late 1800’s was the beginning of the end. Call it haphazard progress, fueled by a mercantile society, the population moved from the farms to the cities. Evolving from simple people to educated people, all the while falling prey to consumerism and becoming zombies at the same time. A lack of appreciation settled in as suddenly goods from all around the globe made their way onto store shelves. Manual labor, self-sufficiency and family life gave way to careers, money, and material goods. It’s shameful and akin to driving fast expensive cars and yet not being able to wipe our own asses.

Sadly most people aren’t yet aware there is a lesson to be learned here. A lesson on choices and learning how to be self-sufficient. The choices we make and lifestyle changes we can implement can have a real impact in reducing greenhouse gasses, of reducing strains on fresh water, or the reliance on fossil fuels or the consumption of meat. All it takes is baby steps. Moving slowly is better than not moving at all, but we are surely running out of time.

“Running out of time” to make a positive impact is something I have given much thought to this semester. I had studied oceanography last semester and learned about climate change and factors that affect the weather. Being an advocate and spreading the word is often easier said than done, especially when wishing to make changes that affect the planet on a global scale. If we think about the speed of change, and how our human actions caused pollution and disruption of balance on the planet, there is no greater evidence for anthropogenic climate change.

In addition to speed of change, there is speed of adoption. How quickly can we get the adoption of conservation-savvy ways to the masses? We don’t have two generations to bring this through school curriculum to hopefully influence the population, change needs to happen now, and for any sort of real results, changes need to be pretty severe and to happen immediately.

We can attend town and local meetings, to attempt to influence matters of food quality in the schools, for energy conservation, water quality and water consumption, and think of new ways to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. When we shop, we can consider how far a grocery item has had to travel, taking a hint from Michael Pollan when we have the choice of buying organic chips from 3,000 miles away or selecting locally grown vs. a strawberry from across the equator. We can vote with our dollars and choose not to support out-of-season produce. There is much to learn on the genetically modified (GMO) front, for knee-jerk “GMO=BAD” thinking is not an action plan. Planning for the world’s food supply is a legitimate concern. And for anyone thinking they have never unknowingly ingested a genetically modified food or food ingredient, is deceiving themselves.

We can choose to continue to live ignorantly, as ignorance is bliss, but for anyone with a conscience, it will be hard to move on without giving some degree of consideration to the choices that are always around us.

I would offer that for any student of this class, to enter a common aisle in a grocery store, to stop in the middle and just look around. The brightly-colored labels all whispering, clamoring, and screaming for your attention and for your money. Do you see choices? Do you see chemicals? Do you see unfair labor practices? Do you envision silos of reconstituted orange juice? I guarantee we have all changed as a result of this class and we will never see something simple as a glass of orange juice, the same. Especially if Coca-Cola has anything to do with it. Take for example this article from the Chicagoist:

Many people choose Simply Orange juice because they believe it is a less processed, more natural choice than other brands. However, a new investigation by Bloomberg BusinessWeek shows that it is a “hyper-engineered and dauntingly industrial product.” Coca-Cola owns Simply Orange, which is made using a process they call Black Book. Since juice production is full of variables, including a peak growing season of only 3 months, this methodology was created to produce consistent orange juice year round. They won’t tell anyone how exactly the Black Book formula works, but the consultant who designed it, Bob Cross of Revenue Analytics, shared it with Bloomberg BusinessWeek.
Black Book is an algorithm that includes data about consumer preferences and the 600 flavors that make up an orange. Coke matches this data to a profile detailing acidity, sweetness, etc. so that they can blend batches to replicate the same taste and consistency. Black Book also incorporates external factors, such as weather patterns, anticipated crop yields, and cost pressures to allow Coke to plan ahead and ensure they have supplies on hand.
Coca-Cola’s Brazilian partner, Cutrale, processes the oranges, which are grown to Coke specifications. Satellite imaging allows them to order growers to pick their fruit at the best time, as determined by Black Book. The fresh-squeezed juice is stored in Cutrale’s silos and transported via a 1.2 mile underground pipeline to Coke’s packaging plant, where it is flash-pasteurized. It is then piped to storage tanks where it is slowly agitated and covered with a nitrogen gas blanked to keep out oxygen, which has been sucked out of the juice, as it will cause it to spoil.
The batches from different crops and seasons are separated, based on orange type, sweetness, and acidity. Blend technicians follow Black Book instructions, adding natural flavors and fragrances captured during squeezing back into the juice to make up for the flavor lost in processing. “When the juice is stripped of oxygen it is also stripped of flavor providing chemicals. Juice companies therefore hire flavor and fragrance companies, the same ones that formulate perfumes for Dior and Calvin Klein, to engineer flavor packs to add back to the juice to make it taste fresh. Flavor packs aren’t listed as an ingredient on the label because technically they are derived from orange essence and oil. Yet those in the industry will tell you that the flavor packs, whether made for reconstituted or pasteurized orange juice, resemble nothing found in nature,” explains Alissa Hamilton, author of Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice.
If you’re looking for an all-natural orange juice experience, free of algorithms and flavor packs, your best bet is to juice it yourself, go to a juice bar, or take Hamilton’s suggestion and enjoy a whole Valencia orange instead.

We cannot continue to blindly put our lives and livelihood in the hands of corporations. The amount of micro-financing and forecasting that goes into something we take for granted, equates to massive profits for these companies. It has been argued that wage-wars and financial class violence is around the corner, and “control” is part of that.

In this class we have learned the value of the commodity of fresh water, and how its supply is limited and is approaching an endangered state. We must question why political figures are buying up land in Paraguay and positioning themselves with their oil-rich backgrounds, to now suddenly take an interest in the world’s water supply.

In the beginning, say pre-industrial times, humans really weren’t affected by their environment. That is, they needed to learn coping skills to work with the land and how to best migrate with changing weather patterns for food production reasons. They let nature drive them. As civilization grew more sophisticated and sought more and more convenience and creature comforts, we altered the environment to suit our needs. We thought we were in control of nature and our environment. The evolutionary step here, is that over time our attitudes have changed about how we think about the environment. This final step is crucial if we are to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Much of what we have learned has been quite doomsday. More a wake-up call. The wizard behind the curtain. It’s a gift to be able to think so much more critically about the things we need, use, eat, and have an effect on a daily basis.

“You can’t change the world, but you can change the facts and when you change the facts, you change points of view, if you change points of view, you may change a vote, and when you change a vote, you may change the world.”
— ML Gore

If there is any consolation in feeling a little small after studying how we’ve lost our way, even doom-and-gloom prophet Guy McPherson has said that just the fact you exist is like winning the lottery within the lottery, the chances and series of events that had to happen, just so you could be here, are phenomenal. (His blog “Nature Bats Last” or the article, here: http://bit.ly/1fQGWzg )

So, there could be a silver lining to all this. Live your life. Enjoy good health. Take pleasure from simple things, be it a cool breeze, a bird’s song, a pet of your dog or cat’s coat. Love your family. And always be appreciative for what you have, and not lament for what you don’t have.

treefarm2

Cutting Down a Beauty

Growing up in New Jersey, my family often bought a Christmas Tree out of the parking lot of some Chinese restaurant or department store.  Two Guys comes to mind, an early precursor to the Wal-Mart concept.

I recall a few years we had an artificial tree, and Mom just wasn’t happy with that.  Just as much work to decorate and “no smell”.  No needles didn’t seem to impress her enough to prefer the artificial over the real tree, though.  Plus our cat preferred the real one too.

One year we decided to go to a tree farm, in Cranberry, NJ.  I was pretty little at the time but I recall we went rather late in the day and selecting a tree and getting it cut was an ordeal.  But I think at least someone cut it for us and tied it to our car!

For many years I either had no tree, or an artificial one.  Live trees are often wrapped with a netting and you can’t tell what you’re going to get when you buy them out of a parking lot.

Fortunately in New England there are many tree farms, where you traditionally go sometime after Labor Day and before mid October to “Tag” the tree.  Often a family will bring their kids and decorate the tree to a degree.  It’s a very ritualistic event, very joyful and the family adopts the tree and even gets emotionally attached to it, while it’s still alive and planted in the ground.

Usually after Thanksgiving, you return to pick up your tree.  You hand in your ticket, pay for it, you’re given a wheelbarrow and a saw and you proceed to the field to try and find your tree, and then cut it down.

It’s a bit sad to cut such a majestic beauty, and at the same time you can’t wait til you’ve severed the last wood fiber from the trunk!

Plunk it into your cart and wheel it away.  A friendly burly young man then gives it a fresh even cut, wraps it for you, and enthusiastically offers to put it in your car for you.  Shake his hand and give him a few bucks for a beer.

You’re now on your way!  Sap dripping on your shoulder.  Prayers for an insect free tree.

Get the tree home, argue over “where is the front?” with your loved ones, twist your fingers til they ache with those tight screws on the tree stand.  Now you’re ready for alcohol, but hey, the tree gets an aspirin?  That is supposedly an unfounded unnecessary thing.  Mythbusters has tried all sorts of tips to extend a tree’s life and keeping it well watered was the only thing one really has to do.

Once you’ve got it standing nice and straight and tall, leave it the hell alone.  Let it rest.  Keep kitty away from it.  Then put the lights on it, then the ornaments, then some tinsel or garland, the tree skirt, and the tree topper, and you’re all ready for presents to be delivered by Santa.

It’s helpful to have a giant bag for the tree once the Holidays are over and you’re going to take it down.  Ocean State Job Lot here in MA is a great place to get the bags.  You just lay it on the floor, lower the tree stump into the bag, lift it over and you’ll greatly reduce the loose needles from falling all over your floor.

You should really plant another tree in place of the one you are now putting on the curb, the dumpster, down a hill.  Burning the tree will produce methane and CO2 and cause global warming.

You just can’t win!

Happy Holidays!

Tivo_logo

OK Tivo… What Now?

Around this time of year I am reminded that my Tivo subscription is up for renewal.

This leads to a series of questions I ask myself and ultimately I take the lazy way out, not wanting to undo my way of doing things:

– If I leave and then come back, I’ll have to set it up again and get the device ID and wireless settings, and grant permissions, etc.  Phooey!

– Other than recording shows, what am I getting out of having a Tivo?

– My DVD player has links to all those WiFi enabled services, if not more.  Why should I keep the Tivo?

– I don’t have the time to watch all the stuff I record, and, watching on a mobile device is not my style.

Some of my favorite things about having Tivo would include:

– Oh Snap!  I’m sitting in a restaurant in another state and forgot that some show I wanted to see is airing this weekend.  I can use my mobile phone to bring up my account and set a recording.

– I was aware of RealPlayer and RealNetworks for ages, but ignorant of the Rhapsody app.  Once I tried it and saw beyond the initial 30 seconds only limit, and sound quality limitations of the initial website version, the standalone app sounded so much better.  To have the mobile app version and the Tivo version (which sounds superb hooked up to a stereo system) offers so many more luxuries over Pandora, LastFM, Sony Music Unlimited.  The down side is the Rhapsody interface on Tivo is really pretty slow and hasn’t been updated in years.

– I like the ability to search for YouTube videos on my Tivo, even if the most current interface is pretty awful.

– Finally, Comcast’s video-on-demand seamlessly integrates with Tivo.  The caveat of one-way communication cablecards didn’t seem to be a problem after all, as one morning the feature just suddenly showed up on my existing Tivo menu!

I am on my 3rd Tivo.  The initial product was because the place I was living at the time was a condo complex that opted to not go with a cable provider for its residents, so we had a shared DirecTV antennae and I had to purchase a little box to get more channels than what came in my montly homeowner’s fee.  I discovered if I were to get a Tivo, it would eliminate the need for extra hardware.  The device was not HD and I did not own an HDTV, so when the next generation came out, I upgraded.

I discovered the included hard drive wasn’t big enough and I got an external “MyDVR Expander” drive for it, but this hardware did not always work correctly and it slowed the performance down and caused pixilation.  I’d power cycle the devices every now and then and maintain the drive space by eliminating the deleted shows.  This grew tiresome though.

When the next generation device came out, it allowed the use of Cablecards and could record multiple shows at once.  A larger included hard drive eliminated the need for an external one.  My biggest gripe would be how Comcast handles the fees for having a Cablecard, as they charge for the card and the cost to pump the service to the number of tuners in the device.  Just simply having the card (A multistream card, one card) because my Tivo has two tuners, I am being charged a two-card rate and two “A/O” (additional outlet) fees.  I have called Comcast several times to dispute the charges as they conflict with some printed materials I was given in a Comcast service center, but to no avail, this setup definitely costs more than just having a cable box or a cable company provided DVR.

Then we must mention the Tivo subscription service.  You can pay for a product lifetime subscription (about $500 currently) but being I have replaced my Tivo three times since 2005, this option does not make sense.  Monthly the Tivo service is about $15, and takes care of the TV schedule updates which are necessary for the recordings to actually occur.  Promo annual subscriptions used to run $99 but it’s upward of $129 last time I checked.

Probably the main features Tivo is known for (recommending shows, automatically recording things if you “thumbs up” a certain type of program, ability to rewind live shows (well, you are watching a buffer of what actually just aired), these are pretty much the main features.

The latest generation Tivo (Roamio, Roamio Plus, Roamio Pro) has the ability to record even more shows (up to 6 simultaneous shows), a faster processor for faster interface response, larger hard drives (3TB which could potentially record 500+ hours worth of HD programming), and the ability to stream shows to mobile devices or watch a Tivo recorded show in another room on another Tivo (with purchase of additional hardware).  The last feature used to be available with MoCA (Multimedia over Cable Alliance) network protocol, but the latest way, via WiFi and the Tivo Minis seems to be much easier, even if it does require additional hardware.

In the end I guess you have to ask yourself how much TV do you watch.  I tend to like the ability to pause and rewind TV, in case I’m in another room and want to review something that just broadcast.  I use the Season Pass feature to record an entire series of a favorite show.  The Tivo brand and brand image has grown to be one of friendliness and a companion to your tele, but whether it is right for you can only be discovered if you actually were to try it.

fusion_orange

Ford’s Fusion Hybrid – The Hybrid for Non-Hybrid Fans

I admit it.  I don’t like American cars.  I try and give a look at various models at auto shows, looking for something to turn my head, or make me feel something/anything, but more times than not, American cars leave me cold.

Part of me feels so shameful for this.  I think about the jobs that could be secured, the pride I’m missing out on, the heritage of so many American automobile brands – but then I sit in one or actually drive one, and I’m so bored, so very very bored.

Add to that the country’s energy crisis and squawks about fuel efficiency and cost of ownership, and I feel determined to do something about the state of my country’s economy, and my own wallet.

The leading gasoline electric hybrid automobile has been the Toyota Prius, available in the US now for some 13 years.  But whether your observations stem from the fact they are usually slugging along in the right lane, creeping in front of you in your community, or damn near running you over at a crosswalk because you can’t hear it coming, the Prius has had a difficult time winning auto lovers over.

What’s not to hate?  The Prius is pretty darn ugly, they’re slow, and the seemingly strangely cocky attitude of their owners makes one want to tell them to “go and enjoy your own party – alone”.

But how can I make such comments?  I’ve never driven one!

Recently, I’ve taken notice that Ford has been producing some pretty nice looking cars.  And their sedan, the Fusion, introduced in 2006 was joined with an electric/gasoline hybrid model in 2009.  The early 2009/2010 models had bland interior styling, but the current 2013/2014 models just ooze in style.

Sleek details in the Fusion’s cabin should appeal to younger audiences, who embrace technology as well as yearn for luxury touches.  The Fusion’s seats are supportive and roomy, with comfortable armrests and a relaxed driving position.  The cockpit is very modern, with blue-lit accent lighting and an available Sony hi-fi system in select trim packages.  The gauge cluster is awash in customizable graphic themes, giving a nod to current efficiency via a unique “leaf” image on the right, while the left shows reclaimed energy and how driving style affects the current MPG rating.

The EPA sticker lists the car should get 47 MPG city and 47 MPG highway.  In my test drive, I observed 29-31 MPG.  I was told by the salesman that less accessories being on affects overall energy consumption.  Many of these high fuel ratings are based on ideal circumstances:  low weight in the car, perfect tire inflation, smooth roads, no wind, but the real world mileage is often numbers that are far less.  My salesman assured me he got as good as 41 MPG but that was with no lights on, no radio, no fan, and conservative driving on a smooth road.

The ride quality is excellent, good road feel as well as supple bump absorption and would make a long road trip quite tolerable.  Passenger space is very good.  The trunk is adequate in that there is a half-height wedge for the battery taking up half the trunk, but duffel bags could still be placed upon this “shelf”.  There is still ample room for 8 average grocery store bags.

The handling of the Fusion is actually quite nice.  The 2.0 liter 4 cylinder engine gives ample acceleration from say an on-ramp onto a major highway.  If passing power is needed, the engine revs to make the torque needed but passing won’t happen all too quickly.  Even still, the engine does not feel over taxed when pushing for some passing power, and the car succeeds in its mission…eventually.
Overall, I was very impressed with the Fusion.  It has handsome exterior looks, a stylish interior, comfortable seats, and surprisingly adequate handling.  Add in the 30-40 MPG efficiency and it’s a solid contender for a replacement vehicle, whether you are specifically seeking a hybrid or not.  Base “S” model starts at $26,000 while an option loaded “Titanium” trim can set you back about $33,500.  Options reserved for higher level cars, such as heated seats or blind spot monitoring are standard in the Titanium package.  Ford even plans ventilated seats for this model in early 2014.

The Ford Fusion is definitely one impression changing vehicle and is worth a look next time you are in the market for a comfortable, compliant, fuel efficient vehicle without owner embarrassment.

fishbowls_big22

Buckets!

I was watching a presentation in my public relations class, and there was a graphic about buckets.  It gave me a visual on how I can possibly organize some of my internet postings.

One hesitation I’ve had with rolling forward with Tweeting is that I am not sure how to package or batch my Tweets.  For example, I’m not a brand, I’m a person.  I would probably tend to Tweet about a variety of things.  Things of interest to me include a whole bunch of things, but, how do I Tweet and yet have some sort of cohesiveness?  Making statements that are relative and of interest, yet, have a sort of category about them.  Should I be creating hashtags within my own content that I’m sending out?

If anyone has any suggestions on this, please contact me via a reply here or tweet me/DM on @cdaraghy.

I would like to tweet about:  cars, packaging, products, reviews, music, concerts, class, school, being an adult student, cleaning products, food, restaurants, fragrance, notices of new Yelp posts, share pictures, notify a new Vine being created, share/retweet friends’ posts of interest, travel, hotels, beaches, “ask me anything”, healthcare, New England, pets, commercials, and whatever else tickles me.

shh

Concert Audiences Today: iPhones Down and Quiet, Please!

For a die-hard fan of a favorite band or musician, nothing is more irritating than another concert goer who is talking during the entire show.  And with the advent of smartphones, suddenly the contraband camera is no longer policeable as smartphone cameras are next to impossible to control within concert venues.

Artists have all but given up on trying to prevent photos and video recording of their performances.  But the other distracting factor is the sea of raised hands snapping pictures and recording entire songs for patrons to upload to Facebook or Instagram.

From an early age I was conditioned to not walk into a theater performance while dialog is being spoken, to wait for a break or a song to end before making an exit out of my seat or to enter a performance.  In classical music, applause is generally not given after a movement but only when the entire piece is completed.

With regards to performer respect these days, patrons are often up and out of their seats during songs they don’t know or don’t like, or they see the concert as a place to assemble and be with friends, in essence the show just happens to be going on around them as they enjoy their drinks and conversation.

Shooshing these concert goers almost always returns some sort of “I paid for my ticket….” type of rebuttal.  If not a full on fight or continued bad sentiment from the annoying person.

At last night’s Glenn Tilbrook show in New Haven, CT the performer resorted to collecting a half dozen iPhones and then used them to take selfies from the stage, or asking his assistant to record the audience with them.  “Come up and film yourselves, it’s a much more interesting angle” he sarcastically said from stage.

I applaud Glenn’s efforts to bring attention to this growing annoyance.  For every person that buys a ticket feels they have the right to enjoy themself by carrying on a conversation with their friends while the music plays, the other group has just as much right to enjoy the music undisturbed.

frozen aisle

What’s For Breakfast? Frozen Convenience Foods

Recently our test kitchen came across some new choices in the frozen food aisle for prepared breakfast sandwiches and we’d like to share our opinions.

Longtime favorite Jimmy Dean has expanded its biscuit and croissant line to now include flatbreads and egg whites.  IHOP joins the freezer case with their line of French Toast and “Omelet Crisper” sandwiches.  Special K flatbread sandwiches offer a similar flatbread sandwich to that of Jimmy Dean.  Bob Evans has a Breakfast Bake product.  And Marie Callender’s brings a uniquely packaged sandwich to market.

The most recognized brand for breakfast sandwich would probably be Jimmy Dean.  They have had varieties of sausage patties on biscuits, croissants, and english muffins, both with or without egg or cheese, and a bacon variety on biscuit.  These were tasty and there were some changing of ingredients over the years, most notably the egg patty and the quality of the meat. Taste and quality has not been consistent with Jimmy Dean.

The IHOP sandwich we tested was found to be quite oily and the inability to discern the ingredients was unsettling for our taste panel.  The melty cheese sauce/egg mixture and hammy bits passed off as bacon were “inedible” by one taster’s comments.

Special K flatbread sandwiches were found agreeable by the panel, with a vegetable filled egg white patty with spicy cheese.  The sandwiches did not contain meat and were relatively healthy, but the grainy flatbread got soggy and stuck to the paper towel during cooking.  Flavor rated highly among panel members however.

The Bob Evans Breakfast Bake (Bacon, Egg, Cheese & Hashbrowns) was to be an egg and bacon sandwich, but most panelists felt it was a potato pancake with minute bits of “something else” in it.  Not very flavorful or satisfying.

The surprising leader for taste and product texture was Marie Callender’s “Cheddar Biscuit with Bacon, Egg & Cheddar”.  Using a unique cardboard box with micro-crisp liner, the sandwich is contained in two halves with a sizeable piece of bacon on one biscuit half while the other side has a folded egg and cheese slice.  The 90 second cooking time allowed the biscuit halves to toast up nicely and bacon to crisp.  Flavor of the bacon was excellent and the egg was “buttery tasting” and “real” per our panelists’ comments.  Sodium and calories has never been Marie Callender’s strong suit, but the flavor of this particular variety lead the others by a significant margin.

The Special K sandwich had the most potential for being a better-for-you choice, if slight improvements were made to the flatbread the product uses.