The Compleat diner

Every once in a while Mr. Tidbit discovers that a quiet little product he hasn't looked at in a while has grown an army of varieties. Such is the case with Hormel Compleats line of shelf-stable microwave meals.

(By "shelf-stable" Mr. Tidbit means they are like the zillions of frozen meals and entrees in plastic trays — except they aren't frozen. They're on the regular grocery shelf, you keep them in the kitchen cupboard instead of behind or under something in the freezer, and to serve them you pop them in the microwave for only a minute. They're like canned food but in plastic trays.)

Anyway, shelf-stable dinners have been a quiet little area of the supermarket; Mr. Tidbit would have said the widest selection, Hormel Compleats, consisted of maybe eight or 10 such varieties.

Nope. There are 32, in three pretty-much-indistinguishable lines: Homestyle, Cafe Creations and Balanced Selections. The selections include six just-added varieties with cheese: smoky bacon Parmesan rigatoni, three-cheese chicken pasta, Italian herb & cheese rigatoni, creamy cheese & basil tortellini, macaroni & cheese and cheesy ravioli. And there are four Compleats Kids meals, which are smaller (7 ounces instead of the 9 or 10 of regular Compleats).

Not all 36 varieties are at every store. Note particularly that you'll never find the one that sounded really good to you.

Spam, Spam, etc.

Checking the website to count the Compleats, Mr. Tidbit discovered that one of Hormel's better-known products, Spam, has been quietly sprouting, too. There's regular-old Spam (which Hormel likes to call "Spam Classic"), Spam Lite, hot & spicy Spam (with Tabasco sauce), less-sodium Spam, hickory smoke flavor Spam, oven-roasted turkey Spam, black pepper Spam, jalapeño Spam, Spam "with Real Hormel Bacon" and Spam with cheese. That's 10 kinds of Spam, plus Spam Singles (slices of classic or Lite Spam).

But that's not all. There are four new — wait for it — shelf-stable Spam dinners: Spam & penne pasta in Alfredo sauce, Spam & red beans with rice, Spam & sausage jambalaya and Spam & roasted potatoes with gravy.

Spam and gravy! Is this a great country or what?

Al Sicherman