Ball Park Singles an easy out  

This is not an April Fool joke; Ball Park Singles, a box of individually wrapped hot dogs, is a real product. Mr. Tidbit thinks it ranks very high on the We-Didn't-Need-This scale. According to the package, Ball Park Singles have "great taste straight from the microwave." Mr. Tidbit notes that regular hot dogs do, too.

The package back explains the advantages of individually wrapped hot dogs: "Just tear one off. Individually wrapped so you can use as many as you need. Store the rest with no mess."

Mr. Tidbit is unaware of tragic consequences from opening a package of eight hot dogs and using only one. OK, the package might be drippy; if so, stick it in a plastic bag. How hard is that?

"Microwave," the instructions continue; "no need to vent." Mr. Tidbit needs to vent, but maybe he should just exhale for a moment.

"Just place self-venting hot dog in microwave," the instructions go on, "and cook on high for 20 to 25 seconds per hot dog . . ." To serve, "Just peel back the easy open wrapper . . . Caution: Hot dog may be hot."

Mr. Tidbit notes that a regular hot dog can be microwaved loosely covered with a paper towel; that avoids dealing with the "easy open wrapper" on a frankfurter that is hot enough to require a caution statement. (Microwave cookbooks suggest microwaving the hot dog right in the bun -- even less need to handle the hot hot dog, but microwaves make bread soggy.)

Last, a package of eight Ball Park Singles weighs 12.8 ounces; a package of eight regular Ball Park hot dogs weighs 16 ounces. At a discount store they had the same price, $1.68. The regular hot dogs are 25 percent larger for the same price or, looked at the other way, Singles cost 25 percent more per ounce.

Passover possibilities  

Passover, an eight-day holiday during which Jews refrain from eating leavened products, such as bread, began last night. During Passover many Jews also refrain from eating foods that have, even historically, been sources of flour -- a list that includes peas, beans, rice and corn, and products made from them, such as corn syrup and soy lecithin.

Grocery manufacturers increasingly find the market for foods normally made with that group of ingredients too attractive to pass up, leading to such once-a-year products as kosher-for-Passover Coke, made with sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup, and chocolates made without soy lecithin. This year's new kosher-for-Passover products from Manischewitz include chocolate almond macaroons (in addition to the other kosher-for-Passover flavors of Manischewitz macaroons, which include Banana Split and cappuccino).

Mr. Tidbit, who is both Jewish and a chocoholic, thinks he could manage eight days without a chocolate-covered marshmallow cup. Manischewitz apparently thinks he shouldn't have to -- it offers a Passover version.

Local seasoning isn't jerky  

How about a moment for a couple of local products? First, Dennis McGreevy's Jim Dandy label, headquartered in Plymouth, has a line of beef jerky in including peppered, honey cured, hot and teriyaki. McGreevy's original flavor jerky carries a Pawnee Bill's label. Look for both brands in convenience stores and some Cub stores; prices start at $1.79.

Then Dick's Blend Country Seasoning, in original flavor (for steaks, roasts, chicken, turkey and more) and a second version for fish and seafood, from Midwest Spice Co., Anoka.

Dick Prowizor said he has been mixing spices since he was an Army cook in World War II; the business grew out of spice blends he's given as gifts over the years. Find them, for about $4, at several stores, including the Golden Valley and Edina Byerly's, Simek's in Golden Valley, Fishman's in St. Louis Park and Bob's Produce Ranch, Fridley.