Ancient grains

Ronzoni, the company that offers an incredible array of variously constituted pasta (not to mention variously shaped pasta), has another one. It's Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains, described on the package as: "A blend of 100 percent whole wheat and the time-honored grains: quinoa, amaranth, millet, sorghum and teff."

Mr. Tidbit doesn't want to pick a fight, but it seems to him that the entire appeal of "ancient grains" is that they haven't been time-honored at all — that they had been largely ignored as modern grains were being manipulated and "improved," so they represent something of a return to "natural," whatever that means.

For the record, in addition to what Mr. Tidbit would otherwise call "original," but in the context of "ancient grains" he will have to call "modern standard" pasta, Ronzoni also sells Garden Delight, with one serving of dried carrots, tomatoes and spinach in every 4-ounce portion; Healthy Harvest Whole Grain, Gluten Free ("a unique blend of white rice, brown rice, corn and quinoa"); Quick Cook, thinner pasta that cooks in three minutes; 150, pasta with 150 calories per serving (25 percent less than regular pasta), and Smart Taste, made with oat fiber for 2.5 times the fiber per serving of regular pasta.

At least at one store, Ronzoni Ancient Grains pasta was selling at the same per-ounce price as regular Ronzoni pasta.

Super grains

And Quaker, which has 14 "classic flavors" of regular instant oatmeal and at least two flavors each of the various Quaker Select Starts instant oatmeals — High Fiber, Lower Sugar, Weight Control, Protein and Organic — has added Select Starts Super Grains (oats, barley, rye, quinoa and flaxseed) in two flavors. Mr. Tidbit believes that only quinoa, in that list, is considered an "ancient grain" — and Mr. Tidbit has no idea which if any of them is a "Super Grain," a term that might be even looser than "ancient grain."

Super Grain is priced much like the other Select Starts: At one store, all are $2.99 per box for different numbers of different-size packets per box, but all totaling around 12 ounces. Similarly sized boxes of regular "classic flavors" at that store were $2.69, so all the Select Starts are about 10 percent more per ounce.

Al Sicherman