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Food options could use some dumbing down

BY BARRY GOTTLIEB, LOS ANGELES TIMES | JUNE 17, 2009 7:20 AM

If there’s one thing we don’t need, it’s more choice in life. Take the supermarket. It’s tough enough sifting through the variations of each product on the shelves, but it’s a miracle if you make it home with the right one. So what does Coca-Cola do? Come out with a new flavor.

As if Coke, Coke II, caffeine-free Coke, Coke Zero, Coca-Cola C2, Coca-Cola Citra, Cherry, Cherry Vanilla, Lime, Raspberry, and Coke’s diet versions weren’t enough, now you can sip a relaxing Green Tea Coca-Cola. It kind of makes you yearn for the return of New Coke, doesn’t it?

True, if you want to pick up a six-pack of Green Tea Coke, you have to go to Japan — at least for now — but hey, can anywhere be too far to go to purchase something that doesn’t exist in nature? If you do decide to go, be sure to pick up a can of Pepsi Shiso while you’re there. That’s the Japanese basil cola coming out later this month. Seriously. What’s next? Tuna Sprite? Broccoli Nehi?

Back in the good old days — which is defined as the time before the Jonas Brothers were a twinkle in their father’s Stratocaster — telephones, Coke, Oreos, and cars came in one form and one form only. Henry Ford reputedly said about the Model T, “Any customer can have a car painted any color he wants so long as it is black.” Now you can get a car in almost any color you can dream up, without regard for taste or how far neighborhood home values drop when it’s parked out front. And Oreos? There are at least 17 types, including peanut butter, mint, fudge-covered, banana split, double creme and the affirmative-action, role-reversed white cookies with chocolate creme — the favorite of liberals everywhere.

For reasons best known to the companies’ marketing departments, the label on a line of products stays the same, with the variant printed in tiny, unobtrusive letters — often using invisible ink. At least half the time, I get home and discover I accidentally bought fat-free, low-sodium anchovy-flavored cream cheese. (Here’s a handy shopping tip: Look for the word “original” on the package.)
Restaurants are another place where we’re getting too many choices. A menu shouldn’t be as long as a Stephen King novel. Of course, neither should a Stephen King novel, but because I don’t need to finish The Stand before I can eat dinner, I’m not concerned about it. Simply put, I don’t want to spend more time reading a menu than it will take to eat my dinner. It’s a personal rule, much like “don’t drink a cocktail that comes in a hollowed-out fruit.”

There’s really only one place where we could use more choices: elections. We get two choices, three if we’re lucky and don’t care about the quality of the third candidate.

Why can’t elections be more like Cokes and Cokes more like elections?

And while we’re at it, can we trim things back so there are only, say, 16 kinds of Oreos?


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