Family Taste Test

It doesn’t sound like an important family ritual, but when I call “taste test,” everyone drops whatever he or she is doing and comes into the kitchen. We meet at the counter, glasses or spoons at the ready.

We examine the products in their original packaging. But then the taste-test is done with eyes closed. No peeking.

Sometimes we taste condiments. Catsup: Heinz or Hunts? Mustard: do we prefer yellow mustard, brown deli spice or Grey Poupon? We’ve taste-tested different yogurt brands: generic to gourmet Frozen desserts are popular to taste-test. We’ve compared ice-cream that is low fat, no-fat, whole cream, gelatos, ice-milk. Coffee: Starbucks, Trader-Joes, Folgers, mountain-grown in natural rainforests?

We’ve done beer and wine. Once, my husband and I went to a fiftieth birthday where the host bought three bottles of Champagne:a $250 dollar bottle, a $50 dollar bottle and a $25 dollar bottle. Birthday taste test! My husband said how much he loved that most expensive champagne, how the bubbles were soft and fine, “like velvet” in his mouth. Glad that you enjoyed it, I told him. Likely he’ll never taste it again.

Our family’s product testing is not limited to edibles. My husband hates the less expensive paper products. Shampoos – could our daughters really find a difference between salon hair products and a generic brand less than half the price?

What’s the goal of family product testing? Well, it’s a fun game. And it’s also a way to decide what your family prefers aside from advertising hype.

And what about . . .

• Butter vs Margarine Healthy, low fat, low sugar, low carbohydrate, low cholesterol — these labels are confusing. Most of these new and improved butter substitutes are margarine and not real butter. Most are not as healthy as the label states. Although margarine is recognized as being a healthy alternative to butter, it has 2-3 times more saturated fat.

• Mayonnaise vs Salad Dressing Does it really have to be Hellmann’s? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not recognize Miracle Whip as a real mayonnaise, but it sure is popular. (Maybe because people recall the taste from the bologna sandwiches of their childhood). The FDA defines mayonnaise as an emulsified semisolid food that is at least 65 percent vegetable oil by weight. Miracle Whip, is sweeter than regular mayo, weighs in with only 40 percent soybean oil. (Water makes up the difference.)

• Peanut Butter: Chunky, Creamy, Natural It’s an American staple: we consume about 700 million pounds of peanut butter. The perfect smooth peanut butter should be spreadable, but not too oily. (But the most delicious ones might also contain more sugar.) The chunky should should have a peanut – fresh crunch. The “natural” needs to be refrigerated, so is not as spreadable.