A Field Trip to Yonkers
Yesterday, I crossed the Hudson River in a Consumer Reports (CR) test car and spent the day in Yonkers, N.Y. (go here for some cool historical tidbits) for a blogging conference on the campus of Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of the monthly magazine.
I was one of 20-some bloggers from various parts of the country, media organizations and content disciplines. But the one connecting thread among this diverse group of writers is a focus on the consumer. Whether it was Viet Do, who writes personal finance blog Stopbuyingcrap.com, MSNBC.com correspondent Bob Sullivan who pens The Red Tape Chronicles or Leslie Hatfield, who updates Green Fork, Eat Well Guide's blog on sustainable eating, we gathered in one room to talk about our collective passion for "speaking truth to power," as keynote speaker Craig "Craig's List" Newmark so pointedly described.
(P.S. Craig, a self-described nerd, introduces himself as "customer service rep and founder" of Craigslist.org)
In addition to a lively day-long discussion on how to better inform, entertain and empower the consumer through digital media (the three objectives of The Consumerist, says editor Ben Popken), we toured the famous Consumer Reports labs, where more than 3,000 products are tested annually.
As to be expected, I was drawn to the kitchen, where we met Tara Casaregola, who oversees testing of cooking appliances. On average, CU tests approximately 120 ranges, cooktops and wall ovens every year, all of which CU purchases using secret shoppers. (If you're curious as to what happens to all that stuff after it's been tested, CU auctions it off to employees -- nice perk, no?)
On display were several dozen cookies, as part of baking tests Casaregola was conducting on a group of oven ranges. Specifically, she was testing for even heating that would be reflected in grades of color among the baked cookies.
Here's something to chew on: Which cooktop heats food faster -- gas or electric?
Much to everyone's surprise, electric cooktops have a better heat transfer than with gas, says Casaregola, but electric is slower to cool down. The induction cooktop (magnetic force) is the hot new thing in cooktops because it heats only the cooking vessel, not the range, making it more kid-friendly and generally safer than gas or electric. Presently, induction cooktops are too pricey for most consumers, but as with all electronics, we may see prices go down as the technology continues to improve.
I'm packing up later this afternoon to head back to Washington, but I'll be back tomorrow with something tasty. In the meantime, I'd like to hear what's on your minds as it relates to food and being a consumer. Where do you go for your information? What would you like to see more/less of as food prices, particularly that of grocery staples, continue to jump? What can I do in this space to help you become more informed, entertained and empowered?
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Posted by: Fran | June 26, 2008 12:58 PM
Posted by: East Coast | June 26, 2008 7:23 PM
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