cracking the nuts at Nestle’s

I trundled through fjords of flour … scaled buttery slippery slopes …  tramped through a course of cream cheese … to arrive at the other side … to catch the wizard behind the curtain at Nestle's.

Remember Christmas? That holiday not so long ago easily overlooked in the commercial crassness, consumer craziness and crap accumulated to a mountainous height?

I baked this Black Forest cheesecake, a first-place winner in a Nestle's competition. The recipe for this ever-challenging dessert is posted here. (P.S. It's worth the time and when tended to is as pretty as it appears.)

A recipe, I discovered, with an error. A mistake that alters the instructions and gives rise to a question of what to do with batter with no destination.

What was written was: Pour 2/3 of the remaining batter into the crust.

When what was meant, I was almost certain after having made it, was pour the remaining 2/3 batter into the crust. Oh the difference created by the little preposition of. Or, better, simply: Pour the remaining batter into the crust.

How a boo-boo survived the many pairs of eyeballs from creator to bake-off to paid food editors to online presentation to readers is a mystery. And you'd think that a major presence in baking would want its recipes to be accurate, particularly one awarded top honors.

However, it's not for me to slam the collective lot for silly stupidities, though there's no arguing that I enjoy it as a hobby. It is for me to uphold the integrity of words, their meaning and usage.

So I e-mail Nestle's at the only portal of communication available: customer service.

Pull the heartburn potion out of the cabinet now. It's the cyberspace equivalent of telephoning an 800 number for customer service — correction, "customer service."  Wading through half a dozen automated menu options. To finally arrive at, lo and behold, an actual person. Who can't help and transfers you. Puts you on hold. That person can't assist either. Another transfer. Ad infinitum. Surely as we speak, one of you is still on hold for the person sought since November '07. Good luck to ya.

Anyhow, I send off an e-mail explaining the error, why it was problematic and asking what was intended.

I really should know better than to seek clarity in a communication system as monolithic, cumbersome and user-unfriendly as Nestle's or any behemoth body's.

I receive the rote "thank you for contacting us" followed a week later by a response from some woman in the food department. One clearly revealing that she has not heard my question. At all. Further, as an "answer," she's copy-pasted a recipe excerpt bearing no relation to the matter at hand … and from the very one I can read myself online!

No help whatsoever. I'm steamed because I write what I mean and mean what I write when contacting companies. And I get angry when I'm not heard.

So I reply. Or try to, repeatedly. Only to discover that Nestle's designed its e-mail system such that when you hit "reply," you get a blank To: line.

Real helpful, inviting, friendly. Arrrggghh!

So I saunter back to the starting point of customer service online, now shouldering the task of penning a message on a matter with history for comprehension by a fresh sets of eyes and (hoped for) brains. Because no way will you get the same person in any given matter twice.

No progress is achieved. My frustration with the company's communication setup mounts to a level that threatens some colorful or sharp words, take your pick.

So I throw in the dishtowel. Seek release from Nestle's wheel of reincarnation. Take a different tack.

Rather than an e-mail requiring dialog, I pen a simple statement. "Your recipe reads this. What's intended, I'm convinced, is this." Provide the rewrite at no charge. I may have included a suggestion of a refresher course in math and writing for their food editor.

Into  the labyrinth I send the message on a free sail.

In time a response appears, from a wholly different woman, of course, informing that the correction on the Web site has been made.

(No expression of thanks for catching, and correcting, the error, bringing it to their attention, no appreciation, no coupon. Not that I was hoping for, desiring, needing or expecting anything; it would have been thoughtful.)

Damn! it's a tough task (particularly as society dumbs down a wee bit more each day) to be in service of words.

Would I have it any other way? No way.

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