Throughout the past few months we have been discussing what dinner is like in our home (along with providing a few helpful tips and recipes) in connection with my appointment as an ambassador in the Ragu Mom’s the Word on Dinner program. It is through that program that in mid-September I was able to travel to New York City for two days to take part in a full Ragu Brand Immersion Day along with several other ambassadors at the offices and kitchens of Unilever, the name behind Ragu and numerous other brands.
This was only the second time I had ever been to New York City, which is a statement I would be less ashamed to make if I didn’t live just over two hours away. My reaction to the city was very much the same reaction I had the first time I had been there years earlier: Complete awe. Everything amazed me; the buildings, the people, the atmosphere, the energy. The energy in the streets of New York City can damn near sweep you off your feet and the good thing about New York City is that hardly anyone will notice you as you walk outside and just stand there, taking everything in and appreciating everything going on around you and never wanting that excitement dancing around in your chest to end. So you just stand there.
That night we stayed at the Gansevoort Park Avenue, an absolutely beautiful hotel with rooftop bar and home of Asellina restaurant. My room was gorgeous and promptly after opening the door and putting my bags down, I could not help but take several pictures of all of its stunning features. Here are some of them:
The next day, we all headed to the Unilever offices and kitchens in New Jersey where during the day, we were given the inside scoop on just about everything involved in conceptualizing a new sauce (or improving upon an old one) and getting that product made and on grocery store shelves. It was an insightful day packed full of interesting and useful information.
Naturally, the first thing we had the opportunity to learn about upon arriving at Unilever was how the Mom’s the Word on Dinner campaign came to be and what Ragu wanted to accomplish with it. We’ve all seen countless brands attempt to speak the language of parents in their advertisements and pretty much every one of those advertisements ends with how life would be much easier or we would be happier or less stressed if we just bought their product. I appreciate that Ragu did not approach the Mom’s the Word on Dinner program in this way, which is why this is the first full-on ambassadorship that I have said yes to in the nearly-four years that Woman Tribune has been in operation.
Ragu’s main focus with the Mom’s the Word on Dinner campaign is to start a dialogue between their brand and their consumers, between bloggers and their readers, between parents and other parents. It’s a really simple concept–like most good ideas are–and it’s a conversation that anyone who has experienced dinnertime dilemmas can’t help but want to participate, and sometimes yes, commiserate in. And that’s where the magic of this campaign happens.
We also had the chance to hear just what goes into getting a Ragu sauce made, from conceptualization-to-jar, and then getting that jar on the shelves of your local grocery store. We learned that Ragu sauces begin with a recipe that is then perfected by Unilever chefs following the Gold Standard until they have created what they believe is the perfect sauce. Yes, chefs. It is so important to emphasize this because when I had first told my partner that I would be visiting Unilever and would have the chance to see how Ragu sauce is made, one of the first things he said was, “You know you’re going to a lab, right?” He was so wrong! There are no labs; instead, there are kitchens. Unilever has a series of kitchen stations in the middle of the Ragu space where there are chefs working hard to create sauces as well as new recipes that utilize their sauces as well as other Unilever-named brands. The most interesting aspect of the Unilever kitchen is that there are a series of stations equipped with only the appliances and tools that the average household has available. Because of this, the chefs are able to create recipes that they know regular families will be able to make and enjoy.
Annually, we have seen the statistics of serious health issues plaguing young people continue to rise. Thanks to the amount of research that has been done on this topic within the last handful of years, we have more information now than ever before to help us make the most informed, healthy choices about what is being put on our dinner tables. Ragu has also taken the initiative toward feeding our families better by dramatically reducing the amount of sodium in their sauce. The original Ragu sauce contained 780mg of sodium; as of 2010, they were able to bring that sodium level down to 480mg while also adding two servings of vegetables to each serving of Ragu and keeping the great, full flavor that their customers love.
Ragu has an impressive and mighty vault of delicious recipes. We have spotlighted some of their most budget-friendly recipes not too long ago, and I have plans of sharing a few others with you in the coming weeks from my kitchen. It would have most likely been difficult to decide on which recipes I wanted to make in my kitchen and share here if it weren’t for that Brand Immersion Day. Towards the end of the day, we were treated to quite the spread made by the Unilever chefs. Most notably, I really have to say that if you don’t try the Easy Mexican Pasta Salad, No Frying Chicken Parmesan, and No Boiling Lasagna, you are really missing out. They were delicious! I love the last two recipes because they are “skip-a-step” recipes, which literally means that you are skipping a step. With the Chicken Parmesan, you aren’t frying the chicken (or cleaning up the typical mess that comes with it) and with the Lasagna, you aren’t boiling the pasta noodles. These are easy dinners to make with efficiency, taste, and value in mind. All the important stuff! Also, I’m not so great in the kitchen and skip-a-step recipes leave an even smaller margin for error for me which is a great bonus!
I really learned a lot during the Ragu Brand Immersion Day. It was a great experience to see from the inside what goes into creating and distributing a product that I have already been purchasing on my own for years.
Here is a video further encompassing what I and the other Ragu Mom’s the Word on Dinner Ambassadors experienced that day:
Disclosure: This event occurred in connection with my appointment as an Ambassador in the Ragú® Mom’s the Word on Dinner Program. Visit www.facebook.com/ragusauce to join the conversation.