Reviews of New Food
Got a new food you’d like to review? Send your review to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Eleventh Batch, 2013.
Snyder’s of Hanover
York Peppermint Pretzel Sandwich Dips
Submitted by Vijith Assar
When I bite into a Snyder’s of Hanover York Peppermint Pretzel Sandwich Dip, I get the sensation that I’m about to die in a ditch and my rotting corpse will be picked apart by raccoons before anybody finds me. I’ve been stranded in an isolated part of Georgia for the better part of day along a remote “highway,” a term I’d previously thought at least implied that the path would be fully paved. Not so. About thirty yards that-a-way, the already unreasonable state of the road suddenly and inexplicably gave way to what I can only describe as an impact crater. In what’s left of my rearview mirror, craggy chunks of asphalt snarl upward like stone teeth buried deep in the earth eons ago specifically so they could one day sprout and slice apart my tires in much the same way I’d been tearing through Slim Jims all afternoon right up until the crash.
They’re my go-to driving snack specifically because I usually can’t bring myself to eat them in front of anybody else, but their peppery bite usually stings my tongue for longer than I’d prefer, which is why I also picked up a bag of these silly looking contraptions at the last convenience store. The combination was even better than I’d expected—the crunch of the pretzel briefly compliments the meaty aftertaste, and then both get washed away by the cool mint and creamy chocolate. Then, for about a minute afterward, I can still taste a little lingering sweetness—which is really nice, but I still hope someone drives by soon, because I think my leg might be broken and it’s starting to get dark.
Xochitl Totopos de Maiz
Submitted by Joe McGonegal
It’s possible that the last ounce of my proud hybrid European heritage just dripped into the salsa jar next to this bag of the most thin, greasy, salty, and heavenly tortilla chips known to man. Or at least the man who buys for the Shaws grocer snack aisle.
Thank you, Xochitl, for actually trying to teach me something, if only a word, of Aztec culture. Gone is the dimunitive “itos” that usually suffers the bag tear on the corner of whatever ground-corn binge I’m on in a given week.
Nothing naked or blue about you, no soy or flaxseed, nothing cool about the ranch you call home. Just “Oven baked and quicky passed through hot Non Hydrogented Oil” as your website (also made by ancient Aztecs?) insists.
That’s right: “Non Hydrogented Oil.” Did you mean “hydrogenated?” No, dirtbags, they didn’t.
This is oil so tasty, so “Non,” requiring a plastic liner on its paper bag and probably another exiled night on the couch. With a steady look in the morning mirror, you’ll feel a little less like an Jalisco rancher shmearing asadero on each shell. But it’s worth it.
Mary’s Gone Crackers
Submitted by Katie Estes
As part of the backbreaking process qualifying me for MFA candidacy, I compiled a two-week food diary that would be later graphically designed into a heroically original and awe-inspiring chart. The exercise quickly became a study of my mental hygiene instead. Ordinarily I would tell myself otherwise, but facts provided, I eat a shit ton of packaged food. But, I eat pretend healthy packaged food so everything evens out. Who doesn’t feel good about themselves after eating a desert dry gluten-free chocolate orange quinoa cookie? I feel so good, I eat five or six of these individually wrapped gluten substitutes.
Another quinoa-injected grocery basket favorite of mine is Mary’s Gone Crackers crackers. They have four impressive ingredients all compressed into a dense flat mess that in final stages resembles a paved pebble sidewalk. The opposite side is shiny and reflective. My friend comments on their distinctive smell every time I open a box and listlessly feed myself one after the other, entranced in TV glow. “Earthy” I believe is the term he uses. They are inordinately dry, certainly not swallowable by the handful. Their physical features nicely limit the amount consumed, but it is still fine to eat half the box because they have flax seed in them.
Just to avoid complete judgment, I do sometimes eat real quinoa, straight from the bulk bin where it grows. What a fantastically pretentious health food. KEEEN WAH! I’m nourishing myself and pronouncing words differently than how they are spelled!
I am not gluten intolerant nor do I have Celiac’s Disease. I once ate a loaf of bread (fancy bread from the bread counter) because my stomach hurt and afterwards I felt better. My parents have tried every gluten-free brand ever invented and I simply find Marys Gone Crackers crackers the least appalling.
The groundbreaking conclusion to my self-dietary analysis was that I eat for the most part like shit, and every now and then eat a banana to even things out. Then I fill in the rest of my basket with packaged quinoa products.
The end result of my chart—sorry, infographic—was that I do not really know how to make an infographic. I still graduated despite failing this markedly poignant test of a graphic designer. I also still eat like crap.
Who Nu Cookies
Submitted by Monique Madrid
When I first sent my husband to the grocery store with a list that included “Healthy/low calorie cookies” I expected him to come home with nothing. His theory is that “those kinds of cookies don’t exist, because if it tastes shitty, then it’s not a cookie.” If he did come home with cookies, it’d be a bag of the most fattening yet delicious cookies ever, with the expectation that I could suddenly sack up and grow some willpower. To his credit, he came home with two bags of Who Nu cookies, one soft chocolate chip and one Oreo type.
Instantly, Who Nu gets a point deduction (or star deduction? letter grade? smiley face? How are we grading this?) for its name. I am religiously opposed to diet foods with cutesy, pretentious names. Skinny Cow – WTF? Clearly a man named that one. Lean Cuisine – really? Because saying it French will make it taste less like piss and cardboard? I don’t think so. And now, Who Nu, as in “Who Nu, everyone in the grocery line needs to know that I’m not happy with my body.” You don’t see junk foods having brand names that spell it out so obviously. I’d love to see the Actual Sized Cow brand or cookies brought to you by the good people of Gave Up Trying A Long Time Ago.
Of course I’d love to sink my teeth into a rich, homemade Snickerdoodle or a pint of Cherry Garcia premium ice cream, but when you’re a 5-foot 2-inch Hispanic woman with my Uncle Pete’s metabolism, all you have to do is think about a sandwich and you gain weight. So forget will power, I just don’t have it. I will totally eat Chex Mix off my dog’s fur; seriously I don’t give a fuck. So in order to curb said lack of self control, I settle for mocking dessert brands with clever names like SnackWells, which sounds like something that could taste good if it didn’t in actuality, give you diarrhea.
So in the grand tradition of buying shaming diet food brands, my husband brought home Who Nu cookies. I tried the Oreo ones first. I opened the cookie as I always do, ate the side with less filling first, saving the most filling one for last. And standing there in the kitchen, my tentative chewing became more purposeful and I literally said it out loud. “These are actually really good… Who Nu?” (Meanwhile: the ad-wizard who came up with the name just popped a boner). The soft-batch chocolate chip cookies were equally as delicious. They were chewy, moist and only had the slightest hint of fake low-calorie store-bought fakeness to them. Sure, they’re no homemade cookie, but they definitely hold up to something a cartoon elf would’ve baked.
With a serving size of three cookies, low calories and low Weight Watchers points, they are absolutely worth the slight embarrassment I still feel knowing I’m eating a diet cookie. They’re definitely a dessert I’ll be enjoying again soon… Who Nu?
Trader Joe’s Inner Peas
Submitted by Ian Candy
These are not Calbee’s Snapea Crisps repackaged in a generic Trader Joe’s bag. They are not shaped like real snap peas. They do not taste like real snap peas. They do not satisfy your cravings for salt, fat, and green vegetables all at once. To repeat, these are not Calbee’s Snapea Crisps.
They do not contain at least three grams of dietary fiber. They do not contain more snap peas, by weight, than cornmeal. They do not contain more snap peas, by weight, than sunflower oil. They do not make you excited for the future of food. Once again, these are not Calbee’s Snapea Crisps.
They do not make you proud to share with friends. They do not give you the courage to call your ex and say “There’s something I always wanted to tell you, and I’m going to tell you now.” They do not make you less afraid of flying, heights, intimacy, or death. They do not tell you they love you. They do not make you feel, even for a second, like everything is going to be okay from now on.
They do cost forty cents less than Calbee’s. I still ate the whole bag.
Taco Bell’s Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco
Submitted by Andy Bankin
Please the loyalists. Convert the naysayers. Make a taco with a Cool Ranch Doritos shell.
What would success for the Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco mean? Would it bring about a cult following despite its intended novelty and short-lived presence? A modern-age Spicy Chicken Crunchwrap Supreme. A cascade of sensations still missed by a loyal few.
Would “The Bell” have to prepare itself for a new hot ticket item? Perhaps following the path of its Nacho Cheese brother, Cool Ranch would integrate itself into customers’ orders as a wild card. Something so out of the norm it can’t be duplicated. Can’t be ignored.
Would it be so perfectly in sync with what the establishment is known for, one would think it had been there for years. A Cheesy Gordita Crunch. At once feeling new and alive, while calling back memories of a foregone era when men were men, and boys were boys. And those boys got high and went to Taco Bell with their friends.
This is what I wondered as I drove up to the Taco Bell on Route 34 in my mother’s Nissan Altima.
Although the Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco had brought me out, I couldn’t focus solely on it. Doing so would betray the hodgepodge-style medley the palette naturally responds to when ordering multiple menu staples. I didn’t want to misstep on the careful dance that Taco Bell orchestrates.
The Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco would serve as a digestif, and would be graded as such. The meal can’t be treated as a singles parade, but rather a concept album. If one is truly serious about auditioning a new item for a role in the permanent drive-thru line-up, one must prepare not just the mouth, but also the mind.
“Sir, what do you want? I don’t understand.” asked the drive-thru attendant as I got up to the window. “If you’d like something else, you’ll have to drive around and order it, sir.” No need. There was a perfect clearing at the far end of the parking lot where I could recline my seat and allow the soothing sounds of some podcast or something to create the ambiance for my dining experience.
First, the introductory items must be ingested. A Volcano Taco allowed for the palette to be shocked into preparation. To be initiated. The texture; scarring and healing. Bruising and restoring. Would the Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco share its zest? Its joie de vivre?
Washed down with a Mountain Dew Baja Blast my buds were ready for the next round. The sun shone through the windshield, and memories of pico de gallo that were lost to that space between the seat and center console were lost to time as well.
Next, the Beefy Nacho Loaded Griller. Complex. Unafraid. Soft and delicate, and yet dark and troubled. At times too hot and at times too cold. Would the Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco share its devil-may-care attitude? It was time to find out.
I unwrapped the paper packaging and slid the dish out of its novelty cardboard container. This was it. It was finally happening. I bit down and experienced the greatest explosion of flavor and emotion of my young life.
To eat a Taco Bell Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco is to eat layer upon layer of intrigue. Of desire. Could this Doritos Locos Taco be too loco?! As soon as one pierces the zesty, maddening Cool Ranch shell, one is attacked by a barrage of ground beef in a juice so brown—so god damn brown—that it distances itself from the other contents and soars. Soars through the air and onto your hoodie. Staining it forever. As if to say, “I will travel with you wherever you go.”
This is juxtaposed by lettuce so crisp, one has to take notice and admire the lettuce on its own terms. One must look at the lettuce and exclaim, “You are not that cheese, and bits of what I assume are tomato, you are a beast of your own nature. And I respect you. I respect the hell out of you.”
Taco Bell begs you to experience all of these sensations as if they’re creating a gustatory picture book of memories. Then Taco Bell wants you to take that gustatory picture book of memories and eat it. Taco Bell isn’t seeking a seamless blend. Taco Bell wants each sensation to have its say without overstating its case. Taco Bell is the Jean-Georges of fast food nonsense you eat alone in your mother’s car in the middle of the afternoon.
To not order the Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco again would be a betrayal of everything I know about food. And life. The Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco didn’t just find itself a place in my regular drive-thru order rotation; it found a place in my heart.
WalMart Powdered Donuts
with Raspberry Jelly Filling
Submitted by Amy Barnes
There is open carnage in Music City. During a recent trip to Sam Walton’s haven for pajama-clad shoppers, I discovered an oddity of my childhood in the Midwest: the powdered donut with raspberry jelly filling. After years of scouring eBay for the “pastry” and yet still not buying because they were $12 a box plus shipping, I saw them on the bottom shelf next to the multi-grain bread in some attempt at calorie equalization. Since they have been off the shelves for thirty-five years plus, they are a new food to the Deep South. I had thought the dream was over because the gooey original of my childhood was a Hostess product. Many years ago in a donut-induced craving fit, I called Hostess and was told they couldn’t ship across country due to the fragile nature of the donuts. I guess interstate trips were okay if the donuts had a trained psychologist on board the transit truck.
The donuts themselves are a bit of a mysterious anomaly. With an innocent white-powdered sugar outside, shoppers may not initially know that a dark center of raspberry jelly awaits them. I silently dared the lady with a baby and two toddlers loose in her cart to buy a box if for nothing else but to get them on auto-reorder to give me future fixes. I also secretly wanted her to get the surprise jelly bomb of confusion. She didn’t pick up the battered box and I knew they were mine. I took them home and whispered sweet nothings so they wouldn’t have a mental breakdown in the car.
When I got home, I opened the box with the fervor of Carrie Bradshaw addressing a pair of Manolos. The first bite was the expected powdered mess. And then the bloodshed began with that familiar glop of raspberry jelly. It was over in a huge caloric sugar rush. I shut the box lid as if I had consumed contraband. The kids asked if they could have a donut and I told them they were mommy food. And it was. I was only able to eat one donut before the expiration date that fell on the following day. The fragility factor was definitely there. The remaining five donuts were hard white pellets by morning.
The next time I went to WalMart, I saw they had added chocolate frosted donuts with raspberry filling to the shelf. In the neatly organized donut and bread aisle, the white powdered donuts were oddly scattered. The confused shoppers must have taken a look and then discarded these donut oddities. Or in my warped WalMart brain, I imagined some kind of donut gang war for shelf dominance.
I will stick with my mentally unstable white powdered donuts but the craving has lessened. The love affair I had with them when I was five is not the same as in my forties. I realize the laws of retail reordering and offer a thank you for this one-time offering by the donut trucking gods. Something old has been made new again. But only for a moment before each white powdered donut with raspberry filling is deflowered anew.
Kimchi Tortilla Chips
Submitted Jenn Bernstein
One weekend not so long ago, after a visit to the gym, I dragged my post-run depleted self into a store looking for a snack that wouldn’t cause my hips any harm. I managed to make it past the rows of chocolate bars, and aisle of cookies, and was walking out with my raw, gluten-free, fruit and nut bar when I stopped short as I reached the door. I did a double-take at the display placed next to the entrance for weak-minded shoppers like myself. I turned to my friend, “Whoa, did you see those chips? Are those are Kimchi-flavored?” Low and behold, I had spotted a little known creature hiding in plain sight, a love child of sorts from the Korean Mexican taco fling from a few years ago—the Kimchi flavored tortilla chip.
I obviously had to buy them, not simply because I am a sucker for novelty food products, but to see if this multi-cultural mash-up would lead to a superior snack experience on par with my Tropical Skittles discovery from years ago. The first chip I tasted seemed familiar, and I may have hastily proclaimed they were simply overpriced Doritos branded for yuppies. But, then I reached for another (and another) and realized they I could taste the Kimchi. I kept eating just to be sure.
My fervent snacking led me to realize that I should spread the news, so that if you are lucky enough to find these exotic munchies in your own deli you’ll be prepared to throw caution to the wind, provided they are on sale of course. What you’ll experience in return for your sense of adventure is a chip with hint of cabbage funk, if your palate is as refined as mine. But, the most assertive flavor to reach your taste buds will be some food scientist’s formula to make these delicacies taste like Gochujang, the Korean red pepper paste that separates Korean food from the ubiquitous Asian flavors of soy and sesame, and after cabbage, the dominant flavor in Kimchi. This paste with its warming spice and back-of-the-throat slow-building heat cause Korean food loving Gringos to develop sweaty brows and runny noses about. It’s that physical sensation that Anglo-Americanized food can’t deliver that keeps the non-Korean among us clamoring for more. There are also little seeds, black sesame in this case, to add texture and an illusion of health food. This helps to foster the belief that the chips you’re eating are a far more intelligent choice than the Cheetos that you (read: I) probably really want.
Dietary concerns aside, back to the chips—following up the funk, the heat, the crunch, the final act is that wonderfully addictive flavor: vinegar. A tangy pickled waft of air hits your nose as you bring yet another chip up to your lips and inhale. Since taste is heavily influenced by smell, don’t be surprised that this vinegar-y goodness will make you want to inhale your Food Should Taste Good snack, as you mumble with your mouth full of chips over and over, “These are so weird.” You’ll keep going, snacking like a boss, until you realize you’ve lost a hold of yourself and ate the whole bag (these bags only come 2/3 full, right?).
I’ve always found half the fun in a food discovery is getting to share it with other easily excitable food dorks, but it’s just plain rude to save the empty bag to show your friends (although, nothing’s stopping you from tweeting about it). Probably a better plan is call up said friends, ask if anyone’s in the mood for Korean BBQ for dinner, and tell them all about it as you eat the real thing.
McDonald’s Grilled Onion Cheddar
Submitted Chris Vola
3:45 am, I stagger up the subway stairs to a frigid, muted world of shuttered delis and pharmacies and the occasional cackling bevy of after-bar cretins, wondering whether my stomach is staging its final revolt or simply in need of immediate trans-fat placation. Ahead gleam the Golden Arches, emitting a kindly glow and the oddly saccharine aroma of fat-injected fry-broth. The McDonald’s façade is plastered with what is clearly the work of Pulitzer nominees—an immense sea of golden-crisped McNuggets expertly contrasted by a soothing azure background, a Neapolitan milkshake rainbow accented by sealing-wax-red cherries, a Filet-O-Fish with its suede-brown bun cheekily askew to reveal a genetically modified seafood patty doused in the batter of the gods (or NASA). My gut emits a plaintive gurgle. No further diagnosis needed.
The restaurant’s interior assaults my precarious vision with a blaze of hospital lights, primary colors, and cartoon-earth tones, ill-defined patrons guzzling beefy treats amidst the beige pleather. As I take my place in line I begin to panic. The highlighted menu items, accompanied by more award-winning photography, are a wildly foreign smorgasbord. Hallowed standbys like the Big Mac jostle for attention with the Angus Mushroom and Swiss Burger, the Premium Crispy Chicken Ranch BLT Sandwich, and any number of snack wraps, parfaits, fruit smoothies and salads. When did Mickey D’s become T.G.I. Friday’s? Where are the simple, time-tested, and dirt-cheap favorites, the Double Cheeseburgers and McChickens that played such an integral role in my pudgy youth and munchies-fueled adolescence?
But before any real despair can set in, a large text-and-image box appears to the left of the main menu: GRILLED ONION CHEDDAR in a pleasing sans serif without an accompanying BURGER or SANDWICH, causing my starved synapses to imagine a pile of perfectly browned onion strings immersed in a thick mass of congealing cheese product, the whole glorious glob simmering in an unpronounceable chemically enhanced broth. Euphoria. The burger image below the text does little to stifle my enthusiasm. A plethora of sheared (caramelized?) onions and a thick slab of white cheese caress the glistening meat. And is that a healthy dollop of barbecue sauce I detect?
My request for two Grilled Onion Cheddars is met with perplexing annoyance. “Two What?” the cash register operator moans, eyes glazed.
I repeat the order, point at the menu. She turns, gazes up for what seems like a long time, shakes her head, clucks.
“Oh, that new shit.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“I ain’t tried that yet.”
She taps her computer screen, violently. For a second I wonder whether her indifference is a front because she knows the awesomeness of this novel concoction and wants to guard its secret for herself and her fellow employees. But as the burger artist behind the coffee machine stares at the order for at least a minute with the same ponderous vacancy and then begins to assemble my meal with the precision of a hungover garbage truck operator, I doubt it.
I disassemble the burger’s sallow container (which I notice is actually a wrapper for a regular Hamburger) and am greeted by what appears to be top and bottom bun slices with nothing in between. And these slices are not blessed with the monotone smoothness of the ones in the Filet-O-Fish photo, but instead are plagued by extensive flaking and deep creases that bear a freakish resemblance to those dotting the skull of the octogenarian slurping coffee in the adjacent booth. With trepidation I ply apart the bun. The burger’s innards, though sadly meager, haven’t been forgotten. A gaunt slab of cow covered by a chalky white “cheddar” substance with a consistency not unlike microwaved rice pudding and a silver-dollar-size portion of greenish-gray vegetable matter. Remnants of an indecipherable condiment appear as a couple of measly red and brown steaks fusing with the upper bun region. The first bite—a mildly unpleasant dryness envelopes the familiar patty tang, a disconcerting lack of the salty gooeyness provided by the ketchup and mustard combo so vital to the standard McDonald’s Cheeseburger, a sandwich of roughly the same girth and heft as the Grilled Onion Cheddar. There is no discernible difference in flavor between the albino cheese and its popular jaundiced cousin. But perhaps the biggest letdown is the absence of the Cheeseburger’s distinctive crunch that is ostensibly provided by a healthy smattering of pickle slices and non-grilled onion chunks. Instead, I find myself at the mercy of a few flaccid, barely noticeable onion-like noodles that do nothing to embellish the burger’s blandness and only add weight to the oatmeal-thick mass sliding down my esophagus.
A sudden surge of anger ripples through me. Why didn’t I just stick with an inimitable classic instead of falling prey to some immoral charlatan’s masterful high definition lens? How could I have been so stupid? I look across the eating area at the cash register operator, hoping to elicit some flicker of sympathy. She’s ignoring the world and the future diabetics trying to order, picking at something under one of her Wolverine-length fingernails. I sigh, unwrap the second burger.
But before I can cram down this seemingly identical travesty, a curious thing happens. The hollow grinding in my stomach morphs into a state of near-calm. As I take a bite, then another, the gastric relief increases. And what’s more, this burger tastes better. Maybe there’s more barbecue sauce to lube the gullet. Maybe there’s a better onion-and-cheese-to-burger ratio. Maybe everything at McDonald’s is just so full of Chernobyl runoff that a state of debilitating tranquility (often referred to as “The It Is”) is inevitable. Whatever it is, it’s working. It’s no McDouble, or even a Fruit ‘N Yogurt Parfait, but at 4:13am, a Grilled Onion Cheddar will do.
I bring my tray up to the cash register, clear my throat.
“How you like them?” the operator asks, staring at her phone.
She nods, knowingly. “Word.”
I order two more Grilled Onion Cheddars to-go, along with some wilty apple slices (under the pretense that I am somewhat concerned about my own mortality). At home and in bed, I gorge myself into a state of contentment so pervasive that I pass into a dreamless wonderland, a bulging black hole of saturated bliss that seems like it could be endless. Except for when I wake up three hours later in despicable pain, dangerously close to detonation. I run to the bathroom on the verge of tears, cursing the McDonald’s Corporation and its man-sized moth lights, vowing never to return to its vile laboratory of carcinogen candy and broken promises. Until the next time I emerge from the subway and nothing else is open.
Submitted by Lindsay Bloch
Without insider knowledge I would not have chosen Smoki. Given the array of brightly colored bags of salty snacks in a Belgrade corner store, who would opt for the bag that looked as though it had been on the shelf since the Socialist Era? Not being overly fond of cheese puffs to begin with, the package photograph of brownish kidney-shaped curls did nothing to enhance the appeal. I was wary of the name as well. Was the English homophone a coincidence, or descriptive of their flavor? Had there been consumer focus groups in Yugoslavia to discuss the merits of product names and package designs?
All of these concerns were irrelevant.
Smoki defy assumptions, mocking our American notions of what a puffed corn snack can be. Smoki are not cheesy (or cheezy); nor are they smoky. They are instead imbued with a coating of peanut butter, in the perfect ratio that does not overwhelm the delicate flavor of the crunchy corn curl. Brilliant! No trace of sugar mars this savory snack, and the peanut-y veneer does not transfer to hands and nearby surfaces like their neon-orange American counterpart.
Yugoslavia may no longer exist, but in a world where its products were mercilessly ridiculed—remember the Yugo?—Smoki announce, in their own quiet way: “We kept the best for ourselves.”
Goldfish Mix Up Adventures, Xtra Cheesy Pizza
Submitted by Teddy Hose
“Creativity is just connecting things.” — Steve Jobs
I browsed the aisles of the corner grocery looking for something, anything that welcomed tomorrow’s embrace. There, I spotted a glistening pouch in colors of the Italian flag, promising a cascade of endorphins as its crinkle applauded the excitement of my grasp. One smiling fish, Brooke dressed in parmesan, while Xtreme, her male counterpart, “Flavor Blasted Xplosive Pizza”. It was too much for one cracker fish, so like fondue they were to be served separately, only to have the recipient repeat the joy of fitting the final puzzle piece again and again.
My hunger led me to a modern day Italian Renaissance of artisan craft, as Brooke and Xtreme made sweet love in my mouth. I dub thee the Romeo and Juliet of flavored crackers! Your sins and fortunes are welcome upon this warm palette at any hour, for the forbidden bliss of rogue lust can be felt in the walls of its master’s quarters alike.
A toast to you, old spokesman of yesteryear’s Pepperidge Farm commercial short. Though you are with us no longer, your survived associates raise a shimmering flag of promise for seasons of enterprise profound. And on that flag it reads, “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.”
Jell-O Strawberry Shortcake
Artificial Flavor Pudding Snack
Submitted by Molly Brodak
This is one of those food products that has a huge photo of a different food product on its packaging, a better food product, the one you really want but are too lazy/cheap/fat to give yourself or make. On this box, against a cheery blue background, is a photo of a beautiful and gigantic strawberry shortcake dessert, while inside the package are two cups of milky pudding with separate saucers of potpourri crumbs atop, like a kitchenless-bunker friendly deconstruction of something that requires too many fresh ingredients to make. In a demented reverse-gourmet translation of each ingredient, the cake/biscuit element has been transformed into tiny fish food-like cylindrical pellets, the strawberries represented by shards of dehydrated apples dyed hot red and soaked in citric acid for tartness, and the whip cream, I suppose, is the white goopy glue itself, the pudding, which has an upsetting rubbery milk texture and a hint of artificial strawberry flavor in case the oxblood apple shards aren’t strawberryish enough.
Once the potpourri is mixed into the milk lard, the pellets, impressively, stay frighteningly crunchy and the concoction makes a texture wholly unnatural, of two opposites forced together into mutual detriment, like Nerds in a Blizzard, something that must only be enjoyable to the house dog who eats fresh, soft, litter-studded cat poo out of the litter box. Cutting out the photo of the strawberry shortcake dessert from the cardboard packaging and eating that might come closer to approximating the experience of eating such a dessert, or anything normal, more accurately.
Food for Life Wheat-Free, Yeast-Free, Dairy-Free,
Corn-Free Multi-Seed Rice Bread
Submitted by Katie Browne
The truth of the matter is, we live in a contradictory world. We live in a world littered by food that makes no sense. We live in a world saturated by dangerous flavor enhancers and intensely under-acknowledged intestinal diuretics. When one comes to the realization that foods are hardly what they claim to be, packed with ingredients of unpronounceable proportions, the result teeters somewhere between soul exhaustion and life crisis. Yet, there is a shimmer of florescent light aglow somewhere, beyond these culinary dire straits. That shimmer is the overhead lamp of the alternative bread aisle at my local health foods store. That shimmer illuminates with incandescent glory—my life food, my salvation, the Multi-Seed Rice Bread made by Food for Life.
According to the short commentary on the back of a loaf’s packaging, this quasi-bread claims to be the "result of countless hours of research and development.” This comes as no surprise, as the bread is altogether wheat free, yeast free, dairy free, corn free, and an utterly incredible carbohydrate conglomerate. The bread retains a pale khaki color that walks the fine line between beige and sandstone. It comes condensed into a brick-like structure within a plastic bag that is outlined at folded corners by two shades of blue, offering the consumer a refreshingly simple aesthetic. I made the decision to purchase a loaf because I desired not only to expand my culinary horizons, but also because my development of a slight gluten intolerance, along with rest of the world, pushed me forth with vigor to achieve maximum health. I needn’t get into the details of said affliction, but I had begun to suffer from an intermittent distended abdomen upon wheat consumption, and felt as though I needed to take measures to alleviate such bloat.
I must admit, I had trouble coming to terms with the fact that bread could be made from rice. I had trouble adjusting to the conceptual contradictoriness of it all. I toiled over the notion of sandwiches, and the potential toastability of the simple rice grain. I mourned for nearly two and a half days, for I feared that never again would I experience a crunch of bread in a satisfying way. Yet alas, it was precisely an hour before the cock crowed to ring in day three of my bread mourn that Food for Life saved me by way of breakfast toast and a smidgen of butter upon it.
My time with Food for Life’s Multi-Seed Rice Bread has thus far been enthralling. There is not a meal that goes by without a slice, each containing the special succulence that only the squish of rice can embody. I have experimented widely with the specificities of warming and preparing each slice; heated to a temperature of 350º, the bread results with a bagel-esque consistency, while when heated to a temperature of 250º, the bread more so contains the texture of a pita. Further, I have gone wild with comparing toasting a slice to baking it, a microwave session to a grill. I have played around with toaster positioning. I have broiled. I have poached. I have even placed a rice bread slice in a large oven, just to see if the greater space surrounding it would add to it, a special crunch.
Food For Life’s Multi-Seed Rice Bread is a staple of health. For breakfast, I tend to use two slices in crafting an egg sandwich. While the egg taste in conjunction with the rice taste makes for a rather satisfying, mildly nutty flavor, I take issue with how the bread texturally collaborates with the egg upon it—it seems that the moisture of a newly cooked egg overpowers the chemical makeup of rice, liquefying the bread as a result, and spurring a rather mushy experience upon mastication.
For lunch, I toast one and a half slices from the glory loaf and butter each with nut butter of various sorts. Most recently, I have paired a slice with sunflower seed butter. The texture of the butter in conglomeration with the bread creates a savory palatal situation that resembles a pastry, pointing towards an inherent culinary versatility contained within the revolutionary, rice-based food.
However, dinner can sometimes be a challenge. Around a table intimate by circular design, and underneath low-hanging incandescent lights, perhaps a taper candle, it seems rather strange to whip out a bag of rice bread and place a single slice upon a plate. Up against surrounding bits of warmed baguette and odd, judging glances, a slice of multi-seed rice bread can seem peculiar in its insubstantial shape and almost sickly, khaki color—almost to the point of being inappropriate. Yet, all this strangeness recedes as I bite into it, for the pleasure in my doing so quickly becomes apparent to surrounding diners, who realize, as I close my eyes in satisfaction to succulent chewing, that bread in and of itself is a wholly subjective experience that ought not to be judged by the width of its slice, or its color.
Food for Life’s Multi-Seed Rice Bread taught me that one ought not be so quick to judge a simple grain, for it is precisely its simplicity that contains within them endless versatility for new food development and revolutionary culinary experiences. It seems as though Food for Life lives up to its name, offering the world a timeless food for healthful living.
Submitted by Emily Greene
Because my boyfriend lives in a part of town known as ‘The Bottom,’ we (I) often find ourselves in places not normally frequented. This includes, but is not limited to, crossing the bridge about 2 blocks away into the adjacent town. One of the main roads across the bridge houses a small but plentiful Mexican grocer. There, we purchase chili powder in bulk, a delicious style of Mexican sour cream called ‘crema,’ full sugar cokes for rum & coke, and, my favorite, Taki Fuego.
Apparently, I’m a little late to the game of Takis. Takis Fuego are hot chili pepper and lime flavored rolled tortilla minis imported and distributed by Barcel. I have to give credit where it’s due, and that is to the boyfriend for purchasing these and offering them for me to try.
I think that I’ve slightly destroyed a majority of my taste buds, due to my penchant for flaming foods. Not just ‘medium’ or ‘hot,’ like the Taco Bell sauce options, but shake-inducing, near-shock burning goodness. And as a result, I clamor for more, infinitely more. So I tried the Takis, and the crunchy corn flavor is what hits you first. Momentarily, I am unimpressed. But as the flames began to settle in, I reached into the bag for another. Turns out that they should be eaten in small handfuls at a time to really feel the aftershocks of intense mouth burning.
As a pale, Eastern European, WASP-y atheist who only calls Jesus’ name under alternative circumstances, I’m lacking in the subculture that exists amongst Takis. I ask my Spanish friend in Texas if she’s ever heard of these.
“Those are like crack in Sage’s school.”
Apparently, Takis are of high value and can be used for trade at her daughter’s middle school. She and my boyfriend then tell me the legend of Hot Cheetos. Banned in schools because of their “addictive” quality, “hyperpalatability,” and—the best—because the students leave sticky red hand prints everywhere. There are even YouTube videos of kids eating and discussing, nay, singing, the merits of Hot Cheetos. And now, Takis.
I get it.
I, too, want to upload a video rapping about the deliciousness of Fuego Takis. You eat one, two, a dozen, and feel empowered. Frantically grabbing into the bag dyes your fingers a color somewhere between Winsor Red and Alizarin Crimson. The satisfying first crunch, with its spicy melodic explosion of chili pepper, lime, and various artificial flavors. And then the moment after you’ve finished masticating these tangy, mini masa tortillas of joy: the slow, satisfying burn that makes its way down your esophagus and into the lining of your stomach, leaving your tongue throbbing and yearning for more.
I’m sold. I cannot help but feel like a drug addict when they’re in the apartment, sneaking shadily into the kitchen for one or two, and backing in again when I think my boyfriend isn’t looking; or huddled on the couch, bag in hand, eyes wide in a euphoric high. You win this round, Mexico.
The Got Milk? Milk Straw
Submitted by Kevin Tasker
A few days ago, in a violent hypoglycemic binge of titanic proportions, I stormed about the aisles of my local five-and-dime, searching for the proper sweet ticket to whisk me off to the land of jitters and instant gratification. I decided on cereal—of the sugariest variety imaginable—and chocolate milk, for that little extra kick (sadly, they were sold out of strawberry milk, the obvious choice for a dutiful sugar-slut such as me).
Armed with my sloshy dark brew and a goodly pound of sugar flakes, I prepared to make my exit from the all-seeing floodlights and Panopticon-like security system of the grocer’s. But then, all at once, my downcast eyes alit on a peculiar product, shoved rudely in a corner by the Pop-Tarts.
“What is this?” I chortled. “Something extra to love?”
Cradling the crinkly package and squinting to read the surreptitiously curling letters, it occurred to me I had stumbled upon a gift from the Industrial Food Gods. The Got Milk? Milk Straw—my new muse, my sacred titan!
It’s here I should point out that the Got Milk? Milk Straw is not technically “food.” At least not in the sense you are accustomed. It belongs to a category far more divine. It has, like the milky secretion of a benevolent godhead—transcended!
Before I implore you to suckle at its plastic-y mouth that’s indented for your oral pleasure, I must describe the sheer bliss of the Got Milk? Milk Straw. The first sip unseats the interior beads of pure love, which come in a variety of tantalizing flavors: Cookies & Cream, Vanilla Milkshake, and Peanut Butter Chocolate among them. The suction of milk through these beads unleashes their glory. To the untrained mouth, the sensation of swirling flavor can be surprising, even off-putting (some drinkers compare their first draught to a sip from the artery of a seizing diabetic). But each sip magnifies the beauty of the beads. Draw them up into your mouth in a flourish and feel them dissolve wetly into a velvety gruel across your tongue. These “flavor pods” have been cosmically designed for your absolute fulfillment. Indeed, there is little chance you will ever want to drink from anything else ever again.
The Got Milk? Milk Straw is primed and ready to destroy all preconceived notions of the way sugar may be reasonably consumed. It will change your life if you let it. You’ll pound through the 48-count box in little time, using four, six, even ten straws at once, crowding them about in your glass and slurping mightily until every last taste-bud incinerating bead has been absorbed and is coursing its way through you. What more can be said about this ingenious confection?
Got Milk? Milk Straw, light of my life, fire of my loins, provider of all the nutrition one could imagine from a shaking pencil-full of sugary plastic. You have saved me from the banality of my every other drink. How ever can I repay you?
360 Glazed Donut Vodka
Submitted by Madison Bernath
It’s Halloween and I’m in Total Wine. I’m too poor to buy drinks at the bar, so instead I’m buying a bottle to last me. I want something sweet, a treat. I figure the best place to find something like that is in the vodka section. Last year I soaked a bunch of gummy bears in vodka—no special flavor, just the regular kind. I soaked them for a week and they grew to four times their size—huge, puffy, and slimy. When I ate them, though, they tasted just like vodka. I was hoping it would happen the other way around. Hence, no gummy bears this year. I’m going to try something new.
I pace the aisle. It’s fully loaded, both sides, top to bottom, all vodka. My options are limited, however. I refuse to go any higher than fifteen bucks, so the aisle isn’t really that daunting with its choices. I could go for Frïs, but I’ve had it so many times. Pinnacle has a habit of making me fall asleep on the bathroom floor—I’m beginning to suspect it’s cheaper vodka than meets the eye. Then there’s that bottle with the V on it with the thick cloudy glass. I always buy glass—even if I’m going cheap—because plastic is a death wish.
Then I see it. High up, right in the front on the left. The label is blue. A transfixing blue. Sea-foam blue. In the center of the bottle are five glazed donuts, just shining. And they aren’t your everyday Dunkin’ Donuts either. Oh no, these scream “Krispy Kreme!!!” The top of the bottle really gets me. It has a kind of plastic cork that you can pop on and off with help from this metal bit—like what you might find on a fancy water carafe. Plus, the glass (an aspect that plays a large role in my decision making) juts out with the numbers 360 in the center of a circle; it reminds me of a wax stamp on an envelope. I run my fingers over it. It feels right.
I pick the bottle up and hold it to my chest. What in the hell do I mix glazed donut vodka with? Orange juice? Like a breakfast-type theme? Maybe Coke? Gorge myself on all things fatty. It is just the day to do that. I bite my thumbnail. It all sounds gag worthy. Even the vodka itself sounds questionable. But it is sweet and the bottle—the bottle is just so vibrant. I ask a clerk for suggestions, and I buy club soda. I get home and begin my drink before my purse is even off my shoulder:
1. Thick ice cubes from my only non-empty ice cube tray.
2. Vodka. You should always pour the vodka first so you know just how much you’re drinking; I fill my glass 3/4 of the way.
3. Club soda, which only tonight did I learn is different from tonic water.
I take out a butter knife and swirl the contents. I give the drink a sniff. It smells like vanilla icing. I give it a taste. It tastes like icing. It’s thick and sugary just like the stuff I used to put on Toaster Strudels. This is fine, you know, for a bite, but I’m gulping it. I am chugging me some thick sugary icing, and I hate it. I should have gone for the breakfast beverage. A couple more glasses of this, and my teeth will be riddled with cavities, but it’s all I have so I keep drinking it. I’m slurping syrup. My tongue is dead from the intense wash of sugar over and over again, and my mind still can’t get around that thick molasses texture. It reminds me that I’m drinking alcohol and my throat begins to block. I’m drinking and gagging, and cursing the vodka, but I know if I could go back in time I would do the same thing, because there the bottle is, sitting on the wood cutting board in my kitchen, brilliant and blue, and I just can’t take my eyes off of it.
Guiltless Gourmet All-Natural Chili Lime Tortilla Chips
Submitted by Karen Czmarko
I selected “Guiltless Gourmet All-Natural Chili Lime Tortilla Chips” on a whim when the brand I was looking for wasn’t available. This “Gourmet Without Guilt”TM packaging told me that it was “NOW: Bolder Taste! Crispier Crunch!” with the word crunch broken in half like so many Taco Bell promises from long ago. After my first bite, I realized that the “crispier crunch” was in fact my teeth breaking in half. I love a crunchy product, and I love even more a snack food, but this combination of bone-shattering crispiness coupled with a feeling of sucking in sawdust for flavor, only then at the end, burnt chili heat in the back of my throat, was inedible. I am of the junk food ethos for things like pizza, popcorn and other snacks, that even when it is bad, it’s still pretty good (and by good I mean edible) but this product proved me wrong. Shame on you, Guiltless Gourmet. Shame on you.
Birds Eye Homemade Inspirations Meal Starter Kung Pao
Submitted by Zachary Tyler Vickers
What do you think of when I say, “mouth intercourse?” That’s right: Birds Eye Homemade Inspirations Meal Starter Kung Pao.
There is so much to love about this stuff. First of all, just look at the name: Inspirations. How did Birds Eye know that men like me (out of work, really into jazzercise, likes sweatpants that look like jeans) walk the aisles of our local grocers just looking for inspiration? My friend Dave (also out of work, still sort of wading the waters re: jazzercise, still into traditional sweats) spent fifteen minutes yelling at the lettuce, “Let us what? Let us what, you bastards!” until he was escorted from the premises, and now has to shop at the overpriced co-op where he steers clear of the produce all together just to be safe. But yes! I purchased, followed the boxed instructions (which were in English, by the way, super helpful) and upon my first bite, I started to get all these really great ideas. And I didn’t even add the recommended chicken!
Here are some of the inspirations I came up with from that first box (already patented):
1. Slippers that look like very expensive Italian loafers.
2. Sweatshirts that look like a suit and tie.
3. Sweatpants that look like khakis.
Birds Eye claims that with their “inspirational” Kung Pao you can enjoy veggies in the most wonderful ways. Time, place, season, it doesn’t matter. I can safely attest to this statement and say that this is not false advertising. I ate it at six in the morning on my roof in the middle of a Nor-Easter and it was just as good as it was at six in the evening in my bathtub on a humid day in August with the cicadas ratcheting.
To spice it up, Birds Eye suggests hot chili sauce, which I do not own. But I do have generic Louisiana hot sauce, which I had stolen off the table of the local breakfast place when the waitress wasn’t around. I took it because Dave wanted it, he likes it on his eggs, but he wouldn’t take it because he now had a record thanks to the whole yelling-at-lettuce-getting-banned-from-the-grocer fiasco. So I took it but felt a sudden entitlement to the hot sauce, which Dave was not too happy about and went as far as to say that he felt that he had ownership rights to the hot sauce on account of it being his idea. So I asked, “Do you want to go to fucking arbitration over this hot sauce that technically doesn’t belong to either of us?” To which he requested that I please keep my voice down since we are still in the establishment that the pocketed hot sauce belongs to, then added that I didn’t even like hot sauce, and then made a real dickish, condescending snort when I said I might keep it for a rainy day. So I suggested he maybe try taking his own fucking hot sauce in the near future. Well, Dave got all teary at the word “future,” (remember, he’s still in traditional sweatpants) so I gave him the hot sauce and took another for those just-in-case scenarios, to which I found myself in with the mouth-intercoursing goodness of Birds Eye Homemade Inspirations Meal Starter Kung Pao.
Birds Eye also suggests spicing it up with “sliced” green onions and crushed peanuts. I’m not sure if they mean together or on separate occasions. Either way, I’m not quite sure what a green onion is, and I’m allergic to peanuts.
For “pizzazz” they suggest pineapple “tidbits.” I suggest eating the Kung Pao right out of the box. Sometimes I get my best inspirations eating it dried. You really taste the essence of the veggie this way, in my opinion. Take the water chestnuts. You ever eat one? They are so crunchy and satisfying. Just think of how crunchy they are when you eat them dried right out of the (slickly designed, I might add) Birds Eye box. And the red peppers? The pop of a fresh or dried red pepper is like winning a marathon, I swear to God. Also, in the ingredients, there are a whole bunch of sauces I cannot pronounce (Hoisin, Sesame) but I am convinced this only adds to its exotic taste.
But, to be fair, there are some things that do not taste so good right out of the box. Such as the broccoli. You ever try raw broccoli? Probably at some office party, which, being out of work, I have not been to in quite some time, and if they are still serving raw broccoli on the veggie platter well then good riddance. I’d rather be unemployed than eat those! It’s like kissing your sister, exactly like that.
Are you ready for the kicker? THREE GRAMS OF FAT! (And if you eat the entire box, like I sometimes do, and Dave pretty much always does, though he’s into the Birds Eye Homemade Inspirations Meal Starter Chicken & Rice (just add chicken), then you’ve ingested 2.5 servings, which if my math is correct, is like not even ten grams of fat! Though, do yourself a favor and don’t look at the sodium). Also, FOUR GRAMS OF PROTEIN! That’s more protein than fat so you know it’s good for you.
So, in conclusion, if you are down on your luck, or even not, I guess you don’t have to be, and like Kung Pao or Inspiration, give Birds Eye a good old-fashioned American go. Here’s more proof. You know what Dave said after his first box of dried Chicken and Rice, in between all the painful-sounding crunches of the rice? He said, “You need to share this stuff with the world. It could help people. We are down on our luck right now. There is a fiscal cliff and a conflict somewhere, and such. The world could use some inspiration of the just-add-chicken-or-not kind. Share this. Maybe write a food review? People still read, right? This inspiration could create jobs. You’ll save the world.”
Starburst Flavor Morph Fruit Chews
Submitted by Molly Brodak
In middle school I distinctly remember an uppity girl giving me a barf face as I was unwrapping a Starburst at the lunch table. “Those things are like, one molecule away from being plastic,” said the girl, something maybe her dad told her and she squirreled away as a cool insult to use on a poorer girl as soon as she got a chance. There were probably not high fives from her friends after the insult, but I remember it that way, along with my open-mouthed and drooly over-exaggerated chewing of the candy for all to see.
She wasn’t too wrong. Of course, she meant atom, not molecule, and of course, as it turns out a lot of things are one atom away from being a lot of other things. Water is one atom away from being hydrogen peroxide. Chlorine gas is one atom away from being table salt. Middle school girls are like, one atom away from being angry, steaming coils of dogpoo. We were all one atom away from being good, valuable, intelligent human beings, who in general are like one atom away from being monkeys anyway.
There are only two kinds of morphing chews here: orange and red. Orange ‘morphs’ into Orange Strawberry and Cherry into Cherry Lime. A few seconds into mashing the plasticy square into your molars, the Orange transforms from Bitter Makeup flavor to Perfume Makeup flavor, and perhaps, because it takes so long to chew, the Perfume element wears off and the mush morphs back into Bitter Makeup. I liked the Cherry slightly more, what with Red Cough Syrup morphing into Red Cough Syrup plus Mild Battery Acid. There must have simply not been enough room on the cubed-tube package to advertise all of the further morphing the chews undergo: upon swallowing both morph again instantly into Bad Breath Mouthcoat, and about twenty minutes later both morph again into Heartburn Burble, then even while their liquefied remains seep through your gutwalls into your bloodstream they morph yet again into Rapid Heartbeat and Sugar Shakes, even for someone with a morbidly enormous tolerance for sugar, someone who grew up eating Starburst Fruit Chews instead of actual fruit, which, to this day, has no flavors that morph.
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