Envirokidz Peanut Butter Panda Puffs
Submitted by Paul Handley

Let me say up front I love these. When I checked them out, the checker, who I’m pretty sure was checking me out (he he), told me her kids loved these too. My disdainful “what?” put an end to any flirtation, but in the end ownership converted from the store to me. I carried my Envirokidz out in my enviro friendly, reusable satchel. I hate kids anyway, except for these kidz. The word “kidz” reminds me of Xmas, which is perfectly nondenominational and recyclable.

I notice there hasn’t been much of a food review to this point and I want to stay consistent. I’m dating myself, but if you remember King Vitamin, which was anything but a vitamin and way too gender specific. Eating it made one feel like a king. Well, I’m here to tell you Panda Puffs makes you feel like an enormous cuddly panda, but light inside and smothered with peanut butter that all of nature wants to lick due to various forms of hunger. This shit is the good shit.

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Pop-Tarts Frosted Confetti Cupcake
Submitted By Henry Finch

The cerulean blue Pop-Tarts box with a graphic of the confetti-sprinkled toaster pastry faces me from the kitchen counter. The toaster pastry graphic has been torn or maybe mangled, revealing the white frosting inside, speckled with (assumably) the same confetti sprinkles that decorate the toaster pastry itself. I imagine this toaster pastry received this abuse at the hand of some production assistant whose only job was to place the unscathed Pop Tart on a white surface so that it might be later Photoshopped against a blue backdrop—the very one I am facing. Who could blame him or her? There is an entire yellow cupcake with white frosting with confetti sprinkles juxtaposed onto one side of the torn toaster pastry. A tie-dyed looking piece of ribbon appears to be flying out from behind the cupcake. On it is printed the words, “Good Source of 8 Vitamins & Minerals.” There are eight Toaster Pastries per box. Do I need to eat all eight toaster pastries to get all eight vitamins and minerals? Maybe.

On the back of the Pop-Tarts box is printed, “Any day is worth celebrating/with NEW Confetti Cupcake/Pop-Tarts toaster pastries!” in bold, sort of cartoony lettering. I agree. Any day is worth celebrating. Directly below the cartoony statement is printed in lifeless, white, sans serif font, on one continuous line, “Give someone a tasty surprise. Write a message below!” and below is a graphic of an entire Frosted Confetti Cupcake Pop-Tart Toaster Pastry with “To:” and “From:” printed near the bottom in italic handwriting that sort of reminds me of my mother. Beside “To:” I write, “Henry.” Beside “From:” I write, “Henry.” Above it, I write, “Happy Birthday, Slugger!” My birthday was four months ago.

Moments before my toaster rings (yes, my toaster rings as it finishes toasting), I smell yellow cupcakes. I’ve only eaten two Frosted Strawberry Pop Tarts today, and that was nearly five hours ago. I tear off the top quarter of the Toaster Pastry #1, hoping that by mimicking the toasty pastry graphic on the seductive cerulean box, that the actual toaster pastry will fully embody what it is to be a Confetti Cupcake.

First Bite: Sweet. A hint of frosting. Not fully convinced.

Second Bite: Got a few sprinkles.

I squeeze the edge of what remains of Toaster Pastry #1 and note the frosting barely oozing out. It reminds me of toothpaste. Wait. I just felt a pang of guilt for my teeth. Then I find a red confetti sprinkle on my laptop keyboard. I crunch it between my middle front teeth. It is tasteless in a devoid-of-taste-bud-stimulation kind of way. I just fucking eat the rest of Toaster Pastry #1.

Toaster Pastry #2 is browned a bit on the top. Hmmm, I think. How can I spin this for the better? Can I imagine this as a thin layer of chocolate frosting? Yes.

Tear the top corner off and just fucking shove it into my mouth. It breaks in two and tastes a little more like a cupcake. Crunchier. I think I need a glass of milk. The confetti sprinkles are a bit distracting, a little like traces of dirt in lettuce. Squeeze the edges, but Toaster Pastry #2 has cooled too long (3-4 minutes) and liquid cupcake no longer oozes out. It just sort of cracks between my thumb and forefinger. I blindly eat the rest of Pastry #2. As I cannot come to a conclusion based on two Toaster Pastries alone, I decide to make two more.

Load two Toaster Pastries in and grab the half gallon of 2% milk from the fridge. Milk level is below the label, like, just enough for a normal bowl of Cheerios. Suddenly I crave Cheerios. Feel a little jittery. Run my tongue around my teeth and nod in approval at the lingering cupcake-ness.

Toaster rings. I jump out of my chair and over to retrieve the hot Toaster Pastries. The goal now is to eat the toaster pastries straight out of the toaster, like, fast, as the quality seems to diminish if they are allowed to cool. Break Toaster Pastry #3 in half. Into the mouth it goes. Who cares? I don’t even wait to swallow the first half before I cram the second half in. It’s hot, but not enough to make me intake air as I’m eating, like I do all the time do when eating soup. This method of consumption doesn’t do the Toaster Pastries justice. With such mindlessness, they taste like plain Toaster Pastries. Just boring ass Toaster Pastries. With no filling. Mouthful of this entire masticated Toaster Pastry sort of drying out my mouth. Never got a glass to pour some milk. Fuck it. Just sort of inhale Toaster Pastry #4 in like three bites. Less hot. Sprinkles distracting. Mind wanders to Chef Boyardee and George Washington, how they suffered. It takes just under two minutes to eat both Toaster Pastries. Pulse quickening.

As Toaster Pastries #5 and #6 toast, I pour myself that glass of milk. No, I pour myself that half glass of milk. Not being pessimistic, but I wanted a whole glass. This is bullshit. My girlfriend texts me, asking if I want to come watch reality TV at our friend’s house and I text back Pop Tart review for lunch. Be there soon. I stare at the now quarter glass of milk. Respite. The toaster rings.

Why is it only one Toaster Pastry per package of two is sprinkled worth a damn? I mean, really! I counted 34 confetti sprinkles on Toaster Pastry #5. Compared to Toaster Pastry #6, it looks like some rejected elementary school art project. Toaster Pastry #5 has eight pockmarks from where there were once confetti sprinkles. Confetti sparkles are blue, orange, yellow, green. The acronym for this list of colors is BORYG, like BO-RING, like, What kind of boring ass shit is this with only a lazy smattering of sprinkles? After a sip of milk, as I can’t afford the pleasure of entire gulp, eating one quarter of Toaster Pastry #5 has me a little more optimistic. Paired with milk, the cupcake taste comes to the foreground. As I blindly eat the other three quarters of Toaster Pastry #5 I think I might have discovered a lingering cavity, as I feel a slight sting around a lower tooth. Heartbeat bounding.

There are 106 confetti sprinkles on Toaster Pastry #6. Counting them, I am transported to the Museum of Modern of Art, staring thoughtfully at a color field painting. Impressive. Get reply text from my girlfriend: OMG You’re Cray Cray. Suddenly I feel experimental and decide to eat quarters of Toaster Pastry #6 and mix it with a sip of milk in my mouth while eating. Maybe it will taste like creamy batter.

And then like Oh. My. God. I roll my eyes with pleasure. I just unlocked this Pop-Tarts treasure chest of taste. Suddenly I realize I’m about to the eat the last quarter of Toaster Pastry #6. I break it into two pieces and deliver it lovingly upon my tongue and bring the glass of milk slowly and ceremoniously to my lips. As I chew, I sigh and close my eyes. Self-Congratulation or Contentment?

Feel a little queasy. I force a burp and drink the rest of the milk. Then I load in Toaster Pastries #7 and #8. Pour myself a half glass of eggnog. Gonna take this shit to the next level. Feel a little lightheaded. “Pop-Tarts are a good source of 5 B vitamins,” I read aloud from the Nutrition Facts side of the box. That makes me happy. I think I’m happy. B vitamins make you happy. But what if the B vitamins weren’t in any of the first six toaster pastries? Luckily, the toaster rings.

The counter is littered with the four foily packages of the entire box. That burnt sugar, cupcake smell sort of turns my stomach. I take a sip of eggnog. De-li-cious. Just saying.

I slowly break Toaster Pastry #7 in half and it’s almost like a grilled cheese sandwich. The filling sort of does that stretchy cheese thing that hot grilled sandwiches do when you cut them in half and separate them. It’s like, “Oh yeah, that’s right.” I eat a quarter, chew it with a little sip of eggnog. This is how dreams taste, a sugar blanket wrapped around my tongue. As I finish Toaster Pastry #7, I feel myself slowing down. Not sure if I’m full or getting sick. I glance down at Toaster Pastry #8, it’s confetti sprinkles all bunched together on one side. I rotate it counter clockwise on the plate so that it rests horizontally. The confetti sprinkles are now falling confetti snow, gathering on the ground. “There’s my little house,” I think. “There’s my little puppy and my little white sedan.” I chug the rest of the eggnog and devour Toaster Pastry #8 in 17 seconds. I sort of want to lie down. I look around my kitchen for a sign of relief, an agent to which I can transfer this sugary pain. I text my girlfriend: Solid B. Must be eaten with milk at same time to fully unlock taste. Or eggnog. She replies: Insanity. I am suddenly enveloped by a tingling warmth.

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Kraft Macaroni and Cheese “Home-Style” Dinners
Submitted by Amy Butcher

Humans need an object to hate, William Hazlitt asserted in his 1826 essay “On The Pleasures of Hating,” and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese’s “Home-Style” Dinner Kit gives us a real and tangible form.

It is difficult to describe the consistency and flavor of these noodles without first conjuring words like “paint” or “goldenrod paste” or “tube,” but I will try. What you need to know, first and foremost, is that Kraft’s kit will take you back to third grade art class—the boys flicking boogies across the classroom, the sticky and smelly papier-mâché, the poor paint color selection because the budget was low that year, and all that’s left is this shit-like goldenrod color.

These noodles, however, are more than your average noodles. You might even call them “artisanal.” You think you know an elbow when you see it, but the noodles in Kraft’s kit are more than elbow—they’re just slightly fatter than what you’re used to and contain tiny, delicate divots; apparently “home-style” means “kind of artisanal,” as in, “you can’t just get these from any old box”—only with Kraft’s stellar kit.

In addition to these startlingly refreshing noodles are two silver packets labeled, aptly, “Topping” and “Seasoning.” Beneath those is “Cheese Sauce.” And what you should know—because it’ll be the first thing you think when you tear that package open—is that the “Seasoning” packet is nothing more than flour. The directions read, cleverly, Melt two tablespoons of butter and then add seasoning sauce, but as any cook knows, this is simply how you make a roux: you melt equal parts butter with flour, stir feverishly, and watch it brown. Which begs the question: Why not label the kit “Flour” and teach home chefs something?, but my guess is it’d make people feel stupid.

So instead you make homemade macaroni and cheese by blending a magical seasoning kit with butter, cooking the noodles as directed, and squeezing the cheese tube kit, freeing it slowly. Stir the shit-paint into the butter-flour, let it get warm and weird, and spoon into a casserole dish. For the above-average homemaker, you can take it one step further, read the directions on the back of the bag. And that step is this: put it in the oven with the “Topping” they’ve provided. I can assure you that this does nothing more to the noodles, and they taste just as shitty, except you feel good about your above-averageness—the lengths you’ll go to make a “home cooked” meal.

Frankly, I give this macaroni four out of five stars, but only because it’s one step up from Velveeta, and that one step is that it’s not (quite) Velveeta.

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Function: Alternative Energy, Strawberry Guava flavor
Submitted by Amanda Layne Ferguson

It is midnight. I am cramming final touches into a final project that is due in my final hours as a college sophomore. My coffee pot has run dry and I have the runs from all the coffee; I see dim consciousness and grades in my future. My obvious solution is to operate a motor vehicle and flee to Wegmans, the holy land of consumption.

I trudge to the health food section, aisles marked by a sign that reads NATURE’S MARKETPLACE It is here I can buy something stamped organic, for what kind of creative mind can I ever claim to possess if I do not cater to hemp seeds and quinoa? I cannot tell if eating such food produces a whim for writing poetry, or if writing poetry produces a whim to eat such food, but I was not at Wegmans to exert my last faint synapse firings on the organic chicken or the organic egg.

My feet lead me to the beverage section, I almost pick up a bottle of coconut water, until I remember that coconut water is gross. My hand hovers over Bob Marley’s Mellow Mood tea with longing, and then, I see something new, something that looks pinky purple. I think, it must have beets in it, I pick it up, I think I read that it has no beets in it, so I buy it. I buy two.

It is always risky to buy a new beverage, one that proclaims it’s all natural, one with unpronounceable Muira Puama, Epimedium, Guarana, Yerba Mate, and Catuaba as the active ingredients, one that looks pinky purple and appealing. (That is always a trick, never make a purchase because you like the color.) However, this is a supernatural tale, in which said liquid quenches thirst, tastes tart, makes me feel alternative, and swiftly courses energy through my blood. It works with a finesse other liquids would evaporate for. After only twenty minutes I revive, no longer leaden. This is the second, third, fourth, maybe even fifth wind I struggled to conjure within myself.

Eager to embrace the power at my fingertips to accomplish tasks and maintain pep I drink the second bottle: collectively 33.8 ounces, 140 mg caffeine, and that natural junk, a truly life-giving concoction. Another twenty minutes and I’m superhuman, I’m having trouble breathing, I’m palpitating, my malnourished student’s body can’t handle just how functional this energy becomes.

I must lie down and calm myself. I read the bottle, there are two servings in each, I’ve consumed four, there is no warning, no number to call in case of energy exceeding function, time has slowed, I’ve slipped between seconds and am sweating. I think to myself, I endorse this product. I endorse it so much it has led to overdose. Sleep does not come quickly. I decide tortured creativity is better than I could have hoped; I continue to work on my project and contemplate this miraculous beverage: it probably did have beets in it—how else would a drink exhibit such a lovely shade of electric mauve? What is this “guava” and does Wegmans sell it? How long will my heart seizure? If it is truly alternative why is it sold in a plastic bottle? Regardless, it will open many doors in my future.

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Jesus Harvest Seeds
Submitted by Chandra Steele

Keep “hallow” in Halloween with Jesus Harvest Seeds. Christmas has gotten so commercial that even Jesus feels the need to distance himself from it and start fresh by co-opting another pagan holiday as his own.

It’s a bit tricky since candy corn already exists. There might just be a patent on it, which is undoubtedly why these things aren’t called “Jesus Candy Corn.” But are you really going to sue Jesus? Think about the part of the trial where you have to place your hand on the Bible. Awkward.

Did we mention that there’s a bit of scripture on every package? “Do not spill your seed on the ground.” Really, don’t; it’ll make the floor all sticky. These things are made with corn syrup.

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The Robust Fruit Stand
Submitted by Andrew Battershill

I can’t tell you that I enjoyed the Robust Fruit Stand, but I can, sincerely, recommend it to those with exceptionally strong calves and a firm desire to test the limits of their throat and colon.

I don’t need to describe the Robust Fruit Stand to you, I surely don’t, but I can say that the long, sinewy arms were the first elements of the dish to truly catch my attention. I hated them when they were around, but oh how I miss their firm, supple grasp, their tempting, apathetic grip. They reminded me of the womb, in that the womb is a warm, sticky, stifling, vaguely sexually arousing place to think about in hindsight and after a whole lot of conversations with your therapist which have allowed you to place early formative physical sensations, and the neuroses that accompany them, in a sort of box of non-shame based ethical consideration that need not be totally pulled apart, but should be carefully opened and rummaged around in once in a while.

Eating this dish was a visceral experience; the amount of cardiovascular endurance it takes to wrestle, comfort, reason with, and effectively clean the dish is almost super human. I was certainly taken closer to the limit of my physical capacity than I would have wanted to ever, ever get. But, after everything, what spice is there to life without experience (it should be noted, with any mention of taste, that although the raw physical demands of the Robust Fruit Stand are, certainly, exotic, the dish itself is relentlessly flavorless to the point that one would, and will, consider the possibility that it was reverse engineered out of any discernable flavor pallet)?

The question of whether the Robust Fruit Stand is a dish that you should eat is, more fundamentally, a question about whether or not you consider yourself a person who enjoys raw, exotic, often weirdly spikey fruit presented in an ethically, physically, and spiritually challenging way, or whether you consider yourself a person who enjoys a calm, reasoned life full of gentleness and uncomplicated human affection.

I can’t answer that question for you, I can tell you that the Robust Fruit Stand fogged and corrupted the very lens through which I view my life, which, after everything, is an interesting, if not positive, development.

I’ll leave my readers with one final tip: Watch out for the glowing mango located under the banana ribs, it’s a trap.
It’s the most vicious trap of all.

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Doritos Jacked Enchilada Supreme
Submitted by Michael Prohaska

I paused for a brief moment as I sat on my couch, surveying the scene in front of me. It was a battlefield; thousands and thousands of fragments of spicy, cheesy sediment was strewn across my slightly-too-small black T-shirt. An empty bag of snack chips flew from the sofa under the cool breeze of my window air conditioning unit, much like a tumbleweed in a no-name town on the Western Frontier. My mouth, seen in the reflection of my filthy iPhone, was circumscribed in a very unnatural orange-yellow tinge.

I looked at the bag. My eyes filled with emotion.

I ate an entire bag of Doritos Jacked Enchilada Supreme in one sitting, and I felt great.

As much as my mother touted the benefits of hydrolyzed corn protein and monosodium glutamate when I was a young boy, I had not expected to enjoy these chips this much. What was it? Why did I throw inhibition to the wind and butcher an entire bag of manufactured Mexican culture? What have the big brains at Frito Lay done to make me act this way? I had more questions than answers, and something changed deep inside me. Something also changed outside of me, as a cheesy radioactive glow surrounded me for days. But I didn’t care. I wore it as a badge of pride. You can’t quarantine true love.

The tasting experience is truly remarkable. As you open the bag for the first time, the emanation of flavors hits your nostrils like a stampeding bull in the streets of Pamplona. You pick up a tortilla chip the size of an Ikea catalogue, and on your first bite the crunch sends a shockwave in all directions. Then the flavors rush in; first the maltodextrin, then the natural and artificial flavor, and finally the Yellow 5 Lake. It’s just like standing in the heat of the barrio back in Tijuana… except more authentic. It’s a one-of-a-kind snack experience, and I can’t get enough. I’ve had 12 family-sized bags in two days.

I was on top of the world. But then came the doubters.

“But Michael, it can’t possibly be healthy to eat that many Doritos…”

“Do you know how many calories that is?”

“What about your friends and loved ones?”

They’re dead to me. I know that the nuclear engineers and molecular biologists at Frito Lay worked for YEARS to isolate the revolutionary Enchilada Supreme flavonoid that creates a real Mexican experience in my stomach. And who am I to turn my back on them? It’s not like my friend Jerry knows how to bulk-process millions of tons of corn and spray each machine-cut chip with just the right amount of delicious synthetic flavor dust. Plus Jerry doesn’t even eat corn. Shut up, Jerry. Go back to Alberta.

I get along fine with the whole organic movement. Locally sourced, sustainable… that shit’s great. Makes me feel good or whatever. But I have a hard time justifying $17.99 a pound for organic shallots from the virgin valleys of Vermont when a big bag of Doritos Jacked Enchilada Supreme sets me back four dollars. Plus they have 2 grams of protein per serving and no trans fat! Gonna grind these bad boys up and put them in my post-workout shake! Gonna get… DORITOS JACKED!!!

So hats off to you, Frito Lay, and the entire Doritos Jacked development and molecular engineering team. Your commitment to consistency and mass production of a delicious product has won my heart and my stomach. Never again will I question your unusually cruel labor practices, back-alley government subsidy deals, your dubious nutritional claims, or even years of tax evasion. You’re a winner in my book, and you know how to make each crunchy bite just as delicious as the last. Thank you, to both you and your industry. Good night.

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Unreal 77
Submitted by Molly Brodak

Unreal is a new line of candy that claims to be “unjunked,” featuring imitations of M&M’s, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and both a pseudo Milky Way and Snickers. I bought the Milky Way because this one was clearly their greatest risk—no easy peanuts to rely on, no pretty shells on plain chocolate. The wrapper boasts “No Artificials, No Hydrogenateds, No Corn Syrups, No Preservatives, No GMOs” and besides the weirdly condescending abbreviations I felt a mix of revulsion and respect for these goals of the candy.

It is true that no one likes “Artificials” or “Hydrogenateds,” but they work, and candy is not a place for failure. Besides, how, I wondered, would they get a good commercial caramel without corn syrup? Even I use corn syrup in my homemade brown sugar caramel. Truly old-fashioned caramel-making involves adding cream to boiling sugar in the final moments, a dangerous process that sometimes results in arms and faces being splattered in sticky molten fluid that isn’t being done at home much anymore. These days, Americans expect caramel to be chewy, much chewier than it used to be with this process. Since Unreal’s makers claim to not use preservatives, the old-fashioned cream method certainly could not be their secret.

Turns out they simply substituted tapioca syrup for corn syrup, which is basically the same as corn syrup, just a fruit glucose suspended in water, but doesn’t have the same confused, vague concern people have with corn syrup at the moment. The caramel in this bar was thin and sick, not buttery in flavor, and I think they knew it too because there is not much of it. The other part, the nougat, has a grainy texture and a subtly sour, almost cheese-like flavor that made me immediately scan the ingredients for the things that are making it taste like this. Fructan! The food industry’s latest secret bet, a short-chain natural sugar polymer that is supposed to be “neutral-tasting” and fibrous. Fibrous! Yes the package boasts 5 grams of fiber, well over a Milky Way’s .09 g! Certainly you’ve seen/eaten processed foods that claim to have high fiber but you can’t identify any obvious plant pieces in it, no fruit or nuts; this is that kind of prebiotic powdered filler that has been added to whatever otherwise nutritionally-devoid cereal or white bread is so smug about its invisible fiber. The loads of powdered milk additives provide protein and that taste you probably know if you’ve ever had a protein bar overly reliant on whey. It tastes like mildewed plywood smells.

The chocolate is fine, tastes like most other crappy milk chocolate coatings used for commercial candy, except it contains trendy blue agave syrup as a sweetener, which has a planty aftertaste but is pretty well-hidden with predominantly regular sugar. The frightening unreadable font, which I realized only later says, “UNREAL,” partially obscured by an enlarged photo of the enclosed candy, comes in heartburn-y metallic jewel tones against a black background. It has a late, sad Euro disco feel that probably tested well with teens who buy Axe Body Spray. Their website offers side-by-side comparisons with the candy they imitate, although the portion sizes are pretty different and obviously unfair. The candy is also compared to a third thing, an apple or some other healthy snack, which just seems mean to any candy-eaters who would’ve taken the time to look at their website.

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The Cookie Cake
Submitted by Elizabeth Chapman

I have recently discovered that it is possible to purchase an individual slice of cookie cake. Cookie cake, in case you are unfamiliar with the confection, is a sort of childhood fantasy brought to life, something so awesome that in the back of your mind you harbored doubts about its very existence, like Santa Claus or unicorns.

But cookie cake is no myth! It is the union of cookie (giant cookie) and fluffy frosting (usually reserved for cakes, but permitted for this sweet exception) piped into cartoon designs and electric blue stars. And then the whole thing is sliced up like a pizza.

The cookie cake is a suburban delight. What the croissant is to France, what the strudel is to the Germanic world, what the pudding is to England, so the cookie cake is to gated golf course communities across the United States. One almost never finds it in bakeries or grocery stores; instead, cookie cake must be ordered from specialty cookie shops with patriotic-sounding names, located in the food courts of shopping malls.

Historically, the problem with cookie cake has been that it was only acceptable as celebration of some collective accomplishment of irrefutable social value. When I indulged in cookie cake today, as a 26-year old woman, I was transported back to the cookie cakes of my childhood, à la Proust. They read: “Happy Third Grade Graduation, Mrs. Logsden’s Class!” or “Congratulations on a Great Season, Bay Area Barracudas!” We would gobble up our wedges of cookie, and within minutes the sugar high would turn us into a band of miniature savages, descending into a kind of Bacchanal frenzy, our mouths stained red from fruit punch. It was in this way that Boomer, Mrs. Logsden’s piebald hamster, became stuck in the rotary pencil sharpener.

Because of the toll that a cookie cake took on our parents, teachers, and coaches, we were permitted it only once or twice a year. You couldn’t have one just because it was Tuesday, and even if you could, they were so enormous that you would feel a glutton. No, cookie cakes were for occasions; if you wanted one, you had better be having a Little Mermaid-themed birthday party or recovering from a broken arm.

So I was surprised the other day when, on a mission to find lemon-basil scented kitchen soap in Parkdale Mall, I noticed that one of these cookie shops with the long glass sneeze-guards was selling cookie cake by-the-slice, $3.49. This was contrary to everything I had known. I approached the counter, and feigned interest in placing an order that would feed 18 to 24 for Father’s Day. “Oh, I don’t know,” I said to the girl working the cash register, but I did know, and there was a part of me that had known all along. “I guess I’ll just take a single slice.” I searched her face for any sign of judgment or scorn, but she simply boxed up a triangle with zigzag chocolate and vanilla frosting, and swiped my card.

Back in the privacy of my apartment, I felt a kind of masturbatory shame as I contemplated my slice; you were not supposed to enjoy cookie cake alone. It dawned on me that my relationship status was the same as the serving size (single)—and I felt certain that these two facts were not unrelated. I remembered that Mrs. Lacy, my high school Latin teacher, had taught us that the word “companion” meant literally, “one whom with I break bread.”

And then I was gripped by a horrible thought. What if, like so many other artifacts from my childhood (Madeleine L’Engle’s Arm of the Starfish series, the Spice Girls), cookie cake revisited was a terrible disappointment? Over the past few years, I had embraced a diet of artisanal cheeses, ugly tomatoes (heritage varieties!), grass-fed beef, and kale-blueberry juice. Perhaps my palate would no longer take pleasure in the cheap, bleached flour and the refined sugar that made up my beloved cookie cake. I braced myself and took a bite.

It wasn’t as sweet as I remembered.

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Apple Pie Caramel Apples
Submitted by Jay Casey

Disney really knows how to package their products. I’d never heard of an Apple Pie Caramel Apple until my friend Lila told me about it. “Oh my God,” she rolled her eyes. “I get one every time I come here.”

Lila has some job where she promotes a designer handbag company, so she makes a lot of money and perhaps most importantly, gets to wear a lot of designer clothes to work. With her spare money she goes to Disneyland about twice a week. I thought about all the caramel apples that she had ingested that month.

They sell Apple Pie Caramel Apples in the candy store on Main Street, Disneyland. Each caramel apple is topped with two marshmallows so that it looks like a Mickey Mouse head, coated with white chocolate, then meticulously dusted with a fine-grained almost-white-but-not-quite sugar mixture, then wrapped in cellophane. I turned one over. “Jesus Christ, this costs ten dollars.”

Again came the eye roll as she passed over her credit card to the smiling Disney employee. “It’s so worth it.”

I tried a bite of hers, and was instantly hooked, the combination of sugar, white chocolate, caramel, and Granny Smith disintegrating like crack directly to my bloodstream. I don’t have an ambiguous job that makes a lot of money like Lila, so I only get Apple Pie Caramel Apples once in a while. The last time I did, I’d shown my friend Charmaine, who like Lila, also had a Disneyland pass, but the difference between them was that when Charmaine and I went to Disneyland together, we strategically found the cheapest food and shared it between us, licking the paper wrappers when it was gone. When she saw the price tag, she reacted much like I first had. “Holy shit,” she said, her eyes bugging out of her head. “Why did you buy this?” She looked at me with a mixture of reproach and disgust.

“It’s good,” I shrugged helplessly. “If you let me share it with you, you’ll just see—"

“People like you are the reason why this shit gets made.”

I was affronted by this judgment, but what could I say? She was right, and as far as I could tell, they could go on making it because I was addicted, suckling at the teat of overpriced commercialism just like the rest of America in their tourist visors and fanny packs.

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Tim Hortons’ Venetian Cream Donut
Submitted by Johnpatrick Marr

Tim Horton’s is Canada’s answer to our country’s colorful history of culinary atrocities. It looks like a Dunkin’ Donuts. Having moved from one end of the Rust Belt to the other, I’m used to living in cities looked down upon by their neighbors. My new life is the off-Broadway production of my old one. Baltimore is now played by Buffalo, Washington DC by Toronto.

Small things impress me about my border-town home, like turning on the radio and hearing voices from a foreign country that I can see, but can’t walk to without papers: my first world problems mirroring second world ones. The whacky morning DJ on Toronto’s Edge FM keeps talking about bacon-flavored lube, but because of his accent it doesn’t sound dirty. Maybe this mindset explains why I end up eating this ball of deep fried dough and pastry cream like it’s a healthful lunch. Or perhaps the lack of emotional intimacy that is a direct result of moving to a new town with nothing more than a kitten and a pocket full of dreams is finally driving me insane. Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was laughing hysterically about the word “horseradish,” after eating my first Beef on Weck? But this is about the donut.

When the fast casual dining technician asks me for my order, there’s a sensation of vertigo as I realize that Boston Cream donuts don’t exist in this universe. Of course not. I bring up a mental image of my favorite filled pastry and compare it to every edible behind the counter. There it is, a dead ringer: the Venetian Cream. I try not to take it personally, but the Old World reference is just another reminder that I’m not in Kansas anymore. Obviously, my Kansas is the suburban Northeast. I sullenly take my envelope full of confection to a back table, cross-metaphorical fingers that it’s filled with egg custard and not maple syrup or some such and take a bite. Godamnit, Dunkin’ Donuts, you’ve been lying to me my whole life.

Highly Recommended.

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Chocolate Love Vegan Cupcakes
Submitted by Katelyn Sack

Heathens such as myself can be forgiven for believing vegan desserts sound wrong. There is no consistency like meringue, no cake batter light enough without those shiny sweet bubbles folded in. There is no icing like buttercream.

And yet, there is lactose intolerance. Woody Allen kvetches best, so let’s just say it is uncomfortable. I gave up cupcakes for comfort. And then I saw a vision.

Sticky Fingers vegan cupcakes look like real cupcakes. They also smell and taste the part. The chocolate cake is moist and cocoa-rich. The chocolate icing is—God forgive me—like buttercream infused with cocoa.

They’re small, which is the only appropriate preface for saying I ate four a day for a week.

Hives sprang up across my stomach and arms. Itchy bumps sprouted on my elbows. I felt like I always feel when I travel, armed with cereal bars, which is to say I dropped five pounds and decided to just lie down and die.

Lactose intolerance apparently afflicts the majority of Ashkenazi Jews, so I can blame my father’s family for that. The celiac (an extreme form of gluten intolerance) must be from the maternal Scots. Diversity sucks.

Sticky Fingers Chocolate Love vegan cupcakes are the most pleasurable celiac diagnostic available. They are convenient, affordable, and don’t involve having foreign objects stuck up your ass.

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Clancy’s Guacamole-Flavored Tortilla Chips
Submitted by Ericka Barker

One of the many and varied joys of Aldi, the German grocery store that is best-known in the 31 U.S. states it occupies as the place that makes you 1) deposit a quarter to use a cart, and 2) provide your own bags and do the packing yourself, is its incredibly cheap snack food. Most of the snacks are knockoffs of brand names, of course: Chex Mix becomes “Party Mix,” etc. But every so often amongst the bland knockoffs appears a wild card, like a dandelion in the otherwise green, velvety lawn of life (life, in this case, being a metaphor for the snack aisle at a European purveyor of foodstuffs). Perhaps the most famous example of this phenomenon is Aldi’s “Peanut Puffs”: snack food of the gods, rarer than hen’s teeth, beloved by a small but zealous group of devotees who purchase them by the case when they appear in stores briefly about twice a year, hoarding and doling them out sparingly until long past the “Best By” date. Ah, Peanut Puffs, so light yet crunchy, so full of legume-y goodness, so… puffy. How I love thee.

But this review isn’t about Peanut Puffs; it’s about Clancy’s Guacamole-Flavored Tortilla Chips.

The concept of tortilla chips coated in a slightly resinous powder that adds a powerful punch of flavor while simultaneously defying all efforts to remove it from the snacker’s fingertips is not new, of course. But guacamole-flavored chips are new. I think. Previously, if one desired a marriage of tortilla chips and guacamole, the solution would be to dip said chips into actual guacamole, with all its attendant perils: chips breaking in the guacamole due to the weight of unusually large globs of avocado, the guacamole turning brown from oxidation… the list goes on (actually, it doesn’t. That’s all I can think of). Now, with the advent of guacamole-flavored tortilla chips, we can enjoy the taste combination of mashed, flattened, and fried corn and mushed-up avocado by simply opening the bag and digging in. Science, I love you!

Best of all, these bright green, triangular-but-with-rounded-corners chips are good for you! As the packaging helpfully explains, they are “Made With REAL Avocados!” as well as “Whole Grains!” and with “0g TRANS FAT per serving!” So… healthy, right?

Actually, a perusal of the ingredients list (some 20+ items long) only mentions “avocado powder” near the bottom, with the top ingredient being “whole grain corn.” I don’t have the foggiest notion what alchemy turns an avocado into powder, nor am I sure that corn is indeed a grain, much less a whole one, but hey… at the very bottom of the list is “oat fiber!” So clearly we are talking about the kind of food a cardiologist would unhesitatingly tell her heart patients to eat in order to clear out those arteries.

But enough about this “healthy” stuff… how do they taste? Pretty much exactly like Doritos “nacho cheese” flavor. In fact, if these chips were safety orange rather than kelly green, I submit they would be indistinguishable from their better-known brethren. In my scientific study (consisting of having some friends over), one test subject who hates avocados with the intensity of a thousand, thousand suns munched away quite happily on these. Apparently “avocado powder” and a combination of three dyes to achieve a not-seen-in-nature shade of green don’t manage to replicate that buttery, curiously womb-shaped fruit (or is it a vegetable?) that is the avocado.

In truth, I cannot recommend Clancy’s Guacamole-Flavored Tortilla Chips, with this caveat: if you love nacho cheese Doritos but balk at paying $3.99 a bag, these are a cheap substitute that will only fool people who are blindfolded and who do not mind turning their fingers, mouth, and teeth green. A niche market? Perhaps. Yet it’s a niche market that exists squarely in the mainstream, because in the end, isn’t cheap, processed, pseudo-wholesome snack food what America is all about?

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Tofurky Italian Sausages
Submitted by Steven Seighman

As a two-year vegan, I’ve tried all kinds of mock-meats. Some of them are OK; they have a hint of meatiness to them. And some of them make me embarrassed for the companies that they come from. Have these people never tasted meat before? How can they put these things out into the world with any kind of meat association? But one company that seems to get it right is Tofurky. They appear to be the most well-known of all the fake meat companies, and with good reason: While they’re not fooling any carnivores with their products, they do come closer than anyone else. Especially with their Italian sausages. Whoa doggie! These things are mana from heaven. And again, nobody confuses them for actual meat. But if you slice up one of these trick sausages and put them in just about anything Italian or otherwise, your taste buds will be none the wiser—especially because the tomatoes and peppers in them are real. And like my Italian friend, Gianni, these things are spicy! So do a pig a favor and eat these Tofurky treats next time you get a sausage craving. I won’t tell your carnivorous friends.

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Spicy Yellow Lentil Hummus
Submitted by Rebecca Silverman

I have just completed a strenuous “50+ minute run with hills,” performed exactly as prescribed by my race training spreadsheet. I am damp, thirsty, and craving… something. Salt? Cheese? Multiple-animal byproducts? Delirious and unsure of my own desires, I step into the Big Apple Food Mart looking for answers. I pick up coconut water, butter lettuce, and Spicy Yellow Lentil Hummus.

Spicy Yellow Lentil Hummus… a “WOW flavor experience!” proclaims the package. Surely, this will stave off my simmering running-induced ennui. I look closer and find that the taupe paste is peppered “with sunflower seeds and apricot.” Good Lord, they’ve done it. Spice, yellow lentils, sunflower seeds, and apricot! So many flavors to delight the palate! So much potential bursting from this 10-ounce orb of deliciousness!

I notice the producer of such wonders is called “Eat Well Enjoy Life.” How joyous! With this hummus, I can both eat well AND enjoy life. A modern miracle. I am filled with pleasure, anticipating dipping a pretzel into the Spicy Yellow Lentil Hummus.

I wonder if the woman at the checkout notices my elation as I give her my sweat-soaked $20 bill. I smile. Is she eating well and enjoying life? No time to ask. I walk home and rip the plastic wrap from under the packaging cover. Remembering that my pretzels are at work, I toast a piece of bread. Not ideal, but necessary. I dip and eat. I taste a grainy brown flavor, and then heat. Lots of heat. Jalapenos in my gums, and then my brain stem. I press ahead, eating perhaps two whole tablespoons until I finish my toast. At this point, jalapenos are churning my gastric juices into flamethrowers.

No matter. I am eating well, and enjoying life. I recommend this product to anyone who wishes to do the same.

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Pepperidge Farm Flavor Blasted Xtra Cheddar Goldfish Baked Snack Crackers
Submitted by Celeste Dolezal

So Goldfish, or “fishy crackers” as termed in some circles, are by no means a new thing. Anyone who ever was a kid, has a kid, has met a kid, or works with kids has come into contact with the fishy cracker. He gets around. As a person who works with kids, I probably see and eat more fishies than is normal for most adults, because for some reason kids are way into orange foods, which probably has something to do with the cheese factor and its deliciousness, and I am a greedy person who helps myself to children’s snacks. However, most of these horrible orange artificial-cheese-flavored snacks are covered in an overly tangy, assaultively bright orange flavor powder that is contagious to fingertips, new pants, and previously clean surfaces. But not the Goldfish cracker. At least not previously. The traditional cheddar Goldfish cracker is, yes, orange. Its redemptive qualities lie in the lack of powdery covering, the relatively natural hue of orange, and the delicate cheese flavor with just a hint of salt and paprika to keep the palate interested.

But, oh. Flavor Blasted Xtra Cheddar fishy crackers, you are a poster child for marketing strategies gone wrong. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? No, apparently that is NOT right. Because now what this new generation of fishy brings us is a mutant, a genetically engineered freak with no place in nature, begging for someone, anyone, to help end this causeless identity crisis that’s been foisted on the hapless snack by people who still think intentionally misspelling the word “extra” denotes the thing so described as being in some way edgier and wilder than products described by correctly spelled words. So 2001. Anyway, the poor Xtra Cheddar fish are amped up in orange hue and covered in a fine, yet somehow sticky, powder that tastes at once sour and most reminiscent of the flavor of the Milkbone I took an experimental nibble on as a child. Bitter bone meal. Bitter indeed, which is especially odd as the first ingredient listed is smiles, and if I were to take that literally the whole bone meal flavor would make a lot more sense because ground-up smiles would contain teeth, and I can only imagine the flavor of ground teeth to be a sourish, bone-mealy affair.

The second ingredient is unbleached enriched wheat flour.

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Knoll Krest Farm Coconut Macaroons
Submitted by Jessica Allen

Lord knows I love the farmers market as much as the next well-educated, liberal thirty-something. But, golly, sometimes this devotion takes work. Garlic needs to be peeled and chopped, asparagus trimmed and roasted, even apples have to be washed before enjoying their upstate goodness. On a recent Saturday, I walked about and admired spring’s bounty. Pretty! Then I beheld Knoll Krest Farm Coconut Macaroons, awkward, prepackaged orbs in ecru and ivory. Even prettier! 

At home, I peered closer. Yes, they were shaped like UFOs, about the size of a toddler’s fist. I hefted one to my lips. Slimy slithers of coconut had been melded into a moist mixture, like sweet loamy soil. Another bite, another bite, another bite. I sensed the almond and vanilla extract. I thought about Marx, about effort, about commodity fetishism. I thought about someone cracking eggs to get the whites, beating them with coconut flakes, milk, and sugar, amalgamating the sole six ingredients by hand or by machine. I thanked this person, then thanked the person who packaged them, four to a plastic tub, then thanked the driver who trucked them from farm to city. I can’t say I tasted this labor, because that sounds gross. And I don’t know how long it took to make the cookies, how many hours or days elapsed between raw material and finished product. I know it took me 13 minutes to eat the quartet I bought for $4.50. I couldn’t reclose the container properly and didn’t want the macaroons to dry out.

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Bacon Jam
Submitted by Becky Carman

Did you know that they make tiny slow cookers? I found this out because I am 29 and live by myself still, and I was waiting for a wedding registry to come into my life so I could get all new kitchen appliances, but then I got tired of waiting because I found out bacon jam was a thing that could exist.
It is basically like if you were going to make barbecue sauce, but then you replaced the ketchup in the recipe with bacon, and then you took out a bunch of the spices and put in more bacon. I made it today, in my tiny slow cooker, and I do not care anymore about wedding registries or family-sized kitchen appliances or finding love, because I cannot eat bacon jam on any of those things.

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The Egg O’Biscuit
Submitted by Ari Rizzitano

If any meal can redeem cafeteria giant Sodexo’s much-maligned cuisine, it’s the Egg O’Biscuit. Ah, Egg O’Biscuit, so splendid, yet so simple; so simple in its splendor, like the Fibonacci sequence, or a Philip Glass composition. I doubt I will ever encounter another breakfast food whose splendid-simple ratio (SSR) even begins to approach that of the Egg O’Biscuit. And though its sisters (the Egg O’Muffin, the Egg O’Bagel, and the Egg O’Croissant) have tried their hardest, none can outshine the intrepid Egg O’Biscuit.

The Egg O’Muffin was arguably Sodexo’s answer to the genre-defining Egg McMuffin of 1972. The two sandwiches, nearly identical in composition, differ only in the egg: instead of unidentifiable, circular, vaguely egg-like slurry, the Egg O’Muffin’s Christian-namesake is, in fact, a fresh, whole fried egg with unbroken yolk. Aside from the egg, the two sandwiches bear one other important difference: the prefixes to their surnames. In their 1998 paper on patronymics in food marketing, Kowalsky et al. famously surmised that…

…[t]hough breakfasters have enjoyed the morning combination of bread, egg, and cheese for centuries, Sodexho…used one of two possible rationales in naming the sandwich: a) they felt obliged to credit their inspiration, or b) they believed in the questionably honest profitability of a generic brand name. With McDonald’s Corporation holding the rights to both the food prefixes ‘Mc’ and likely ‘Mac,’ Sodexho was left with few options for assigning their sandwich a name similarly within Irish patronymic tradition… While the Egg McMuffin’s name literally means ‘egg, son of muffin,’ the Egg O’Muffin’s moniker denotes that it, in fact, bears a grandfilial relationship to the muffin. (264-5)

Following their success with the Egg O’Muffin, Sodexo introduced the similar yet bulkier Egg O’Bagel, which, though no longer modeled after an existing fast-food item, retained the starch-based nomenclature of its kinsman. Egg O’Biscuit came third to the party, followed by the Egg O’Croissant, which enjoyed due popularity though the naming scheme applied to it rather poorly. This formidable lineup offers a sampling of popular breakfast starches of various cultural origins (intracultural implications of each are explored by McGibbon and Francis, 2003): the Anglo Egg O’Muffin, the Jewish Egg O’Bagel, the French Egg O’Croissant, and, hailing from the banjo-picking, tractor-pulling, Bible-thumping American South, the Egg O’Biscuit.

Like most Southern cuisine, the Egg O’Biscuit is rich—380 calories and 21g fat rich, to be precise. Though it is produced in bulk cafeteria batches, the biscuit is still as flaky and delicious as anything your shotgun-toting Mee-Maw from the backwoods Georgia wetlands could cook up. It will grease-spot your napkin and leave you wiping your hands on your jeans, but it will certainly power anyone, even the anemic lunch-skippers, through the work or school day. It samples three of the four food groups, but its size is quite manageable, so it’s possible to one-hand an Egg O’Biscuit on the run while still enjoying a “complete” breakfast. Toucan Sam, eat your heart out.

However, every rose has its thorn; every Achilles has his heel; every supermodel has her coke habit; and every Egg O’Biscuit has its yolk. When engineering the Egg McMuffin, McDonald’s, with their infinite appreciation for efficiency, effectively eliminated the troublesome vitellus by blending it with the albumen. However, it is this very efficiency, this cold, calculated corporate convenience, that makes the Egg O’Biscuit’s fresh unblended egg appeal to us that much more. Where the McMuffin’s egg-disc undoubtedly turns out to be less than the sum of its parts, the O’Biscuit’s yolk and white are somehow more, despite the yolk’s tendency to explode out the back of the sandwich, between one’s fingers, or all over the front of one’s shirt. Like a game of Russian roulette or a mentally unsound lover, it’s an exhilarating risk “of yolk explosion… [at] odds of 2.136:1 against” for an irresistible reward (Rogers, 186).

And so, Egg O’Biscuit, as a fellow American, I salute you. Like Falstaff, Ignatius J. Reilly, or Homer Simpson, you are flawed, you are fat, you are coarse and low-born, but your picaresque spirit soldiers on. And it is this spirit, this solid persistence, that will live on forever in your devotees’ hearts. Primarily in the form of cholesterol.

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Wild Planet Wild Sardines in Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Submitted by Angela Allan

To me, “sardines” meant “crammed in a closet with your kindergarten friends, waiting for the dumbest friend to find you.” Only last week did I finally acknowledge sardines as fish—indisputably so, because a suffocating fish stench billowed into the kitchen as soon as my health-freak housemate opened the tin. “Try a sardine,” he offered. “Full of Omega-3s. Good for the brain.” The “brain” reference did it—there was no way in hell I was going to let my housemate’s brain gain some kind of unfair advantage over mine. I forked the entire headless, silver, thumb-sized organism into my mouth, and felt the oily flesh crumble as I chewed. The crumbliness meant I had to hunt out fish flakes from between my teeth long after the initial swallow, and to my dismay, some of these flakes were hard as bone.

“You forgot to pull this out first,” my housemate said, holding up a
bumpy white spine.

“I’d take a closet full of kindergarteners over these any day,” I replied.

But later, when he wasn’t home, I ate another. One must make sacrifices for the sake of one’s brain.

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Granaissance Raisin and Cinnamon Mochi
Submitted by Laura Rubenstein

As I casually perused the refrigerated case at Whole Foods where sausages and cheeses have been re-imagined for the meat averse with varying degrees of success, I happened upon an uninspiring brown slab being billed as mochi. Certainly, I told myself, this had to be a mistake. The flattened brick I held in my hand appeared to be more closely related to linoleum than to the glowing white puffs piled in the metal bins at the local fro-yo shop. I had always fantasized that were I to come into extreme wealth, I would carpet a room with those tiny ivory pillows, a soft, powdery cushion forever underfoot. I realized, however, that due to my current state of advanced penury this tile-sized, organic interloper might be the closest I was going to ever come to fulfilling my dream. Both intrigued and alarmed, I made my purchase.
In the comfort of my own home, I examined the parcel further. I found the packaging to be somewhat lackluster: a stand of white and crimson birch trees splashed across the front of the plastic wrapping, teal leaves blowing in the invisible wind. While this motif does very little to increase the appeal of a treat at the local food emporium, I do allow that it would be an ideal design for a tote bag from a bookstore selling volumes on natural childbirth and sprouting grains in your home.

As per the instructions on the back of the package, I cut the mochi slab into 1×1 inch squares and placed them in my preheated over. Eight minutes later I removed the pan, and what I found were morsels transformed: where before I’d had a cluster of cubes radiating a sickly, gelatinous sheen, my squares were now round and puffed and golden and looked sort of like healthful chicken nuggets. When I ate them they tasted like cinnamon raisin bagels, only more labor intensive and virtuous, but less taxing on the jaw muscles. I have not yet tested them vis a vis durability and comfort as a flooring material. 

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Pepperoni Rolls
Submitted by Suzanne Samples

If you’re a hungry traveler in West Virginia who stops at a gas station for a snack (because it’s the only nearby building that isn’t a barn or meth lab), the best thing to do is buy a pepperoni roll. Ideally, you should throw the interior meat stick (to your dog, boyfriend, or random cow alongside the road), devour the grease-soaked bread, and hope that you can soon cross the Ohio River for some Chinese food. But sometimes, the Ohio River is just too far away. Although the best pepperoni rolls contain slices and not meat sticks, it can be difficult to find a packaged roll that doesn’t take the easy way out. In order to eat a pepperoni roll that really exemplifies the je ne sais quoi of this regional food, you need to find a local to make you a batch of pepperoni rolls from scratch. Sure, it’s just sliced pepperoni stuffed inside bread (cheese optional) and then baked, but I’ve never tasted anything better than Miss Rosalee’s Scratch Made Pepperoni Rolls, sold only at a refreshment stand in the Harrisville West Virginia Little League Town Park. And no matter what anyone tells you, a pepperoni roll should never be confused with the lower standard “pizza roll.” Anyone could throw sauce over a meat stick to make it taste good, but it takes a talented cook to finely balance slices of pepperoni, bread, and optional cheese. But in a pinch, a gas station pepperoni roll is still better than the usual bag of chips or a candy bar.

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Pizza Cones
Submitted by Ximena Skovron

I wanted to review pizza cones but when I went back to Koreatown in New York City for this unusual delicacy I could not find the sliver-sized counter on 32nd street from which these babies were sold. I thought maybe the owners had had a problem with their convection oven, the only appliance in the kitchen, which consisted entirely of the counter next to the cash register and the convection oven on a shelf above it. This convection oven miraculously produced these delectable ice cream sized cones that looked like a squat sugar cone, with a vanilla-esque perfectly round scoop of cheese tucked into it and lumpy tomato sauce slathered on top, perhaps with bacon bits mixed in, cleverly giving the appearance of chocolate chips, the sauce oozing over the sides of the cone, the shape convincing your eye and taste buds that you are about to eat a sugary and cool confection, but in the back of your mind, you know this is no Cherry Garcia cone, that perhaps more attention should be paid to the process of eating, but you ignore that voice and then realize you should have listened when you try to lick the cone and the sauce does not cooperate but scorches your tongue and as you frantically do the open-mouthed fan there on the corner of 32nd and 5th, you realize the convection oven has heated this thing to possibly the temperature at which human tissue melts, and so you huff the sauce out of your mouth, causing it to land precisely, and indelibly, on the toe of your sneaker.

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Spicy Plantain Chips
Submitted by Alison Satterlee

I made my mom try these while she was undergoing chemotherapy (spoiler alert: she’s fine). The chemo messed with her sense of taste, and there was about one thing a day she could eat that wouldn’t manage to taste like a wet paper bag. That thing changed daily. Spicy Plantain Chips were not one of those things. Even though she has normal taste buds now, she won’t touch these chips because of her one awful experience with them. Because of this, I buy them in bulk when I can as I am ensured that if I bring them in the house I will be the only one to eat them. However, finding them is hard because as far as I can tell they only exist in one Pakistani-owned gas station in town that only carries them about three times a year. Also, when I say “bulk” I really mean that I will buy overflowing armfuls of individual packages and then a candy bar or a frozen naan to cover my shame so I don’t seem like a completely obsessive white chick paying $30 for chips.

Spicy Plantain Chips come in a clear package with a sparse label that says they contain: plantains, oil, sugar, salt, and spices. The label (graciously) does not give a serving size or calorie count. This way, no matter how many I eat I can convince myself that I’ve probably only eaten about 100 calories worth. I have convinced myself that the whole package contains only 100 calories about twice.

Spicy Plantain Chips are spice-colored orange, not Cheeto orange. Therefore, you can pretend that they are better for you than Cheetos. The chips are the perfect thickness, they’re crunchy, lightly dusted with granular sugar, and are spicier than they seem. Do not touch your eyes after eating them. God knows what’s in there. Probably nothing healthy. Certainly nothing healthy for eyes. Fuck it, I know I’m practically eating solidified oil, but until I can figure out just what the hell “spices” are in these things, I’m going to hit that gas station like a methadone clinic.

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Submitted by Trent Botkin

Stopped at the store to buy wine and there sitting in an over-packed bin by the free tasting counter was a pile of yellow orbs nearly the size of kickballs. I picked up one of the pomelos, a fruit of southeast Asian origin more famous for being the daddy of the unsanctioned marriage that created the grapefruit (the Jamaican sweet orange being the mother). Their accidental intercourse occurred in the wilds of Barbados and here the “forbidden fruit” was discovered. It was seafaring Captain Shaddock, an admirer of the pomelo fruit he had eaten in Malaysia, who brought the seeds to Barbados and left them with the islanders. Because it was a new crop they had little use for it, and so the Pomelo and then the wild love child grapefruit were not actively cultivated until the United States developed the peculiar taste needed to appreciate these fruits. Among grapefruits, there is really only one worth mentioning, the almighty Texas Rio Star grapefruit, descendant of the omnipotent Ruby Red, the sweet bite of which will shoo away the bluest winter blues and fill your belly with a wealth of meat. In its absence you may choose an “organic” Florida or California grapefruit that will pucker your mouth and sting the lips, and long for the first shipment of Rio Stars.

I saved my pomelo for work the next day when I would have sufficient, uninterrupted time at my desk to appreciate a new fruit. I often carry my regular fruit in my jacket pocket, but a kickball requires a dedicated plastic bag. First off, a very thick rind; I was sorry to throw it away and not compost it as it would have added some serious citrus oil (natural bug repellent) to my pile once it thaws in a couple months. The interior breaks apart like a grapefruit, and the sections peel fairly easily, though not quite as well as an in-season Rio Star but similar to a standard grapefruit (no offense meant to the pomelo). The peeled slices are narrower than a comparably sized grapefruit, but still of similar size. I’m assuming you understand that the only way to eat a good grapefruit is to individually peel each section completely, consuming just the fruit wedge with no or minimal white skin. Halving and the utilization of a grapefruit spoon (and God forbid, sugar) is strictly for Florida, California, and other inferior types (actually an industry categorization).

The flavor is a conundrum because the best way to describe it is that it tastes like a grapefruit crossed with an orange, whereas it is genetically a grapefruit without the orange. I might also add that this particular fruit was from California. Definitely less tart than a grapefruit, most noticeably when you get a good amount of the white skin. Very smooth flavor, like a sip of Jaritos Mandarin soda bathing in a bodega ice bin that is largely water and therefore not too cold. The meat is dull orange on this “red” variety but is commonly green or yellow in others. Although larger than any grapefruit I’ve ever eaten, the actual consumed meat is significantly less. The rind and zest is less stringent than a grapefruit, and would lend well to cooking applications. The implications for cocktail use are obvious, with vodka being the obvious parent liquor, but given its tropical nature, one would also be sane to pare it with mild rum. Zesting or twisting a flake of outer skin into a cold glass of gin would be delightful on a warm day, but alas it is one of the great paradoxes of life that tropical fruits, found betwixt the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, are ripe during the winter of the northern hemisphere, making them in poor quality for inspired summer time fruit cocktails and daiquiris. I suppose that is the most distinct advantage to living in Australia or Brazil. If I were the kind of man who enjoys fruit in my beer, of which I am not, a slice of pomelo would be vastly superior to an orange slice perched on the rim of a glass of Shock Top or Blue Moon, neither of which I advocate.

All in all, a pleasant fruit experience to rekindle the spirit during bleak winter, and an honorable homage to my good friend the grapefruit. At $1.49 per fruit and requiring significant labor, I am unlikely to become a convert, as for about $1 a fruit I can obtain Rio Star, and one never knows how long that crop will last. If there be only one fruit, well, let it be a tomato but if another, then the grapefruit!

A final note: A friend of mine recently returned from Hawaii and reported eating pomelos the size of a basketball. Imagine if you crossed a giant pomelo with the Rio Star grapefruit? Now you’re talking.

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Buddy Fruits
Submitted by Allie Conti

I was forbidden to buy “Space Ice Cream” on my field trip to the Kennedy Space Center in the third grade, and I am still bitter. As my classmates sat eating chalky bits of condensed milk with an air of contentment and seeming erudition, I sat quietly with my Luddite mother, feeling the oppressive weight of the past for the first time and plotting for this very moment. Today, I say: No more, Mom. I am an adult now, and I can buy a pouch of blended fruit with my own money, thank you very much.
I feel very sophisticated and progressive as I unscrew the cap of my non-beverage. I laugh as I think of our sad past as a civilization, a past in which a person wishing to consume fruit was forced to go through the machinations of chewing and digesting, biological processes that seem hilariously antiquated in light of recent developments in the field of Fruit Technology. The slogan for Buddy Fruits is “eating fruits made easy,” and as I feel my apple and banana cocktail slide down my throat, I silently scoff at the plebeian struggle of those still forced to heft around spherical objects subject to bruising and decay. I, on the other hand, have found a way to cheat death. I am no longer bound to the physical laws that govern organic matter. I hold the future in my hands, and that future tastes like a warm, semi-solid Capri Sun. 
Like Eve after that fateful bite, I can feel my mind opening to a new level of consciousness previously unbeknownst to me. Due to the consumption of this magic fruit, I become unburdened from the tragic state of postlapsarian mediation as my soul is elevated to new, unimaginable heights. This cocktail of preservatives and fruit has laid bare the limits of my own mortality, and the demarcation between good and evil has never been more apparent (Good: space food, progress, The Future; Bad: meddling moms, slow death, nostalgia).
I eat approximately one half of my Buddy Fruit before bisecting the package in a fit of impatience. The pathetic nozzle that is supposed to dispense my nourishment taunts me like a reluctant teat. I paw the entrails out with my bare hands and stuff them in my mouth, like an animal would treat the carcass of some recently eviscerated prey.
I am not ready for the future, but call me if the hovering skateboard from Back To The Future II ever becomes a thing.

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Rhode Island Pizza Strips
Submitted by Nick Simmonds

When I first moved to Rhode Island, I was surprised by how very dry the “white pizza” was out here. Where I’m from—the Midwest, home of culinary innovations such as “whatever it is, bread it and fry it first”—there is served a white sauce pizza, with an alfredo or bechamel sauce in place of the normal tomato, and it is a thing as delicious and moist as it is likely to drive up national health insurance costs. What I eventually realized I was getting, here on the east coast, was a white pizza, which is bread and cheese with olive oil between the two. It’s a fine food, but not, I think, fairly called “pizza.”

Fair enough, though: I was a newcomer and didn’t understand the lingo. It is on me to adapt. I edited my mental lexicon and moved forward. However, I later discovered to my great chagrin that “gourmet” pizza places don’t necessarily use the words “white pizza” when referring to their white pizzas. It is expected that the customer will know that if sauce is not in the ingredient list, it won’t be there when the pizza arrives.

This is, I feel, quite unfair. It is universally understood that a “pizza” comprises three components which are both necessary and sufficient: crust, red sauce, and cheese. Other toppings may exist without de-pizzifying the end result, but if you are making any modifications to the Prime Three you must announce those. It is one thing to have a “white pizza” and to have it be understood that it is a compound word which means “not really a pizza, but close.” It is quite another to call a thing a pizza with no modifiers and then fail to deliver on the implicit promise of a lovely red sauce segregating the cheese from the bread.

Fine. I will roll with this. I am more than happy to have left behind my land of origin and if this means dealing with occasional filthy lies about pizza, so be it.

Some time later, I discovered that gas stations and convenience stores around Li’l Rhody also tend to carry something called “pizza strips.” These are not, as you would imagine, strips of pizza, but are in fact bread sticks with the red sauce sadly missing from a white pizza, sans cheese. They are, again, a fine food, but a bit misleading.

I am convinced that someone in this state will soon serve me a ball of cheese and sauce and call it a pizza, and I can only hope that they catch me on a good day.

Pizza strips are a perfectly good snack if you have between one and three dollars and are traveling in or through Rhode Island. I might recommend that you separately purchase some cheese.