Arlin’s Mac ‘n’ Cheese Bites
Submitted by Becky Adnot

They serve these at a bar that I go to with my friends after class, an unassuming joint nestled in the charming red brick in Cincinnati’s Gaslight District. You can get a pitcher of Miller Lite there for six bucks and a grilled cheese for $2.75, from a lady bartender who makes you feel that she’s doing you a favor by taking your order and who then barks at you when your food is ready in a way that makes you feel pretty guilty, like you’ve kept your mother waiting to serve you after she’s cooked you dinner. Especially if your mother was a butch, angry type who served different varieties of burgers and fried cheese for dinner. Anyway, it’s a little taste of home.

I moved to Cincinnati to go to grad school and to be with my boyfriend, who was born in this part of the country and is accordingly immune to what I like to think of as my uniquely Floridian tastes. “I miss seafood,” I moaned. “I miss the beach. I’m becoming an ugly, pasty Midwestern girl.” I threw myself onto the couch and wept, ignoring his gentle reminder that I am from north central Florida, that I actually only used to make the two-hour drive to the coast exactly twice each summer. To distract me, he took me to Arlin’s and fed me an order of Mac ‘n’ Cheese Bites, to which, after seriously considering the mozzarella sticks—the theme of the menu at Arlin’s seemed to run along the lines of YOU WILL EAT CHEESE AND LIKE IT—I sulkily agreed. He shushed me soothingly when I tried to argue that the copy on the menu—"Can’t even describe these; just try ’em!"—was a rhetorically weak command, and poured me a plastic cup of Miller Lite.

The Mac ‘n’ Cheese Bites were triangular clusters of macaroni and cheese that had been battered and deep-fried, the resulting product nestled in a bed of limp lettuce leaves arranged in a red plastic basket that was lined with an obligatory sheet of wax paper, transparent in its mission to soak up the grease emitted from the basket’s contents. I decided to, momentarily, put aside my reservations about the Midwest; I pulled one of the Mac ‘n’ Cheese Bites from its lettuce nest and took a bite. They tasted like mac and cheese that had gone where no mac and cheese had ever gone before. They were crispy on the outside and wonderfully gooey and cheesy on the inside, congealed clumps of macaroni fried to artery-clogging perfection. They tasted like I was going to eat cheese and like it. I took another bite and offered the basket to my boyfriend, who was suddenly looking a lot more attractive. Our hands touched as I reached into the basket for another. The Mac ‘n’ Cheese Bites tasted good. They tasted like I was going to like the Midwest. They tasted like I was falling madly, irreversibly in love.

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Kiwi Berries
Submitted by Jeremy Griffin

I’d like to think that the kiwi berry was the result of a cross-pollination accident between a kiwi and some sweet New Zealand berry. I hope it happened on its own in nature’s strange glory, by adventurous bees or brisk spring winds. A more likely scenario is that the kiwi berry is the result of bored and overpaid New Zealand genetic-fruit scientists tampering with God’s plan. The grape-sized lime-green fruits have all the punch and vigor of a kiwi fruit wrapped in the convenience of a berry. Gone is the coarsely haired rind and in its place is an edible skin not unlike that of a muscadine. The interior is reminiscent of the color and texture of a kiwi, only with tinier black seeds around a tinier white starburst. The taste is far less tart, though—somewhere between a fig and a blackberry. I imagine the mutation process providing many failed attempts before the current result. Surely somewhere there’s a laboratory filled with nightmarish atrocities of fruits misshapen and foul. Like the scene in Alien Resurrection with all the horrifying failed Ripley clones, the kiwi berry, too, must have had several botched representations—each with a more grotesque and testicular appearance than the last. The kiwi berry might only be a gateway experiment, though, only a step in a process that will eventually lead to the discovery of some sort of amber-fruit, which will no doubt look like a peach but taste like a cheeseburger.

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Wrap-itz Omega-3, Calcium,1
and Fiber White Wheat Wraps by Tam-x-co’s!
Submitted by Bree Barton

One day, I realized I was sick and tired of eating boring tortillas. When I grilled a quesadilla or made a healthy lunchtime wrap, I didn’t want it to be average; I wanted it to be exceptional and exotic. I wanted—no, needed—a tortilla for the new era, an era of cultural pluralism and identities that are ultimately flexible. Tia Rosa was dead to me.

It was the package that first caught my eye, a colorful conflation of graphics, text, and so many exclamation marks I felt instantly enthusiastic! There, behind the overwrought plastic, was a tortilla unlike all the rest. In fact, it wasn’t a tortilla at all; it was a Wrap-itz Omega-3, Calcium, and Fiber White Wheat Wrap by Tam-x-co’s! Overwhelmed by conflicting emotions, I bought a package.

Tammy Young, founder of Tam-x-co’s!, is evidently in the throes of a midlife crisis. Like many other middle-aged women, she’s suffering from a major identity meltdown. But, unlike other frustrated forty-somethings, who express their rage by inflicting injury on husbands, luxury cars, expensive wardrobes, and small children, Ms. Young has turned her fury onto her tortillas. The result? Tammy’s tortillas are confused.

It’s their confusion that makes Wrap-itz Omega-3, Calcium, and Fiber White Wheat Wraps by Tam-x-­co’s! so endearing. They are obviously bearing the brunt of many impossible questions. Are they white? Are they wheat? How the hell can they be both?

Just as I find comfort in Tammy’s tortillas, I find inspiration in Tam-x-­co’s! Tammy. She continues to reinvent herself. Someday, Tammy’s legacy will reach across the nations, beyond drug lords and child prostitutes and border patrols and mariachi bands, past the great gulf and the Rio Grande, until the very name of Tammy is forever joined with the great country of M-x-­co itself. On that glorious day, Tammy will perform pure linguistic fusion, uniting her identity with that of Mexico in perfectly punctuated, admirably accented harmony.

1 As much as an 8-ounce glass of skim milk.

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Barbecue-Flavored Mealworms
Submitted by Darrin DuFord

Have you ever been to a zoo where you are encouraged to peek into the monkey cages and then, at lunchtime, the cafeteria serves you flame-grilled monkeyburgers? That’s the kind of perversely confident “we’re at the top of the food chain” outlook that the Montreal Insectarium exercises once a year at their annual insect tasting. I figured that, since I’ve kissed lipstick made of crushed-up cochineal bugs (like it or not, most lipsticks are made from them), over the years I’ve been priming myself for a dish of honey-roasted crickets or caterpillar ceviche. But how do I pull off a wine pairing without looking like an unrefined slob?

Fortunately, the insectarium spared me such dinner-table anxiety, because they canceled this year’s tasting. I had to settle for a box of dried, barbecue-flavored mealworms from the gift shop. Such a setback was like expecting roast suckling pig and ending up with a bag of fried pork rinds, although the literature inside the box promised that its contents occupied a loftier place on the gastronomic totem pole: “Mealworms are the stars of our insect tastings and can be prepared in lots of different ways. They are generally used to replace nuts, raisins or chocolate chips in many recipes.”

Before I threw them into cookie batter, I felt I should sample a few straight from the box. They were weightless and resembled Cheetos that forgot to puff up. So wispy were the mealworms that I needed three or four in my mouth at a time to actually feel like I was chewing on something, and that’s when I met with a fiery saltiness followed by a surprisingly luxurious finish of tobacco. Perhaps an up-and-coming competitor to Nicorette?

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Generic-Brand Nicotine Polacrilex Lozenges
Submitted by Whitney Collins

I spend a lot of my precious time telling people what not to tell me. Don’t tell me Kentucky’s not South. Don’t tell me we’re out of beer again. Don’t tell me a dog that’s lost its hind legs and has to use an ass-cart to wheel around the park isn’t embarrassed. And please, people, don’t go telling me that generic-brand nicotine lozenges aren’t food. Because they are. You could easily congeal them in a nice tomato aspic. You could pour a few hundred in a Ziploc, add some raisins, and whammo: trail mix. Why, you could even wrap them in bacon and pass these delicious little fuckers off as diver scallops.

When I quit smoking seven years ago, I got on the Nicorette and never looked back. Sure, I spent three or four years of my REM sleep dreaming about Camel Lights and Marlboro Mediums and 35-foot-long menthol Capris, but I never took a puff in my waking hours. No, I just chewed from the moment I got up until the moment I fell asleep, sometimes even waking with my beloved matted in my hair. That was until I developed a bad case of TMJ, and what felt like a peptic ulcer, and also got knocked up. Then, for 10 solid months, I was nicotine-free.

It was cute for a while. But don’t tell me that a new baby won’t make you think about smoking. Crack? Maybe. Weed? Likely. Parliaments? Definitely. And that’s how I met the lozenge. Tired of having enough jaw power to chew my femur free from a grizzly trap, I went to Walgreens with a screaming baby on my hip, passed by the gum, and grabbed a box of generic lozenges. Genius on my part.

Warning: The first few you try will taste slimy, mossy. Like an Altoid plucked from the bottom of a horse trough. But after a day or two you’ll go back to Walgreens and ask if they sell these things in an I.V. drip.

Whatever you do, do not buy the name-brand version. Commit is awful. Nothing more than an aspartame disk with a few flecks of junior-varsity nicotine. The generic is a true smoker’s delight: like a pig-in-a-blanket. Except, instead of a biscuit, the blanket’s an R-rated peppermint. And, instead of a cocktail wiener, the pig’s a cigarette butt. Dee-lish!

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Popcorn-Soda Combo
Submitted by Mandy Durham

To keep my energy up after returning from maternity leave, I decided to start keeping healthy snacks at work. I bought a giant box of 94 percent fat-free Orville Redenbacher’s butter-flavored microwave popcorn and brought it today. I decided I would eat a bag around 3:30, after I went to pump my boobs. I was really looking forward to eating the popcorn. At 3:15 I pumped and then I went to the break room to use the microwave. Directly over the microwave, someone had posted an article entitled “Microwave Popcorn Linked to Lung Disease.” There was a picture of a shelf lined with Orville Redenbacher popcorn. I decided not to read the article. I popped the popcorn and ate part of it, but then I felt very thirsty and I think my lungs felt itchy. I wanted a cold A&W root beer. I went back down to the break room with a dollar bill to get the root beer. The machine would not take my dollar, even though it was very flat and crisp. I tried at least eight times. I went across the hall to ask the computer-services guys if they had change. Daryl gave me three quarters and Rick gave me one. I tried to give them my dollar bill, but they wouldn’t take it. It was kind of awkward. I went back across the hall, but when I put my quarters in the machine they just came right back out the slot at the bottom. I only tried three times, because it seemed apparent that the machine was broken. I felt pretty pissed. I went back across the hall to give the quarters back to Daryl and Rick and told them the soda machine wouldn’t take my money. Daryl asked me if I liked Dr. Pepper, which I do, not as much as root beer, though, so I said yes. He reached under his desk and handed me a can of Diet Cherry Chocolate Dr. Pepper. I noticed the can said “Limited Edition.” It was warm, because it had been under Daryl’s desk. I said thanks and opened it and took a drink. It was gross. I was not surprised.

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The Half-Dill Pickle
Submitted by Michael Dickerson

Has there been a food trend in the past 10 years lamer than the “half-dill” pickle? Partially cured, comprehensively flawed, it is an abject failure in both concept and execution. Served primarily at upwardly mobile sandwich shops hellbent on becoming bistros, the half-dill betrays the pretensions of its purveyors with all the subtlety and manufactured ambiance of icicle lights at midday.

Leaving aside the inherent cowardice of such an enterprise—its unwillingness to commit, its existential flip-floppery—let me address the thing itself. Cucumbers are delicious. As are pickles. One fresh and full with the bloom of youth, the other seasoned and spry with the spice of a life well lived. The half-dill, on the other hand, is a man without a country. Neither bracing nor briny, its flavor exists only in an indefinite quantum state—with a finish more elusive than Sasquatch—and, ultimately, satisfies nobody. Taxonomically speaking, it is more abomination than appetizer.

A cuke divided against itself cannot stand.

Even when compromise works well and everyone leaves the negotiating table having been fed, no one is fully satisfied and all have a bad taste in their mouths. The taste is similar to that of the half-dill pickle.

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Mache (Lamb’s Lettuce)
Submitted by Marco Kaye

For far too long, arugula held a bitter stranglehold over our salad bars. Then frisée entered and quickly exited our lives as the latest trend in roughage. Now there’s a newcomer, with a name that rhymes with squash. It’s mache, also called lamb’s lettuce. Mache attempted a debut five years ago, on NPR, but the green hasn’t caught on until now. The reasons for this are twofold. First, many of us were blindsided by the watercress takeover of ’05 to ’06 (which was met with a resounding “I guess just dump them into the microgreens” attitude). Second, mache-cultivation techniques have improved a lot.

As each successive movement in art is a reaction against the previous mode, mache represents a collective shift away from the tart greens that populate those mesclun mixes. It tastes sweet and just slightly nutty. The tiny green leaves are attached seven or eight on a stem. It looks like several children’s mittens tied together. And it’s just as delicate and airy. It plates beautifully as well, the way a discarded child’s mitten creates a forlorn oasis of humanity in a city street.

I first tried mache with crab, cornichons, and preserved lemon. Obviously, I was not in my house. I didn’t know it that night, but I had a feeling. I’d been waiting for a new lettuce. Could mache be it? The next week, my girlfriend found bags of the stuff at Trader Joe’s. We tried it with chicken, capers, olives, and carrots. The chicken crushed the small, childlike “hands” of the mache, but it was still a successful salad.

Mache has found its place in the sun. I predict it will go mainstream within the year. To those who have been waiting for the next hot salad green, put down your heads of Boston lettuce and gracefully pick up some mache.

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Phillips Pasteurized Crab Meat, Handpicked, Claw
Submitted by K. Kraft

After several consecutive late nights of drinking, I’m fairly fatigued and my heart is in my stomach. She’s really been confusing me as of late. She loves me, but fears that I’m going to move away in a year and break her heart, and for this we should end our relationship now. I talked her off the ledge, but I feel like we’re coasting in a sort of purgatory.

We’ve known each other only two months and have moved the relationship along too rapidly. I think she’s rebounding.

Today is a Sunday. Sundays, I use Phillips Crab Claw Meat effectively as a vehicle for Old Bay, breadcrumbs, whiskey, and other crab-cake filler. It’s good. I once attempted to eat an entire one-pound can of Phillips Pasteurized Crab without any accoutrements. By itself, the crab-claw meat exhibits a sharply diminishing marginal utility.

Sex with her is great; we’ve always had strong chemistry. She’s beautiful and super-fun when we’ve been drinking. Naturally, the kids complicate matters.

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Sugarless Tropical Twist
Trident Chewing Gum
Submitted by Sam de Silva

While browsing through old journal entries, I came across this snippet from Monday, September 26, 2005:

The expectations of my family are more suffocating than I thought they would be. On a brighter note, Tropical Twist Trident gum now comes in an “E-Z close” pack … It’s the little things.

Seriously. This stuff is superb.

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The Hot Brown
Submitted by Kristen D. Erickson

The Hot Brown, Louisville’s culinary claim to fame, was first created at the Brown Hotel in 1926. And anyone who has had a chance to sample this Southern not-so-delicate delicacy is no doubt still clutching his or her stomach in anguish.

It starts with toast. Thick toast. And then about a pound of turkey piled high. Next, the Mornay sauce, which is part cheese, part roux, and all thick and gooey. In an attempt to health this thing up, tomatoes are added. This is all put under the broiler until browned, and then it is served hot with bacon on top.

At first, you enjoy it. The cheese sauce, glistening, bubbling, calls to you. The bacon? How can you resist its tasty goodness? You dive right in, making sure to get a bit of everything in one bite. But this is not a sprint—it is a marathon—and, about halfway through this ginormous monstrosity, you hit a wall. A wall of cheese. You will crash. It will not be pretty.

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Penne a la Vodka
Submitted by Larissa Williams

You know how it is when you meet your roommate’s mother. At first, you’re like, “It’s so great to finally meet you! You two could be sisters! You’re so much like your daughter!” etc. But then you’re all, “I forgot that I really don’t like your daughter, and having two of you around is about as fun as eating glass.” And then the shards of glass criticize your hair and the new curtains you put up in your bedroom.

So your roommate’s mother throws a dinner party at your house. She knocks on your bedroom door and asks you to come out and “be social for a change” and maybe “put on something a little less casual.” So then you join a contingent of your roommate’s friends and relatives for some bullshit pre-meal board game, but what you really want is to take the pot of boiling water and tumbling penne noodles off the stove and douse the next person who says “Ooh, I rolled doubles!”

Instead, you hang sulkily in the kitchen and watch cup after cup of your own (expensive!) vodka get dumped into some sloppy red paste bubbling away on the burner and think, “Does all that alcohol really burn off, or will this evening devolve into a belligerent charades matchup?”

Then you sit down at the table, and there is a sprig of thyme deftly balanced atop each person’s pasta heap. (The pasta is served in bowls bought in real-life Italia, your roommate’s mother crows.) But the thyme is from the garden out front, and all those herbs have the lingering midpalate tang of cat pee.

You eat your first mouthful of penne à la vodka, a mob of noodles and sauced sauce, all the while trying to surreptitiously leave the table and turn down the thermostat from its (un)comfortable home at eighty-fucky-five degrees. With their eyes rimmed gooey black with makeup and their fondness for unnerving heat, your roommate and co. must be descended from ring-tailed lemurs.

After dinner, some light reading. Your roommate’s mom does the aforementioned reading aloud to a room of rapt guests, who have “never heard of this David Sedaris. What a funny guy! Too bad about the gay thing.” You silently reflect upon this hell of your own making.

Her mother leaves in three days. You have enough leftover penne à la vodka for a week: they’ve filled the fridge with portions individually wrapped in tinfoil with the date written out in script—"August Thirteenth Two Thousand and Seven," in purple marker, for Christ’s sake.

“But only eat one at a time, dear. You don’t want to get too sexy around the hips.”

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My Son James’s Favorite Snacks
From the Local Tienda, as Described
by My Son James
Submitted by Lisa Domby

“This place doesn’t have a name. It’s in the old Johnny’s Sporting Goods, but they don’t sell crickets here anymore.”

Takis Fuego (rolled corn chips, fire flavor): “These things taste way crunchier and way spicier and way awesomer than Doritos. The guacamole ones smell good, but they don’t taste good.”

Paleton Patolin paleta de malvavisco (chocolate-covered marshmallow with gummy eyes and mouth): “This thing looks like a weird clown, but it tastes pretty good.”

Duvalin Avellana/Vainilla dulce con leche descremada (hazelnut and vanilla skimmed-milk candy): “Mom, what do you think is in this stuff? It feels like melted chocolate.”

Paleta de vainilla (vanilla popsicle): “This thing has a good flavor, but why did they put three raisins on the top of it? They should be chocolate chips. Or I thought they would be vanilla beans. Can you bite the top off? But don’t take too much, because the other stuff is good.”

Jarritos Toronja (grapefruit soda): “This isn’t made out of real grapefruit, because I hate grapefruit, but I love this.”

Hall’s Chela Limón (beer-and-lime-flavored cough drops): “They don’t have this flavor at CVS. That’s why I like to get them here.”

Babidinos Paletadinos sabor tamarindo enchilada (tamarind lollipop): “This is my favorite thing to get. This thing is really chewy and spicy. You can’t eat the whole thing, because it’s too spicy, but you can save it in the refrigerator for a really long time. If you don’t put it in the refrigerator, ants will get on it.”

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Green Figs
Submitted by Audrey Harris

Their price varies based on the weather and how vulnerable you look at the time you stop by the Pakistani fruit stand at the corner of Sixth Avenue and 14th Street. This rainy morning, with no umbrella and only a twenty in my wallet, a basket set me back $3.99. With bright yellow-green skin and stubby stems, they look like pert baby-alien heads. Their brains are soft and strawberry-hued and pornographically sweet.

Recipe for green-fig tartlets:

Cut store-bought phyllo dough into rounds with a cookie cutter. Sprinkle with sugar. Top each round with a green-fig half, pulp side up. Smear a little goat cheese on the fruit. Roast for 15 minutes at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Top each fig with a roasted, salted almond from the handy bag in your pantry.

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Dwight Yoakam’s Chicken Fries
Submitted by Jonathan Holley

A product of the Bakersfield Biscuits Brand, Dwight Yoakam’s Chicken Lickin’s Chicken Fries come approximately 12 to a box, which costs just a dollar. These are similar to the chicken fries available at Burger King, but of inferior quality. The bright red, orange, and yellow packaging of Dwight Yoakam’s chicken purports that they are “inspected for wholesomeness” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The packaging is evasive regarding the results of said inspection. Were these fries deemed wholesome? It seems impossible.

In my 1997 analysis of the chickenesque, I famously hypothesized that Nabisco’s Chicken in a Biskit crackers would forever maintain position as lowest rung on the chicken continuum. Today, Dwight Yoakam offers irrefutable counterevidence and collapses my former worldview.

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All Natural Antioxidant
100% Juice Smoothie

Submitted by John Zackel

The Walk of Shame, as it used to be called back in the 20th century, is typically defined as one’s walk home after a sexy night spent at a lover’s. The “walk” part of it is pretty self-explanatory, but the “shame” part comes in because you don’t take a shower in the morning. Your breath, as Vonnegut so nicely put it, smells like mustard gas, and you don’t have any deodorant, and your hair looks like one part Flock of Seagulls and one part wet dog. During this Walk of Shame, your chance of encountering a distant relative, a TV news reporter filming stock footage of homeless people, or, more likely, every person you’ve ever known, increases inversely with your attractiveness at any given moment.

“Hey, So-and-So,” someone might say from across the street, waving you over. “You look like shit!”

You quickly try to smooth out your hair. “Thanks, Father Thomas,” you might answer.

He’ll sniff the air as you approach. “Have you been having relations before marriage, So-and-So?”

“No, Father Thomas,” you’ll answer, crossing your fingers behind your back.

“I have to say, So-and-So,” he’ll say, “you smell like booty.”

“No, sir!” you’ll pipe up. “It’s just this Naked All Natural Antioxidant Juice Smoothie I have with me.” And you’ll hold up the Naked All Natural Antioxidant 100% Juice Smoothie you purchased for a whopping $4 (!) at the gas station across the street from your lover’s house.

“Well, I’ll be a monkey’s grandson! That Juice smells like a [slang term for a horribly vulgar sexual act, named after a city in Ohio]!”

You’ll nod aggressively, unscrew the plastic cap, and take a swig of antioxidant goodness. You’ll make a satisfied sound, then hold the plastic recyclable bottle up to the light of day. “Just juice!” you’ll shout.

Father Thomas, or whomever you might be talking to, will gladly accept your fervor, pat you on the back, and ask you why your generation is so accepting of homosexuals. Before you offer an informed, convincing explanation of why Father Thomas is a bit of a hypocrite (if you know what I mean), you’ll take another swig from Naked All Natural Antioxidant 100% Juice Smoothie and decide right then and there: Healthy Never Tasted So Good.

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Dongpo Rou
Submitted by Benjamin Gaulke

This pork dish, literally “Dongpo’s meat,” is named after the great 11th-century Song-dynasty poet Su Dongpo, who, as a bureaucrat and engineering genius, was responsible for the construction of a causeway across the West Lake, in Hangzhou. Supposedly, he fed the workers his eponymous delicacy in order to give them strength and energy. The other, probably apocryphal, genesis story of this dish is that Su one day was bored and decided to stew some pork. He then got distracted by a game of chess and left the pork in the pot for too long. He returned to find the meat incredibly tender and succulent. This was a benign disaster matched only by Louis Pasteur’s failure to cover the petri dish where he subsequently discovered penicillin.

Every Chinese person I have ever eaten Dongpo rou with has insisted that it is very healthy and good for me. Considering that it is a solid cube of pork and more than 50 percent fat, I completely disagree. Dongpo rou is the most disgusting and delicious food I have ever eaten. Timid Americans often refuse it, which means more for me. I have pounded down three of these 3-inch cubic, greasy delights in a row. A friend of mine claims that Dongpo rou tastes like brownies. If so, it is the perfect combination of meat and dessert. I marvel at the sophisticated origin of such a seemingly philistine dish; it would be like discovering that Einstein invented the Hot Pocket. Su Dongpo was a truly great man.

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Listerine Whitening Quick Dissolving Strips
Submitted by Micki E. Grover

From the company that single-handedly taught America that your mouth ain’t clean till it tingles like hellfire comes the best new candy in years! Listerine has taken the modern obsession with vanity and given it the stick-to-your-gums charm of a Butterfinger. Imagine a Listerine-flavored Jelly Belly that whitens, too. The strip is as delicious as it is functional, and, by placing on it a four-week maximum-usage restriction, Listerine has cultivated the “get it while you can” hype of short-lived edible oddities like the McRib or the Cadbury Creme Egg.

Only one element in Listerine’s marketing campaign confuses me, and that is the claim that the strips dissolve within 5 to 10 minutes. I’m still finding sweet, sweet morsels from yesterday’s strips; why not take a hint from your friends in the gum business and call them “longer-lasting”? Listerine, you silly fools, people want more for their dollar, not less.

Great for getting paper-white chompers on the go, freshening your breath after your midday hummus break, or just swallowing directly, Listerine Whitening Quick Dissolving Strips are the only thing I have to look forward to during the slow afternoon hours at work. I just hope nobody calls. I can’t swallow my saliva when I have these things in my mouth.

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Odwalla Strawberry C Monster Fruit Smoothie
Submitted by Jacob Barron

In their quest to supply lonely office workers with a weapon to combat the threat of weather-weary immune systems, the Odwalla juice company seems to have forgotten to remove the stems from any of the strawberries before juicing them.

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Kasugai Muscat Gummy Candy
Submitted by Scott Sand

The package states, “Its translucent color so alluring and taste and aroma so gentle and mellow offer admiring feelings of a graceful lady.” I don’t even know what that means exactly; I’m just glad the candies inside the package are wrapped individually, the only thing preventing me from devouring the whole bag in two big handfuls. The package also says “Muscat 100%,” then something in Japanese. I don’t know what they mean by that, either. The third ingredient, after sugar and corn syrup, is concentrated Muscat juice, but they also contain artificial Muscat flavor. I wish I could read Japanese. At least I can read the English, like “contains milk ingredient,” which is in a bold font. Too bad for the lactose intolerant, because these rule.

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4C Sugar-Free Totally Light 2Go
Wild Berry and Pomegranate Drink Mix
Submitted by Max Zaenglein

The idea is to rip open the tiny packet and pour this fine powder into your water bottle, giving your water flavors that regular water can only dream about. Having only recently discovered that a pomegranate is a fruit and not something one treats with medication, I was curious, to say the least. It tasted like a liquefied Fruit Roll-Up, and left a sticky coat on my teeth I had experienced only once before, by eating 50 or so packs of Nerds candy. Although I was disgusted, my curiosity was again piqued: what did this stuff taste like before it made contact with water? Not fully brave enough to pour it directly onto my tongue, I took a quick sniff at the now almost empty packet. The remaining powder shot up my nose and I can only assume that it exploded, because I had to close my eyes to prevent them from shooting out of my skull. The taste is nasty, but snorting it is fuckin’ awesome, if you can handle the ride.

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Luna Bars
Submitted by Nicholas Markman

For my 21st birthday, the Clif Bar company sent me the recently introduced Luna bar, “the whole nutrition bar for women.” That’s what it said right above my printed name. I understand mistakes. Maybe if my name were Alex or Pat or Sam I could have shrugged it off. But my name isn’t Alex, Pat, or Sam. It’s Nicholas, and I have never known a female Nicholas. Did I really need to be singled out like that? Couldn’t they address the bar to “Current Resident”? My birthday was teetering on disaster.

How did I get on this list, anyway? Did I accidentally buy women’s deodorant while using my Safeway Club Card? Is it because I used to shave my legs before swim meets? Was it the drag performance I did at 4-H camp? Regardless, I am considering sending a long and irate letter to the CEO of the Clif Bar company.

That aside, the Luna bar was delicious. I would recommend Luna bars to anyone looking for a meal that delivers quick calorie intake and hormonal balance.

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Kellogg’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Pops
Submitted by Isaac Marion

I’ve always been a big fan of Corn Pops, or, as they’re now called, Pops, having modernized by dropping that old-fashioned “corn” from the name, and changing their tag line to “Big Yellow Taste!” I have no idea what “yellow” is supposed to taste like, but Pops taste pretty good. So, I was delighted and curious when I saw Chocolate Peanut Butter Pops at my local Safeway. I took home a box and immediately poured a bowl.

What’s this? The Pops aren’t in their usual puffed-corn-kernel shape; they’re all perfectly round spheres. This can’t be a good sign. I take a bite, and, instead of the soft, gently pliant crunch that I’m expecting, the spheres shatter between my teeth like little balls of peanut-buttery pumice. Apparently, the addition of the chocolate-peanut-butter flavoring necessitated a complete change in the basic composition of the cereal, because what I was eating were not Pops at all; they were slightly larger-than-average Cocoa Puffs, or maybe even bits of Cap’n Crunch—the ultracrunchy polar opposite of sweet, gentle Pops! The antithesis! And I have the scarred gums to prove it.

How does Kellogg get away with a switch-up like this? Why would they call this cereal Pops when it is so clearly not Pops? Now I’m waiting nervously for the day I open a bottle of “New, Improved Taste!” Pepsi only to find it filled with Lil’ Smokies.

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Celestial Seasonings
African Orange Mango Rooibos Tea
Submitted by Janis Butler Holm

I brew five or six cups of this drink every day, each one sweetened with a packet of Splenda. Though I can’t really identify the rooibos, the sweet orange-mango flavoring makes my taste buds sing.

One of the websites devoted to rooibos claims that this South African tea is good for asthma, colic, eczema, hay fever, headaches, hypertension, insomnia, irritability, and nervous tension. Mercy! Rooibos, the site goes on to say, has “significant amounts” of polyphenol antioxidants, which makes it a good choice if you’re worried about cancer, stroke, or heart disease. Another website says that rooibos contains the following beneficial flavonoids: aspalathin, chrysoeriol, isoorientin, isoquercitrin, isovitexin, luteolin, orientin, quercetin, rutin, and vitexin. Isn’t that nice? And recent studies suggest that rooibos may reduce brain damage from age-related diseases. While it can’t make you smarter, it may help you stay smart longer.

Of course, black teas and green teas offer equally impressive health benefits—but rooibos doesn’t contain caffeine. You can drink it all day without overstimulation. (No flying around the ceiling when it’s close to your bedtime.) And it doesn’t have the acidity/bitterness of other herbal teas. (Are you paying attention, Celestial Seasonings?)

But, whatever you do, don’t spill this drink. Though it looks red in your cup, Celestial Seasonings rooibos (I can’t speak for other brands) will dye your clothes yellow when you slop it down your front. It’s a bright, happy yellow, but it won’t make you glad.

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Golden Flake Crisp & Crunchy Cheese Curls
Submitted by Jackie May

As a recent transplant from the Midwest to the South, I’m doing my best to assimilate. I walk by the towers of shrink-wrapped hog jowls at Wal-Mart without shrieking or taking pictures on my camera phone, I’ve said “y’all” once or twice, and if a waitress asks me, “What kind of Coke?,” I don’t hit her. And, when faced with a vending machine that offered both Cheetos and Golden Flake Crisp & Crunchy Cheese Curls, I went for the Golden Flake.

Golden Flake Cheese Curls would appeal to both extremes of the cultural spectrum—at one end, New York Times food writers, say, or Harold Bloom; on the other, people raised by beavers. These curls taste classy and authentic. They taste like food assembled entirely from recognizable ingredients, like cornmeal batter cunningly infused with actual cheese and fried in oil by cheerful people wearing hairnets. They don’t turn your fingers orange.

For those of us in the middle of the cultural spectrum, for whom a bag of Cheetos contains neither the shame of downward mobility nor the nightmare glitter of an incomprehensible new world, Golden Flake Crisp & Crunchy Cheese Curls just taste really weird and wrong. They make me want to hop a flight to Minneapolis.

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Surprise Zombie Sundae
Submitted by Megan Baker

At the Omega Restaurant & Pancake House of Downers Grove, Illinois, after grubbing up such entrtres as GRILLED CALF’S LIVER, NORWEGIAN SARDINE PLATE, and HOBO BANQUET, you may find your taste buds overwhelmed. You may lean back in your seafoam-green seat, pat your stomach, take a deep breath of secondhand-smoke-filled air, and say, “Hey, you know what? After munching on that week-old bread basket featuring sesame-seed rolls, wheat buns, croissants, Italian-looking breadsticks, saltines, and a banana-nut muffin and downing those POPPERS (JALAPENO) , I think my tummy is about to bust.”

That’s what the TUMMY BUSTER is for. It’s only the “Largest and Most Beautiful Sundae You Have Ever Seen.” But you’re up for something wilder. Something unexpected. Something … from the crypt. Something by the name of SURPRISE ZOMBIE.

It’s the “World’s Largest Ice Cream Soda.” It’s $8.95. It’s obscene. Your waitress, Lezlee, must enlist the help of a co-worker to both prepare and carry the monster to your table, cursing you all the while, you little shit, you who have the nerve to order 60 ounces of ice cream at 1 in the morning, just to see what’s so surprising about an ice-cream soda, other than the fact that it’s associated with a resurrected corpse.

Surprise! It tastes terrible. Like a good ice-cream soda that has died and returned as a mutant dessert, perhaps. Once you pick out the eight or so drink umbrellas (surprise!—it’s a tropical zombie), random clusters of maraschino cherries, and stale Oreos, you meet a foamy mass of whipped cream that is not so much sweet as it is sudsy. By the time your spoon has scraped through the froth, a glacial ceiling has crystallized atop the float. You must chip, chip away if you ever wish to explore the murkiness that lies beneath. What will your excavation reveal?

Surprise! Zero flavors of ice cream that go with root beer. From the depths of the cloudy beige waters, you pull strawberry, mint-chocolate-chip, butter-pecan, coffee, cookie-dough, and rainbow-sherbet scoops. If you dare to taste the dessert-creature, you will find that each and every bite tastes like chilled Wite-Out. But you don’t care at this point. It’s Lezlee’s brains you’re drooling for now.

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Submitted by Steve DiPietro

In the late ‘70s, there was a snack food like no other. I still don’t know if it was corn- or potato-based. All I know is that it was the greatest-tasting snack in the world. Salty and somehow tangy, every single bite was pure bliss. My mom would bring home a couple of bags from every trip to Stop & Shop, but they would be gone in a day. There was never a half-empty bag in the cupboard. If it was opened, it was finished in one sitting. The perfect food had been created. Life was good.

It didn’t last long. Soon, my Chipsters disappeared from the shelves, and not only from Stop & Shop. Star Market, DeMoulas, and even the First National Food Store stopped carrying them. Inexplicably, the only place that carried them was Moe Black’s, a hardware store four towns over. My joyous intake was thus drastically reduced, as my mom didn’t share my addiction and didn’t see the need to, as she put it, drive halfway across the universe for chips. What she wasn’t understanding was that these weren’t chips. These were Chipsters, an entirely different breed.

Luckily, my dad would make a trip to the hardware store every couple of months. I would scurry off to the basement, away from my siblings, to slowly savor my lost love, wondering what kind of world could make such a great snack treat and then make it so hard to obtain. I was about to find out that the world could be even more cruel than I’d first imagined—the hardware store, like so many stores before it, gave in to the forces of evil and stopped carrying Chipsters.

Twenty years later, I found them again. I was in a small convenience store in Italy. I saw a picture of what looked like my beloved Chipster on a box labeled “Cipsters.” My friend told me that, in Italian, the C is pronounced as a ch sound.

That was all I needed to know. I threw a handful of lire at the clerk, ripped open the box, and was transported back to my childhood. Language barriers, the Atlantic Ocean, and even time itself couldn’t keep me from my destiny. The world was once again a good place. I stocked up on several boxes and savored them for the rest of our trip through Europe. It was a short-lived reunion, but one that I cherished.

Six years later, I got married. Naturally, our honeymoon was in Italy. I plan on moving there soon—whether my lady comes with me or not.

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All-You-Can-Eat Crab Legs
Submitted by Briana Newton

Until recently, I had never planned on eating crab legs. I had long ago stopped eating meat, and only ate seafood that didn’t resemble any sea creature in particular. Things like tuna salad or clam chowder were acceptable. But crab legs were far too lifelike. I was scared off by their witch-finger appearance, disgusted by the thought of tearing into them with my bare hands and those awful metal shell-cracking tools.

And then one night my sister and I were at one of those casino all-you-can-eat buffets. While waiting to be seated, I thought about the mashed potatoes and the salad bar, and hoped for some mac and cheese. But none of the people returning to their tables from the buffet seemed to share my enthusiasm for side dishes. Instead, I watched one person after another pass by with urgency in their step and a protective hand over the massive tangle of crab legs on their plate. I wondered if I was missing out. My sister felt the same way. We decided to try them.

After we’d been given a table, we ventured to the buffet, which was actually a whole separate room of food. On the far wall, a mob had formed around two steaming kiosks overflowing with crab legs. Empty plates clutched to their chests, the other diners impatiently waited for their turn to help themselves to the bounty. Occasionally, someone would load a plate too fully, earning dirty looks that said, “Now there won’t be enough for me and I’ll have to punch you.”

I stood around, unapologetically staring at everyone, while my sister went in for the kill. She returned with one sad little serving (half a crab) for us to try. But first we had to get the requisite plastic cup of melted butter, which was dispensed from a 10-gallon steel drum with a spout on the end.

Getting the meat out of the crab leg was a challenge. I pulled, I cracked the shells, I made exaggerated harrumphing sounds to prove just how hard I was trying. In the end, I freed a sizable red-and-white section from a leg. And then the rest of the dinner became a sort of competition: Who could yank out the biggest intact piece of meat?

In the end, I left the table with tiny crab chunks wedged under my fingernails, butter running down the backs of my arms to my elbow, and an uneasy camaraderie with the rest of the buffet patrons. It tasted OK, but it was probably the only dinner I’ve ever had that left me with a sense of accomplishment. Also, I discovered the tendon inside the leg that, when pulled, makes the claw open and close. Neat!

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Submitted by Nathan Adkisson

I was recently on the island of Kauai for a vacation with some distant, middle-aged relatives. We decided it would be a good idea to go to a luau, because—well, why not? We were tourists. At the luau, we saw some good fire dancing, heard a mediocre cover of “Tiny Bubbles,” and were served roasted pork with something called poi, “a traditional Hawaiian condiment that has been part of the natives’ diet for several millennia,” we were told. I took issue with this statement.

Poi is wallpaper glue. I believe that fact precludes it from being hailed as some kind of historical local delicacy. Just how gullible do they think we are? As soon as they put the bowls of the thick paste on the table, I thought I was back in the orthodontist’s office getting my braces removed, the taste of the adhesive thick on my tongue.

I read in a pamphlet at the table that poi is made from the “corm of the kalo plant (known widely as taro).” I have a few things to say about that. I have supreme confidence that there is no such thing as a kalo, and even if there is, why would it be known as taro instead? And “corm”? It’s like they didn’t even try to come up with a word that would fool us. Perhaps if they’d thrown in some apostrophes and some double vowels it might have worked. Coo’rm, perhaps, or maybe ka’irmi. Instead, we were all able to see right through the ruse. I am positive that poi is in fact rubber cement containing a recently introduced food coloring known as Gray No. 5. I may have been a tourist, but I know authenticity when I eat it.

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Yogurt With Granola and Fruit
Submitted by Eric Karjala

I had been living in a marriage of convenience to cereal and its low cost and satisfying taste. I found it presumptuous when a cereal billed itself as “part of a complete breakfast,” because it implied that I had the time and resources to procure a bran muffin and a Carmen Miranda hat’s worth of fruit every time I was hungry. For me, cereal alone could constitute an entire lunch or dinner. The problem was that it’s hard to feel like an adult when you’re scooping up soggy mouthfuls of flakes from where they bob like driftwood in a sea of backwashed milk. This is probably because cereal is for babies.

Some roommates recently turned me on to plain yogurt and its special versatility. Plain yogurt is kind of like the “fruit on the bottom” yogurt I’m used to, except on the bottom of plain yogurt there is only more yogurt. It is far more elegant to add in the fruit yourself. Aggregate fruits like raspberries or strawberries offer a compelling counterpoint to yogurt’s natural sourness. True customizing comes with your choice of granola. Grocery stores specializing in natural and organic products offer a wide selection of granola, sold in bulk at reasonable prices. Maple granola, pumpkin granola, cranberry granola, vanilla granola—I don’t care which you choose; you’re the hero of this story.

Dump your granola and berries into a bowl half-filled with yogurt and then stir until you’ve got an even distribution of fruit and a doughlike consistency. The resulting taste is as decadent as gelato, yet more healthful and fulfilling. More importantly, nobody looks at you askance when you eat your treat of yogurt and granola. You’re no baby: you’re a health-conscious adult with a fondness for expediency and a penchant for constrained variety.

These are the things I kept telling myself, but the other day I looked down at my overflowing bowl of yogurt and granola and blackberries and saw nothing but a wet mound of self-deception. It was time to admit to myself that I was basically eating cereal, only with less viscosity. Not regular cereal, no: cereal in slow-motion. Still, this should buy me another two years before I have to learn how to cook.

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Gatorade A.M.
Submitted by Chris Olwell

The bottle says Gatorade A.M. helps put back the fluids and energy you lose during a full night’s sleep, to which I reply: “It’s about time.” Finally, someone has engineered an athletic drink for people like me, Athletes of Sleep—people for whom it is less physically taxing to be awake than asleep.

I had to try it. So recently, after a thoroughly exhausting night of sleeping, I woke up with orange-strawberry. I quickly regained all the energy I lost by sleeping so hard.

Sleeping like I do drains fluids from the human body at an astonishing rate. But after drinking 20 ounces of Gatorade A.M., I had fluids to spare. I peed three times in three hours! Four times in four hours! I, and the scientists of the world, remain confounded by the fact that any one of those pees would’ve filled two 20-ounce Gatorade bottles. Easily.

Plus, Gatorade A.M. also works in the afternoon and early evening if that’s when you wake up. A-fucking-mazing.

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Bimbo Conchas
Submitted by Bradley Smith

I’m a simple 33-year-old. I weigh 297 pounds. I am an obvious expert on all things sweet. Hailing from Ohio, I am also worldly. I recently drove with my wife and daughter on a whirlwind tour of Texas: 63 hours, 3,300 miles. With a 5-year-old. Thank God for portable DVD players.

Texarkana, Midland, San Antonio, Houston, Galveston. Upon refueling near the junction of I-10 and some other God-awful Texas state highway, I found them: Bimbo-brand conchas. The English portion of the label explained that they were fine pastry. There were other terms I have since sent to SETI for examination: “Ahora mas grandes y ricas!” I dismissed these as complete gibberish and, breathless, ripped open the plastic two-pack.


Ever had a hamburger bun with cinnamon “icing” stripes spanning the 4-inch expanse of crust? This bun wasn’t even sliced! And I’m not wasting a delicious pure-beef patty on one of these.

Come on. Get real. My daughter’s face crinkled. After my first bite, I just looked at the concha. Two weeks later, I still haven’t eaten the second portion.

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Carnival Flavor Skittles
Submitted by Benjamin Strauss

I loved carnivals as a kid, the loudness, the excitement. Skittles has taken my favorite carnival foods and made them easier to eat. Who wants the fun of twirling cotton candy around your fingers and stuffing clouds into your mouth when you can pop a pill that tastes nothing like it? Who wants a caramel apple that tastes like caramel or apple? Who wants a slushy that contains cool refreshing ice that creeps down your throat? Not Skittles. Skittles also doesn’t want you to have fun whipping around your licorice whip before you eat it. To Skittles, a carnival would be better as a capsule. To me, that’s the shape of a desolate future.

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Jelly Belly’s Ant Bully Sweet Rocks Mix
Submitted by Neil Graf

My girlfriend works in an optometrist’s office in a strip mall. The shop is right next to a video store. Video stores receive tons of promotional swag, and last year the store received a boatload of these 1.6-ounce boxes of gourmet jellybeans. So many that they were unable to sell or give them all away. I’m not sure how The Ant Bully did in the rental market, but it’s an animated movie that features the big-chin voice of Bruce Campbell. Long story short, the video guy gave my girlfriend about 10 boxes of these things. That’s a whole pound of Jelly Bellys—not bad for free. According to the manufacturer’s text, “the 20-flavor mix features classics like Very Cherry, Watermelon and more as well as four new flavors inspired by the movie: Alka Root, Lawn Clippings, Caterpillar and of course, Ant Hill!”

Yeah, about that last one, Ant Hill—it’s a fucking dirt-flavored jellybean. I kept waiting for the crunch of little rocks on my teeth, but it never comes. It just tastes like dirt. Even if you mix it with another bean, even a handful of them, the dirt shines through. I’m embarrassed at the way I kept eating them, and complaining, and eating more. I favored them over more traditional Jelly Belly fare. Now that I reflect on these events, I think I wanted to be face down in dirty sugar.

On the plus side, the Lawn Clippings beans taste amazing.

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Pine Sap for the Savage Soul
Submitted by Kendra Langdon Juskus

When I was nine years old, there were big pine trees in my backyard, and my friends and I would rush around beneath them in the imaginary Costa Rican heat, fighting fabricated jungle maladies among fictitious rainforest tribes. We gathered white, frothy sap from the trunks of the trees and folded into it different blends of dirt, pebbles, and leaves. Then we fed our concoctions to the imaginary tribal elders who humbly volunteered to risk their lives for the advancement of science and the good of their clan’s health. Some of them died for the cause, necessitating elaborate funeral proceedings and much dressing up. But others survived, their throats and gullets coated with bitter white sludge and their ailments markedly improved. These were our victories. Their sticky smiles spurred us on to make viscous sap soup by the plastic bowlful, dishing it out graciously to the jungle masses anxiously awaiting our deliverance, and helping mankind, generally.

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T.G.I. Friday’s Jack Daniel’s Glazed Ribs
Submitted by Ter McDermott

This may be a Jack London story line, I’m not positive, but here’s the gist of it: There’s an Eskimo who kills a polar bear by feeding it what is basically razor wire wrapped in some meat. The bear wolfs it down whole, and as it’s digesting the meat, the metal slowly unravels and starts tearing viciously, slowly, at the bear’s guts. The Eskimo follows the subsequent blood trail until he comes across the dead bear, its insides fully laid waste, all ignominious and red, upon the snow. The story went something like that.

All right. Now envision that story with my wife and me playing the role of the polar bear, T.G.I. Friday’s playing the part of the Eskimo hunter, and their Jack Daniel’s Glazed Ribs as the seemingly delicious meat that tears apart our guts.

Postscript: We split those ribs. Surely it would have destroyed us altogether had we ingested an entire portion each.

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Emerald Cove Spicy Nori Snacks
Submitted by Jake Ruiter

The label’s idyllic scene of a tropical ocean cove is a dead giveaway that these treats come to us from the first place you think of when you think of authentic Japanese seaweed snacks: Asheville, North Carolina. Their texture is not unlike that of a Communion wafer. But the flavor, by Jove, is immense, and indubitably spicy. For a moment, there’s the sense that you’re traveling out on some rusty-bottomed trawler with the alcoholic fishermen of Asheville, chugging rotgut until one of you (maybe you. Why not you? You’re a smart person) strikes upon the idea of dredging up kelp and Irish moss to add to the chum bucket and then drinking the mixture by the mugful for nutrition’s sake.

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O’Coco’s Organic Baked Chocolate Crisps
Submitted by Melissa Sampson

Last Monday, exactly twenty-six 0.7-ounce bags of O’Coco’s Organic Baked Chocolate Crisps were bestowed upon me by two obnoxiously cheery sample-passer-outers who wandered into my store from off the street. “Only 90 calories! Just 2 grams of fat!” they chirped, while rapidly shoveling little pink-and-orange bags onto the counter. They took my picture in front of the pile before waving and prancing out the door, leaving me in a confused daze and with a shitload of organic chocolate crisps. I shoved the twenty-six little packages into a shopping bag and put them in the break room for anyone brave enough to try some.

A few hours later, with lunch all too far away, that brave person was me. I mean, chocolate is delicious, and organic stuff is good for the environment and all that jazz, and these are certified USDA organic. Combining these elements and adding a delightful crunch has got to create a halfway decent snack, right?

These flat, oblong-shaped crisps have a texture that could be described as Wheat Thins–like but more bubbly. They’re sprinkled with what appears to be sugar, but sugar isn’t listed as an ingredient. The ingredient that most resembles sugar is salt. So I’m fairly certain they’re sprinkled with salt. Brown, organic salt. When you bite one, the texture seems less like a Wheat Thin and more like a crunchy piece of cardboard. They taste like cardboard sprinkled with cocoa powder and brown organic salt.

“Perhaps this choco-cardboard is an acquired taste,” I thought as I tried another. I eventually finished all six or so crisps in the little bag, but they didn’t get better. The reactions of my co-workers have been varied, ranging from “These really suck” to “These kinda suck.”

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Amish Friendship Cake
Submitted by Mele Stemmermann

I have befriended a retired 70ish man named Charles. If you are female and a buddy of Charlie’s, he gives you gifts of food. Each time I see him I am given gobs of homemade peanut-butter fudge wrapped in red foil or “fun size” candies from his warm, linty pockets. Once, he even gave me some frozen venison steaks, which are still in my freezer, just in case the Dust Bowl days return. And, a few months ago, I was gifted with something he mumbled was Amish friendship cake. I polished it off in two days flat. Upon further questioning, he followed up, the next week, with a huge jar of sickly pink “starter” juice, which he said I’d need to make my own Amish friendship cake.

This cake is produced by steeping canned fruit in this sweet, yeasty concoction for about a month. You have to “feed” it sugar and more fruit every 10 days or so. Being a former baker looking for a minor challenge on that front, I took on the monthlong investment with some excitement—watching a glass jar full of semi-rotting fruit bubble and foam on my counter was not to be missed. It stank like fresh barf and jail hooch, but I remained cautiously optimistic.

Now I have three cakes that no one at my house or job wants to eat. They tasted fine at first, but five minutes in, my stomach started roiling and spitting in protest. Somehow old Charles was able to coax digestible food from his starter, but mine just made me feel ill. Why the hell did I waste all that time and flour and emotional investment on something best left to the Amish?

My cats will eat well this week, if they like rotting fruitcake.

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Parle-G Biscuits
Submitted by Sneha Goud

There are always some kids who seem smarter than the rest. Ever wonder how they got to be that way? If you had to think real hard for the answer, then probably you’ve never eaten Parle-G.

That’s from the website for Parle-G biscuits. My dad buys a package of them every few months from the Indian grocery store. He’ll eat a few when he gets home, after ripping away their insufficient paper wrapper, which is no substitute for a sturdy American box. Then they sit in the back of the cupboard for a few more months until someone throws them away. The grinning, genderless toddler on the front always looks so unaware of his fate.

Parle-G biscuits taste like sawdust. The crumbs get stuck in your teeth. I have no idea how to pronounce the name, probably because I didn’t eat enough of them as a kid.

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Salsa Golf
Submitted by J. Ryan Stradal

I can’t get a straight answer on this and I can’t read Spanish very well yet, but I believe that Salsa Golf is one-third ketchup, one-third mayonnaise, and one-third something that’s possibly more off-putting than a mixture of the first two ingredients. Without looking, I’m guessing either high-fructose corn syrup or a byproduct of beef production. That’s what has earned the impressive-sounding name “Golf Sauce” in South America.

For the budget traveler, Salsa Golf is damn near impossible to avoid. It occupies a space in Argentina’s cheaper restaurants right alongside ketchup and mustard as the most misunderstood and mysterious of the triptych, sort of like the Holy Ghost if the triune God were a condiment rack. People in Buenos Aires seem to love it. In fact, the Argentines claim to have invented it. However spurious a claim that may be, I cannot imagine any nation-state rising to dispute it. The stuff is heinous.

It’s the condiment equivalent of flat 7UP, a vague gustatory souvenir of its once-proud components, a product less than the sum of its parts. Yet for weeks I have been intrigued by it. It’s like a downtown roller rink: I never use it anymore, but I’m glad it’s there, gratifying the perverse tastes of the easily thrilled.

Be careful where you ask for Golf Sauce. It’s not to be found in finer restaurants. I once asked for Golf Sauce in a white-tablecloth establishment and was met with a tired sneer. “Oh, that,” my waiter said, and returned with a handful of ketchup and mayonnaise packets. “If you must have it, mix these together, they’re the same thing.”

He was so wrong.

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Burned Frittata
Submitted by Meg Gregory

I was trying to make a wholesome and tasty dinner that allowed me to mix ingredients in a bowl, pour them into a white, oval ceramic dish, toss the dish in the oven, and forget about it while I did the dishes before eating like the Italians supposedly do: leisurely and luxuriously. A frittata. Yes, that sounded perfect for a crisp, windy spring evening. Eggs, part-skim ricotta, scallions, orzo, artichoke hearts, red bell pepper, Italian parsley (so inexplicably underrated!), a touch of crème fraîche, salt and pepper. Done. Bake for 25, broil for 5.

It was the broiling that did it in. When I opened the oven door, billows of menacing smoke parted to reveal a black-topped frittata. As it cooled on the counter, the overcooked proteins pushed water up through the black surface. A kind food scientist might say, “Syneresis!” and then feed me some bullshit about mistakes and learning opportunities. But I hadn’t invited any scientists. Deflated but hungry, I scooped some up and tucked in.

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Orbit Mint Mojito Gum
Submitted by Mary Turner

Having bought it by accident at a gas station and being too far down the highway to consider returning to swap it out, I unwrapped the gum and tried a piece. It does taste like a mojito, if instead of rum one used dog-ear medicine, and if instead of lime one swirled a green Dum-Dum around in the glass and left it to sit by the side of a highway. It tastes enough like a mojito that if I were nauseated from drinking too many mojitos and my friend gave me a piece of this gum, I would punch her in the tits. Hard.

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Swanson’s Hungry-Man Meals
Submitted by Mike Petrucelli

I don’t think there’s much that’s new about these, judging by a quick look at the box. A bright yellow flag trumpets: “Over 1 lb. of food!” Not “More potatoes than ever before!” or “Now double meat!” or “A bigger brownie-looking thing.” Just “food.” More than a pound of it. Is that the best they could do? Would Jerry Bruckheimer crow about “Over 37 minutes of fire”? Would Hugh Hefner be content with “Over 20 sets of boobs”? I worry that uninspired marketing will erode the excitement and joy of eating conveniently packaged microwavable processed foods to the level of joyless face-stuffing.

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Vlasic Lime-Flavored Kosher Dill Spears
Submitted by Lydia Williams

In general, I am suspicious of cucumber variations. In particular, I am suspicious of the Vlasic jar, which features a cartoon stork smoking a pickle. Nevertheless, I love all things lime. Even now, I am chewing strawberry-lime gum.

So I bought a jar of the lime pickles, and then I invited my picky Korean friend over for a pimento-cheese sandwich on toasted wheat. When she arrived, I offered up a dill spear, all innocence, and told her to try it. One sour look from her and I’d dump the whole jar. But she loved it, so we ate pickles and pimento until our lips puckered.

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Sweetened Papaya Spears
Submitted by Mike Brenot

The Don Post werewolf mask I played with in childhood tastes better than this. As I chew, the mouth feel strikes me as fluffier than its hefty weight suggests. By “sweetened,” they must mean that an enormous amount of low-grade corn syrup was used, then somehow leached out. Needless to say, this product of Austin, Texas, won’t be joining the other dried tropical fruits in my cupboard. Its place, instead, is next to a box of comb honey from the mid ’90s.

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Submitted by Kathleen Hawk

I couldn’t believe it when I read an article in one of Martha Stewart’s magazines that said that “experts say” that if you like soymilk, you’d better get your calcium elsewhere. And besides, they added, why not just drink milk, since it’s so good for you?

The article’s many expert opinions were clearly obtained from the Dairy Council. I envisioned all these guys with rubber shoes covered with grass and cow poop, pointing to a big udder and wiggling their eyebrows at me.

I love soymilk. Every time I pull the carton out of the fridge, I warble, “You know how I feel about yooou.” It’s a phrase I found on my ex-boyfriend’s answering machine, left by some starstruck girl who hadn’t yet gotten over being tied up in my bed while I was out of town. I’ve never been able to say it to a guy with a straight face, but it seems the right thing for the blue half-gallon container with “MORE OMEGA-3s” plastered across it in big red letters. I love those omega-3s.

So I wrote Martha a letter to say how disappointed I was that she’d published a badly researched article. My soymilk says clearly that it’s been enriched with as much calcium as milk, and along with those omega-3s it has a lot of vitamins, too. Not to mention all those phytoestrogens, which I credit with keeping my boobs bouncy and full long into my 50s. So what gives, Martha?

I got a letter back from some administrative lackey, telling me, “Your comment has been forwarded to the editorial staff.” And I waited for a letter from Martha. Or someone.

Finally, weeks later, I wrote again. Martha, I said, I supported you through all the years when people didn’t understand how wonderful and smart you were to make a big business out of teaching people to make their lives more gracious. I’m a woman. I get the charm of milk-glass cake plates, grapevine baskets, and walls painted to look like they’re a hundred years old. And good for you, making all that money. I even supported you through that nasty insider-trading scandal, because there must be a million rich people who do that sort of thing. If I had a private financial adviser, and he called me to tell me “Quick, you need to sell this stock,” I’d do it. Who wouldn’t?

But this is over the line. You misled people into thinking that sucking off cow udders is better than drinking the juice of little ground soybeans, all the while paying your big mortgage with the advertising loot from the Dairy Council. Did I mention they’re advertisers? I mean, it’s a matter of choice. But, hell, Martha, you lied. Maybe not you, but the journalist working for the editors that you hire. While you take home the cash. You know, it’s not the grab-and-run ’90s anymore. I would have thought your stint in prison might have made you more thoughtful about these things.

She never wrote back. Not one word.

Her loss. I splash soymilk in my coffee, anticipating that sweet and creamy taste rolling across my tongue, thinking about my boobs and Martha’s, and how in this small way my life is more gracious than hers.

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Swiss Chalet’s Spice It Up Special
Submitted by Phil Wolters

Was it shocking when Swiss Chalet announced a spicier alternative to its traditional rotisserie chicken? You bet it was. I had grown up on the traditional chicken, had eaten it for years and years, and never, ever anticipated that it could be changed, that it could be improved, y’know?

But there it was, staring me in the face: a new and improved version of my lifelong favorite. Would its spicy kick bring me into a new world of taste that I’d been missing all my life? Or would the New Coke effect take hold? The anticipation built. Oh, how it built!

I had promised a friend that I would never eat at the Swiss Chalet in our hometown again. She had worked there for a summer and had been terrorized by the management to such an extent that she one day erupted, her quiet resentment exploding into a fountain of rage, leaving in its wake a broken fridge door and some hurt feelings. To make a girl who had worked patiently in food service for most of her life go off like that, those Swiss Chalet people must have been pretty damn antagonizing. So you can see the dilemma. And, as you can probably guess, I went anyway.

It tasted like betrayal and heartache. I skipped the bill.

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Shepherds-Who-Want-You-to-Be-Healthy Pie
Submitted by Katelyn Sack

In Raynaud’s phenomenon, fingers and toes turn white as if dead or deadly cold, and sensation and mobility decrease or disappear altogether. My sense of touch departed as I was crossing the street in front of the medical-school library, where I had been researching my mother’s maladies. My dear sick mother lost her fingerprints to Raynaud’s, and the texture of mine began to change that day. It had to be stopped.

Warm water and massage are your first thoughts for treatment, followed by sun and hot foot powder. These are merely quick fixes. What you need is shepherds-who-want-you-to-be-healthy pie. Brown ground beef over medium heat and blend in cinnamon, nutmeg, honey, dried bilberries (for their capillary-buoying anthocyanosides), rosemary (for diosmin), parsley (for apigenin), thyme, and sage. Pile the meat into a casserole dish, then add greens, then mashed potatoes. On top, sprinkle patches of celery seed, buckwheat, and wheat germ. Lastly, add olives and more honey everywhere.

Cook pie until apartment and mashed potatoes are toasty. Serve hot to your dear sick mother, who notes that there appear to be twigs sticking out of her dinner, and that the cold is making her Raynaud’s act up. Crank the heat and crack a window to speed global warming.

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Popsicle’s Long Lasting Slow Melt Pops
Submitted by Mike Balzer

Could someone just tell me what bees use to saw their wood? The suspense is fucking killing me.

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Ohio State University “Deli Style” Roast-Beef Sandwich
Submitted by Chad Rutan

This attempt at a sandwich was given to me secondhand by a visiting speaker who had specially requested it and then decided for some reason not to eat it. The Ohio State University “deli style” roast-beef sandwich comes with not only the tattered remains of what used to be romaine lettuce but also a slice of tomato that borders on being a variety of red Jell-O. At the right angle, the “deli style” roast beef gives off a disturbing iridescence. All this mashed between slices of a decent wheat bread. I cannot complain about the bread.

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Chocolate-Dipped Altoids
Submitted by Rebecca Bowen

Half the fun of Altoids is tossing them in the glove box, forgetting about them, and reuniting with the candy two months later while checking for a map and flashlights, only to remember you’ve never used the glove box appropriately. But whatever, you have Altoids! You’re so happy, you give them away to just about anyone. Chocolate-dipped Altoids do not work in this scenario. You will open your glove box to find twice the sadness: not only did you fail at storing practical, life-saving items in your car, but there’s also melted chocolate all over the fucking place, which is impossible to remove without coming out of there looking like you’ve got shit all over your hands. And if you try to offer what’s left of them to anyone, let’s say to the person you’re asking for directions because you don’t have a goddamn map, you’ll probably get pegged as a fecal perv and stay lost forever.

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The 4-Alarm Spicy Chicken Sandwich From Wendy’s
Submitted by Peter Scott Bartsch

Apparently, Wendy entered into a partnership, or perhaps just a one-time joint venture, with Satan and Ra, the sun god. This sandwich’s ingredients must have been harvested in hell (presumably by Satan’s minions, whose very fingertips shoot flames) and then sent directly to Ra’s headquarters, where he plunged the ingredients into the center of the sun for final processing. From there, the blistering ingredients were probably transferred to the Wendy’s distribution center in Wichita, where they went out for delivery to various Wendy’s establishments. Upon arrival at my local Wendy’s, the ingredients were assembled, by a kitchen worker named Todd or Becky or Ramon, while completely submerged in a vat of boiling hot sauce and tequila. The final product was then dried under a 1,500-degree heat lamp, promptly wrapped in foil paper, and handed to me with my vanilla Frosty and an insidious grin. I cried a little, and couldn’t taste anything for a long time.

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Doritos X-13D
Submitted by Mark Parker

The best thing about Doritos X-13D is the way your vegetarian girlfriend tries one before she looks at the package and sees that these chips contain beef tallow.

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Amazing Candicraft Delicious Ink N’ Paper
Submitted by Elizabeth Gumport

We write checks to people we owe money to. We write notes to our friends in class. We write letters to people whom we should have stopped loving a long time ago. We are always writing to someone. The Amazing Candicraft Delicious Ink N’ Paper, however, urges otherwise. The letters written on the thin wafer of sugar are letters that long to be dissolved. To write with this strawberry-flavored gel is to write words knowing they will not last, that they are to be savored instead of saved. “Eat your words!” the stuff insists. When you do, they taste bitter, as you always suspected they might.

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My Brother’s Entry for the LongShot
Samuel Adams American Homebrew Contest
Submitted by Joseph Love

When he was about 10, my brother put milk in a Popsicle tray. How bad could his beer be?

He canned the stuff in antique Mobil 1 cans, the tops soldered with a coat hanger and a car battery. Though submissions weren’t to be canned, I kept quiet.

The can he set aside for me had been spray-painted with a stencil to say “Joe’s Brew.”

“How do you open it?” I asked. He stabbed two holes in the top with a screwdriver, Hawaiian Punch–style.

Once, when I was mountain-biking in Indiana, a friend asked me, “Man, do these woods smell like semen to you?” I sniffed. Those woods, mushroom cellars, and my brother’s beer all smell like semen.

Maybe his wife, irritated, shook the can, because thick bubbles began to creep slowly through the holes. They advanced like snails made of foam. We took the can to the sink. After five minutes, we had something that looked like a giant head of black broccoli dripping into the drain.

I scraped the foam into the sink and drank. It tasted like the grease trap that hangs under charcoal grills. Charcoal, of course, was the dominant flavor, with a follow-up of beef and pork. There were hints of chicken and burnt kabob vegetables, especially sugary onions. The tannins were well-developed, though unexpected, and I could have done without the ashy aftertaste. Also, swallowing was a bit difficult, not something I’d expected from a liquid.

“Um, what kind of hops did you use?” I asked.

“Is beer a hops?” he asked.

“Not … um, no.”

“Well, I just poured a 24-pack of Miller High Life into a bucket of molasses. Anyway, I hops it wins.”

When he played T-ball, he’d wrap his bat in aluminum foil and step up to the plate shouting, “Let’s play FutureBall!” Once, I admired his creativity. Now, it seemed to be giving me the gout.

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Baby Mum-Mum Rice Rusks
Submitted by Bridget Brier

Nothing makes you feel more like an animal than having a child. Cleaning up your son one morning, you will nonchalantly pick a wet, partially ingested Cheerio from his chin and eat it. You will be mildly horrified by your action, so, to assuage feelings of confusion and shame, you silently praise your resourcefulness. You waste nothing.

Because this happens again and again, you care more about the quality of your child’s food. (You also care about his well-being, of course.) Most of the food marketed for babies is someone’s sick idea of an introduction into the world of edibles. You make your own baby food.

But you get curious when it comes to the packaged snacks for your budding gastronome. Gerber Veggie Puffs? They contain food coloring and preservatives. How about Baby Mum-Mums? They seem wholesome enough. With five ingredients (rice, sugar, skim-milk powder, salt, and calcium lactate), they’re not exactly health food, but they’ll break the monotony a little.

They arrive two to a package, which really just suggests that there’s one for you, too. While you give one to your 10-month-old to distract him from the books, which he’s been pulling off the shelf for the last hour, you ponder what to do with your portion. You nibble. It’s sweet, with a little crunch, and ever so airy. It tastes like a Rice Krispie. You dip yours in peanut butter and think about what to make for dinner.

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Stagg Chili’s Classic Chili With Beans
Submitted by Joel Gunz

Safeway has it on sale this month: 10 cans for $10. I consider simply getting five for $5 or even one for $1. They’ll let you do that at Safeway. Instead, I put the Tofutti Cuties back in the freezer and load up on the full 10. In the pot, Stagg Chili’s Classic Chili With Beans retains the shape of the can—a monolith of beans and rust-colored gravy that looks suspiciously like dog food—until I demolish it with my spoon. I am reminded of The Electric Company’s cartoon parody of the giant black slab from 2001: A Space Odyssey. An hour later I come down with a fierce gas attack. One down, nine to go.

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Confectionery Lane Spiced Jelly Beans
Submitted by Steve Thorngate

When people insist that Christmas is a Christian holiday, what they really mean is that some of those who celebrate the six-week holy feast of reciprocal generosity take a short break to remember an unrelated story about a baby. Easter is culturally somewhat less absurd, its consumerist trappings limited mostly to pastel baskets, stuffed bunnies, and obscene quantities of cheap and delicious candy.

Protestants tend to conceive of Lent—which culminates in Easter Sunday—in positive terms: instead of denouncing bad habits, we pick up good ones. Last Lent, I picked up a fantastic Confectionery Lane Spiced Jelly Bean habit.

Starting on Ash Wednesday, the drugstore across from my office devoted the better part of an aisle to Easter candy. Inexplicably, half of this shelf space was taken up by a huge inventory of Confectionery Lane Spiced Jelly Beans. Because I was always the only kid who preferred the spiced beans to the fruit-flavored variety, my ingrained sense of duty seems to have interpreted the store’s bounty as an obligation to personally buy and eat the majority of these off-brand, nutritionally vacant treasures.

I’m very into healthful, sustainable, delicious food; I’m also very into the church. Here is a typical lunch during the church seasons of Advent, Epiphany, Easter, and Pentecost:

Mixed greens (w/o dressing)
Beans and rice
Seasonal vegetable soup

And here’s a typical lunch during Lent:

Mixed greens (w/o dressing)
Beans and rice
Seasonal vegetable soup
Entire bag of Confectionery Lane Spiced Jelly Beans

I’m feeling jumpy, bloated, and more than a little penitent. My teeth hurt. I await the joy, renewal, and changing retail priorities of the Easter season.

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annon la Crème
Submitted by Emily Benjamin

You know those la Crème commercials where the woman savors her yogurt like a Nebraska housewife in her wasted prime would savor the immaculate placenta from the Holy Grail? That’s pretty much how I, too, eat la Crème. Provided a few crème-colored candles offer the only available light, I lay my world-worn self down and curl up at roughly 135 degrees in that holy intersection of the arm, seat, and back of the couch, my left arm draped across my stomach like some overstuffed patrician’s. Then I let my spoon circle along the inside edge of the cup to cloak it in the perfect amount of crème. I lick clean what has clung to its bottom and draw the rest into my mouth with trifling suction, punctuating my bites with a light smack of the lips. After each spoonful, there’s an involuntary fluttering of the eyelids and a sigh. I am ready, now, for Dannon to strike between my legs with his indurate acidophallus. Lord knows I am ready.

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General Foods International Suisse Mocha
Submitted by Sara Sligar

Suisse Mocha comes in a small tin whose color I always think of as red, although only about 10 percent of the surface area is actually red. The rest is covered with pictures of European-looking chocolate beverages and an “International Recipe” that involves the phrases “flavor destination” and “indulgent recipe.” I will translate this quintessentially European text into American for you: “Mix with hot water.”

Over winter break, aided by my mother and her MasterCard, I procured several tins of this magic stuff, intending to carry them back to my dorm room once school resumed. And carry them back I did. Traveling from the wild plains of the Midwest on the wild planes of American Airlines, I spirited my bounty back to New England. Ecstatically, I cleaned a mug. Breathlessly, I heated water. Filled with incandescent hope, I drank. And it was magnificent.

Nothing can equal the delicious blend of coffee and hot chocolate that is Suisse Mocha. Staring out my window at the winter-stripped tree branches and the icy ground, I mentally relocated myself to a chic Parisian café. My life was suddenly amazing. Colors were brighter. Sounds were stronger. Every day since then has been an unstoppable dream.

One day, a couple weeks ago, I went to the hot-chocolate machine in the dining hall and saw the other spigot, which spurts out a coffee drink that I have heard colloquially referred to as “the most disgusting sludge ever.” The less refined have called it “shit.” Curious, I looked closer, to see what terrible beverage could have elicited such a response from my peers, who, in my experience, seem willing to imbibe essentially any liquid created.

The label said: “General Foods International Suisse Mocha.”

According to Wikipedia, mocha is “an American invention” that is “mostly unknown in Italy and other continental European countries.”

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Rally’s Pepper Jack Double
Bacon Cheeseburgers—Three for $3
Submitted by Oliver Miller

Rally’s is always running these types of specials. There was one where you could get five fish-and-cheese sandwiches for, like, 53 cents each. I just don’t trust these deals.

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Nestle Treasures: Revive Cappuccino Truffle
Submitted by Marie Hicks

After voiding blood for several months, I was put on a strict elimination diet. This eliminated anything I might want to eat. The printout of “safe” foods I was given read more like a list of punishments than dietary guidelines. When I made it past the first week without cracking, I silently considered rewarding myself with a trip off a multistory building. The second week was easier. By the third, however, living healthfully while surrendering the ability to eat 94 percent of the foodstuffs in your average grocery store (or 86 percent in your average organic-supermarket conglomerate) had lost its shine.

On a 1 a.m. candy run, I studied all the offerings in the candy aisle with an intensity that made the night-crew contractors ripping up floor tiles seem slightly ill at ease. Among the selections I took to the U-Scan-It cash register was a new offering from Nestle called the Revive Cappuccino Truffle.

I’ve always been partial to Nestle for my inexpensive-chocolate needs, and I could definitely taste the cappuccino flavor. But the revivification promised by the label didn’t materialize; I didn’t feel any rush from the caffeine, if there was any. Overall, it was OK but probably not worth getting my colon all bloody again for.

- - -

Giant Caper
Submitted by Kate Taylor

It came to me cool on a bed of pink smoked fish, part of my lox plate for breakfast at a local café. Oblong and grapey with a sure, healthy stem, the giant caper instantly won my heart. Oh! Caper! I see you have a robust and more manageable side. Quelle surprise.

Perhaps I should have cut it up—maybe distribute some slices of caper on the cream cheese, for example. But its skin made me think of a beautiful little dinosaur, and I was occupied waving it around in my boyfriend’s face saying, “Giant caper, giant caper! G.C.!” as he tried to dodge it, saying “gross” and “stop.” I ate the whole thing at once.

The feeling in my mouth was like a tidal wave of saliva rushing, not forth, but back, to the depths of my spit glands. It’s possible that saliva really was pouring into my mouth to counter the immense saltiness of the caper, but it ended up being like that feeling where you touch water so hot you think it’s cold.

I coughed once, loudly, and my eyes filled with tears. Cinnamon roll, grits, coffee, water: a bit of each was taken. Two G.C.’s remained on my plate, looking somewhat obscene. I tucked them beneath a spare piece of spring mix.

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Sugar Daddies
Submitted by Leigh Duffy

I love these caramel pops. When I was little, I would eat these on long family trips to pull my baby teeth out. Worked every time—although, if I had one tooth I initially planned on losing, the thick, unforgiving caramel would inevitably rip out two others as well. It was a satisfying pain, made tasty by the delectable combination of sugary sweetness and blood pooling in my mouth. For this reason, I recommend Sugar Daddies to all families with young children.

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Iced Cherry Clover Valley Toaster Pastries
Submitted by C.A. Briskey

Twenty-nine years ago, my mother was a globetrotting, platform-shoes-, tube-top-, bell-bottom-pants-wearing foxy lady with a feathered roach clip in her hair. She would hop onto the back of my dad’s Harley, close her eyes, and wait to see where the day would take them. Now, my mother has succumbed to a type of agoraphobia that hits middle-aged ladies, preventing them from traveling more than 10 minutes away from their house. Common side effects of this disease include buying one’s entire wardrobe through catalogs, including clogs that make one’s foot look like Kunta Kinte’s after he attempted to leave the plantation and was punished by having the front of his foot lopped off; having your reluctant husband cut your hair; and purchasing all of your groceries at the local Dollar General.

My sister and I have watched this disorder take its toll on our mother over the years. However, the woes are not hers alone. We, too, have suffered. When we enter our parents’ home to scavenge the cabinets for food, we are met with brand-name wannabes. But we have to eat, so we rip into the packages and begin stuffing our greedy faces. Usually, this is followed by a pause and a moment where my eyes lock with my sister’s and we experience some kind of inherent ESP. When we ate a cherry Clover Valley Toaster Pastry (not to be confused with a cherry Pop-Tart), the message sent was so clear, my mother even sensed it:

The filling in Iced Cherry Clover Valley Toaster Pastries is cherry ChapStick.

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Café de Costa Rica (Costa Rican Coffee)
Submitted by Rory Douglas

A journalism professor once warned me to never start an article with a question—most people will probably answer “no” and quit reading, he said.


Have you ever wanted to travel to Costa Rica to discover the flavor of exotic, Spanish-speaking coffee grown in the rich volcanic soils of a Central American country? Don’t. It tastes just like the rich volcanic soils of a Central American country. And the baggage handlers will steal your laptop and digital camera from your luggage on your way back to the Estados Unidos, gringo.

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Herbal Supplements
Submitted by Katelyn Sack

Herbal supplements may be defined as food if food is any entity that (1) you put in your mouth to (2) get down your throat so that (3) it may provide your body with nourishment, enjoyment, and/or relief from the gnawing sensations of hunger and inadequacy that plague mankind whenever he has the misfortune to stumble outside the gardens of paradise.

You may discover herbal supplements after failed attempts to spike your dear sick mother’s soup with turmeric and ginger for their anti-inflammatory properties, or perhaps upon her nauseated rejection of your ingenious, bone-bracing recipe for hot chai malk. Herbal supplements provide a way to dose your own chronically ill but gastronomically discriminating family members with the ethnobotanical remedies of the centuries. Fenugreek and cinnamon for hypoglycemia; cranberry for UTIs; feverfew for migraines; hawthorn for a weak vascular system; roots, seeds, and berries you would never get them to eat otherwise all become suddenly contained, standardized, and accessible.

Cinnamon is my personal favorite, because it tastes like the smell of pavement right after rain. What is a wet, gray pavement but the record of a worn-out road, erased? What is an herb but the rain rising up, toward the clouds it will never again rejoin? Clearly, cinnamon will save your soul.

Buy them wholesale from whatever organic supplier will let you claim a business discount because you teach children’s piano on Tuesday nights. Promptly discover that your mother suffers from a heretofore-undiagnosed thyroid malady among her myriad maladies and will be unable to swallow numerous pills with every meal. Ascertain that the universe is mocking you. With fenugreek-enlarged breasts and St. John’s-wort-augmented moods, what do you care?

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Dark Chocolate M&M’s
Submitted by David MacFadden-Elliott

M&M’s have already been enlarged, miniaturized, filled with peanuts, filled with almonds, flavored with mint, caramel, peanut butter, and white chocolate, and given a dye job to match the color scheme of a blockbuster film. Given these previous efforts, the dark-chocolate version is hardly remarkable. In fact, it’s initially indiscernible from its milk-chocolate predecessor. The excitement begins when these little nuggets are exposed to heat.

While the drab dark chocolate was melting in my mouth, an M&M waiting in my hand popped. Yes, after a minute of being cooked in my palm, the damn thing hatched. Unless I’m wrong and have missed out on a significant portion of my childhood, this is a new and noteworthy feature.

You have to be patient for the payoff. During the course of my experiments, it took anywhere from 38 to 112 seconds for the M&M’s to explode, and some didn’t fire at all. But when you find one that will, and your hand is warm and dry, you will feel like the most powerful human alive.

- - -

“Freshly Squeezed” Lemonade
at Sacramento Sweets Company
Submitted by Whitey Eckerson

I became suspicious when the heavyset teenage girl reached for the powder. She was standing with her back to my wife and me, next to the trapezoidal clear-plastic tank, the one in which the liquid perpetually runs down the sides. That tank’s function I have never understood. Maybe it’s mixing the lemonade. Paradoxically, these tanks occur only in places that serve such poor lemonade it doesn’t matter whether it gets mixed or not: it’s a choice between sugary or watery insipidity. The girl added the powder to the “freshly squeezed” lemonade, so advertised throughout the shop on 8½-by-11-inch laminated sheets of paper.

A dollar and 75 cents for 20 ounces. That’s $.0875 per ounce for some murky tap water and a tablespoon of expired Crystal Light. Only in the parallel universe of Old Town Sacramento would this beverage ever be considered “freshly squeezed” lemonade: only in a place where you can take a historic steamboat ride on a vessel that contains no steam, where you can purchase a 10-inch gelatinous black rat as candy, where a proper stage for an Old West stunt show is a 20-foot-by-20-foot concrete slab between a Hollywood-kitsch store and a “fan shop,” which sells only magnificently huge Sacramento Kings jerseys that Goliath himself would trip over. All this takes place 40 feet from I-80. One should never be able to see a Clydesdale pulling a wagon and a Super Duty F-450 doing 90 in the same gaze.

Also, I did not like the lemonade. The taste was bad, the aftertaste was worse, and the drink had a faulty lid.

- - -

Taco Bell Cheesy Gordita Crunch
Submitted by D. Paul

One day during my lunch break I noticed a large sign in the lawn of the nearby Taco Bell: “SAVE YOUR RECEIPT FOR A CHANCE TO WIN $1,000!”

Now, as a college graduate who is enduring the humiliation of working for $8 an hour icing cakes and whose car is in a constant state of disrepair, whose boyfriend flirts with prettier, skinnier girls, whose parents are ashamed, whose apartment is a filthy hole of beer cans and liquor bottles, whose checking account hovers near the red, whose student-loan payments are past due, whose only comfort is the 30 minutes during the day when she can drive to the local park to cry, I find the mere prospect of $1,000 to be enough to inspire hope and a sense of overall well-being.

In the drive-through line, the menu read to me like one of those somewhat witty church signs that say, “Free Trip To Heaven, Details Inside.” My eyes fixed upon a half-moon-shaped spectacle called the Cheesy Gordita Crunch. The menu asked me what I’d like to drink, and I asked, “Is water free?”

Back at the park, I peeled the greasy paper wrapper away to reveal my Cheesy Gordita Crunch. It’s a taco embraced by cheese embraced by a tortilla. I took a bite, and sour cream, grease, and lettuce fell onto my lap. The flavors and textures melded together in my mouth, and, indeed, in my soul. For a moment, I became a Cheesy Gordita Crunch.

Then I remembered why I went to Taco Bell in the first place—$1,000! I pulled my receipt from under some napkins, brushed off some fallen meat, cleared my palate with some free water, and called a phone number printed on the receipt. I took a brief customer-satisfaction survey (everything was perfect—just perfect). Then, a recorded voice thanked me for my time and informed me that, unfortunately, I was not that week’s winner of $1,000.

I shrugged, finished my Cheesy Gordita Crunch, which suddenly wasn’t so great anymore, and returned to work.

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Archer Farms Chili-Lime Tortilla Chips
Submitted by Mike Gagnier

If you’re old enough to remember taco-flavored Doritos, you no doubt remember them as far and away the best flavor of Doritos ever. You probably remember the day you found out that they were discontinuing them. You may remember the short-lived “return” of Taco Doritos with a really lame imitation of the original flavor. Even after that debacle, maybe you still kept the faith, waiting for the day your chip would return.

When I recently bit into an Archer Farms Chili-Lime Tortilla Chip, I realized immediately that the taste is exactly like that of the old Taco Doritos. If you remember them, I don’t need to say any more. If you’re too young to remember them, you owe it to yourself to check them out. The one qualm I have is that the package refers to them as “Authentic-Style.” Maybe I’m nitpicking, but aren’t the chips either authentic or not? If they were produced in an inauthentic manner, but made to resemble “authentic” tortilla chips, then are they not, by definition, inauthentic? Your best bet is to somehow find a miraculously preserved taco-flavored-Doritos (original version) bag into which these chips can be poured. That way, you can focus on what matters.

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Flapjack Shot
Submitted by Jacy Wojcik

A hearty mixture of Jack Daniel’s whiskey and maple syrup. It tastes like when my grandpa used to make us pancakes when he was drunk. Only now I’m the one getting drunk. And there aren’t any pancakes.

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Bagel Bites
Submitted by Dave Allen

Only two things in this world deserve fist pumps: Arsenio Hall and Bagel Bites.

Bagel Bites are so good-sounding that sometimes I sing their name in a high-pitched voice like a singer in an ‘80s hair band. It gets me amped up to wait 20 minutes for them to cook because I don’t have a microwave.

Speaking of microwaves, can I buy a box of Bagel Bites that doesn’t come with that weird metallic microwave tray? Like I said, I don’t have a microwave. Is there an “oven edition” or “the old-fashioned way” option? I’d like to cut down on waste, and perhaps with the savings on packaging costs the powers that be could do me a solid and let an extra Bagel Bite fall off the conveyor belt and into a box every once in a while, you know what I’m sayin’? Also, I’d like a “wilderness edition” for when I’m roughing it in nature and only have a campfire to cook on, and a “barbecue edition” for when I crave that grilled look. When I was a young kid, I would have loved a “magnifying-glass edition” that I could sit and cook all day outside in the afternoon sun.

When I remembered at 10 p.m. last night that I still had those nine shrink-wrapped frost-covered Supreme Bagel Bites in the freezer, I actually spoke out loud and congratulated myself for being so smart as to purchase two boxes instead of just one, under the reasoning that “Oh, yeah, you’ll get to it eventually.” In this case, eventually meant two nights later.

Bagel Bites are so bad for you that on the box itself the phrases “Delicious Bagel Bites” and “Real Cheese” have registered-trademark symbols next to them. It’s the equivalent of putting quote marks around the words.

Cooking a box of Bagel Bites once set off my carbon-monoxide detector in my apartment. I had to wake up the landlord at midnight and get a second opinion about whether I was going to die by Bagel Bite that night. I survived, darn it. Would have been a lot of insurance money otherwise! I researched it and carbon-monoxide detectors usually go off when using a wood-burning stove indoors. So a box of Bagel Bites is basically equivalent to a Duraflame firelog. It can burn slowly for hours, giving off a modest amount of heat.

Bagel Bites are so deceptively tiny that you can fit all nine of them on one of the small plates in the cupboard. So handy when you are watching Extra or Live With Regis and Kelly. No big heavy dinner plate to fumble with. And because it fits on the smaller plate, it’s technically a snack, not dinner. That thought helps relieve some of the guilt of knowing that you are slowly poisoning yourself with bad afternoon TV and cancer-causing Frankenfoods.

I had a friend once who hid his house key in a hollowed-out, charred-black, burnt-up doorstop of a Bagel Bite. It looked just like a charcoal briquette next to his porch. Only with a hint of pepperoni.

All in all, I’m mostly ashamed I ever purchase them, but I love the wild ride they take me on.

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Delta Air Lines Biscoff
Submitted by Jack Pendarvis

The Biscoff is a snack cookie offered on Delta flights. It is a flattish object that looks kind of like an oval and kind of like a rectangle. Each Biscoff is embossed with the Delta Air Lines logo. There are two Biscoffs in a package. The wrapper says you can get SkyMiles by eating Biscoffs, but I accidentally tore off and misplaced the part of the wrapper that tells you how. From its name, I assume it’s designed to be dunked in coffee, which is just what I did with it on my recent flight to Los Angeles. Success! The Biscoff held the coffee nicely without becoming soggy. It was a delicious cookie! The Biscoff seems to have a touch of cinnamon. It reminded me of a more assertive graham cracker. A graham cracker that bites back! But it’s not really a graham cracker. I think I’m giving you the wrong impression. On the way back from Los Angeles I ate the Biscoff dry, without coffee, and found it just as delightful. Satisfying texture that says, “You’re not the boss of me!” coupled with a rather subtle flavor. I have a deep-rooted fear of flying, but Biscoffs will help me get back on the plane!

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McDonald’s Fortune Cookie
Submitted by David Ottosson

“Today is your lucky day. Receive free 0.5 cl beverage.”

Of course today is my lucky day: I’m receiving a free 0.5 cl beverage. That’s just lazy fortunetelling on McDonald’s part. They knew I was going to have a great day because they already knew I had a free soda coming.

Sometimes McDonald’s doesn’t get it at all.

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AdeS Light Banana-Flavored Soy Drink
Submitted by Ann Evans

Soymilk. You either love it or you hate it. Fake-banana flavor. You either love it or you hate it. Soymilk and fake-banana flavor together. You either love it or you just drank a liter of it even though you were full anyway and now you are sprawled diagonally across your bed with a little banana-flavored soy dribble dripping from the corner of your mouth while your laptop is propped up against your knees but is closer to your crotch than to your stomach because your stomach hurts.

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Diet Lipton Green Tea
With Mixed Berry Natural Flavors
Submitted by Alex Novak

Ice-cold, this tea is strangely refreshing and—at 20 ounces—quite filling. Of course, so is water. But this tea is the color of Chardonnay and tastes like second-time-around tea bags, NutraSweet, and gummi bears. It’s a perfect example of a time and a place for everything: 3 p.m. at my desk.

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Reduced Fat Jif
Submitted by Alan Hayes

The most prominent wording on my peanut butter’s label seems forthright at first: “REDUCED FAT JIF.” “CRUNCHY.” Nowhere does it say reduced-fat peanut butter. Just Jif. As it turns out, the closest thing to a claim of being actual peanut butter that’s made here is to the left of the label, where it says, “Peanut Butter Spread. 60% Peanuts.” I equate this to “Orange Juice Drink,” a statement that implies that what you’re drinking is not actually orange juice but a drink that is in some ways similar to orange juice. In this case, I’m being told that Jif is not peanut butter per se but some sort of similarly textured spread. The most damning claim on the label, though, the one that really makes me curious as to what exactly I am putting copious amounts of into my body on a weekly basis, is “25% LESS FAT THAN PEANUT BUTTER.” One can’t help but notice that it doesn’t say “25% less fat than regular peanut butter” but instead suggests that this product is entirely different than and separate from the peanut-butter family. All of these facts inspire in me a great number of questions as to what composes the brown paste holding together the peanut chunks. However, despite the fact that consuming a great deal of “Jif” on a weekly basis may be responsible for the seemingly permanent eye infection I have developed (who knows?), I will not stop eating it. After all, it is delicious, and it has 25% less fat than peanut butter. Also, one of the ingredients is “rapeseed.”

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Bubble Yum:
Hershey’s Genuine Chocolate Flavor
Submitted by Angela Colford

I didn’t expect chocolate-flavored bubblegum to taste good. I knew better than that. I wasn’t surprised by the sensation of eating a never-ending Tootsie Roll. I was only slightly alarmed by the odd shininess that the gum acquired after a few minutes of chewing. I was even prepared for the cocoa-powder-meets-inner-tube texture. The only thing about this chewing experience that seemed extraordinary to me was that, though the flavor’s brand was purported to be Hershey’s, the chocolate flavor waxing my tongue was oddly Nestle-esque. Also, it cost 95 cents for a five-piece pack, which is just too expensive for something so fucking gross.

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Jelly Belly Sport Beans
Submitted by Miriam Grubin

You’ve just run your third mile, and you’re feeling like you need electrolyte replacement and a boost of energy. Most likely, you will reach for something in the Gatorade family of beverages. Are you making the right choice? Studies (performed by the Milk Council) have shown that chocolate milk is as adequate a “sport beverage” as those brightly colored sports drinks with which most of us are familiar. If chocolate milk sounds too refreshing and hydrating to you, why not try Jelly Belly Sport Beans, jellybeans with an “energizing” quality provided by carbohydrates, electrolytes, and vitamins B and C? Well, because, with a grainy texture wholly unreminiscent of jellybeans and a flavor that can only be described as puzzling, these beans will leave you wishing you’d packed some Nesquik.

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Monster Energy Drink
Submitted by William VanDenBerg

On the way to class I saw a bearded man handing out large black beverages from the back of a truck. Feeling particularly sporty, I took one. Drinking the syrupy green liquid abruptly took me back to when I was 16, watching the film Pearl Harbor with my girlfriend. The same sense of futility and utter disgust with the human race sang through my body. I choked down half the can, feeling an odd mixture of nostalgia and self-hatred.

Several minutes later, I burped silently. It tasted suspiciously meaty, like eating large quantities of lightly carbonated pork chops.

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Buffalo Burger
Submitted by Margaret Girouard

One night during the summer I was 11, my family had a barbecue at Aunt Joan’s house. We are of hearty Irish stock, and now that I am older I enjoy being able to drink whiskey and argue about politics with gusto at family parties, but as a child my heritage meant that I was odd for being the quiet brunette in a room full of loquacious redheads. Though I was not as notoriously picky as my sister (who survived on a diet of ramen and pickles through most of elementary school), a steady diet of meat and potatoes made me, until college, unwilling to eat almost anything that wasn’t beige. So, on that night long ago, when my ears pricked up to the conversation streaming over my head regarding the menu for that evening, I pulled my nose out of my book and declared emphatically that I would not eat a buffalo burger, even if the meat did come from a local bison farm. My family assured me that I could have a regular hamburger, and I settled back comfortably, naively believing that my loved ones were trustworthy.

Even to a less discerning child, the difference would have been obvious from the start. On my plate I found not a round, half-inch patty of meat snug in its bun but a slab of something closely resembling meatloaf soaking through two pathetically small pieces of bread. The bread was unable to curb the flow of bloody juice that was quickly seeping into the potato salad. Instead of brownish-gray beef with a hint of pink in the middle, the meat on my plate might have matched a paint sample labeled “Earth Brick” or “Mud Pie” or, perhaps most evocatively, “Difficult Shit.” I was suspicious, yet I trusted. I trusted.

When I bit it, I knew. Instead of the familiar thick meaty crumble of a burger made from cow, the buffalo burger was denser, heavier, yet spongy, with a disturbing excess of juice. I immediately put it down, and my family looked at me expectantly, wondering if I would notice a difference at all, if I’d enjoyed it. Would I declare that they were right, that it is good to try new things?

No, family. It was not to be. I cried and ate nothing. It wasn’t even so much the burger, which could have been worse, I guess. It was the betrayal.

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Sun Sweet Mediterranean Dried Apricots
Submitted by Emily Kamm

I like my dried apricots like I like my men: thin, tart, and rather difficult to chew. Sun Maid California Dried Apricots meet my exacting standards. But in an allergy-medicine-induced haze, I bought Sun Sweet Mediterranean Dried Apricots instead. My hopes for an iron-and-fiber-rich snack were crushed—these dried apricots were overly plump and tasted as if they had suddenly adapted a far more sedentary and sugar-loving lifestyle that tainted their excessive flesh with sucrose. Sun Sweet’s Mediterranean Dried Apricots would do well to get off the couch, put down the cannolis, and borrow some healthier recipes from their West Coast brethren.

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Domino’s New Brooklyn Style Pizza
Submitted by Chris Crowe

The first thing I noticed about the pizza was that it had about three times as much grease sitting on top as a regular hand-tossed; “Just the way we like it,” the video had said. My friend Tommy informed me that there were only six slices to this pizza, as opposed to the ordinary eight. That meant that each slice was 133 percent bigger than usual. I held mine folded, like a taco, and a river of grease ran down the middle and onto my mouth. The pepperoni was too big, and I had to play around with it to keep from dropping it onto the table. I wiped the grease from my chin and decided that this pizza had finally provided the type of satisfaction I had been pining for, the slick fulfillment other pizzas could only mimic. I needed a glass of water.

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Mad Croc Energy Gum
Submitted by Michael Winand

Hypothesis: Ingesting two pieces of Mad Croc Energy Gum results in the same caffeinated boost as an 8-ounce energy drink.

10:00 a.m.: Subject begins chewing gum and immediately recognizes a distinct flavor similar to that of a handful of pennies.

10:02 a.m.: Nothing has changed.

10:04 a.m.: Subject has sudden urge to remake the Gary Busey film Eye of the Tiger using a cast of actual tigers.

10:06 a.m.: The idea is abandoned after the subject estimates the number of accidental deaths that would assuredly occur during filming.

10:07 a.m.: Subject spits out the gum after the flavor shifts from “pocket change” to “pocket change wrapped in Band-Aids.”

Conclusion: The subject could have received an equivalent energy boost from sucking on a few AA bateries. The taste would have also been similar.

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Junky Tuesday
Submitted by Seema Reza

During the course of my son Ali’s life, I’ve learned about trans fats and pesticides and things my mother did wrong. So I eat fresh organic berries and drink pomegranate juice and don’t buy sugary cereals. One afternoon, though, I picked Ali up from kindergarten, swung my station wagon into a spot at the mainstream grocery store, slid my pregnant body out from the tight space behind the wheel, and, as I opened his door, announced, “It’s Junky Tuesday.”

As we approached the store, the glass door swung open with reverence. We skirted the produce section and targeted the snack-food aisle. I chose spicy Cheetos. He chose Doritos. We agreed on Funyuns. Into the cart went a box of Swiss cake rolls, a tub of mini glazed donuts, and a six-pack of ginger beer.

At home, we turned on the Food Network (a compromise between General Hospital and The Magic School Bus) and spilled one of the ginger beers on the futon. When we were a third of the way through the Cheetos and Doritos and halfway through the Funyuns and had eaten a couple of donuts and split one package of the cake rolls, we couldn’t eat anymore. I heaved myself up and vomited a bit, and Ali retired to his bathroom with a long book. We’ll do it again sometime.

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Hot Chai Malk
Submitted by Katelyn Sack

Suppose your dear mother were ill, her body racked with nutritional deficiencies not in proportion to her diet: bones randomly cracking, ligaments ripping. You stroke her on the cheek and buy unsulfured blackstrap molasses, because sugar is in fact a vegetable—they just siphon off all the healthy stuff before marketing the powdered waste product as pure joy.

One tablespoon of unsulfured blackstrap molasses contains approximately 20 percent of your daily value (hereafter “DV”) of calcium, 20 percent DV iron, 20 percent DV Vitamin A, and 10 percent DV potassium. These goodies represent some of the most common nutritional deficiencies in middle-aged American women, and a few of the many that my mother suffers from, despite a robust diet of coffee and brownies.

This black gold tastes like crap if you try to eat a spoonful straight, but that same tablespoon of molasses can be carefully tucked into a slowly heated pot of milk. The product is widely known in my apartment as “malk.” If properly stirred with the constant patience and love you only wish you could show other things in your life, malk develops a consistency similar to that of custard before it sets. It still tastes like crap, though.

If you drop in a chai tea bag for a few minutes, along with the blackstrap spoonful, stirring constantly, you will end up with hot chai malk. Your dear sick mother will sip at it politely before reminding you that the nausea she frequently experiences prevents her from humoring all of your gastronomic experiments. Then she’ll suggest that maybe the cat is hungry.

Hot chai malk is the best in the land. The milk and molasses in one mug of malk offer over 50 percent DV calcium, plus a good plug of iron and other healthy stuff without which you’d forever remain a scraggly tar. However, the heat probably breaks down the riboflavin in the milk. And the tannins in the black tea probably block you from totally absorbing the heavy metals, but tannins can only do so much, whereas hot chai malk makes you and your stomach invincible. Don’t listen to your mother.

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Gung Ten (Jumping Shrimp)
Submitted by Adam Holofcener

If you’re ever traveling in northern Thailand and get a hankering for some spicy stuff that’ll gross you out, gung ten is the dish for you. It’s raw shrimp the size of your pinkie nail on a bed of chili pepper about 20 times spicier than prik nam pla (spicy fish sauce). Half a bottle of whiskey is poured on top right before it’s served; this means that anyone who doesn’t know exactly what gung ten is lifts the dish’s lid and ends up with shrimp dancing into his or her lap. It’s a cruel circus, basically, and quite a thing to see. The shrimp look like they have a nice golden tan, but really they’re just melting from the inside out after ingesting 30 times their weight in Thai whiskey. Once everyone stops laughing, the server puts the lid back on the bowl and shakes it until most of the shrimp are dead. You won’t be able to eat more than three bites of this, but you’re in Thailand, so it probably cost about as much as a pack of fruit snacks.

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Jones Soda Co. Carbonated Candy—
FuFu Berry Flavor
Submitted by Clark Wells

Chalkily reminiscent of Flintstones vitamins, but without the alleged healthy stuff and fun Fred/Barney/Wilma/Dino shapes, the sensation this carbonated candy gave my mouth led me to believe that it’s about as carbonated as cardboard. The label suggests tossing some into your favorite Jones soda, and that would indeed be a good way to get rid of them. Otherwise, I guess your beagle could eat them. Mine did, and seemed OK about it.

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Oscar Mayer Fast Franks
Submitted by Emily Shetler

Here’s how to make a hot dog: Put some cold water in a smallish pot—it doesn’t have to be much water, just enough to cover an average-size frank. Put the wiener in the water. Turn on the stove. Put the flame on high. Now here’s the tricky part: heat the water until it boils. It should take about three minutes, give or take a minute, depending on the pot. In those three minutes, you can get the bun, ketchup, mustard, and relish from the refrigerator. You’ll probably even have enough time to split open the bun. (Again, this part can get a bit dicey: most buns are precut, but since some bun-cutting machines occasionally make mistakes by cutting only one-quarter of the way through the roll, or all the way through, and thereby making some rolls unusable, you might have to search around a little for a functional bun.) After you’ve arranged the bun on a plate, if you’ve been quick enough, maybe pour yourself a glass of milk. Whatever you do during those three minutes, have no fear: once the water is boiling, you are in business. The hot dog is, effectively, done. You may want to take the hot dog out of the pot with a fork, as the water is hot and will burn your fingers if you touch the meat directly.

If that sounds like too much work for you, I don’t blame you one bit. Don’t forget that you can always use Oscar Mayer Fast Franks, available in regular and all-beef. Each package contains three individually wrapped wieners. All you do is pop one in the microwave for 30 seconds on high. When the microwave beeps, just take the Fast Frank out of there and eat it. This leaves you less time to put the ketchup on the counter, but you’ve spared yourself the grueling process of boiling that frank. I know what you’re wondering: yes, if you can believe it, each package includes the bun. Yes, you could make six Fast Franks in the time it used to take you to make one hot dog. And, yes, if you have two microwaves and a partner, you could make 12 of these guys in that amount of time. That’s a good thing, right?

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Tootsie Pop
Submitted by Danielle Leduc

During a family road trip to Disneyland, piled in our tent-trailer, we made a quick candy stop at a corner store before arriving at the campground in Anaheim. Oh, the choices in America! Being Canadian, our childhoods were deprived of such exotic treats as Mambo bars; those were saved for special occasions and border crossings. Despite that, I decided to go for a Tootsie Pop. For the rest of the day, I licked. And I counted. When the dishes were done in our little sink and it was time to brush my teeth, I had licked 364 times. Carefully, I wrapped the partially dissolved Pop back in its original waxy wrap and nestled between my two brothers on our side of the trailer. In the morning, the Tootsie Pop was still in place, ready to resume the count. When I peeled back the sticky wrapper, though, I was not greeted with the appetizing Pop I’d put to rest the night before. Shiny, conniving ants covered every centimeter of my treat, of my progress. And did I let them stop me? Did I give up? Yes, of course I did.

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Eggplant Parmesan
Submitted by Ian Candy

I never start cooking until I’m already hungry, so when the recipe says, “Sprinkle slices with kosher salt and let the bitter juices weep from the eggplant for about an hour,” I ignore it and just start slicing the eggplant up as quickly as I can. I beat two eggs with a fork in a Tupperware container, because all the bowls are dirty, then throw some breadcrumbs onto a plate and start smearing the egg and crumbs onto the eggplant slices until I’ve got a nice yolky paste all over my hands.

At that point, I pour some oil into a pan and start frying it all up. I try to use tongs to turn the pieces over, but it just knocks most of the breading off the eggplant. The pan’s not deep enough, so the oil keeps splattering all over the stove and burning me on the arm. I’ve got about nine batches’ worth to fry, and by the third batch enough breading has fallen into the oil that it starts to burn and the kitchen fills up with a weird smell.

My roommate is in the living room watching the football game with some of his friends. After a while, he starts complaining. I tell him I’m frying eggplant and he shuts up until the smoke detector starts going off. I take the battery out and fry the last few pieces up.

I dump half a jar of Prego into the baking pan, toss in the eggplant, and cover it with Parmesan cheese. The rest of the sauce goes in next, topped off with some shredded mozzarella. I toss the pan into the oven at 400 degrees and go into the living room to watch the game, but my eyes are burning from the oil and I can’t really keep them open. I try to flush them out with some cold water from the sink, then go back into the living room. It’s the fourth quarter and the game is starting to get close when I realize I forgot to set the oven timer.

The cheese is perfectly golden brown on top, like a casserole, and the sauce is bubbling up from underneath. I let it cool for a few minutes on top of the stove and then spoon some onto a plate and take it to the living room. “You know, I’m going to smell like burnt food for the rest of the week thanks to you,” my roommate says, and I want to tell him to go fuck himself, but instead I take a bite of the eggplant. It is the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted in my life.

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Convenience Store Cheese Burger Dog
Submitted by Renee Gentry

At first glance, it appears to be an oversized breakfast sausage, spinning on the grill rollers along with the hot dogs and Polish sausages. Grab a hot bun out of the drawer, top it with a squirt of mustard, and you’ve got yourself a mighty tasty breakfast for a mere buck. Hot, greasy breakast sausage, marbled perfectly with just the right amount of pork fat. Crispy on the outside, hot and juicy on the inside.

After weeks of enjoying this economical breakfast, I accidentally glanced at the receipt. “Cheese Burger Dog.” Cheese Burger Dog? I’ve been stuffing myself with cheese burgers, all the while convinced I was eating a tasty Jimmy Dean breakfast delight? How could this be?

I squeezed that little sausage and inspected the goo. It was no pork sausage. It was quite possible that those little chunks of pork fat were, in reality, oozy American cheese. It was hamburger meat, shaped like a hot dog, with built-in cheese bits. Now when I pass the corner store, I save my buck and keep driving. I also gag a little.

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Croatian Crackers (Podravka)
Submitted by Zainah Usman

If cotton were spun into a biscuit, and that biscuit began to ooze, and the ooze smelled like a desk drawer, then you’d have Podravka, the Croatian cracker. Thanks, Croatia!

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Morningstar Farms Veggie Breakfast Bacon Strips
Submitted by Steve DiPietro

“Enjoy the authentic smoky flavor and satisfying crisp of bacon with your favorite breakfast or in a BLT,” instructs the printing on the box. Seems pretty straightfoward. But you need to read between the lines here. What the box is really telling you is to never, under any circumstances, eat this product alone. Always have it with real food, so that you don’t discover the affront to nature that is the Veggie Bacon Strip.

Prompted by a vegetarian co-worker, I took a bite of what looked like a child’s rendering of bacon. After catching the pieces that it broke into when I bit down, I foolishly threw them into my mouth. Now, I’ll give the mad scientists at Morningstar Farms a little credit: it tasted vaguely like bacon. It tasted like what an android that is trying to fit in with us humans would imagine bacon would taste like. When hidden inside a BLT, it might even work. Eaten alone in a dark editing bay, it did not work. Was my co-worker actually an android? How many more of them were there? Is this how their infiltration would be exposed? By me, here in this room, eating what feels like petrified carpet cushioning with a hint of bacon flavor? Did his eyeball just take a picture of me? It did. Why did I trust a vegetarian?

Morningstar Farms also makes a Veggie Breakfast Sausage, both in link form and as a patty.

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Suzanne’s Ricemellow Cream
Submitted by Alexis St. James

According to Suzanne’s website, Ricemellow is available in industrial quantities. Nothing could make me happier.

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Eye-Popping Apple Jacks
Submitted by Jeff Alford

Last year, I stockpiled 10 boxes of Haunted Mansion Cocoa Krispies in an attempt to make up for their impending absence. Those were good times, last year. I wouldn’t let anyone touch those Cocoa Krispies.

But these, these “Eye-Popping” Apple Jacks, they’re just lazy. We can all imagine how hard it is to squeeze out a little marshmallow circle from whatever machine they’re birthed from and call it an eyeball. Why not try some truly spooky marshmallows, Kellogg’s? Maybe some bats, some witches, a ghost or two? You want to really scare us? Do a marshmallow of a man in his 20s, yelling at his housemate for stealing his Halloween cereal. Do one of a man reunited every October with the childhood he never had. Next Halloween, this could be special.

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McDonald’s Caramel Dip
Submitted by Dana Madonna

I leave my cube at lunchtime most days and actively seek developmental regression in the form of nonsensible food choices. I do this to compensate for the youth that I feel is slipping away with every hour I spend cultivating tendinitis, wearing jeans on Casual Fridays, and attending meetings during which I doodle hearts on my legal pad.

On one seasonably cold day, I drive over to McDonald’s for something sweet and innocent in a calculated way. I find Apple Dippers With Low Fat Caramel Dip, which seem to accompany the Happy Meals but are also sold separately. The apples come in a bag that displays more information than I feel comfortable with. The toddler-appropriate pieces are peeled and slimy.

The Low Fat(!) Caramel Dip is what gets me, though. My first slim apple half-moon gets a perfunctory dabbing and is basically wasted. After that one, I completely submerge each piece, making every sweet-tart slice more delicious than the one that preceded it. I polish the apples off and am left with a Canaanitic miracle: the bottom of the small plastic container is still coated with a generous layer of brownish goo. In defiance of my burning throat, I spend the next four minutes swiping and swabbing my pinkie finger around the perimeter of the container. The aftertaste is like a tiny liquid state fair, and I go to the Monthly Associate Birthday Celebration that afternoon feeling like a striped-tent vendor, wishing for a ride on the Scrambler.

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Good Friends Cereal
Submitted by Phuong-Cac Nguyen

I was born with shy, often unproductive bowel movements, so I’ve reluctantly learned I need more fiber than most people to get my kids comfortable for a dip in the pool. Hence, I discovered Kashi’s Good Friends cereal, yet another exciting permutation in their line of healthy concoctions.

The box is at once daunting and reassuring. Two old people stare into space and point zombie grins toward me, a bowl of the magic stuff nestled under their chins. Their smiles say, “Yes, we crap regularly, and aren’t we just delighted with ourselves! And dear sweet Jesus, aren’t we so lucky! The last days of our lives couldn’t be any better!”

I got the “fiber-lovers value pack” version, which is a nice way for Kashi to put it. People seeing us “fiber lovers” buying this are likely to say to themselves, “Wow, well, look at them, they love fiber, they would marry it!” Everyone knows nothing beats love, even if it’s for fiber. It’s nice to have a passion. This is incredibly pleasant messaging.

At home, sighing and feeling sad, I turn the box so my new Good Friends can look out the window and I can eat in peace.

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Fried Coke
Submitted by Nicole Pasini

How does one fry a liquid? I was never able to find out—the teenager manning the pink-and-white-striped trailer at the state fair told me it was “top secret.” I couldn’t even sneak around to the side window to peek in, because he pulled mine out of the display case, where it had been sitting for an indeterminate period of time. My girlfriend read an article about a man in Texas who fries Coke by mixing the soda with batter and frying strips of it, creating a Coke-infused fried dough. Arizona Fried Coke is more like a corn dog where the dog has gone bad to the point of turning sweet and plasmatic. My assumption is that they freeze the Coke before frying it. My first, and last, bite resulted in long, sticky strings of syrup trailing down my face. And it made my teeth hurt.

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Stonewall’s Hot Pastrami Style Jerquee
Submitted by Dan Gasperut

The PBS station in Chicago plays cooking shows all day on Saturdays. It’s really your only choice when you get five channels and two of them are in Spanish. Since it’s PBS, the video is all grainy and everyone’s wardrobe looks like leftovers from the set of Family Ties; you can’t tell if you’re watching a 10-year-old rerun of Barbecue University or a new episode of Simply Ming. Anyway, one Saturday, one of the cooks said that the secret to good cooking was empathy. It makes sense—we prepare food for others to make them happy. We’re offering them a physical manifestation of our love and asking them to validate our effort by returning that affection. So what does it mean when my roommate microwaves flavored soy flour and offers me the flaccid, rubbery fake meat, saying, “Taste it, it’s great, it’s just as good as the land animals you eat but I don’t”? I guess it means she has no empathy. Also, it means my apartment is going to smell like a wet dog for about 40 minutes.

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Snickers Duo
Submitted by Chris Hicks

I was so excited when they released these here in the U.K. Finally, I thought, a Snickers that’s big enough to share but easy to divide. No more tendrils of snarled caramel. No more lost peanuts. I will peel the wrapper in the middle, revealing two neat halves, and that will be the end of the division. Any friend would gladly accept such an offer.

But I was wrong. It seems that, at 4 a.m., in a petrol-station forecourt, the potential friends I’m shouting at are not put off by the unhygienic implications of a hand-broken king-size Snickers: they’re put off by my desperation. And my sobbing.

So, Mars, fuck you. I felt better casually tearing off a hunk of a kingdom than offering half of an unwanted meal for two.

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Yerba Mate
Submitted by Marti Davidson Sichel

In olden days, people drank this warm concoction (made from a member of the holly family) out of gourds while passing down mythological tales to their friends and family. It was tradition, and it was lovely. In more recent times, while browsing a natural-foods store on Oahu, I was enticed to drink this tea-like substance by a nice girl who bore a strong resemblance to Frida Kahlo. After I admitted that doctor’s orders had taken me off of caffeine, she told me that it was completely void of said offending compound. “Frida” brought the giant chilled cup to the table; I was immediately struck by the abundance of detritus on its pearl-like surface. I added some raw sugar to the cup and drew a long, slow pull of sweet, almost-tea-but-not-quite goodness. “It’s almost like tea, but not quite,” I told my husband. Bless this heavy-browed goddess of the natural-foods café for showing me this lighted path through the dark jungle of a tea-less life! A new tradition can now be born.

Upon my return to the mainland, my curiosity piqued, I looked up “yerba mate” on Wikipedia. “Mate products are sometimes marketed as ‘caffeine-free’ … based on a claim that the primary active xanthine in mate is ‘mateine’, erroneously said to be a stereoisomer of caffeine … ‘Mateine’ is an official synonym of caffeine.”

Damn you, Eyebrows.

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h4.Naked Power
All Natural Well Being
100% Juice Smoothie
Submitted by Megan Mayhew Bergman

It has a pound of fruit per every bottle. I think you have to allow yourself three full minutes of self-awe when you finish drinking this, because, holy shit, you’ve just had a pound of fruit. When was the last time you had a pound of fruit in one sitting? Fondue doesn’t count. Neither does strawberry Nesquik.

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The In-N-Out Burger
Double Double Cheeseburger (With Onion)
Submitted by Ben Pawlowski

I’m visiting Las Vegas to find an apartment. Up until now, I have never made it west of central Missouri.

“Hello,” a voice says to me via intercom. “How are you?”

“What?” I respond.

“How are you?”

“I’m, um, fine.” I have never received such courteousness from a drive-thru intercom before.

“Do you want to eat in your car?” the voice inquires.

“Do I want to eat in my car?” I’ve eaten in my car before. I will probably eat in my car again. But this question strikes me as a rather personal one.

“No. No, thank you. I don’t want to … um … no. Thanks.”

Following the drive-thru road, I can see inside the restaurant. Cute 17-year-olds wear paper hats and slice potatoes, ring up large pink lemonades, and stop to look you in the eye and ask if you want ketchup with that. In my rental PT Cruiser (not my choice), looking through those windows, I breathe in an overwhelming wave of industriousness, that “we’re not old enough to vote but at least we’re getting paid” spirit, which I don’t think I ever really had. Everyone here is friendly and polite and smiles with their eyes. The entire experience is, if not uplifting, at least strangely comforting.

They have good burgers there. But the fries are kinda mushy.

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Oven-Baked Brownie Squares
Submitted by Clinton Larson

A box of miniature brownies arriving with a Sunday-football pizza order might at first seem to threaten the level of machismo needed to properly immerse oneself in such a sport. This is, after all, the gridiron. The dirtiest, sweatiest, head-butt’nest display of manpower this side of European soccer. Traditional wisdom would say that if brownies or any other confections are going to be involved, they should be as big as your face and covered with rock candy. However, when they’re free, and when your and your buddy’s dogs, the three of which weigh a combined 17 pounds, rush to the door ahead of you to vibrate chaotically and send tiny shouts at the delivery person standing outside your townhouse complex, which is known as French Creek, the adjustment needed is fairly minimal. And, actually, the brownies ended up being quite manly. They felt like they were constructed from balsa, and each bite recalled the wood bridge you made in high school, attractive and sleek until weight was applied and it collapsed into sawdust and splinters and you lost the class contest to the guy who based his design on the Imperial cruiser from Return of the Jedi. The powdered sugar on top of the brownies looked like it was applied in a good-luck over-the-shoulder throw, and the fudge dipping sauce tasted like syrup and wood glue and defeat. Of the 10 brownies that came, we ate eight, between two shots of whiskey.

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Reduced Fat Sour Cream and Onion Pringles
Submitted by Jesse Adelman

When I bite down on a thin piece of metal—a paper clip, pen nib, knife blade, or tinfoil scrap—it feels like tiny magnetic ants are burrowing into my jaw through my gums. The sensation is uncomfortable but also appealing and compulsive, like picking scabs, or biting my cuticles, which I like to keep red and angry.

Reduced Fat Sour Cream and Onion Pringles fulfilled my needs in this area while also being extremely salty and, OK, delicious. The actual fat reduction (36 percent, to 7 grams of fat for 16 crisps) is negligible given the wild difference in consistency between these and original Pringles, whose dried-potato-flake composition enables one to experience the pleasure of chewing while meeting little actual resistance—like the elliptical machines at the gym, but for your face. When you bite a Reduced Fat Sour Cream and Onion Pringle, it will shatter into tiny rigid fragments, all of which must be chewed themselves, ad infinitum. Each brittle trace of Pringle will feel like a tiny magnet ant burrowing into your jaw through your gums.

The new Pringles slogan is “Pleasure. Every Single Pringle.” This is true and more. I poured the crumbs of my Reduced Fat Sour Cream and Onion Pringles onto their shallow lid and sucked them down after I ate a Cinnamon Raisin South Beach Diet Bar with a beer. I eat lunch at home.

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White Castle Chocolate Shakes
Submitted by Steve Jents

I’m not sure if I was in ninth or 10th grade. My brother, in an incredible show of support to my parents, picked me up from my job as a line cook at a neighborhood Italian restaurant. After my brother, his friends, and I bowled three games and shared a liter of Jack Daniel’s, a 2-1 vote was cast for me to hop behind the wheel of my parents’ 1978 Oldsmobile 98 Regency. (My brother held the dissenting opinion.) I had neither driver’s license nor learner’s permit, and I fucking white-knuckled that thing down the road, at about 27 miles per hour, I think—the light for the speedometer didn’t work. We hadn’t even turned onto the highway yet when I heard “Steeeeeeeeve, dude—take us to White Castle!” Being a young man new to the school of whiskey-induced inebriation, I was unable to recall just how in the hell one would get there. My brother and Red Dog, who sat shotgun, guided me to the drive-thru like navigators in a rally car. Twenty minutes later, safely in my parents’ driveway, I was finally able to begin drinking my chocolate shake. Perhaps it was the adrenaline that comes from driving underage drunks home from a bowling alley when you yourself haven’t been behind the wheel before. Perhaps it was the Marlboro Red my brother let me take a couple of drags from on the way home. But I’ll be goddamned if White Castle’s chocolate shakes aren’t the best in the business.

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Brain Burrito

Submitted by Alex MacInnis

On the board at the burrito stand across from the high school, the choices get more hardcore as you move down the list. We’d been working our way down, a burrito a day after school, seeing who would stop where. I didn’t enjoy the tongue burrito, but Dave ate one, too, and said he wasn’t stopping. I was pretty bummed to hear that. The next day, we ordered two brain burritos. A couple of guys we knew came over to watch.

I tried to eat around the brain and get big mouthfuls of the beans, but you can’t really eat only one side of a burrito. We were standing in the parking lot, and I wasn’t gonna ask for a plate and fork. They give you a tub of salsa, but I’d already used all of that.

There’s no taste at all—it’s like food that was left on a grave overnight for an ancestor and then you actually go back and try to eat it in the morning and it tastes drained. It’s just like eating a burrito of gray fat. Every bite, you ask yourself, “What on earth am I eating?!” and your brain races to inform you: “It’s BRAIN, IDIOT! It’s BRAIN!”

Each of us was only eating as fast as the other guy, and these were pretty big burritos. They probably hadn’t sold much brain the last couple of days and were trying to use it up. Once we hit about the two-thirds mark, we just agreed to stop without talking about it much. It felt lame to waste all that brain, though.

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Trix Cereal

Submitted by Micah Nilsson

I bought these for my nephew so he wouldn’t have to eat my hippie-childhood-influenced breakfasts on our family camping trip. The first few mornings, everyone accepted Bob’s Red Mill Wholegrain Pancakes, so the Trix remained unopened until an evening poker game, when we tore into the box to use the cereal as ante.

I grew up eating granola (brown and tan), Grape-Nuts (brown), and, on wild mornings, Raisin Bran (brown and dark brown), so nothing in my childhood could have prepared me for the technicolor exuberance and willful denial of actual fruit-flavoring possibilities that is Trix. Looking into the bag inside that box was like looking into a thousand Latin American bodegas with a few Delhi buses and an entire Asian-supermarket snack aisle thrown in for good measure. I put the box down, alarmed and unnerved, but soon was drawn back in by the games and puzzles on the box itself. Games! On breakfast-item packaging! Who knew?

Unprepared, my taste buds were as an Amish in Vegas, so confused and excited were they. I could taste the colors, but not in that fun acid-trip sort of way. For a while I enjoyed the novelty of it, how the red ones tasted different than the turquoise and pink ones, each one distinct and yet totally unconstrained by any similarity to any flavor of the natural world. Then I began to realize that these things are vile. A pan-chromatic stain upon morning itself. Also, they contain preservatives I have been advised not to feed my dog.

My nephew didn’t eat them all, so they came back home with us, haunting our cabinet like a gaudy phantasm of the day’s most important meal. I don’t like to waste any food, but I was afraid to subject my compost to this prismatic incursion. At least I can recycle the box.

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Grape-Nuts Trail Mix Crunch

Submitted by Vijith Assar

I’m happy to report that Post Cereals appears to have finally decided to get with the times and update their firstborn. This is Grape-Nuts for the Golden Grahams generation, a necessary evil in the health-food industry now that the Saturday-morning tots who thought that Cookie Crisp was a good idea have grown up and come upon modest amounts of disposable income. Hundreds of the angry little acorn-gravel bastards still attack the roof of your mouth with every spoonful, but the overall flavor is noticeably sweeter, and there’s even the occasional raisin—just rare enough that I’d always be surprised upon encountering one, but nonetheless a welcome cushion of momentary respite from the whole-grain riot. It’s certainly an improvement on the original, if that means anything, but I still have misgivings about any edible substance named after two simple foods that manages to taste like neither.

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Caribou Coffee Granola Bar

Submitted by Will Hindmarch

With my Kroger card, it was two boxes for $4. I’m a sucker for that old trick. I might buy and eat two copies of Tim Allen’s The Shaggy Dog if it were on a two-for-cheap special with my Kroger card—I’d put them in a Ziploc bag, smash them into chips, and eat them with hummus.

The coffee smell, once I’d opened one of the boxes and then a bar, was palpable. I could’ve grabbed that first fume of joe and run it through my hair like soap. That smell is the main reason I’d think about buying another box. Otherwise, the Caribou Coffee Granola Bar just tastes like another granola bar with a chocolate skirt. They taste fine.

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Powerblast Energy Powder

Submitted by Jake Hayden

If you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to be empowered with 16,670 percent of your daily value of riboflavin, the answer is that it feels pretty normal. And your pee smells like orange Flintstones vitamins mixed in a mortar with the dirty husk shavings of a carrot.

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Rockstar Energy Drink Original

Submitted by Whitey Eckerson

Not long ago, I decided to buy one of those crazy energy soft drinks that tired people like. I’d never tried any of them, primarily because I’m very sensitive to caffeine. That’s no small confession for a bookish 25-year-old American. Everyone at Starbucks, employees and patrons alike, look on with contempt when I order my “small decaf, please.” I turn to the lady behind me and say, “I’m very sensitive to caffeine.” If particularly embarrassed, I might accidentally tell my too-much-caffeine story. “I once drank one of those miniature coffees when I was out to dinner with my wife, and I wasn’t able to go to bed till, like, 4 in the morning.” It’s a brief story. After the customary appearance of Mr. Silence and his partner Dr. Awkward, I turn slowly back to the cash register and pay the $1.28 total with my debit card.

I wound up choosing Rockstar Original because it’s the only brand of energy drink I recognized. I used to work with a guy at a pizzeria in Salt Lake City who drank one every morning before we opened. He always called it “fuckin’ Rockstar.” Determined, I cracked open the oblong can and took a swig right there in front of the refrigerator wall in the supermarket without even paying for it first.

The next thing I knew, I was at the cash register, breathing very, very hard through gnashing teeth. Spit flew forth from my mouth in little missile-streaks onto the black conveyor belt. After paying with my debit card, I began laughing uncontrollably, actually saying, “HA HA HA HA HA.”

There was no mirror handy, but I’m sure my eyes were bulging. Gradually, my head lightened and I blacked out.

My doctor told me it could have been a mild heart attack. Now when I order my decaf, I turn to the lady behind me and say coolly, “Heart trouble.” She gives me a sympathetic look. “Heart trouble,” I say again, a little quieter.

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Submitted by Cynthia Kopkowski

Apparently, Pop-Tarts weren’t convenient enough. Now Kellogg’s offers us Go-Tarts: “Everything you love about Pop-Tarts—now in a bar!” Nothing I love about Pop-Tarts remains.

Gone is the sweet, unbroken expanse of icing that stretched before your gaping mouth like the Oklahoma plains after a dusting of creamed high-fructose corn syrup. Gone is the pleasing texture of the larger flat pocket, which impishly tickled your tongue as you took a bite. In their place, there’s a chalky tube that shatters on contact into a great many crumbs. You’re left holding the wrapper, remembering the way things were before some focus group of porky 11-year-olds mandated this product’s creation and a bunch of suits over at the Kellogg’s HQ rushed to satisfy their demands. I’ll stick with the old ways.

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Pepsi Jazz!: Black Cherry and Vanilla

Submitted by Mary Holt

JAZZ!” it shouts from its plastic casing. My hand is urged forward by my music-school past. Images of speakeasies and flappers dance gayly through my head. Outside, I eagerly twist off the cap and drink deeply. Confusion fills my brain as I stare accusingly at the bottle—this doesn’t taste like jazz! It tastes like a combination of sugar-free bubblegum and acid.

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Jell-O No-Bake Cheesecake

Submitted by Cory Scott

My family and I are frequent campers. Recently, we went backpacking in the Sierra Nevada, where a mosquito somehow bit the inside of my nose. At the end of our trip, I found the Jell-O No-Bake Cheesecake. Although I was wary of the packaging’s proclamation that raw cheesecake was a good thing, I took a perfectly good pot and coated the bottom with the included crumbs. I then mixed powdered milk, water, and the powdered cheesecake mix, which smelled like protein powder. After I poured this mixture on top of the crumbs, I realized a flaw in our cheesecake-related plan. We had no fridge.

In my elevation-sick state, I cursed myself not for bringing something that required refrigeration, but, instead, for not bringing the fridge. Looking around, I spotted a lingering snowdrift, and decided to bury the quickly congealing proto-cheesecake under about a foot of snow. Some hours later, when we dug it out, we were amazed to find that it was actually semisolid. The cherry topping slid out of its package like slugs, though, and my comrades, who until this point had been happily anticipating this moment, became eager for me to take the first bite. It hit my tongue like pudding, and before I had swallowed that spoonful I was getting another.

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Similac Alimentum Advance

Submitted by Whitney Collins

Last Sunday morning, on the verge of both a drive-thru divorce and trading our infant son on eBay for a red paper clip, my husband and I invested in a foul-smelling product known as Similac Alimentum Advance, a formula made specifically for babies who, for reasons of severe protein sensitivity, begin to make Linda Blair look like Laura Ingalls. Never mind that it costs more than what was going to be our child’s liberal-arts education, or that it smells like 42-day-old tofu with a dash of diaper, or that I ran four red lights and gave a cop the finger while screeching toward Rite Aid. This beverage is “Buddha in a Bottle.”

Immediately after his first 5-ounce feeding, George’s screams subsided and he slipped into an open-eyed state of nirvana, farted twice, and gave a harmonious coo. Then he slept for four hours straight, during which time my husband and I were so overcome with glee we didn’t even worry about checking the baby’s pulse. Today is Wednesday, and, $30 later (yes, dear readers, the price is that exorbitant), the Collins family is auditioning for Hallmark, Pillsbury, and Disney World commercials. We’re that disgustingly happy.

Oh, did I mention that the proteins in Similac Alimentum Advance are pre-digested? I don’t know who does that at the factory, or what it entails, but we don’t give a crap. (Except for George. He’s giving lots and lots of them.)

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Plump Venison Steak

Submitted by Brian Vastag

“Beware the scrawny deer!” was the cry heard in central Northeastern Wisconsin during the autumns of my youth. Each hunting season, that plaintive cry echoed off the gunmetal skies and across the fallow fields into the ears of every sportsman and -boy. “Beware the scrawny deer!”

For the scrawniness of a deer—buck or doe, makes no difference—bespeaks the dreaded chronic wasting disease, which is to deer what scrapie is to sheep, what mad cow is to cattle, what Creutzfeldt-Jakob is to people. It’s a prion disease. So when Uncle Harold announced venison for dinner, I paused, disquieted. An accomplished sportsman, Uncle Harold had felled many a mighty ungulate: towering elk in Montana, giant caribou in Alaska. Scrawny deer in the heartland?

Could I take the chance that someday hence my own grotesque and kinky brain proteins would topple me into unremitting madness diagnosable only by slicing my brain into translucent strips for easy microscopy? The technician, examining the damage, would stifle a sob, wipe her brow with a gloved hand, and shudder. “Wasted deer,” she would mouth.

The steaming pile of meat arrived. Uncle Harold forked a steak onto my plate—elegantly marbled and bordered by a thick lining of fat, this venison must have been sliced from a strapping brute. And, so far, I’m fine.

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Orbit Lemon-Lime

Submitted by Lauren Spohrer

It tastes like that summer you worked at Smoothie King and instead of mixing a little bit of bleach with water you filled the mop cart with bleach and slopped it around the store at 7 p.m., even though you couldn’t lock up until 8 p.m., and then some high-school baseball team came in and ordered six or seven Caribbean Ways and you had papaya-and-pineapple concentrate in your hair and all over your shirt and the smell of bleach was eating away at your nasal septum and you knew that even if you worked at Banana Republic and not at Smoothie King, baseball players like these were not going to ask you to do anything, ever.

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Ginseng Root Drink

Submitted by Alli Shaloum

I went into my local Korean grocery store for a bag of Funyuns. As I stepped up to the counter to make my purchase, I saw two neat rows of small glass bottles of Ginseng Root Drink gleaming in the neon. Immediately, I reached for one.

“Oh, you wouldn’t like that,” warned the teenage cashier.

“Oh, yeah? Why’s that?”

“It’s not like anything you’ve tasted before.” And he closed his eyes to seal the deal.

Now, at this point I probably should have just walked away. The bottle looked like it contained some formaldehyde-preserved alien: the ginseng root floated with its little tentacles in the syrup.

“Only Koreans drink it.” His blatant ethnic self-promotion and superiority only sweetened the deal. Oh, how he taunted me. I’m a self-loathing Jew from Long Island—I had everything to prove and nothing to lose.

“OK then. I’ll take it!” I paid him an extra $2 and dreamed of overcoming the obstacles between our peoples. Hell, I’d even eat the root if I had to. “Should I drink it cold?”

“Yup, and good luck.” I promised him I’d come back with a report.

Of course, it’s still in the back of my fridge, untapped.

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Hot Roast-Beef Sandwich

Submitted by Nick Bredie

Where does “sandwich” end and “melee with bread” begin? The open-face hot roast-beef sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy is what those of us in the philosophy business might call a sorites paradox, or paradoxical heap. It’s kind of like trying to figure out where the valley ends and the mountain begins. This is why the best hot roast-beef sandwiches are made in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Town ‘N’ Country Restaurant (its billboard reads “Best in Food”), of Warrenton, Virginia, is a personal favorite. The Pepperidge Farm peeks out from under the beef, crying out to be folded over and made a proper sandwich. But one quickly finds that the gravy has overcome what little integrity the bread began with. Does this disqualify this collation from sandwichhood? And if so, why bother with the bread in the first place, since the potatoes already serve as gravy-mop? Once the first near-liquid forkful enters your mouth, though, you stop trying to figure any of this out.

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Bananas and Cheese

Submitted by Brian Sutorius

When I was too young to be dropped off at school so my mom could catch up on her soaps, she compromised with me by letting me catch up on my Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood for a half hour right before lunchtime. The venerable Fred Rogers played with puppets well into an age where he was eligible for AARP benefits, and also had a traffic light installed in his house. Needless to say, everything he told me should have been taken with a grain of salt, especially before lunchtime.

One day, Mr. McFeely (“Speedy delivery!”) brought Fred a blank gray box from the neighborhood grocer, known to all of us as Chef Brockett. Inside that box was one banana, one slice of pre-wrapped American cheese, and a note reading “Wrap cheese around peeled banana and eat right away. Yours, C.B.” This being a happier time, Fred gave no second thought to the sparse instructions before enjoying his snack. I immediately told my mother to nix the scheduled peanut butter and jelly.

There’s nothing special about this quick concoction (a “C.B.”—cheese banana, yes, but also Chef Brockett!), but it doesn’t taste half bad. I’ve tried it with Swiss and jack cheeses in addition to the classic American, and they all play nicely off the banana’s spongy texture and unique flavor. I’m sure there are health benefits galore, along with the added bonus of disgusted looks from your lunchtime companions.

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Diet Pepsi Jazz Strawberries and Cream

Submitted by Arianna Stern

Walking into my local record store, I saw a cooler filled with melted ice and glass pop bottles. A sign atop it read:

Diet Pepsi JAZZ
Take one, it’s FREE!

Before taking the plunge, I asked the nearest available clerk if the fruit-flavored beverage was any good. “Well, that’s subjective,” she replied. Subjective indeed. Jazz is neither enjoyable nor particularly offensive. It’s the sort of drink you ingest when there’s nothing else available, making Jazz the drinkable equivalent of E! True Hollywood Story. It tastes like Strawberries and Cream Creme Savers melted into Diet Pepsi, with a little extra (diet) strawberry syrup to up the strawberry-to-cream ratio. As I closed my mouth around its skinny glass neck, the clerk took a photo of me drinking.

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Ben & Jerry’s Black and Tan Ice Cream

Submitted by Nadine Darling

Poking through pints in the ice-cream freezer of my local Shaw’s, I spotted Ben & Jerry’s Black and Tan Ice Cream. Ice creams based on alcoholic drinks are as prevalent now as movies that used Katrina and the Waves’ “Walking on Sunshine” as background music for their trailers were in the late ‘80s, and I for one say it’s about fucking time. Like most Americans, I don’t have a moment to spare. I need to cram all of my various addictions into one artery-clogging, liver-pummeling, mood-swing-elevating experience, and it must be portable enough to eat while weeping on the back porch in my underwear.

I have no problem with Ben and Jerry, two pleasant dairy-loving old men in Vermont who, apparently, can’t get enough of each other. They very nicely straddle the fence between highfalutin, green-tea-foisting companies like Häagen-Dazs and the more ghetto-fabulous store brands. The reason why Ben & Jerry’s remains viable year after year is because their philosophies are bland and inoffensive: Ice cream is fun! Hormones are bad! Naming frozen novelties after filthy hippies is profitable!

But I found Black and Tan—named for the combination of pale ale and stout, and not, I assume, for the regiment of brutal British soldiers recruited to serve in Ireland after World War I—to be somewhat disappointing. For one, it contains no actual hooch. So, even though I ate all of it, I was left without the inflated sense of self that comes from true alcohol. I lacked the confidence to, say, bark through the fence at the neighbor’s Doberman, or call up friends from junior high and demand to know why they’re jealous of me. All things considered, I wouldn’t buy Ben & Jerry’s Black and Tan again. Or maybe I would, what the hell do I know?

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Lightning Bugs

Submitted by Anna T. Hirsh

This fascinating candy adventure has two parts: a receptacle containing little gummy nubbins made to look like giant larvae, and what the packaging refers to as “Electronic Tongs.” The instructions urge, “Grab a bug! Light it up!,” which is exactly what I did yesterday. After carefully removing the plastic covering, I was met with what I can only explain as the aroma that occurs when someone eats a huge bag of gummy worms and then vomits them up. Undeterred and semi-hopeful that these candy insects might actually carry an electrical current, I closed my tweezers around a yellow niblet, and it was suddenly glowing a fantastic radioactive red! But the glow came from a small laser-pointerish red light in the tip of the tongs.

I was disappointed. I wanted my candy itself to glow, and then I wanted to eat it. I felt cheated. But I popped the bug in my mouth and was treated to a surprisingly soft, jaw-achingly sweet candy sensation that tasted exactly like fruit-scented carpet deodorizer (I would guess). I went to the kitchen to get a glass of water. When I returned, all my lightning bugs were gone and the door to my boyfriend’s office was just closing. “Those were great!” he told me later. He won’t give back the tweezers.

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Kashi GOLEAN Crunch!

Submitted by Jessica Benner

My mom bought a giant box of this stuff for me at Costco. I think the message is pretty clear when your mom gives you something that actually has the command “GO LEAN!” written on it.

That aside, let’s look at the claim the people over at Kashi are making: “The combination of high protein from soy and whey, plus high fiber from grains, allows one to actually ‘go lean’—preserve muscle while burning fat.”

Does trying really hard not to cry also burn fat? What about furiously concentrating on your “happy place”? Because those are the things I have to do while eating this cereal. That’s how bad it is.

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Submitted by Whitey Eckerson

I’ve laid out two pairs of tweezers and a pair of toenail scissors on the table in front of me. Tilla-Moos come individually wrapped in an air-tight vacuum, and there’s little room for error. It’s less pleasing to eat a damaged miniature cheese brick.

Suddenly, my wife taps me on the shoulder and says, “Phone for you.”

“Message, message, take a message!” I cry.

My fingers are greasy with cheese sweat and regular sweat. I apprehend the cheese brick.

Just then my stomach taps me on the arm and says, “Dude, another one? What’s the deal? How about a pear or some hot water and lemon?”

I warm the serrated edges of the packaging by massaging them between my thumb and forefinger. Shallow breaths in through the mouth, out through the nose. I make the initial cut with the toenail scissors and set them back on the table with shaking hands. Taking a tweezer in each hand, I carefully work the initial cut toward the exact center of the edge of the brick. Veins appear all over my head. I take a flap of plastic between my teeth and rip and tear at it like a lunatic and pretty much eat the cheese right through the packaging.

I recommend Tilla-Moos to people who like heist films.

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Air France Bloody Mary

Submitted by Kevin Roe

Do not attempt to reproduce this drink at home; it should only be prepared by attractive Air France employees.

1. Pour one (1) mini-bottle of liquor into smallest Dixie cup available. The drink is traditionally prepared with Scotch, but anything you’ve got handy will do.

2. Take sip of Parmalat ultra-pasteurized tomato juice. Look sternly at cup.

3. Pick up one (1) ice cube with surgical tweezers and balance it on the meniscus of the drink, being careful not to break surface tension.

4. Lightly dust passenger with celery salt, then present him with boat-oar-sized swizzle stick.

5. Serve, splashing half of contents politely onto necktie or blouse as gender dictates.

Best consumed in multiples of three. Pairings: Crackers; Dramamine, Xanax.

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Pschitt Soda

Submitted by Edward Doucette

At a sidewalk café on the Isle sur la Sorgues, in the summer of 2004, my son asked the waiter for a Sprite. The man responded with an odd sound—"Sprissssschit?" I figured that was Provençal for Sprite, so I nodded in agreement. When our drinks arrived, though, my son was given a Pschitt soda. It looked like Sprite, tasted like Sprite, and smelled like Sprite, but there was no getting around the fact that it was still Pschitt. For my son, this was one of the highlights of the entire trip.

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Submitted by Paul Crutcher

In the modern world, most of our meat is so far removed from the animal that we only rarely contemplate the connection. This comfortable detachment is impossible with face. And in China, where I am, people eat it. Rabbit face looks strikingly similar to those pictures of people in front of a powerful fan, cheeks flapping, eyes askew. It’s almost indistinguishable from duck or chicken face in that, once you’re past the “I am eating a face” part, the experience is much like the familiar inane fight with the gristly bits of meat on a leg bone. Fish face differs because it’s often served attached to the fish. You contemplate the face after a good-natured Chinese friend has deftly decapitated it and dropped it into your bowl. You’re told that it’s a delicacy, and famous in this or that region. Then you’re left fidgeting with your chopsticks for tiny speckles of fish meat, trying to talk your way out of consuming the eyes.

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Live Whitebait

Submitted by Ned Rust

When I was 11, my parents hoodwinked a new family at our church into having us at their Martha’s Vineyard beach house. After dinner one evening, our two families had gathered on a nearby salt-pond dock to watch my father make a spectacle of himself with his latest fishing toy, a nylon cast net. On just his second throw, he managed an impressive haul of silvery birthday-candle-sized fish. He stood there beaming at his wriggling catch and, after answering some questions from the group, declared that many people considered these little fish—which he knew even without a field guide to be whitebait—to be a delicacy.

I put forth some naked skepticism. He said their bones were too small to hinder digestion, that they were entirely nontoxic, that they carried no human-adaptive pathogens and, withal, would be entirely safe to eat, even raw. I said if that was the case, then he should bring some back to the house and eat them. He stated he wouldn’t need to go home to the house to eat them, that he’d eat them right there—that not only could they be eaten raw but that the Portuguese would, when they could, eat them live.

Pretty soon, my ever helpful sister had counted to three and my father and I had each popped a wriggling, still-coated-in-its-natural-slime tidal-pool minnow into our mouths. Through the parasite-sized creature’s slicker-than-mucus slime, I could feel every bony facet of its tiny little plankton-scooping jaws opening and shutting, its exquisitely tiny gill slits working like ruptured bellows, its mostly limp, shock-addled lateral musculature flicking once, twice, three times. I pinned it against the roof of my mouth, I breathed through my nose, and, after an eternity of panic-stretched seconds, I managed to work up enough saliva to swallow.

And, surprisingly enough, it went down with just a hint of marsh-scented aftertaste, and I stood there looking at my father less with hate than with expectation of some sort of reward. Maybe a high-five at least. But my compensation was this: He put his hand to his mouth and spat an entirely unchewed fish out into his palm. Everybody laughed except my mother. As the color left my face, she asked my dad if the Portuguese really did eat them, or if they should make me throw up.

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Fried Oreos

Submitted by Nicole Pasini

The concept of fried Oreos fills most people with shock and disgust. My friend’s initial reaction was to say, “Who would eat fried Oreos?” That’s what I think she said, at least; I had already brushed past the woman in the mermaid costume at the casino entrance, so I couldn’t really hear her.

There was a sort of grease fog hovering over the slot machines—think of a particularly tense scene at the London docks in a Sherlock Holmes novel. It was like that, but with a more distinct smell. Mermaids Casino manages to be simultaneously redolent of burnt funnel cake and loose change. While I joined the food counter’s disturbingly long line, my friend started playing nickel slots—This handle is really greasy! The cashier/fry cook was also coated in a light patina of grease, but took my order in an efficient manner, reaching for my $1.50 with the one hand and battering up my treats with the other. After fishing my three Oreos out of the fryer, she dumped about a cup of powdered sugar on them.

I situated myself at a turquoise high-top and wondered if I should flag down my friend and get her to buy me a beer, or whatever one might drink with fried Oreos (Irish coffee?), but decided against it. In my haste, I also decided against retrieving some napkins. Even so, the Oreos were a true delicacy—inside each greasy, spongy crust, the Oreo itself straddled the line between solid and liquid. The mountains of powdered sugar added a little grit. I ate all three before my friend peeled herself away from the slots and asked for a bite. My face was coated in powdered sugar and grease, and my nice vacation clothes were ruined.

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Fried Pizza

Submitted by Ryan Seagrist

The Scottish eat like shit. They are truly our brethren in terms of health—highest rates of cancer, heart disease, and multiple sclerosis in Europe. Scottish women have the lowest life expectancy of any EU member nation. It goes on and on. What may be the reason? Could it be environmental concerns? Well, no, it’s not. Lifestyle? Maybe. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that THE SCOTTISH WOULD FUCKING BREAD WATER AND FRY IT IF IT WERE POSSIBLE TO DO SO.

I was living there for years, married into it, but there were some things I just would not do. I didn’t wear a kilt at my wedding—at the time, it was just too damn fashionable. But I had to try the fried pizza. You get it warm and oozing, steaming hot and perfect. Then you drop it into a deep fryer until it gets as hard as a piece of plywood, pour salt and vinegar over the top, and try to keep it down for as long as you can. Until the realization hits. The guilt and horror overtakes you. Then it passes, and you try to get over it.

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Reduced Sugar Cinnamon Toast Crunch

Submitted by Kyle Garvey

Sure to delight the same guilty, gullible white women who loved whole grains in their kids’ cereals, General Mills has played the nutrition card again. This time, the target is sugar—a dietary hazard admittedly more unanimously hated than whatever whole grain aims to defeat—and the first battleground is Cinnamon Toast Crunch, one of the greatest cereals ever. I’ve always loved CTC: the ideal sogginess it achieves so quickly, its oversize flakes perfect for stacking on a spoon, the way the cinnamon seems to melt into the milk. It was heavenly. Well, I guess sugar made all the difference, because now it tastes terrible.

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Kool-Aid Jammers:
Tropical Punch 10 Calorie Packs

Submitted by Julieanne Smolinski

Adult crash dieters everywhere can thank the childhood obesity epidemic for the fact that low-calorie foods now come with cartoon mascots. The Kool-Aid Jammers package assured me that, despite having all the flavor of Robitussin and all the nutritional value of envelope glue, these “juice” boxes have “all the FUN of [regular] Kool-Aid” (and only 10 calories a pop). There to prove it was Kool-Aid Man himself, looking as rotund as ever but somehow lacking in his usual wall-destroying vigor. After drinking these, Kool-Aid Man would be lucky to burst through the cobwebs growing on his Nordic Track. At least Diet Red Bull has 100 percent of your daily recommended dose of niacin.

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Chocolate Calcium Chews

Submitted by Tracy Byrnes

I rejected milk from the age of 2 months, and I stopped consuming yogurt as soon as I could read the words “live and active cultures.” Twenty-four years later, I went for a walk. By that time, my bones were effectively shale. I shouldn’t have been surprised when my attempt to step up onto a curb resulted in ankle twistage so spectacular that three metatarsals snapped. Mom says it’s my own damn fault.

My career as a waitress was over, and depression set in as I clicked on link after link promising “Easy, work-from-home income!” only to find that I’d need to buy some program with the precious $49.95 I had just dropped several times over on gimp equipment. I was being mocked by the establishment and sucked dry by the medical empire. I had to do something to save myself.

That’s when I found Trader Joe’s Chocolate Calcium Soft Chews: hope in a gold wrapper. These delightful little pellets are your ally against frailty. They are so much more fun than a pill, and so much tastier than the chalky discs some people go for. You can easily find yourself downing anywhere from eight to 40 of them in a day. Each individually wrapped chew is 50 percent of your daily recommended intake, so if you like these even a quarter of the amount that I do, you’ll be covered. Having just hit the 3,000 percent mark, my vision is getting a little cloudy. But I’m feeling strong.

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Gu Energy Gel

Submitted by Sarah Wyatt

What with losing my job, my boyfriend, and my general understanding of purposive existence, my year had been rockier than a pint of Ben and Jerry’s finest. I, like the eponymous Monkey, veered from sweet banana-slimness to downright Chunky. Shortly after my total bodily mass began to exceed that of a small tank, I signed up for a marathon. I duly tortured myself and totally fucked up the lower region of my left shin, but I ran it.

You can imagine my delight when I spotted the Gu tents at mile 22. Having only eaten enough to haul my ass over 20 miles, I was eternally grateful for caloric substance long before I’d even ripped open the package and gulped it like it was ambrosia sent from the running gods. For months afterward I regarded the Gu as this special substance whose magic should only be evoked around mile 22, despite the fact that their wrappers litter Central Park running paths on weekends like used condoms in Bronx schoolyards.

Apparently, though, one’s senses get a wee bit dulled after 22 miles. At a party recently, after pawing through the host’s liquor cabinet and contemplating a run to the store for my midnightly half-box of Ding Dongs slathered with Marshmallow Fluff, I came upon an unused sack of the miraculous Gu under my host’s bed. In my drunken state, thinking of the run I was supposed to go on in the morning, I decided it was worth eating. Instant and lasting agony ensued. I found myself unable to rid my mouth of a thick, foamy, vaguely salty film. It tasted like a used French Vanilla Glade Plug-In coated in fresh semen and melted Creamsicle.

I didn’t just miss the run. I called in to work, too.

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TrueBlue Blueberry Cocktail

Submitted by Austin Webb

I applaud the continued juicing of the planet’s fruits and vegetables. Sure, “as much juice as a full serving of blueberries” could be read as an empty boast (Why not just eat blueberries?!). And, OK, its “Best New Blueberry Beverage: 2005” title (as judged by the North American Blueberry Council) smells of Big Blueberry cronyism.

But who feels comfortable with a full serving (that’s half a cup) of blueberries in their shoulder bag, anyway? And, when you think about it, what’s so funny about a Blueberry Council? And who’s paying $4 for a bottle of POM? Not me.

This drink is refreshing and pleasantly suggests blueberry crumble.

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Buffalo Chicken Calzone

Submitted by Joseph McGonegal

The woman’s gone for a month—an around-the-world trip. Shanghai, Dubayy, Athens, Madrid. Wants to see the world. Wants to try new things. Wants change. I say, Why change, baby? Haven’t you tasted heaven around the corner—the Checkmate Café’s Buffalo Chicken Calzone? You can have your dumplings and your gyros and your arepas and your couscous—have them all on one delicious submarine sandwich for all I care. It can’t add up to the Check’s Buff Chix Calz (as they put it on the receipt).

It’s you whom I’ll address now, BCC—you haven’t left me. Two halves meant for sharing, perhaps, both the size of my willing heart; I’ll eat you in the car this afternoon. I can’t wait to get home, and I’ve always got extra Frank’s RedHot in the glovebox. Maybe save the other half for Letterman. But at least this half is for me, right here, right now. Biting into the glazed cheese topping, teeth perfectly aligned with the three knife slits the cook has hurriedly finned into your spine, I greet the glory of being a man. I can afford you, all $7 of you—it doesn’t pinch the wallet a bit. I can appreciate you, sweat trickling down my forehead, the purging of all the tension that waiting for you for days has created.

And I can forget, with each bite of your two full chicken breasts, marinated, deep-fried, then baked, all the half-assed attempts at perfection I’ve paid for in the past: the “cooks” who’ve smothered you in nauseating batter and butter, the homespun attempts of brothers who’ve overcooked the meat or undercooked the dough. Like everything delectable around which I have centered my life, you were created by someone who hardly even knew your name, sandwiched in between orders placed by those who don’t even recognize that “buffalo chicken” is listed as a “topping” and that the calzone menu offers “any additional toppings” for an “additional $1.50.” You were rung up by someone who had to figure all that out.

Today I am 30. The DJ plays two Aerosmith songs I have requested while I recline and digest you. And yet, moments ago, while biting into this masterpiece of white-bread America, this bastardization of everything our Italian-American heritage has stood for to reach the bacchanalian bliss of upstateness, I was reminded of my mortality. The Buffalo Chicken Calzone is no country for old men. Higher triglyceride counts, excess sodium intake, gas, heartburn, and, yes, I’ll say hemorrhoids—all weigh on the mind of the 30-something with every other bite.

But I can’t help myself. If this is self-destructive, so be it. If the woman catches me, when she returns, driving by pizzerias that aren’t on the way home to ask if they do “make-your-own” calzones, I’ll probably tell her about us. If I have to cut out all the other foods that, in combination with you, would put me on Oprah in 20 years as the diabetic 400-pounder who still believes in his dreams, so be it. And if I die with buffalo chicken on my breath, and calzone crust in my lap, pulled over in a parking spot a block from home because I just couldn’t wait any longer, I’ll not have died in vain.

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Solea Polenta Corn Chips: Tuscan Barbecue Flavor

Submitted by Rachel Trousdale

Solea’s Tuscan Barbecue Polenta Corn Chips are well named. The redundancy of “polenta corn” counteracts the baffling “Tuscan barbecue,” suggesting a daring but ultimately comforting fusion of Florence and Texas. Tangy, smoky, exciting, and yet unlikely to provoke indigestion.

Alas, all of the flavor of these chips resides in their adjectives. If I had eaten one without reading the packaging, I would have thought: Bland Fritos.

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Kashi GOLEAN Creamy Hot Cereal—Truly Vanilla

Submitted by Cody James

Oatmeal, to me, is humanity’s stand-in for cattle feed. I take no particular pleasure in eating it. Never has a spoonful of oatmeal caused my eyes to roll back in epicurean bliss. All I require is that it not cause offense during its mercifully brief stay in my mouth, since it’s further along in my digestive tract where its true purpose will be served.

“I’m tired of this oatmeal,” says my wife, referring to the Quaker Supreme oatmeal I’ve been perfectly happy with for many months.

“Fine,” I reply, implying she should choose the one she wants. Moments later, the Kashi lands in the cart with an ominous, hollow sound.

Any number of films have depicted the protagonist being presented with a bowl of pale, watery goop meant to keep them technically alive. At this point, our hero is typically incarcerated, e.g., on a dank island prison for a crime he did not commit, in a bamboo cage in the stinking Vietnamese jungle, or on a hovercraft in the apocalyptic near-future, when machines rule. Things are bad for our hero, we’re meant to conclude. The people at Kashi apparently have seen such grim depictions and decided it would be a good idea to replicate this chalky white nutri-paste and bring it to you, the consumer, under the pretense of organic, tree-hugger healthfulness.

If I’m ever wrongly imprisoned and Kashi GOLEAN Creamy is on the daily menu, I can only hope that my fastidious avoidance of it will either emaciate me enough to slip between the bars or earn me the comparative luxury of death by starvation.

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Orbit Sweet Mint Gum

Submitted by Lilly Schneider

Sweet mint? Sweet mint? As opposed to what? Bitter mint? Salty mint? Kentucky fried mint?

I only picked up the package because it was such a fetching shade of—well, mint green. It reminded me of the ’50s, and of cuteness, two things I very much desire to experience firsthand, and that I know, deep down, I never will. My genes come purely from generations of stew-slurping, babushka-wearing Eastern Europeans; I will always be hairy and never, ever will I be cute.

The gum package was difficult to open. Possibly because I was driving at the time; possibly because my European ancestors cursed me with unattractively thick fingers. I managed to pull out a small rectangle of gum, unwrap it, and pop it in. It was minty. It was sweet. And it lost its flavor after 10 minutes. Short but sweet.

If my European ancestors had heard my clever wordplay, they would have worked harder to quicken their metabolisms for my future well-being.

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Catalan Nachos

Submitted by Allison Moon

While I was staying in a small village in the Spanish Pyrenees and pining for my hometown of Los Angeles, the Mexican restaurant nestled in the town square looked as comforting as a hug from Grandma. My companion and I ordered nachos as a starter and, in return, received a large terra-cotta bowl of melted cheese, a few slices of jalapeño, and four thin corn chips. We looked to the other couples gathered in the restaurant: all were enjoying their nachos by spooling the cheese on their forks like spaghetti and eating it by itself. My fellow Angeleno and I shared a weary look and dug in. We slept without touching that night. And the night after that.

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Jack Link’s Jalapeño Beef Jerky

Submitted by Matt Glarner

My dog Milo will eat anything. To wit: The other night, my wife and I heard a crunching sound from beneath our coffee table. “What’s he eating?” my wife asked. “Oh, probably rawhide,” I tossed off. After investigating, I added, “Wait … no … that’s a piece of cat shit.”

Sunday, I left Milo (and a fresh bag of jerky) in the car unattended for a few moments. Usually, in that situation, any animal, vegetable, or soft nonmetallic mineral left inside the car with Milo winds up in Milo’s stomach. After sampling the acrid, almost chemically spicy Jack Link’s Jalapeño Beef Jerky, I completely understand Milo’s decision to leave my forgotten bag alone.

Jack Link’s Jalapeño Beef Jerky combines an alien hardness with an absurd level of heat, making for a unique, two-pronged sensory assault. At first chew, the jerky splinters into hundreds of razor-tipped shards, each immediately burrowing into the soft palate. Then the second wave hits, turning those fresh wounds into entry points for the “jalapeño” flavoring. It hurts. And it keeps hurting. I learned what Milo instinctively knew: Jack Link is a sadist of the highest order.

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Submitted by Aireanne Hjelle

I don’t really like food at all. If some industrious Big Tobacco scientist created a nicotine-caffeine-chocolate-saline-vitamin drip, I would be the first person to get a central line installed. So I was really only being polite when I asked what you were drinking.

“It’s tea that’s fermented, and it has amino acids and probiotics.” You kept talking, but I stopped listening. “It kind of tastes like vinegar. Look at all the systems it improves!” I had a hard time finding that on the bottle, so I just took a drink.

Roommate, it tasted more like vinegar than “kind of.” I handed it back to you. Five minutes later, I took another drink. Two minutes after that, I finished the bottle, letting the mucuslike “culture” slide down my throat. The next day, I bought two bottles and drank one at work. That afternoon, I really felt bad about that.

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Jimmy Dean Flapsticks

Submitted by Peggy DeMouthe

I love shopping at the Grocery Outlet because it’s different every visit. One Tuesday evening Aisle 3 might be stocked with dishpans and animal crackers; the following Saturday it will be all malt liquor and underpants. The Grocery Outlet is where all the foods nearing their “sell by” date are sent, where holiday candy from last season’s holiday goes on sale, and where strange regional brands drift ashore.

It’s also where test-market products go, after the test. Thus, last March, I was looking around the frozen-food aisle for Christmas treats. Between the French-Toast Fingers and the Holiday Party Puffs, there was an irresistible package: Jimmy Dean’s Flapsticks—"Sausage and Pancakes on a Stick!"

Out of the package, the Flapstick looks exactly like a corndog. Same sturdy stick, same smooth brown outer coating. One’s brain expects: crunchy! corny! hot dog! However, it’s really a link of sausage enrobed in pancake batter, so the actual experience is: doughy! weird! ow! because the fatty sausage on the inside heats up faster and hotter than the dough on the outside. One is supposed to dip the Flapstick into maple syrup, and this facilitates the pancake’s abandonment of any tenuous hold it had on the sausage. One ends up with a sausage on a stick and a pancake in the lap.

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New Dr. Pepper Berries & Cream

Submitted by Katie Desobry

During puberty, the other girls were starting to wear Teen Spirit. It didn’t make sense. The smell of coconuts should not come out of armpits. This deodorant does not have a real-world application. It does not provide long-lasting protection from odor. When a normal, active teenage girl rubs a very strong fruit scent under her arms and goes about her activities, it is guaranteed that within hours she will begin to stink of rotten fruit. Like moldy strawberries. Like rancid coconut milk. Like assberries.

I could always pick out the girls who wore Teen Spirit Berry Blossom. I can smell them from 10 feet out. Those girls are also big huggers. They would hug me and I would almost fall over from the intense, overly fake smell of the rotting berry blossoms from the assberry vine. I always wanted to push them off and say, “You smell of assberries! Go clean yourself! This is not natural! Berries don’t belong in there!”

When I opened up my bottle of Dr. Pepper’s new blend of raspberry and vanilla, I was met with the smell of the underarm of a seventh-grade girl straight from gym class. I thought it was impossible to turn that smell into a soft drink, so I tasted it. I haven’t ever actually tasted a teenage girl covered in Rotten Assberry Teen Spirit, but this is what I always imagined it would taste like if someone carbonated one and put her in a bottle.

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Polish-Style Smoked Bacon,
Courtesy of the Bacon-of-the-Month Club

Submitted by Ned Rust

I was at first quite pleased about the gift subscription to the Bacon-of-the-Month Club that a dear—and deep-pocketed—friend gave me for my birthday last year. I am a lifelong bacon fanatic, and the fact that such a club existed filled my head with notions of a larger bacon community that I might tap into in the way the Harley-Davidson-motorcycle people tap into their community. Plus, it meant 12 free pounds of bacon.

Everything started out fine. An early shipment included one of my all-time favorites, Grandfather’s Dry-Cured, a fantastic example of the sublime things that can be done with the adipose lining of a pig’s abdominal cavity.

But before the third month was up, I received something in the mail labeled simply “Polish-Style Bacon,” from a farm somewhere near Philadelphia. It arrived in a thick-plastic, vacuum-sealed brick, and was bright pink, even in the fat. I opened the package and inadvertently filled the kitchen with the distinctive odor of kielbasa.

I was entirely at a loss. Would cooking change the effect? Could it possibly smell like kielbasa raw but somehow become baconish through cooking? The short answer is no. Imagine bouillon made from the water of a Bronx Zoo hot-dog cart and you’ve essentially got the idea.

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Keebler Reduced Fat Club Crackers

Submitted by Chris Kratsch

Having prepared some soup, and having no saltine crackers, I got a box of Keebler Reduced Fat Club Crackers from the pantry. I broke several of them into my bowl and tasted. These crackers are almost good enough for soup purposes, but not quite. Almost bland enough, almost salty enough, almost dry enough. But not quite.

I placed the box in front of me on the kitchen table so I could read it while eating my soup. The message “33% Less Fat Than Original Club Crackers” is emblazoned on it in several places. Right above the federally mandated “Nutrition Facts” are details about this reduced-fat cracker, as compared to its all-fat counterpart. I quote: “Compare Reduced Fat Club Crackers with 2.5 grams of Fat Per Serving to Original Club Crackers with 3 grams of Fat Per Serving.”

I have always had a problem with claims that something is some percentage less than something else. What number does that percentage relate to? The original number or the smaller number?

I know that 33% is one-third. I know that one-third of three is one, and that one-third of 2.5 is 0.83. I also know that 3 minus 2.5 is 0.5. I know that 0.5 is one-third (33%) of 1.5. Lastly, I know that 0.5 is neither 1 nor 0.83, and that 1.5 is neither 2.5 nor 3.

My calculations indicate that there is no way that Keebler Reduced Fat Club Crackers can be “33% Less Fat Than Original Club Crackers.” It is possible that I have Asperger’s syndrome, though.

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Submitted by Tara Shaman

Touted as “The First Cereal You Can Eat Like a Chip,” this breakfast in a bag comes in five varieties: Crunchy Fruit Curls, Cinnamon Toast Puffs, Honey Oat Crisps, Honey Wheat Waves, and Maple Waffle Bites. I’d imagine that sooner or later we’ll see other sweetness-ingredient-shape combos as well—Saccharine Fiber Wafers, Fructose Carbo Chunks. Flavorful foam is huge.

In a total rush, I plucked a package of the honeycomb-looking styropuffs (Maple Waffle Bites, I should say) from a gas-station impulse rack. The sugary bliss pictured on the crinkly package somehow made me feel less crappy. In the decadent privacy of my car, I tore into them and breathed softly—they looked light, delicate, almost fluffy. I basically inhaled the rather large package (really only 2 ounces!). Then I vowed to dedicate at least a few bucks and moments to trying additional varieties. Unfortunately, they’re not very available around here.

At the next opportunity I had (again stopping at a gas station, where I seem to end up for groceries after frantically cruising the strips of already-closed-for-the-night actual food stores), I picked up a bag of Honey Wheat Waves. These I Blinked while en route to an out-of-town dog show and found vaguely dissatisfying. Reminiscent of syrup yet bland like dead grass. So I went back, after more searching, to the familiar Maple Waffle. In seeking it and its counterparts, I’d fed my car roughly $40 of my food budget. If I ever get to a real grocery store, I’ll try to snag an entire case. Can’t wait to Blink again!

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Submitted by Scott Sand

Recently, a friend offered me Pulparindo. This hot and salted Mexican candy consists of sweet-and-sour tamarind pulp, sugar, chili powder, and salt. Pulparindo pieces come individually wrapped as small, flat brownish rectangles, with a white salted underside that made me wonder whether it had been exposed to something. The sugar cuts the bite of the chili powder. The consistency is that of gum dropped briefly in sand. I enjoyed the sensation, but didn’t want a second. The next morning, I tossed one in my bag and ate it at home, alone and, for some reason, ashamed.

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Ikea Salty Black-Licorice Fish

Submitted by Sam Kean

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of Chernobyl, I re-enacted the meltdown at Reactor 4 inside my mouth. Two days after eating a single (1) salty jellied licorice fish, I still had trouble tasting food. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the licorice flavoring that undid me. More anise would have been a relief. (Jägermeister would have been a relief.) It was the salt saturation. The thing was basically a flexible black salt lick, the candy counterpart to the white rings nailed on trees to be gnawed by deer. It was also worse than that: salt licks aren’t gooey. They don’t cling to your mouth. By the time I scraped the last gill from between my teeth, my taste buds had been seared shut, the tongue equivalent of being in “the hole” for a month and then being hit with a spotlight.

This took place during the middle of my night class. For the last session, our eccentric librarian teacher had brought “treats” from Ikea (the candy is big in Scandinavia) and dared us with the fish. Because no one else stepped up, I took three—each the length of a pack of gum, with the consistency of a Gummi worm and the black soul of a demon—and finished one. As far as I know, this tied the International Federation of Competitive Eating (I.F.O.C.E.) world record. I spent the rest of the class engraving the smooth, conveyor-belt-riding side of my uneaten treats with scars and dopey eyes.

Two days later, I had dinner with a girl I’d been pursuing partly because she, too, was vegetarian. Perhaps that’s why Nicole was nonplussed to have to point out the bacon in my appetizer. In a dead-man’s float among my half-eaten white beans and sauce were postage-stamp-sized flaccid squares that, to me, had tasted just like the wine: salty. The date ended without a kiss.

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Planters Unsalted Mixed Nuts

Submitted by Rachel Kuck

Apparently, “Now More Cashews!” is code for “Now Only Two Walnuts And Three Pecans!”

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Coke BlāK

Submitted by Kevin Lauderdale

To begin with, there’s a little line over the a. Is that a pronunciation guide? Is that like the line over the o in “Shōgun”? Is this “Coke Blake”? Or is it a long a like in “Baaaaad-aaaaass”?

It tastes like a weak coffee-ice-cream float. Oddly enough, I didn’t find that the addition of coffee produced any more of a buzz than a regular Coke. This is probably due to the fact that each bottle is only 8 ounces—the size of a regular cup of coffee, as opposed to the usual 12-ounce or 20-ounce container of cola.

Found in the refrigerated section, Coke BlāK should definitely be served cold. Cold coffee is still better than warm Coke—hence the success of coffee ice cream, and the total nonexistence of the instructions “Add Coke and microwave.”

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Submitted by George Ross Parman

Scrapple has its origins among the Pennsylvania Dutch, who count among their American culinary contributions marshmallow cream. The mass consumption of Amish food is made possible only because the bulk of it is homemade and individually wrapped in plastic, or displayed in a deli case and wrapped in butcher paper. This is to say that any nutritional information is not prominently displayed. And I doubt that the Amish know, or care. Scrapple is like a hastily devoured slice of pizza, piping hot and dripping with grease: it tastes good, so who cares about the heartburn? With the exception that some people find scrapple to be enormously disgusting, inedible, and probably composed of pig offal.

Scrapple is made out of pork. It is salty, and I always detect a blast of pepper, which seems to kill any other spices that may be added. A generous amount of cornmeal is mixed in with the meat. The result is gray, of the same semisolid nature as the inside of a fresh, raw sausage. Because scrapple is served in a rectangular portion that resembles a slice of bread, I have always imagined that the uncooked finished product is called a loaf. As in, “We need a dozen eggs and a loaf of scrapple.”

Scrapple is fried until a crispy, deep-brown protective layer is formed. It is a deeper brown than fried chicken. It is the brown of a piece of toast that is seconds away from being discarded, the perilous brown that entails waving a broom at the smoke detector and instructing others to open the front and back doors.

On penetrating the fried layer, one finds the now gray-white interior to emit a generous puff of steam. The first bite is chewy—a combination of the cornmeal and the frying—and peppery. I always eat scrapple with the yolk from a fried egg, on toast.

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Theraflu Hot Toddy

Submitted by Lily Valentine

I don’t often get sick, but when I do, I have a strategy. I’ll ignore illness when it comes into my body, going out of my way to indulge in risky behaviors like not sleeping, starvation, and making snow angels naked. I like my coughs, colds, and influenzas to get nice and comfortable in my steaming little 98.6-degree internal jungle. Then, when they’ve finally settled in, I nuke the shit out of them.

My arsenal is made up of four or five medicines taken in tandem shortly before I go to bed. Theraflu makes up the vanguard, flanked by NyQuil and Benadryl. I’ll usually bring up the rear with some Robitussin and drop a couple of Aleves into the melee just to kill off any stragglers. My T cells, in jungle camo with faces stained with mud, materialize from the mist and wage war on the invading virus. The battle usually takes 16 hours, during which I am blissfully unconscious, sleeping off the overdose of medications.

The last time I was sick was different. I don’t know what it was, because I don’t have health insurance, but I was losing the capacity for coherent thought at a surprisingly rapid rate. And so, as I was taking my first sips of the warm and lemony Theraflu, I hastily dumped two shots of brandy into the steaming liquid and used the mixture as a deliciously warm and heartily sour chaser for the other medications. What happened next is a little fuzzy—it reminded me of cold winter days, wandering around the Dickens Faire drunk off my ass, trying to affect a Cockney accent. My housemate found me in the morning, unconscious on the kitchen floor with a smile on my face.

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Tropicana FruitWise Fruit Bars

Submitted by Benjamin Cappel

Why be forced to eat seven or eight pieces of chewy fruit leather, Tropicana asks us, when you can consume the same quantity of ultra-concentrated fruit goo in the form of a single angry little bar about the size of an iPod Nano? These are fetid, rust-colored bricks of what look to be the filter scrapings from some industrial juice extractor. They come in orange citrus, cherry berry, and strawberry, all of which can double for Fix-A-Flat in a pinch.

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Captain D’s Cracklin’

Submitted by Brian Harvey

I’m originally from the North, so it wasn’t until I moved to Nashville in the mid-’90s that I learned that Long John Silver had a rival—Captain D, who commanded his own fleet of freestanding galleys just south of the Mason-Dixon.

Upon intial examination, the two establishments seemed to offer the same deep-fried options: chicken, shrimp, fish, and variations on the hush puppy. But then I made a discovery so haunting I could almost hear the grizzled voice of Ol’ Captain D himself: “Harrrr, me classic two- and three-piece platters have made a fortune—if only there was a way for me to market me leftover grease from the deep fryers!” Yes, this seafarer had the gall to box up and dish out the little bits of battered fat that line the mesh baskets after the meat has been removed. My wife, when we first met, loved the stuff.

I now live back in Long John Silver’s waters, so I had to go online to see if cracklin’ was still being served. No such luck. It would appear that the captain was just too far ahead of his time. I like to imagine that a band of men led by C. Everett Koop and Jared from Subway overtook his vessel. In Boston Tea Party fashion, they boarded the ship and overturned hundreds of barrels of cracklin’ into the Cumberland River, which would actually explain a lot.

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Pop Rocks and Dr. Pepper

Submitted by Kelli Ford

Do not eat Pop Rocks while drinking Dr. Pepper. Every third-grade nothing sitting idly in the swings alone, toes pointed inward in a cloud of rising dust, knows this. I, on the other hand, turned 30 exactly 11 months and 15 days ago. This past year I got a tattoo on my arm of a Zen master who also happens to be a panda bear. The year before that, I got a nose ring; a year before that, a divorce. My students call me by my first name. There’s no need for pretense in my life. When I stopped in Safeway to pick up a pack of cigarettes, an $8 bottle of wine, and two cans of 49-cent turkey-and-cheese cat food, I grabbed a packet of Pop Rocks from the short rack and a cold bottle of the Dr. from the drink shelf and handed the sad-eyed fat boy my ID. Then I went home, had a glass of wine and a cigarette, and began to feel a little nervous. The rocks rattled in the packet. The Dr. Pepper collected water droplets. Well, I found a coaster, finished that glass of wine, and ripped open the packet. I poured every last Rock into my mouth and, without another thought, I unscrewed the cap and drank. And then I waited. I suppose I’m still waiting.

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Deer Heart

Submitted by Benjamin Gaulke

I was an incredibly scrawny 90-pound pip-squeak in middle school. I was the runt of my Boy Scout troop, the one who could never successfully perform the fireman’s carry, which you needed to do to advance in rank. I also lived in an incredibly rednecky area of eastern Pennsylvania, where the first day of deer-hunting season was a holiday from school.

At a scout meeting, I saw Mr. Mayernick, one of our scoutmasters, eating out of a bloody ziplock bag. “What is that?” I asked. “Deer heart. Want some?” said Mr. Mayernick.

My ancestors used to club deer to death with thigh bones and then engage in ferocious displays of strength before fighting over who got to eat the heart. The apeman who won the fight had his pick of the apewomen. A million years later, here I was. Of course I had to say yes.

Deer heart, my friends, is worse than you could possibly imagine. It had a Jell-O-like quality, but it was also impossibly tough, like tendon. The cube felt too large to swallow whole, so I tried to chew it. Big mistake. Each bite released squirts of indescribable putrescence. Deer heart was murdering me. I swallowed it whole, instead of spitting it on the floor, only because I was in a church.

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Submitted by Kari Anne Roy

I have met Beverly only once. It was in the World of Coca-Cola museum, in Atlanta. She was in the tasting room, hiding in plain sight, while I got my $9 admission’s worth of free samples.

Beverly looks innocuous. The push-button dispenser says, blandly, “Italy: Beverly,” and then, underneath, “Bitter Aperitif.” So you think, Cool, maybe this will wash away that China: Mandarin Orange funk I just choked down. And then—this should totally tip you off that something bad is about to happen—as you reach your hand out to push the button on the dispenser, the World of Coke staff takes a step toward you in disturbing unison. They pretend they’re not looking at you, but you can so totally tell that they are.

You push the button, you toss it back, and then it hits—it’s as if you’d crushed a thousand Imodium AD caplets, made them into a paste, and painted your tongue with it. The bitterness seeps into parts of your throat where taste buds should not exist, but somehow do. The museum staff falls all over themselves laughing at you, and then they get a mop.

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Fruit by the Foot

Submitted by Michaelanne Petrella

The new Fruit by the Foot variety pack has three kinds in one box—strawberry, berry tie-dye, and “color by the foot.” Each piece has a serrated “squiggly fun” line down the center, allowing you to pull the fruit (fruit? i guess it’s fruit) in half and eat each side at different times. Color by the foot is a bad name for a flavor—it sounds like I’m eating foot-flavored crayons—so they put an asterisk next to it on the box that tells you it’s “naturally rainbow punch flavored.” I’ve never had rainbow punch, but I’m guessing that it consists of cherries, bananas, star fruits, raisins, peanuts, and onions. It looks trash-colored and makes my teeth hurt. I ate four boxes in two days.

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Pringles Prints

Submitted by Chris Blunk

Trivia questions are printed directly onto each Pringles Print in surprisingly sharp blue letters. My arteries welcome the saturated fat, and my head feels smarter knowing the highest recorded jump by a guinea pig (8 inches). Every now and then, a chip fact makes your own eating habits feel downright practical. The largest birthday cake ever weighed over 16,000 lbs. The world’s largest apple pie weighed over 34,000 lbs. How much harm can a few chips do?

The possibilities of Pringles Prints are staggering. Why stop at trivia? Why not serialize an entire novel across several containers, a chapter per cylinder, each chip a sentence? Provide some good cliffhangers at the bottom of the stack and I foresee an increase in literacy as well as obesity. But that’s OK, because any unfortunate side effects can be researched in the Pringles Medical Journal series (barbecue-flavored).

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Andy Capp’s Hot Fries

Submitted by Bennett Hipps

This is a bold and unusual licensing choice by the Goodmark Foods Company. Andy Capp is not exactly the most well-known comics character out there, nor is he normally associated with “fries” within the panels of his comic strip. Maybe Funky Winkerbean would have been better for the fries. But that’s not important.

The package states that these “Hot Fries” are “Oven Baked Corn and Potato Snacks.” (Oven-baked? Then how can they be “fries”?) The snack pieces are definitely the size and shape of the fast-food french fries they are meant to represent, but the orange color makes me wonder if I got a mislabeled bag of Andy Capp’s Cheddar Fries (which the back of the package encourages me to try). I suppose orange is also the color of “hot,” but it’s still a bit unsettling to think that someone could put Hot Fries on a plate and laugh as a Cheddar Fries fan gets a painful, burning surprise.

My first Hot Fry tastes a bit like the hot-pepper flakes you sometimes put on pizza (I don’t), but without much heat—just enough to make me think, “Yeah, I see what you’re saying, Andy. They are kind of spicy.” Maybe they were intended to be eaten two at a time. The picture on the back has Mr. Capp holding two fries in his hand as he crunches (more fries, presumably) in his mouth so loudly that the word “CRUNCH” actually appears above Andy’s couch (which is shaking from the volume of the crunching sound).

Two Hot Fries is not enough to materialize onomatopoeic words out of thin air, but it is enough to turn up the heat quite a bit in my mouth. This must be the intended result. I can truly agree that these are “hot” fries.

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Pizza Hut’s New Cheesy Bites Pizza

Submitted by Margaret Higginson

Sometimes you do things even though your better instincts tell you not to: drink the beer you’ve had in the back of your fridge for years; sleep with someone who calls you “Barbara”; watch an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond; eat the new bastardized pizza from Pizza Hut.

It wasn’t that I wanted to eat the new Cheesy Bites Pizza. The ads made me angry, and who can eat when they’re angry? But my friends ordered a couple during the Super Bowl, and, despite my loud and virulent opposition (not to mention my better instincts), I was curious. Would the bites indeed deliver cheese? Would they taste of “the flavor of garlic butter”? Would Jessica Simpson herself deliver them and pop the bites directly into my mouth?

No, yes, and no. The bites did not deliver cheese so much as they delivered confusion. Is it undercooked dough, or congealed cheese? I ate four “bites” and I couldn’t figure it out, which may have been because the “bites” tasted less like cheese and more like garlic-butter flavor. And Ms. Simpson had a “previous engagement,” so she was unable to deliver our “pizzas.”

I’ve learned my lesson: Never again will I eat a food that’s advertised with a poorly rewritten, remixed Nancy Sinatra song. Unless my friends pay for it. Again.

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Vigo-Alessi Imported Risotto alla Milanese Made With REAL ITALIAN ARBORIO RICE

Submitted by Nicole Ritzer

Originally, I picked this up to avoid a 30-minute session above a steaming pot of smelly cream. The packet traveled gently from the 13-cent bin into my basket and bore a trompe l’oeil I naively interpreted as fact—if it looked Italian, and contained Italian-looking words, it could only taste Italian. This was my first packaged meal in years, and my taste buds were teeming with excitement as I began to boil the REAL ITALIAN ARBORIO RICE. “Made with Saffron!” the packet exclaimed. “Par Avion!” Once the seasoning was dumped in, my pure-white Real Italian Arborio Rice turned the color of Yellow No. 3. I clung to hope—its smell was relatively normal, and, if I concentrated hard enough, I could will myself into enjoying it. What a mistake that was.

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Herbal Colgate

Submitted by Ellia Bisker

Manufactured in South Africa, yet available at many a friendly neighborhood dollar store right here in the States, this refreshing dentifrice has a number printed on the back of the tube for those occasions when one might have a “query” and wish to call Durban to discuss it. Not only does it boast this thrilling hint of the exotic, it tastes delicious. Really, it suggests a whole new paradigm of clean-mouth feel, sort of licoricey and not too sweet. “Mint, sage, chamomile, and myrrh,” proclaims the packaging—yes, it’s made of myrrh, that mysterious substance brought by one of the Magi to baby Jesus, apparently for the purpose of instilling good oral hygiene habits at an early age. It hardly needs to be pointed out that this is quite an endorsement.

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Whole Grain Milling Company’s 8 Grain Hot Cereal

Submitted by Rachel Henderson

The Whole Grain Milling Company, based someplace in greater Minnesota, is responsible for the most unbelievable and delicious yellow corn tortilla chips ever to feed mankind. Free of hydrogenated oils, 100 percent organic, non-genetically-modified, and made with the mysterious “hi lysine” corn, these chips actually have a protein content and therefore can be reasonably considered (by the more liberally considerate) a meal. With or without salsa or cheese.

However, you’re a grownup now, and chips (even hi-lysine chips) and beer can no longer be considered breakfast. Clearly for this reason and this reason alone, our guardian angels at the Whole Grain Milling Company have bestowed upon us the 8 Grain Hot Cereal. 8 Grains: Oats, barley, wheat, millet, flax seed, hi-lysine corn meal, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds. I don’t know if all of those are actually grains. Or if they’re the actual ingredients. Doesn’t matter. In less than five minutes, cook this stuff up, mix in some homemade applesauce, or raisins and maple syrup, and you’ve got yourself a respectable meal.

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Brazilian Nutmeat

Submitted by E.C. Bachner

I had savored the world’s most delicious and spectacular foods—glistening mangosteens, rambutans, litchis piled on plates in Arabia like the genitals of dead gods, cheeseburgers from the Tastee Diner in Cambridge that tasted of everything America had ever wished to be, and really frigging great pizza. I turned to raw food because my face was wrecked and I had failed in all of my dreams and, honestly, I just wanted to be thinner, but also, I have always been convinced that nothing vegan could really ever be as gross as such comestibles as Dinty Moore Beef Stew or a Subway sub with double tuna.

I invited Dave to take me to the raw-food restaurant, because I wanted to impress upon him that my face was wrecked, I had failed in all of my dreams, and he had swallowed the sweetest years of my life. The place was eerily quiet. And the people eating there weren’t thin. Dave ordered the “generous portion of our smoky, winter-spiced nutmeat topped with a sweet cherry glaze and served over fresh spinach.” I happily tucked into my sea-vegetable salad and stevia drink, and Dave got this look on his face somewhere between the look he gets when he’s had too much coffee liqueur or smashed his hand into the car door and the way he looks at his last traveler’s check. He looked like every bone in his face hurt. “This has to be poop,” he whispered. And he left.

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Wrigley’s Lemon Burst Eclipse Chewing Gum

Submitted by Briana Newton

Word Jumble fans might find it interesting that the letters in the words LEMON BURST can be rearranged to spell the name RON STUMBLE. And he sounds exactly like the kind of misguided, unwholesome, Willy Wonka-type character who would think this flavor was a good idea in the first place.

The packaging assures the gum is “surprisingly fresh.” Surprising? Yes. Fresh? Not especially. When I took my first chomp, the taste was delightful and not unlike that of a lemon Skittle. Then, as promised, SURPRISE!, and suddenly my tongue was confronted with a totally new taste sensation: panic. Panic tastes kind of like cough syrup, vodka, lemon Pledge, and cold air. It’s a uniquely upsetting flavor.

Twenty seconds passed before the panic taste was gone. And with it went my feeling that I’d made a terrible mistake. As I chewed contentedly, I settled into the idea that the whole dreadful experience was worth it. Then, like a fool, I tried another piece.

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Subway’s New Touch-Screen Sandwich-Ordering Human Interface

Submitted by William R. Etling

I cannot speak for the Subway Corporation, but I imagine that the use of touch-screen consoles with pictorial representations of condiments, bread, and meat is a logistical no-brainer. Such a device simplifies ordering, overcomes staff language barriers, and probably only costs the company about four years of sandwich profit from conception to the certainly unending maintenance.

My e-Subway experience began thus: I gently tapped “Touch screen to begin.” I vigorously tapped “wheat.” I gently tapped “6 inch.” I vigorously tapped "turkey"—and so on.

Of course, I still had to pay for my food. The process was simple. I handed the cashier my order slip and money, and he handed me my change and a freshly printed receipt. I then waited for the human staff to make my sandwich.

All in all, I enjoyed the experience. Having not paid any attention as they made my custom sandwich, I was later surprised to find that it had mustard rather than mayonnaise, and olives instead of lettuce. I’m sure these minor labeling glitches in the sandwich/human interface will eventually be worked out.