Snyder’s of Hanover Pretzel Pieces
Submitted by Scott Grams

Traditionally, the bottom of a pretzel bag contains a half inch of rock salt that should never be ingested straight. An attempt to do so once sent me racing to the sink to spray the dishwashing hose directly down my throat. Snyder’s of Hanover have found a way to market shards of their famous sourdough hard pretzels so that the “bottom-of-the-bag effect” can be enjoyed from the moment the bag’s opened.

Pretzel Pieces look like raw pretzel ore that has been mined from deep inside the earth. These incongruous pretzel chunks are generously coated with a variety of flavor dusts, ranging from Buttermilk Ranch to Honey BBQ to Mustard & Onion. The flavor dust is colored in the traditional way: Buttermilk Ranch is a soft blue, Honey BBQ is a burnt orange, and Mustard & Onion is a canary yellow. The pieces are no larger than acorns and should be eaten one at a time.

These are the discarded, cracked remains of good pretzels gone bad. They are also more exciting, and more dangerous. Holding one up to the light, you see what they’ve gone through. Broken. Fissured. Left behind. And then resurrected by Snyder’s of Hanover, covered in flavor dust, and given a new lease on life. In the process, they have become the uncut gemstones of the pretzel world.

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HOOAH! Chocolate Crisp Energy Bar (Created by the U.S. Military)
Submitted By Tony Antoniadis

From the red-white-and-blue foil wrapper:

“The U.S. military needed an energy bar for the toughest customer in the world: the American soldier. No bar on the market was up to the challenge. So the military created the HOOAH! bar. It’s mission: deliver SteadyEnergy™ and alertness.”

Followed by a lesson about the language of war:

“The battle cry ‘HOOAH!’ is a cornerstone of military culture. It communicates energy, affirmation, can-do spirit, teamwork, and fearlessness. Soldiers shout it as they jump out of helicopters, storm beaches, and freefall behind enemy lines. It means anything and everything except for no.”

I plucked this jewel out of a wire-mesh discount candy bin at a Walgreens in Bensonhurst. A clerk in a teal vest scanned the bar at the register. She looked at me as if to say, “Hooah!” Later, waiting for the subway, I read from the same wrapper that the energy bar’s proceeds go to research that aims to improve soldier diet and quality of life. Ruggedly fondling the bar in my pocket, I imagined my dollar revitalizing soldiers with heavy hearts in Iraq.

I was surprised by its girth. It was thick and brown and nutty, lumpy with dates and raisins, along with the usual tasty gobs of scientific etceteras. My HOOAH! was pretty good—think of a Twix on serious steroids—and, as a bonus, it represented everything in the world except for notions of refusal, disbelief, and disagreement. This is likely why I bought it in the first place.

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Orange Juice With Vanilla
Submitted by Rebecca Blakley

My boyfriend invented this a while ago and, ever since, has walked a little more like a cowboy. He says it makes the orange juice taste “smooth.” Whenever we have guests over, he hurriedly assembles a batch and then presses a glass upon each person in turn, saying things like, “Try it, it’s awesome,” or, “You’ll want the recipe,” or, “Can you taste the smoothness?” Most people quietly finish the portion assigned them. No one has ever asked for a second glass.

I, however, am not nervous about voicing my dissent. “Stop doing this to all of our orange juice!” I tell him. After a recent day of disturbingly long discussion, my boyfriend finally agreed, with the infuriating air of an often-kicked puppy, to leave the orange juice un-vanilla-ed. Since then, he has begun sneaking into the kitchen and doing it while I sleep.

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Lunchables Taco Kit
Submitted by Casey Cichowicz

My fiancée makes me lunch every morning. I love her, and I love tacos. So, I was very pleased to find the new Lunchables Taco Kit in my bag.

I was a little perplexed at first by the lack of directions. How do you make beef tacos at your desk, from prepared foods? It seems nearly impossible—what with the frying of the beef, the slicing up of all the tomatoes and avocados, and so on.

The bag of “Seasoned Ground Beef in Taco Sauce” (a pasty brown squishy thing that was not immediately appealing) said not to heat it in that bag, which is exactly what I would have done. It didn’t say, however, what I should do. Heat it in a microwave-safe bowl? No, this is why we’re eating Lunchables in the first place, so we have no dishes, no preparation. So I squirted the cold brown goo into each tiny taco shell, added some “Kraft Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product” and a little of the included taco sauce, and put the whole thing in the microwave. Forty seconds is apparently way too long.

After it cooled down and I was able to extract it from the plastic tray, it tasted surprisingly better than I expected, though the three tiny taco bites made for a very small meal. Luckily, the “Secret Flavored Gummies” (whose bitter flavor was, in fact, rather mysterious) offset that. I topped the whole meal off with the included “Adventure Quencher” and headed off to Au Bon Pain for some lunch.

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Bulk Turkey Ends
Submitted by Dan Clem

Ever wonder what happens to the ends of the smoked, baked, and roasted deli meats? Me too. Well, apparently they’re now being put aside, gathered, repackaged, and sold for less than half price at some supermarkets (e.g., Shaw’s in East Boston). The upside of “bulk turkey ends,” aside from the outstanding price (about $3 a pound), is you get thick pieces of peppered or Southwest-style turkey heavily coated with those spices—not just encircled with some stupid, skinny streak of flavor that peels off and gets caught in your teeth, as is the case with typical slices. The ends are so flavorful, in fact, you may find mustard and other condiments unnecessary. You also get three or four different kinds of turkey in a typical package of ends, making it a kind of “turkey-end sampler.” You may need to look around a bit to find where they’re stashing this stuff. Or ask. I found them in a refrigerated bin under the shelves of bacon, prepackaged bologna, and chilled pickles.

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Wild Cat Malt Liquor
Submitted by Jason Kane

You buy a 40-ounce Wild Cat because it is the cheapest thing to drink at the Stateline Drive-Thru, at a mere $1.49. It’s also sort of fun to drink from a paper bag once in a while.

The first sip is delicious—rich and almost woody, but in a good way. Not like licking furniture at all. The second sip is less delicious—you wonder: Does it taste the way the high-school biology lab smelled? The third sip is once again delicious, because you imagine that you have overreacted to the second sip, perhaps under the watchful eyes of your snickering friends. The fourth sip reveals nothing new; your friends have moved on to ridicule American Idol contestants, and now you’re left with a hundred or more sips, depending on your enthusiasm, and the beer is slowly warming.

By now, your headache has undoubtedly begun. Faint at first, almost like an emerging sixth sense; you tilt your head. Is it telepathy? TK? Is this dull, loosely disoriented ache the hidden powers of the human brain being released?

No. Wild Cat contains so much formaldehyde that it could almost be used as a pesticide. What party would be complete without the threat of renal failure?

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Purple-Corn Drink
Submitted by Sarah Jacobson

Cultivated in South America for thousands of years, purple corn is a highly nutritious super food. Purple-corn drink is not. Doubtless, the ocean between grape and grape drink (or orange and orange drink, for that matter) is similar.

I tasted purple-corn drink on a recent trip to my parents. I was picking at some leftover chicken from a Peruvian rotisserie-chicken place that my folks frequent. My father, a gleam in his eye, said, “Would you like some purple-corn drink?” I knew well enough that this was a challenge. The gauntlet thrown, I coolly replied, “Of course.” With a penchant for shopping at ethnic groceries and a desire to taste the strangest of products, my father is known to bring home bizarre foods. At one point in my youth, he brought home a milky-looking noncarbonated soft drink from Japan called Calpis. I imagine it’s what mop water tastes like.

Purple-corn drink looks just like grape Kool-Aid. Purple-corn drink doesn’t taste like corn. You might ask, Well, what does it taste like? The answer is simple: grape drink (again, not to be confused with grape) blended with holiday spices.

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Truskakowe Mini Delicje
Submitted by Tony Arturi

A Truskakowe Mini Delicje is composed of two pieces fused together, one brown and apparently chocolate-flavored, one pinkish, spongy, and apparently strawberry-flavored. The chocolate tasted of fresh paving tar, the strawberry of scented shampoo. The shampoo taste was strong enough to send me back to the packaging to make sure I hadn’t ingested a small decorative soap stamped into the form of a cookie. Ship the citizens of Poland a load of Fudge Shoppe Deluxe Grahams (preferably chilled) and they’ll never eat another one of these foul biscuits.

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Almond Butter
Submitted by Erik Bertelsen

I really enjoy almonds, and I’ve always been an ardent fan of peanut butter, so you’d think at some point I would have found out about almond butter. But indeed I spent most of my life without this knowledge. Then, some months ago, I saw it on a shelf at Trader Joe’s, sitting coyly next to the peanut butter. My first thought was that I had found some exotic new condiment, common perhaps only in Egypt or Malta, served with tea like those “bad dates” that killed the monkey in Raiders of the Lost Ark. In fact, that’s inaccurate. Still, there’s a nice element of surprise when you bite into it—it tastes like almonds!

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Kellogg’s S’mores Pop-Tarts
Submitted by Marshall Norton Jr.

She shoved me under her bed and told me not to move. Her father had gotten home earlier than expected. As the minutes passed, I inventoried the various pieces of dirty laundry and discarded plates under her bed with me.

A little later, her face appeared, upside-down. “They’re leaving soon. I’ll come back when they’re gone. Here, have some,” she said, offering me a piece of the Pop-Tart she’d brought up on a plate. I thought it best not to ask about the other plates for the moment.

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German Chimichangas
Submitted by Courtney Tenz

Living in Germany for the last six months has given me a hankering for Mexican food. I told my high-school students about this and they lovingly invited me out to the local Mexican restaurant.

I wanted to like the restaurant, I really did. They had strangely flavored tortilla chips, and little ramekins of guacamole. I ordered a “vegetarian chimichanga.”

For all you Germans out there: A chimichanga is not frozen vegetables—mostly broccoli—wrapped in phyllo dough. I don’t think broccoli can grow in Mexico. Tortillas are expensive here—five euros for a package of five. But if you’re gonna make Mexican food, you have to have tortillas. And beans. Heat it up a bit. Mexican food shouldn’t taste like everything else in Germany, where the favorite spices are salt and butter.

The ability to eat “chips and dip” from the sombrero of a foot-tall statue in a restaurant with a striped poncho on the wall for decoration doesn’t make the food there Mexican. Even if it is the only place in town with Corona.

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Nagai Brand Roasted Seaweed Laver
Submitted by Timothy Buck

I once loved a Thai prostitute. Her name was Deuen, which means “the moon.” The Moon had a tattoo and it loved techno and trance and little orange meth pills. It got the pills from the Wa State Army. The Moon ate roasted seaweed laver for lunch and it said it did not love me. The soldiers came to the Moon’s village. Do you know what? Japanese people rarely die. That’s why I eat Nagai brand roasted seaweed laver.

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Connecticut Mountain Laurel
Submitted by Rich Piepho

Legally, you’re not allowed to eat this because it’s our state flower. But come on, I don’t see any flowers on there, do you? Anyway, it tastes horrible.

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Jewel Brand Burritos, Red Hot Beef Variety
Submitted by Ben Pawlowski

My brother and I, upon opening the freezer for the third round of a late-afternoon BurritoFest, came to the unfortunate and disheartening realization that we were burritoless. And so we strapped on our parkas and galoshes and sashayed our way down to the local Jewel, placing our bets as to how much currency we would have to forgo per burrito. Eighty-nine cents, said he. One dollar and nine cents, said I.

“Where is the burrito aisle?” we pondered. Hot-dog rolls. Pickles. Cat food. Popcorn. Deodorant. “Where the fuck is the burrito aisle?” we pondered, a little bit louder this time.

Then, across from the sour cream and chocolate milk, we saw them, glistening in the sun. We tittered gleefully and sprinted up to the freezer. They were four for a motherfucking dollar. We fell to our knees and began to paw the ice chest.

It felt unfitting to not pay for the full dollar’s worth of burritos myself. We floated home and could barely contain ourselves as forks punctured the vaguely leathery surface of steamy, misleadingly named red-hot beefy burritos.

If I had to put a price tag on steaming-hot mediocrity, it would be four for a motherfucking dollar.

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Passionfruit Mint Tic Tacs
Submitted by Christian McCrea

Some background: The Ferrero Corporation exists with a perfectly equilateral triangle of deliciousness: Tic Tac (and Tic Tac Silvers), Rocher, and Nutella. The harsh gift of free-market commerce has meant that cinnamon-flavored Tic Tacs, for which I would enter into armed combat, do not make their way to my native Australia. Lime Mints are merely a dream that fevers the wistful and torments the insane.

In what can only be described as gross miscalculation, Ferrero have decided to introduce passionfruit-mint-flavored Tic Tacs in their stead, packaged with a subtle orange tinge. Being a strong believer in the Tic Tac Supremacy Spectrum (Cinnamon > Orange > The Rest, where “>” signifies “is way more crazy-delicious than”), I was obsessively curious. The sweet tart tang of summery passionfruit combined with the erotic thrill of candied menthol would surely open up new vistas in freshness.

The immediate smell was contrary to the fabric of society, an acrid and sulfuric bouquet that, thankfully, prepared me for the sheer awfulness of the taste. A wash of detergent bleeds from this benighted pill with each suck, violating the memories of your last good fruit salad and your last good Tic Tac with equal fervor. The aftertaste takes the form of a thin, grimy film, like the desperate end of menthol cigarettes, and I was not rid of it for some days. One and a half calories of pain.

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Goya Arroz Amarillo
Submitted by Rachel Goodman

Goya Arroz Amarillo has been a staple of cost-conscious American gourmanderie since the first agave-toting Mexican stumbled into the Piggly Wiggly clutching a can of frijoles and demanding a gently spiced and vibrantly colored companion starch. Interestingly, Arroz Amarillo is named not after Amarillo, Texas, dusty panhandle home of the American Quarter Horse Museum, but instead derives its moniker from the Spanish language, in which “amarillo,” a bastardization of “armadillo,” idiomatically represents the color yellow.

Arroz Amarillo also contains chicken flavor, but chicken flavor is usually fake, right? Let me look. Right there, in the parentheses after “chicken flavor,” it does say “chicken fat.” And then “chicken meat.” But, you know, those are just in the parentheses. It must be trace amounts. However, I guess chicken fat is listed a second time outside the parentheses. And so is chicken meat. Well. Humph. And what’s with “silica (to prevent caking)”? Isn’t that the stuff in the “Do Not Eat” packets?

Still—that riotous yellow! That amarillo tang, unexpected and delightful amid the soft calm of the arroz! Goya Arroz Amarillo—king of questionably vegetarian cheap eats!

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Zatarain’s Ready-to-Serve Red Beans & Rice
Submitted by Justin Theriault

Zatarain’s Ready-To-Serve Red Beans & Rice reminds me of the day when I, in my infinite laziness, had prepared Zatarain’s regular ol’ red beans and rice, which is a painstaking 20-minute ordeal of boiling water and pouring ingredients into a pot. I ate a few tasty spoonfuls, and then ended up leaving the rest cooling on the stove for three days because I received an emergency call to bail my stoner friend out of prison in Topeka. When I returned, there was a beanish rice mass still waiting for me, rapidly browning and hardening in the pot. I say “beanish” because one of my roommates saw fit to poach most, but not all, of the beans from the rice. I’m guessing he did this shortly after I left, because there was no way he would have touched the gelatinous-yet-somehow-crunchy mixture that I found in the pot upon my return. The first thought echoing through my head was not “Hey, that looks delicious,” or “Well, it may still be edible.” It was more like “Jeez, that’s gonna be a bitch to clean.”

Inevitably, hunger and curiosity took over, so I scooped the remnants into a bowl and popped it in the microwave for a quick minute. This served the dual purpose of killing off the less hearty bacteria and turning the cold, goopy-yet-stale mixture into a warmer, goopy-yet-stale mixture with (somehow) less flavor, which I subsequently and unfortunately ate.

It did not kill me. It did not make me stronger. It did, however, make me really think about exactly how lazy I am. The ready-to-serve version of this product tasted exactly like that: burnt, mealy, mostly bean-free, and old, but with less sauce and even less flavor. This product is a stain on Zatarain’s spicy name.

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Chevda (a reprise)
Submitted by Emma Stephens

I was introduced to chevda in Kenya, although I think it may be East Indian in origin. It looks like rejected bits from a potato-chip factory and a bunch of other kinds of factories I’ve never heard of mixed with a healthy dose of curry spices, peanuts, sugar (I think), and some other mysterious contents (leaves?). It also has the curious property, in the extra-spicy version, of seeming totally mild when you pop a handful in your mouth and then burning uncontrollably about halfway down your gullet. I don’t think it’s too strong to say that it might be the next wasabi peas.

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Submitted by Scott Votel

Two calming words: chamomile liqueur.

Two unsettling words: memory erasure.

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Starburst Baja California Fruit Chews
Submitted by Matthew Russell

LIMÓN—José Limón did for modern dance what the sweet potato did for Alabama Thanksgivings. Starburst Limón Chews did for modern dance what the 1981 Luc Besson film L’Avant Dernier did for Alabama Thanksgivings. Also, they make your teeth gritty.

AZTEC PUNCH—Aztecs lived in a sun-drenched land of plenty. The people of Tenochtitlán and Yautepec flourished for years in this paradise. However, their throats became dry from time to time. At holiday gatherings and high-school proms, they would serve punch. The flavor of this party beverage has been re-created, note for note, and Starburst has been chosen as the vehicle. It doesn’t seem too unreasonable to me.

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Submitted by David Young

This culinary atrocity was new to me, though not to millions of French people, who apparently relish the chopped-up leavings of every animal that has passed through the processing plant after all of its nominally edible parts have been shipped off to Chez René and wherever else fine Continental cuisine is served. Andouillette is not to be confused with andouille, the paprika-and-pork staple of Cajun cookin’. Instead, imagine the lingering aroma of someone else’s sturdy animal-protein-at-every-meal morning dump in an unventilated studio-apartment bathroom, distilled and concentrated into something you are expected to enjoy with a nice glass of Burgundy. When you mention this item to anyone in France, they reply, with a barely concealed smirk, “Yes. Very special.” If you point to something on a French menu and somebody uses the term “special” to describe it, order the steak and frites and forgo the experience of being served poo.

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“Hot Choice” Tombstone Deep Dish Pepperoni Pizza
Submitted by Robert Moor

Visiting my old alma mater last week, I was drawn like a gluttonous moth to a vending machine reading “Tombstone Pizza.” Yes, pizza from a vending machine. I stood, perplexed, imagining the birth of warm pizza from this cold mechanical womb. An undergrad strolled by and chuckled, obviously familiar with this pitiable sight. “Have you tried it?” I asked. “It sucks. No one even bothers,” she responded. With that, of course, my mind was set. I would do what no one else had the heart to do—I would venture into the future.

After some deliberation, I opted for the pepperoni pizza, choosing it over other, less traditional choices such as chicken fingers, barbecue chicken pizza, or a warm Oreo brownie. I fed it my three dollars (!) and eagerly watched the baking process on a small digital screen.

The result? One minute later, the machine spit out a small cardboard package, which it warned would be “Very Hot.” Inside was a hot (not very hot) “pizza” about the size of a video iPod. Approximately 75 percent of this tawdry square was composed of dough, which was thick, salty, and tasted something like baked Silly Putty. The bright-red pepperonis were tiny, faintly reminiscent of Bacos (“MADE WITH PORK, CHICKEN, AND BEEF,” the package proudly proclaimed), and actually more numerous than the shreds of cheese by a ratio of 2-to-1. Needless to say, I devoured it in a matter of seconds.

After one bite, I understood the undergrad’s grave warning. Never eat pizza from a machine. It’s like making love to a Terminator: almost satisfying, but slightly creepy, and there’s always the possibility that it will collapse your chest cavity with one fatal blow. Thank you, Tombstone, but I’ll take my pizza the way it was meant to be prepared: baked lovingly by burnt-out hippies and their disgruntled, overweight, mustachioed Italian managers. Or underpaid illegal immigrants. Whichever.

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Licorice Altoids
Submitted by Sean Boyles

Scientists at Callard & Bowser have discovered how to condense the extract of 7 million licorice roots into a piece of chalk about the size of a Flintstone vitamin. Altoids in general are known for their strength, so this was expected. What was not expected—and perhaps I’m showing my ignorance—was the effect this would have on my tongue. It does taste like licorice, but is there lye in these things? Is the idea to see whether you can get enough saliva up to dissolve the Altoid before the Altoid dissolves enough tissue from the mouth that it can escape? I’ve never received a chemical burn from a black Twizzler or a stick of Black Jack gum. I ate Atomic Fireballs a lot in my youth and Wonka’s Sour Mega Warheads are a part of my regular candy regimen. But Licorice Altoids have me worried and sweating, looking for a glass of water. These things bite like Everclear, only sweeter.

I can’t stop eating them.

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Dagoba’s New Moon Organic Chocolate Bar With 74% Cocoa
Submitted by Litsa Dremousis

Dagoba’s New Moon Organic Chocolate Bar with 74% Cocoa has a wonderfully smooth texture and glides down your throat like a child down a well. It’s delicious at room temperature, chilled, or with a side dish of peanut butter.

However, unless you’re Joan Baez, its packaging will make you break things. “New Moon”? Oooh, if only I had my pan flute! The back label gives definitions for “theobroma” (“food of the gods”) and “dagoba” (“temple of the gods”) in Greek and English and then states that “Chocolate is sacred. There is an art to the alchemy of flavor infusion, an art we explore with mystery and integrity.” I don’t want chocolate to be sacred. And “74% Cocoa”? What the hell’s that about? Like, “We were going to make this thing three-quarters cocoa but didn’t want to go crazy.” Dagoba’s New Moon Organic Chocolate Bar is the dessert equivalent of the date who respectfully kisses you goodnight when you really want to gyrate against the wall.

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Peanut Butter
Submitted by Elliot Polinsky

A twin pack, each jar labeled “Not intended for individual sale.” My X-Acto knife has other ideas. Arriving home, I revel in my deviant purchasing. First spoonful: delicious. Second spoonful: less so. Third spoonful: the subpar nature of my jar becomes clear. Somehow, lonely peanut butter is bitter. I regret my haste, and resolve to respect the rule of law.

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Submitted by Christopher Bateman

One Saturday morning, body aching from a night of intoxication, I stepped out of my bedroom to find my roommate and two friends in my apartment. They were consuming Sparks, in a general state of excitement. It was obvious the stuff had worked upon them, giving their eyes an alarming, focused glaze. One of my friends made berserk gestures as he exhorted me to join them. I put back two tallboys. At first, I felt a little giddy, like I was riding a small swing, or a pony. Thirty minutes later, I thought my head was in a microwave. I heard noises of young rattlesnakes. My eyes were abuzz and I was sure my vision was somehow crackling. These symptoms subsided after I induced vomiting and lay hyperventilating for 20 minutes.

In short, I can neither recommend nor warn against Sparks until I have tested it more rigorously.

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Cheetos X-Burguer Sabor
Submitted by Dave Schonenberg

Here in Brazil, a new variation on the Cheeto has arrived: the X-Burguer. Incapable of pronouncing the English word “cheese” in Portuguese, Brazilians have simply replaced it with the letter X, which is pronounced like the English contraction “she’s.” As for “burger,” they’ve adopted “burguer,” which is pronounced like the English “boogie” (as the letter r often comes silently in Brazilian Portuguese). A bag of “she’s boogie”-flavored Cheetos comes with three different forms: tan buns, maroon beef patties, and yellow cheese slices. When combined into a burguer and consumed, the flavor begins like that of a normal Cheeto, with the cheesiness soaking up the moisture of the tongue. Then, thanks to the spicier beef-patty-shaped element, the taste changes to that of the older, discontinued American versions of hot Cheetos, whose official name escapes me at this time.

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Betty Crocker’s Warm Delights Fudgy Chocolate Chip Cookie
Submitted by Stefan Jones

A celestial alignment between a 40-cents-off coupon and a “10 items for $10” sale convinced me to pick up a couple of Betty Crocker’s “Warm Delights” gimmicky DIY snack products. These are single-serving microwavable cake mixes. They come in a sturdy black plastic bowl. You add water, stir, and stick the resulting bowl of glop in your microwave. After a minute or so you get a stiff little puddle of warm cakelike substance you squirt with topping, set aside to cool, and then eat.

The Fudgy Chocolate Chip Cookie, after all that preparation, is a soggy cookie, no crisper than a pancake, that you have to eat with a fork. A cookie you have to go through the trouble of making. You have to wonder why Betty let this one out the door.

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Tijuana Mama
Submitted by Michael Horne

The Tijuana Mama (a pickled sausage) can be found at the better convenience stores across America. On the wrapper it says “300% Hotter.” Than what? It doesn’t say. (Turns out to be her sister product the Big Mama Pickled Sausage.) As with Vietnamese fish sauce, when you first smell it you think, “Nothing can taste as bad as this smells!” But it does! However, once you have acquired a taste, there is nothing like it in the world. On a long road trip, the Tijuana Mama will carry you many a long and lonesome mile.

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Those Weird Chocolates a Co-worker Brought Back From Prague
Submitted by Fran Piper

The box is on the break-room table, invitingly open. Unless you speak Czech, and can decipher Cyrillic, the picture is all you have to go on—a chocolate broken open to show a deep-purple filling.

Grab one and take a cautious bite. The flavor develops rapidly through several stages. It starts with a rich, strong blackberry flavor. Just as you’re thinking, “Mmm, this is really rather good,” you taste a sharply acid overtone, like the outside of a sour candy. You are adjusting to this, and are actually in the act of swallowing, when a frightening metallic flavor overwhelms the rest. Try not to choke or hyperventilate.

When you have recovered your breath, take the other half of the chocolate back to your desk and hide it behind a stack of folders—it may be needed later for analysis. Tell yourself that you probably haven’t been poisoned, since several people have already been at the box and you would have heard of any sudden deaths in the office. Try to get on with some work.

About three minutes later, your mouth and throat abruptly become numb. Return to the kitchen and inspect the first-aid cabinet (dismayingly, no emetics) and the procedures for a medical emergency. Feel relieved when, after a tense few minutes, sensation starts to return.

Spend the rest of the day monitoring yourself for side effects. Do not eat the other half of the chocolate.

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McCormick Lemon Extract
Submitted by Ned Rust

In 1985, there was an episode of Family Ties in which the Keatons were visited by an alcoholic relative played by Tom Hanks. I believe he was the uncle of Michael J. Fox’s character, Alex Keaton—but whether he was Mr. or Mrs. Keaton’s sibling, I’m not certain. I think probably he was the mother’s brother because she always struck me as a secret tippler herself—laughing at things even the studio audience failed to find funny, and wandering into the scene a few moments after everybody else, like she’d ducked into a broom closet along the way.

At any rate, in this particular Tom Hanks episode—the focus of which was his booze problem—he ended up drinking, or at least joking about drinking, a bottle of vanilla extract. The stuff is 30 proof and, in theory, if one were to consume several 2-ounce bottles of it, one could achieve a satisfactory buzz.

It was a theory that was not easily overlooked by an introverted boy of 15 who had recently discovered the extroverted joys of inebriation but who—without a car, a fake ID, or much in the way of disposable income—had to be pretty creative in terms of procurement.

And so when French Team captain Lisa Weingarten’s parents went out of town one weekend and seven of us arrived with nothing but three cans of Budweiser and no idea where her parents had hidden the key to the liquor cabinet, it wasn’t long before I found myself standing on a kitchen stool and going through the cabinets next to the stove.

And there, on the top shelf, probably shy of only a quarter teaspoon that had been dumped in a cake batter sometime in the late ’70s, was a 2.5-ounce bottle of McCormick lemon extract.

Vanilla essence is a pretty stable and soluble compound and can easily exist in a concentrated—extract-worthy—form at just 15 percent alcohol. But lemon concentrate is a compound with an altogether different chemical profile. To exist in a long-lasting liquid form at the degree of concentration that has become standard to bakers and confectioners, you need an almost pure solution of ethyl alcohol: We’re talking 95-98 percent.

I almost couldn’t believe it. “194 proof!” I yelled to my friends and, before long, I was at the business end of what I interpreted to be an almost Tom Hanks degree of admiration.

A shot glass was found and the next thing I knew I was on the back deck spraying lemon-scented puke through my inadequate fingers with a force that would have done a sneezing elephant proud.

But that was nothing new. I’d puked in front of this same group of friends before and it wasn’t like they weren’t already holding open the kitchen door even before I took the shot.

What was new were the throat-scorching, lemon-scented hiccups I endured for the next 48 hours. It was as if I’d drunk a shot of lemon-scented Ajax. Truly among the most unpleasant illnesses I’ve ever endured.

It wasn’t long after that that I went out and got myself a damn good fake ID.

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Coke and Milk
Submitted by Joel Gunz

Shirley drank this when she was depressed. Or was it Laverne? Pour one part Coke into half a glass of milk. Stir lightly and watch the puffy white cumulus clouds of milk deliquesce into a beige ready-to-drink nimbus. Enjoy. I haven’t thought of Coke and milk for years, and then my friend Aimee got to talking about that movie Best in Show, which has the guy who played Lenny from Laverne & Shirley in it, which made me think, “I should pour myself an ice-cold glass of Coke and milk.” I remember liking the concoction, and being at an age when I took pleasure in eating (or drinking) foods that other people thought were weird. I think the age was 13. It tasted like cream soda, except that the “cream” was 2 percent milk, and the “soda” was Coke. Sort of a motherly hug of milk followed by a fatherly smack of Classic (before they called it that) Coke.

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Health-Tech Energy Strips
Submitted by Jonathan Holley

Health-Tech “Energy Strips” are an evolutionary advancement in the breath-freshener-on-water-soluble-membrane market dominated by Listerine’s “Fresh Breath Strips.” For $2.99, you get 24 pale-orange slips packed inside a convenient plastic dispenser. As a strip dissolves on your tongue, it delivers doses of caffeine, tuarine, propylene glycol, ethoxylated monoglyceride, and the intriguingly named “neotame.”

Suggested serving size: three strips.

The promise of “instant energy” without the ridiculous preparation time required for coffee or the outmoded “swallowing” action demanded by caffeine tablets is appealing on an intellectual level, but, as with communism, the good intentions behind Health-Tech Energy Strips fail to translate into a viable real-world solution. Their “smooth mint” flavor is disgusting, like orange peels boiled in tea and left to simmer in a hot car, and, though you might be prepared to “let your body rip with a strip,” most people will be disconcerted by the wave of nausea that kicks in 10 minutes after ingestion.

Still, the failure of Health-Tech Energy Strips should be viewed in kind reflection, like a test rocket blowing up on a launch pad or an orangutan smashed to death with ball-peen hammers for scientific purposes. Sure, they make you jittery and paranoid, but it’s a safe bet that Health-Tech Inc. is hard at work on Energy Strips 2.0, which might make you want to vomit only a little, or maybe even not at all.

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Burger King Chicken Fries
Submitted by Jennie Pierson

The idea of the Chicken Fry made me wildly optimistic. Why must we limit the shape of processed chicken foods to amorphous blobs? Burger King’s genius crack marketing team and award-winning line cooks answered that question with the kind of reckless abandon usually reserved for fusion cuisine and astronaut food. “Replace potato with chicken, replace potato with chicken” was the mantra that echoed through the boardroom and filled VPs and office temps alike with glee.

This should have been a noble and worthy endeavor. This should have changed the face of appetizer-as-meal.

I was disappointed.

Literally expecting french-fry-shaped chicken (i.e., small spears that I could easily grab and eat two or even three of at a time), I instead received a sort of mozzarella-stick-shaped “tender,” along with a side of their new buffalo dipping sauce, which tasted like congealed butter.

The Chicken Fry was bigger and less tasty than I thought. The Chicken Fry was no fun. The Chicken Fry reeked of shrunken sweaters and broken homes.

I was tempted to erase it from my mind altogether. However, mainly because I think I’m being funny, I will still occasionally screech out “CHICCCKKKENN FFFRRRIIEESSSS” in a Gene Simmons-shouting-out-“Hello, New Jersey!!” kind of way. Thereby keeping the memory alive.

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Seaside Combo From the Grocery
Submitted by Jennifer Wyatt

The last time I picked up lunch from the grocery store two blocks from my work, I chose a trough of falafel balls to eat at my desk. The 2-ounce plastic cup of tahini sauce that came with the balls looked a lot like paste, so I thought this made it a crossover food: part sustenance, part office supply.

That night, I spent some time wondering why I do these things to myself, and if I should go back into therapy.

Today I went again, and noticed the grocery also has a little sushi morgue. I chose the Seaside Combo. When I opened the container, the smell reminded me less of the seaside than of a parking lot, with seagulls in it. And hoboes. The parking lot could be in Japan, though. I’ll give them that.

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Headcheese That a Friend Feeds You Without Warning While Visiting the Hofbräuhaus in Munich After You’ve Drunk God Only Knows How Many
of Those Enormous Beers
Submitted by Steve Callahan

Ah, the Hofbräuhaus. Long wooden tables, utilitarian in design (natch). Tourists from all walks of life (let’s be real, there are no natives here) jammed together like Japanese commuters. All of us feeding a common need for revelry, beer, pretzels of a size colossal enough to spin Atkins in his grave, more beer, “authentic” music (it must be authentic because they’re wearing lederhosen, right?), more beer, and more beer. Waitresses with upper-body strength not seen since Tor Johnson’s prime carrying more and more gargantuan mugs of the glorious beer, beer, beer. A murky miasma of cigarette smoke permeating everything. And, apparently, at some point in the evening Bob fed me headcheese. For years I’ve stared at the headcheese at the deli of my local supermarket, curious but disgusted. Staring at it and daring myself to finally, this time, buy it and try it. It must be good or else they wouldn’t sell it, right? I finally ate it that night at the Hofbräuhaus and can’t remember any of it. I’m still alive, so that says something, right?

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7UP Plus—Mixed Berry
Submitted by David Harms

Because I’m suspicious of any soft drink claiming to be a source of calcium, it took me several trips to the convenience store in my building (which mysteriously remains open despite closing at 2 each afternoon and devoting an entire magazine rack to its extensive inventory of back issues of Popular Mechanics) before the promise of 5 percent (!) real fruit juice and only 10 calories per can proved too much to resist. Despite the combination of sweet fruitiness with the effervescence and bittersweet of a diet beverage, however, 7UP Plus—Mixed Berry was missing something. Only later, upon noticing the absence of a crushing headache, did I realize our old friend aspartame had not been invited to this party.

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Gatorade Fierce Melon
Submitted by Noah Starr

The convenience store near my apartment in Queens usually stocks only one flavor of Gatorade at a time. I have no idea where this brilliant merchandising scheme came from, but I do know that it makes me nothing but mad. On Sunday, they had an entire shelf of Gatorade’s new Fierce Melon flavor. Since I had no other choice, I grabbed a bottle. It tasted exactly like the drinkable medicines I hated as a kid, but was actually somehow less refreshing. My new mantra is: Any drink named after an entire group of things is nothing but trouble. “Melon” flavor doesn’t exist in nature. “Melon” is a category.

Here are just some of the melons that I have had in the past: watermelon, honeydew melon, casaba melon, and, of course, cantaloupe. Any of these melons would make a delicious Gatorade flavor—this drink tasted like none of them. I wonder exactly which melon the scientists at the Gatorade labs were trying to replicate? If they were going for something like poison melon, I congratulate them on a job well done.

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Submitted by Matthew Michel

Doppelkeks are the generic manifestation of their more expensive brand-name father, Prinzenrolle. It is a cookie sandwich, with the diameter of a minidisc (I think) and a filling made of a chocolate paste. I will tell people they (Doppelkeks) are the reason I have moved to Germany. They will ask me what I mean by Doppelkeks, and I will then mention Prinzenrolle.

The outer cookies are nothing special, almost a cracker, light brown with many depressed holes. Small arcs travel the circumference, bumps similar to those around a circle-sun in a child’s drawing. They are difficult to separate, the two cookies, in the Oreo fashion. When in want of cereal, I have crumbled two into a cup of milk, only to discover the cookies become mushy on contact with liquid. I will, nonetheless, try this again from time to time.

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Post-Katrina Twinkies
Submitted by Benjamin Morris

The power was still out, so we threw on the grill a couple of burgers that were just about to go bad along with some canned sprouts and butter beans. Here’s a hint: with enough salt and pepper, anything can be awesome. After dinner, on the porch, Jonny asks if I want dessert, which I take to mean another room-temp. Blue Moon. Sure, I say, because there ain’t all that much to do after curfew (“dark” here in Hattiesburg) except have another beer and watch the cops go by. And then, like a fist-sized shaft of light from the silenced street lamp above us, a Twinkie plops down on my plate.

Folks, I don’t know if you’re the kind, but let me tell you: There is no greater experience than the vanilla and crème and lemon—yes, is that a hint of lemon?—state of grace that is a Twinkie, especially under circumstances such as these. I mean, really. There is a reason they stock bomb shelters with these things. Perhaps the only thing more poised to send you hurtling straight into the blissosphere is your friendly after-dinner mint: a Kamel Red Light smuggled in from Pensacola because there are no more smokes in Mississippi, which, hey, will you look at that?

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Cajeta Elegancita
Submitted by Gregory Plemmons

Who’s that sassy fuchsia-colored mamacita down at the vending-machine corner of E6 and D7? Why, it’s Cajeta Elegancita, Hershey’s latest foray into Latino-Land, heartily endorsed and autographed on the wrapper by Mexican singing sensation (and J. Lo look-alike) Thalia. In my late-afternoon hypoglycemic stupor, my high-school-Spanish-vocab. recall flounders a bit: elegancita, that’s easy enough—ahh, “a little elegance.” Cajeta, cajeta. Box? Treasure chest? The quarters go in, she flings herself down, and I’m tearing the wrapper off now, baby, biting right into a familiar Kit Kat strata of chocolate and wafer as well as … what’s that … flavor? That distinctive medley of gym socks and butt crack? Cajeta, cajeta. Goats’ milk? Caramel? It’s all coming back now: caja is “chest,” you idiot. I spit you out, C. Elegancita. I spit you out, like the puta you are.

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April and December
Submitted by Keir Neuringer

Years ago I was hiking around Slovakia with a friend. On the outskirts of an anonymous village, we met an old Slovak who offered us his farm as a campground. He took us inside his house and poured us each a glass of Zlaty Bazant (“golden pheasant”), a fine pilsner. After a round, the farmer became even more generous, and brought us a plate piled with two different kinds of meat, one of them a homemade sausage that was gnarled, pale purple, and speckled with red-and-gray flecks. The other meat looked like simple processed turkey, the “hickory smoked” variety, which I lived on as a teenager. Now, however, I was a vegetarian. Too embarrassed to refuse the old farmer’s hospitality, I reached reluctantly for the turkey, supposing it was the lesser, more easily digestible of two evils. As I brought my fork down on the plate, I imagined the rubbery slice—just this side of opaque—reminding me with every bite that the processed muscle tissue of a bird was about to make an irrevocable entrance into my digestive tract. But before fork touched meat the farmer’s wife walked in, instantly took the plate away, and said to her husband, “These city boys won’t eat that!” What I had thought was turkey was, in fact, pure congealed pork fat.

Later on, after a sublimely tasty plate of tangy, thick-sliced sausages—the kind that crunch and squirt fat in your mouth—and fresh, floury white bread that gloated, “The farmer’s wife made me,” with each crusty, butter-slathered bite, the farmer gave us a tour of his place. He encouraged us to reconsider slonina—congealed pork fat—gesturing to his knees and saying that it was the daily portions of the stuff that had kept him strong all his years. He then introduced us to what had to be the happiest looking pig I will ever see in my life. He said, “This is our pig, December. We’re going to eat him in December.” Apparently, we had just feasted on December’s brother, April.

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Primal Strips Vegan Jerky, Hot & Spicy Shiitake, 4 oz.
Submitted by John L. Sullivan

If normal food had a badass juvenile-delinquent cousin who rode a motorcycle and spit and swore and made all of the normal foods’ mothers keep the kids in the house looking out the window until he went away, that menacing food would be beef jerky. Vegan jerky, on the other hand, will never be confused with beef jerky. Vegan jerky is unthreatening and clean and careful and always minds his manners. On Halloween, vegan jerky goes out trick-or-treating dressed as beef jerky and hopes that everyone thinks it looks cool and scary.

I purchased a bag of Primal Strips Vegan Jerky (Hot & Spicy Shiitake) at my local 7-Eleven. The pimply squeaky kid at the register with the Clay Aiken T-shirt and tiny seashell necklace told me it was really, really good. I walked out of the store and squinted into the bright sunlight, the bag small and weak and pathetic in my hand. A guy in wraparound sunglasses and a leather vest roared by on a big rumbling Harley. Arms wrapped tight around him, the long blond girl on the seat behind him was smiling and saying something into his ear as they blasted by. His hair was blowing and his head was leaned back into her face a little. His thick arms stretched up to the handlebars. I’m sure he saw the vegan jerky in my hand.

I sneered down at the vegan jerky. It didn’t argue. It knew. I flipped the unopened bag into the trash and went back into 7-Eleven to buy some beef jerky and Marlboros and maybe a scratch ticket.

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Panda Assorted Filled Licorice (Banana, Caramel, and Strawberry)
Submitted by Zach Arnold

I am the only licorice enthusiast I know. I hear that the Finns are big on licorice, but I live in Pennsylvania, and when I offer my uniformly non-Finnish friends a bit of the black stuff, I am generally met with unqualified revulsion.

It is perhaps in hopes of enticing my licorice-hating friends, and the rest of the coveted 18-to-24 demographic, that Panda (a Finnish company, mind you) has unveiled its Assorted Filled Licorice. These bite-size chunks of mild black licorice are filled with a chalky, cloyingly sweet paste that allegedly comes in three different flavors. I have been unable to distinguish between these flavors, although I can smell the banana aspect from time to time. No, mostly it’s just a headlong rush of vaguely fruity sweetness, with the occasional hint of licorice—not enough licorice to satisfy my cravings, but probably enough to make my friends gag anyway. Way to alienate both camps, Panda Licorice. Next time I’ll stick with Gustafs Platinum Select (available salty or sweet).

Oh, and the convenient resealable bag (“specifically developed” to maintain “the product’s freshness and unique consistency”) is unbelievably difficult to close properly. Then again, I won’t be too broken up if these things spoil and I have to throw them out.

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Submitted by Paige Reid

Every Sunday, my mother would manage the over-35 team at the local soccer club. The men on her team were no spring chickens, not by any stretch of the imagination, and by the end of the game, they would be lying collapsed on the ground, complaining of cramp and sore muscles. Out would come the Deep Heat, and soon there would be an odorous cloud hanging around the band of injured soccer players.

My uncle lives in America and, every so often, he flies to Australia with care packages. Living in Australia means that I get blistering summers, toast with Vegemite, and a woeful selection at the candy aisle. My brother and I ripped open the bag of sugar-based goodies and divided them up equally, without sparing a thought for my parents. We took Butterfingers and Reese’s Pieces and other exotic candies that made us laugh and hate Australia furiously. Soon there was nothing left but a column of thin, round candies in a clear packet with very little writing. Suspicious, we asked our uncle what they tasted like. The man himself, tired and jet-lagged, muttered something about them tasting like sugar.

I put one in my mouth.

It was like running my tongue up a 43-year-old soccer player’s thigh.

Damn you, Wintermint. Damn you.

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Crunch Wrap Supreme
Submitted by Sam Hollander

In 1992 I watched Shaquille O’Neal duck to enter a doorway, crouch to use a shower, and drive a clown-size car with his knees at his chin, waving arms extended through the windows and smiling head out the sunroof. The message was that everyday objects were not made for Shaq. That is, all everyday objects except the new Double-Decker Taco, washed down with a free-refill Shaq souvenir cup of Pepsi.

The genius of the Double-Decker Taco was in the synthesis of crunchy and doughy tortilla elements and the separation of filling elements. Items that had previously been unceremoniously cast together like ingredients in a stew (beany meat, or meaty bean) each received their own share of spotlight on opposite sides of a taco shell. Just as you would never stir together the components of a bowl of fresh homemade oatmeal, instead choosing to enjoy hot cereal, cool cream, sweet brown sugar, and rich salty butter in each bite, the Double-Decker Taco performed an intricate tango wherein each piece shined alone and yet combined to become a taco greater than the sum of its parts.

It is now some 13 years later. Shaq has made marketing mistakes—Shaq-Fu, Kazaam, saying that he was like the Pythagorean theorem because he has no solution—but Taco Bell patrons will maintain that endorsing the Double-Decker Taco was not one of them. Still on the menu, the Double-Decker Taco serves as a reminder to patrons that silly-looking items may be, in fact, genius. It is with this in mind that I ordered the new Crunch Wrap Supreme. Good Lord, I was not disappointed. The Crunch Wrap Supreme is the new Double-Decker Taco. Please don’t go away, Crunch Wrap Supreme. Don’t get phased out like Pintos & Cheese. Do not go gently into that good night like the Healthy Menu. Persevere! Like lesser items before you have: the Chalupa, the Gordita, the Quesadilla … persevere! I’ve only just met you and already I see you trying to skulk away. Shaq, say something!

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Submitted by Joel R. McConvey

I went for a round one on purpose, because I was kind of afraid of the lumpy, bubonic look the rest of them had. Misshapen fruit is almost never good.

The fur was probably the thing I found most irresistible about it, because the only other fuzzy fruit I’ve eaten is the peach, and I dig that sensation, like you’re eating cheap pleather or a small mammal. But peaches are often hard, and it ruins it. This thing is hard, but since I had no idea what it was when I saw it, I wasn’t expecting the juice-down-the-chin gush that pictures of sexy people eating peaches always promise you.

I thought I’d have to go back to the store to figure out what it was called, as there was no sticker on mine, and there’d been no sign up when I bought it. I knew that it cost $2.95 for one. That kind of monopolized my first impression. But when I did an Internet search for ""green fuit" pear lumpy" the third item down said “Quince.” I half knew it was like a pear when I was buying it, because it was beside the rest of the pears, but it was still disappointing, like when you’re a kid and you learn your exotic coin collection is just a bunch of pocket change from Antigua. I felt better when I read how Taoists use it to make incense. I learned it’s related to the medlar and loquat, and that the Portuguese call it “marmelo.”

The page also said it was rarely eaten raw, but I said fuck it. It has the texture of really dense fiberglass insulation and tastes like the smell of cat pee mixed with aspartame. Cook it, if you’re going to blow the $2.95.

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Meals Ready to Eat
Submitted by J.L. Teagle

I live in southern Louisiana. The lack of water (coming through the pipes to my house, not the lack of water in general) and electricity necessitated getting a couple of boxes of these rations. My sons found M&M’s; there were tiny bottles of Tabasco sauce, too (a nice, homely touch for us in the South); and the vegetarian meals were a nice surprise. As far as bagged food goes, they weren’t too bad at all. They’re hot (and it’s 90 degrees here), but when you don’t have anything other than granola bars to eat, it doesn’t really matter.

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Crest Whitening Expressions Vanilla Mint Toothpaste
Submitted by Anina Ertel

I’ve always felt that the average mint toothpaste is too strong. Often, I can brush my teeth for only 20 or so terror-filled seconds before I get the sensation that my nose hairs are burning off. If it weren’t for children’s toothpaste, I probably wouldn’t have any teeth left. But after 23 years, the bubblegum thing has gotten old. It usually tastes like fake bubblegum, and I’m pretty sure real bubblegum is a fake flavor. Crest is lying to you, too—there’s barely a hint of mint. It’s all vanilla. You could make little rosettes on a birthday cake with this and no one would notice.

I’ve yet to find another human being who will go near this paste more than once. My boyfriend won’t even kiss me after I brush; he claims “it’s just not right.” So try it, and if you like it, maybe you can be my new boyfriend.

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h4.Tostitos Restaurant Style With a Hint of Lime Tortilla Chips
Submitted by Ian Collins

The first corn chip since Zesty Cheese Doritos to be rightfully called a delicacy, the Hint of Lime makes me believe that the time may come when tortilla chips are more than just shovels for industrial-grade salsa. These may mark the beginning of a new era of mass-marketed subtlety. I imagine “Dusting of Mustard Pretzels” and feel faint.

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Submitted by Alex Johnston

Coddle is a form of stew, made in Ireland, with sausages, bacon, onions, potatoes, pepper, and water. You take a saucepan two-thirds full of cold water and add as many sausages as you like, as many slices of back bacon as you like, as many onions as your appetite can handle, and as many peeled floury potatoes as your heart desires. Then you put it on the heat. When it boils, turn down the heat and simmer it for half an hour to ensure that all the pork products cook through.

The culinary-minded will have noticed that at no point do any of the meat products go through the normal processes of browning, searing, crisping, etc., that transform sausage and bacon from mere oversalted lumps of pig into splendid delicacies. No, they are simmered in plain cold water with only potato, onion, pepper, and their own salt for flavoring. No wonder, then, that the sausages come out looking like boiled human penises, while the bacon is flaccid and greasy. Coddle is a really shit meal, the food equivalent of a wet Wednesday afternoon in Bray, which is a small and not very exciting seaside town about 15 miles south of Dublin that’s chiefly notable for having a mildly pleasant view of the Irish Sea. It is proof that even traditional cookery with top-grade organic ingredients is perfectly capable of producing something that tastes absolutely fucking disgusting.

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The Egg O! Croissant From the O! Deli of Huntington Beach
Submitted by Andrew Gulledge

I divest myself daily of the $5.06 it takes to procure this unhealthy abomination. For dessert: an ice-cold potion of Alka-Seltzer, served in a styrofoam cup. The resulting speedball effect is too touching to describe.

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Marshmallow Mania Pebbles
Submitted by Victoria Prewitt

The box was accompanied by an unexplainable dollar-off coupon—88 cents for a box of cereal! How dare I even think of eating something else? And this is the pebbly delight I have been waiting my whole life for, since Rice Krispie treats have been discontinued at my store—sugary deliciousness laced in pounds of marshmallow craze. Oh and if you act now you can get a free membership to the Batman Training Academy! Sweet!

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Fennel Seeds
Submitted by Ned Rust

Generally speaking, I’m more an anise man than a fennel man. It’s always seemed to me that if you’re in the mood for a good, licorice-flavored mouthful of seeds, you might as well go to the source and not be forced to pick your teeth over a spice so innocuous it’s often used to lend texture to low-quality Italian sausages.

Nevertheless, I like to exercise my palate, and I do make a point of sampling away from my preferences from time to time. And so, when I saw the sale on Spice Trader fennel seeds—a 1.5-ounce jar for just $1.69, formerly $5.95—I decided not to worry that I’d never heard of the brand. In fact, since I was a little peckish (I often am when shopping), I resolved to pop open the jar and chew a couple mouthfuls on the drive home.

Little did I suspect, however, that I would not just be chewing but—more aptly—spitting out the car window and cursing like a sailor who’s just chomped down on a rancid piece of whatever it is sailors generally eat.

For it became quickly clear that Spice Trader fennel seeds are not only inferior to anise seeds but inferior to any putatively savory substance I’d ever put in my mouth … except maybe fenugreek. God, I hate fenugreek. They say it’s an anti-flatulent, but I always ask, What good is it saving yourself a fart if you’ve essentially got to put something that tastes like one in your mouth?

At any rate, as you may know, fennel seeds typically have a banausic, mildly buttery head with black-jellybean overtones; these, however, delivered a wallop of turpentine with hints of over-ripe corn and, frankly, mildew.

I examined the plastic jar more closely when I got home. The label said “Best if purchased by 02/06,” but this, rather than reassuring me, set off all kinds of alarm bells. The date was only a matter of months away and it’s not exactly a trade secret that most seeds of the carrot family—unless frozen or dry-sealed under positive pressure—are fairly perishable and will lose flavor or, worse, rot in well under two years. And, judging by the dust I now noticed on the jar’s lid, these seeds had been sitting on a shelf or in a stockroom since the late ’90s.

A quick trip to the library for an Internet search did little to set my mind at ease. As far as I can tell, the Spice Trader Herbs Import Corporation is no longer in business and I am left with only this piece of advice for bargain shoppers in Aisle 7 (flour, baking supplies, spices): if it looks too cheap to be true, it probably is.

Well, that—and check for dust.

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Manzanita Sol
Submitted by Kevin Hayes

One of the benefits of living in a “transitional” neighborhood is that it gives one access to products most white people will never see, let alone taste. Manzanita Sol, an apple-flavored soda (“CONTAINS NO FRUIT JUICE”) from Pepsi that is available at my local bodega, is one of these products. Unfortunately, Manzanita Sol proves the notion that every strength (access to products intended for foreign taste buds) can quickly turn into a weakness (consuming said products). How does it taste? Here’s how:

an orange : orange soda :: an apple : Manzanita Sol

That is not a compliment.

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Wok 2 Yip Satay Vegetables
Submitted by Steffan Thomas

I live in Skewen, Wales (the biggest village in Europe!). Skewen has a bizarre concentration of take-away restaurants, mainly Indian or Chinese. A survey done for my geography class at age 14 spelled this out in stark figures—these establishments outnumber other forms of shop by 2 to 1. There is no logical reason for this. Skewen is not a lovely place; it’s an ex-mining village, renowned for the poverty and violence of its inhabitants. Any U.S.-style calls of “Give me your poor, huddled masses, etc.” from Skewen should have met with blank rejection from the unshod and trod-upon peasants of Bangalore and Hunan. Despite this, my hometown is filled with these establishments, all competing in taste and price, and thus I had a blessed childhood of exotic and inexpensive food, never more than 10 minutes from my door. For years, I feasted upon chicken tikka and barbecue (or honey) spare ribs, with prawn crackers, poppadoms, and raita, and was able to lord it over schoolfriends who lacked a masculine tolerance for the (admittedly mild) heat of my food.

Despite this abundance, I foolishly became, and remain, a vegetarian. My blessed life came to an abrupt end. The complex and delightful dishes of my youth were replaced by compost bin with black-bean sauce and arse dahl. I didn’t complain, as my sacrifice was enhanced by this hardship. But then, with no fanfare, or any announcement at all, Wok 2 Yip came into my life. It moved into the space previously occupied by the massively unsuccessful Burger Bros, whose terrible name and subpar American-style cuisine led to their downfall. The premises always seemed oddly sterile and soulless compared to the other take-aways, and this somehow made you feel like a fraud. Wok 2 Yip continued this trend, and seemed doomed to failure. But then again, a new establishment is always worth a try.

There, you order satay vegetables and sit down with a paper—gratis, naturally. A furious-looking chef behind the receptionist works away. When I first tasted his work, it tasted like (and continues to taste like) the only thing Satan could have tempted Jesus to eat in his desert fasting era. This combination of various vegetables, cream, peanut, and chili is the best thing in the world. The softest kick, followed by the softest kiss. It is heartbreaking. I usually combine that with the pineapple rice.

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White Chocolate Key Lime Almond Joy
Submitted by Emily Lawton

Last week, my colleague and I joked about what a terrible idea this particular confection was. But hey, they must do focus groups and taste tests, so how bad could it really be?

It smells like a Malibu Barbie that’s been drinking gin-and-tonics all day. It’s white and lumpy, and (except for the almonds) quite soggy, yet grainy, and the coconut sounds crunchy when you’re chewing it but isn’t. The only remarkable things about the flavor were overpowering sweetness and the disconcerting aftertaste of lime. Late into the afternoon it lingered, through multiple cups of coffee and a mouthwash rinse—lime, unconquerable.

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h4.Lay’s Dill Pickle Potato Chips /Croustilles Cornichons à l’Aneth
Submitted by Tabitha Steager

First, a confession. I am a Canadian who has spent most of my life in California, so I cannot claim to know much of anything about Canadian food and culture. When I recently moved back to my motherland, I too thought that the Great White North would be much the same as the States, only colder and with people who run around saying “eh” all the time. But it is not so.

Take for instance Lay’s dill-pickle-flavored potato chips. My first thought upon spying that bright-yellow-and-white bag with pickle-colored highlights was one of disgust and horror. Who could possibly want to eat dill-pickle-flavored potato chips? Well, Canadians, apparently. “Irresistibly Canadian!” the package proclaimed.

Despite my disgust, that Lay’s bag called to me each time I visited the store. Finally, in an effort to determine if I was a real Canadian or not, I gave in and bought a bag. “It’s a Dill-icious flavour Canadians love!” the bag screamed. I kid you not. It really did say “Dill-icious.”

Thin and lightly colored, with a slight greasy shine, as Lay’s potato chips should be, these croustilles looked pretty American at first. I sniffed inside the bag and got a whiff of vinegar and dill. Not pickle, really, but definitely dill. I was tempted to hold my nose and just pop one in, but that would have negated the whole exercise. At first bite, this chip tasted just like a salt-and-vinegar potato chip. Acidic and salty, it stung the tongue in a pleasing way. Then the next flavor—I guess it’s supposed to be dill pickle—came forward, making its way through the salt and vinegar. It was difficult (dill-ficult?) to place this flavor at first. It was not dill pickle, definitely (dill-finitely?) not.

I ate another one, and then several at a time. By now my tongue was starting to feel a bit numb, as salt-and-vinegar chips are wont to do. But I’d placed the flavor. These were not dill-pickle-flavored but rye-bread-dipped-in-vinegar-flavored. And I love them. Maybe it’s the “can’t eat just one” aspect of the Lay’s potato-chip brand—or maybe I really am a true Canadian, after all.

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The Herbal Tea Shop’s William Pear Tea
Submitted by Laura Kenins

My mother gets gift baskets of obscure food items every Christmas from a well-meaning friend and her well-meaning sister-in-law. I’m not sure which of them gave her this tea. Pears in tea intrigued me, initially. Most herbal teas are made from fruits like apples or strawberries that I can easily associate with sachets or bowls of potpourri in the closets and bathrooms of old ladies, but pears I mostly associate with fruit. I’ve never seen pear-scented air freshener. However, this tastes a great deal like apple tea, apple-chamomile tea, strawberry-apple tea, and strawberry-lavender tea. I looked at the ingredients: there are no pears, only things like sarsaparilla root, chicory, rosehips, and apple. Now I remember why I stopped drinking herbal tea in middle school and started drinking real tea. Maybe this Christmas my aunt will give us a jar of Mennonite pickled garlic cloves again instead.

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A Taste of Thai: Coconut Ginger Noodles
Submitted by Rayo Casablanca

Have you ever seen written Thai? Not the transliterated shit, but the actual curlicue script, abugida. It looks like the stuff that teenage girls scrawl all over their journal covers. Like the font that Midwestern housewives use to make lost-cat and yard-sale signs. The font that just yells, “I’m so wild and crazy it’s insane!” I think it’s called Curlz MT. These noodles taste like a Midwestern housewife would, all cheery (the coconut) and apoplectic (the ginger and something called kaffir lime) at the same time. But it’s also hearty, sits with you for a while as if it’s staying the night. Clinger, I guess.

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Steak Fantastic Pizza
Submitted by Megan Kerns

I recently received an e-mail from advertising their new pizza “Steak Fantastic.” I wondered for a split second if I’d try it, then I realized that if I’m on an e-mail list for Domino’s Pizza I was obligated to give it a go.

I ordered it tonight and it arrived with my Chicken Kickers (boneless chicken “wings” in spicy sauce) in time for a Stargate SG-1 marathon on Sci-Fi Friday night. I split the Chicken Kickers with my husband and yelled at him not to hog the dip.

It was like a Philly cheesesteak, minus the peppers and plus the pizza sauce. I wasn’t told there would be mushrooms and onions on it, along with fajita-like steak (that was surprisingly grilled-tasting), but the meat was tender and worked perfectly with the earthy button mushrooms and caramelized red onions. I got it on thin crust, which was almost too flimsy for the girth of the Steak Fantastic, but was perfect for precariously folding in half and dipping in leftover Ranch sauce.

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Totino’s Pizza Rolls
Submitted by Patrick Ackerman

Being a student of the science of food marketing (and an exceptional one at that), I have been systematically broken down into some sort of a machine that absorbs an assload of sensory information about food products and packaging whenever I am in a supermarket, convenience store, supercenter, or hypermarket.

One day, my frozen-aisle frolics led me to a brightly colored package in the snack section. “Totino’s Pizza Rolls” it said, begging the question: Who is Totino? Moreover, why did he feel the need to rip the bills off of ducks’ faces, stuff them with cheese and sauce, deep-fry them, and subsequently freeze them?

I was just joking about the duck bills, so enjoy, vegetarians! But vegans, you better stay very, very far away. And in a world with Totino’s Pizza Rolls, macrobiotics may as well just leave the effing planet.

So, as I was saying, this packaging is nuts. It depicts several of the little bundles literally exploding out of the center of the box. In small print next to this far-out hippie imagery are the words “Serving Suggestion.” How ’bout some more ’shrooms, Captain Wacky?

Long story short: Imagine an egg roll stuffed with pizza sauce and cheese, then consider the fact that very little Asian cuisine contains dairy. You can now claim this unassuming snack as the very height of haute fusion cuisine. Gastronomical!

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Submitted by Jason Kronstat

Doritos have been a lunchtime staple for almost 20 years, and for good reason: They are cheesy and delicious. They remained delicious through several unnecessary attempts to make them “cheesier.” Doritos were beloved by most, and of those who did abstain, none did so due to lack of cheese. Still, Frito-Lay pressed on with a relentless drive to make Doritos cheesier, and they have finally overdone it. Decision makers at Frito-Lay suffer from cheese dysmorphic disorder, rendering them unable to recognize the high level of cheesiness in their own product. They live by the cry “Ever cheesier!,” numb to the increasing amounts of cheese-flavored powder applied to their chip.

With new Doritos Nacho Cheesier, they are clearly servicing their own pathology and not the cheese-satiated market they pretend to serve.

The new Doritos bag actually apologizes for past lack of cheesiness: The slogan “NOW BETTER TASTING!,” more appropriate for a children’s medicine than for America’s No. 1 cheese tortilla, is plastered across the package. The “Nacho Cheesier!” label is also discomfiting, having the same visceral effect as an emaciated person complaining about fat ankles. The taste of the chip is, unsurprisingly, much, much too cheesy.

Doritos’ many changes over the last decade were a cry for help, a cry we ignored so long as they still tasted a little like the chip we fell in love with. Finally, they’ve gone round the bend, never to return. There is a lesson here. It’s not too late for Smartfood, or Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, or even Cheetos. By intervening now, we can save the just-cheesy-enough snacks from following the same sad and self-destructive path.

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Mint Chocolate Chip Tofutti Cuties
Submitted by Yukiko Takeuchi

Much to my detriment, I didn’t figure out I was lactose-intolerant until college. I could have avoided a lot of white-knuckle moments if I had known earlier, but you know what they say about candy and nuts, so I’m unloading that weight. Getting out of the dairy game means I no longer have to play intestinal Russian roulette, but I grew up with the stuff, so there is a hole in my dietary life. Soymilk, cheese, sour cream—they’re edible, but you’d never mistake them for the real thing. When I saw the Mint Chocolate Chip Tofutti Cuties (mini mint chocolate-chip frozen sandwiches), I forced myself to keep my hopes low. First, there’s the name, and, second, I loved mint chocolate-chip ice cream back in the day and, generally, am not allowed to be that happy. It turns out they’re everything I wanted them to be and everything they should be: white (not green), refreshing, “cream”-y, and just the right size to keep from dripping at the end. I haven’t had ice cream this millennium, so I can’t be sure it’s not just succeeding by comparison to its lusterless brethren, but I truly believe this is a product behind which the lactose-tolerant and -intolerant alike can unite.

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Dixon’s Central Plain Pork Skins
Submitted by Bennett R. Hipps

This is a food substance so devoid of nutritional value, so lacking in the weight of vitamins and other essential nutrients, that the package actually floated down from its perch and gently glided to rest at the bottom of the vending machine. I also bought some Chili Cheese Fritos. Thump. Straight to the bottom.

And now I taste a pork rind. Not too bad. The flavor and consistency are not unlike a piece of styrofoam (or a rice cake) dragged through the gunk at the bottom of the Christmas-ham pan and dried in the sun.

I made the mistake of looking at one of my pork-rind pieces, and now the styrofoam/rice-cake illusion is shot to hell. Now I can only think of these things as exactly what they are: fried skin. They are cellular and translucent, like the lampshade in Texas Chainsaw Massacre made from human skin. Frankly, they don’t make me think of ham or pork chops or any such thing. Rather, I picture a dangerously bad sunburn. Some of them can still be eaten, but only if taken from the bag to my mouth discreetly, out of sight. The ones that have curled up into almost Cheeto shape are the most welcome, as they look the least like flayed skin. The flatter, wider pieces look like test samples from a dermatology clinic that have so baffled the doctors that they’ve resorted to selling them as food rather than trying to study them any more.

I would still be in favor of trying the barbecue kind someday.

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Caramel Apple Fig Newtons
Submitted by Justin Porter Stephens

Unfortunately, like many highly touted minor league pitching prospects called up for a late-season start, the Caramel Apple Newtons did not live up to the hype. They turned out to be more like Todd Van Poppel rather than a young, Baltimore Oriole-d Mike Mussina. The fine folks at Nabisco had messed up the caramel-to-apple ratio. (Apparently, their mathematical skills are inferior to those of their famous namesake—or was it Isaac N. who was named for the famous sandwich cake? Neither.) One can vaguely taste the “apple” if the edges are eaten and the overpowering center is avoided, but otherwise it’s Caramel City, where nobody interesting lives and the garbage men are on strike all the time. Not half a sleeve was eaten before the Newtons were relieved of their position. After the game, they were promptly sent to the cabinet, spending the rest of their career bouncing around different levels of the organization, never to make it back to the big leagues again.

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Malta Goya
Submitted by Kevin Lauderdale

Malta Goya would make the perfect gateway drink between cola and beer. Like all maltas, this nonalcoholic soft drink looks like beer and sort of smells like beer, but, as the label clearly indicates, is actually a nonalcoholic mixture of high-fructose corn syrup, two kinds of barley and hops, and water. This has the tang of beer, but that tang isn’t so strong that it actually tastes like beer. It tastes like a good piece of really fresh dark bread soaked in Coke.

Supposedly, maltas are very popular in South America, where I bet they taste even better.

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Nerds Rope
Submitted by Jessica Suarez

This is how everyone has always eaten Nerds: the box is held in one hand and shaken into the other. The Nerds are then appraised on a three-point scale—color, shape, and clarity—before palm is drawn to mouth.

Nerds Rope eliminates this excruciating fermata between touch and taste by sticking all the Nerds onto a gummi worm. The rope remains stick-straight and easy to grip, the ideal jogging snack.

Nerds Ropes also tend to shed three to four Nerds onto the floor with each bite. This is also an improvement. Friends or family members that tend to slip away unnoticed will, given a Nerds Rope, leave a trail. And toddlers no longer need to be watched at all times; they won’t get far.

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Cheetos Cheezy Pizza Flavored Snacks
Submitted by Rob Geisen

Besides being theoretically delicious, the Cheetos Cheezy Pizza Flavored Snack also acts as one hell of a time saver. If you feel like eating Cheetos and you feel like eating pizza but only have time to eat one thing, there’s no need to choose. Eat the Cheezy Pizza Cheetos. Problem solved. It’s also worth noting that Frito-Lay has helpfully spelled “Cheezy” with the outrageously popular letter z, instead of the wishy-washy and ridiculously outdated letter s, which makes this snack totally easier to relate to.

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Breyers Twix Ice Cream
Submitted by Ellie Kemper

My initial experience with the new Breyers Twix Ice Cream was really, really terrible. I was sick, and when I’m sick I eat ice cream, and so I had bought this big thing of Twix Ice Cream and I was secretly happy, like you are when you’re sick, because you know that all you have to do is sleep. But when I started eating my new Breyers Twix Ice Cream I realized that it wasn’t really “Twix” so much as “Vanilla.”

I considered taking it back to Fairway, but I was too sick to do that. So I went to sleep, angrily (I think I started to cry, actually), and then I eventually got better—the rest of the story isn’t interesting. Here’s where it gets interesting again. A couple of days ago, fit as a fiddle, I happened to swing by my old haunt (I swing by this old haunt about three times a week—it’s my grocery store) and found myself in—surprise!—the old ice-cream aisle, where I probably find myself about twice a week, because I eat so much ice cream. Especially lately—I was recently dumped! I pulled out a Pints Plus of the new Breyers Twix (they only make it in the pint-and-a-half version at Fairway) and took it home. This new carton was exactly the same as my previous one: 99 percent vanilla with a few stale cookie pieces that were probably accidentally dropped in there by the Breyers factory elves on their break. Crumbs from their snacktime!

What saddens me the most, I think, is that not all varieties of the Breyers new “Ice Cream That’s Loaded” series are bad. Why is the Twix one so lacking? It is really, really barren. Which is one thing we have in common, and why I will always be drawn to it.

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Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich
Submitted By Jonathan Lewallen

I have seen the new commercial for this product, featuring people who I’m sure are normally level-headed during their day-to-day activities but who, after eating the Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich, are compelled to dunk their heads in fish tanks, or shoot fire extinguishers into their mouths, or attempt to drink from an overturned water cooler, for the sandwich has transformed them into a veritable Cacus, the half-man half-beast who breathed fire and nailed the heads of men to the doors of his cave before being killed by Heracles. To those people, and to the good people at Wendy’s, I can only say this: it’s not that hot.

True, the Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich does have a bit of a kick to it. It is not without its flavor or its charm. It is a reasonably healthy alternative, if it’s considered an alternative to eating three Wendy’s Big Bacon Classics in a week. It even comes with a slice of tomato and a shred of lettuce, and I’m pretty sure I once found some mayonnaise in there. If the mood were just right, I’m sure it could even be considered delicious. But again I must say: it’s not that hot.

But perhaps I am alone in thinking this, and perhaps my palate is made of asbestos. I don’t think it is, though, because once I ate a sushi roll made with wasabi root, and for 20 minutes I felt like I was on my deathbed. But if I am wrong, then a series of questions arises.

1. If the chicken sandwich is that hot, why can’t you order an entire water cooler with it?

2. What about a fish tank?

3. What about a fire extinguisher?

4. Or are they implying that drinking (eating?) a Wendy’s Frosty Dairy Dessert is like shooting a fire extinguisher into your mouth?

So while I’m happy to “cheer” the sandwich, I must “jeer” the commercial for it. Because it’s not that hot.

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Dry Brown Curds Snack
Submitted by Suebob Davis

I found this at our local Middle Eastern market.

It looks a bit like black fruit leather and claims to be made of yogurt. So far, so good.

I ate a piece only about one-eighth of an inch square.

Once the initial shock and pain of my salivary glands shriveling up passed, I stood in my kitchen, almost paralyzed.

The stuff was so sticky, and I could feel a piece stuck to my molar, but I was actually afraid to touch it with my tongue or move it, lest the sour flavor blast start again.

This may have a use, but I am not sure what it would be. If Middle Easterners can actually eat this with joy and happiness, they are much better and stronger than I.

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Olobombo Freeze-Dried Peach Pits
Submitted by Erika James

Olobombo hard and grizzled peach pits (freeze-dried to preserve freshness) are the perfect alternative for any vegetarian who misses the splintering sensation of bones as they fragment in the mouth.

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Snack Muc’s Hap Gung Cuttlefish Flavour Snack at the Asian Market on Beltline Road in Irving, Texas
Submitted by Angela Genusa

Cuttlefish are thought to be the wisest invertebrates on the planet. Their intelligence and charisma often make it hard for scientists to think of them objectively as research animals instead of as pets. Cuttlefish can change their color and texture in a second, use body patterns to communicate, and will beg for food. They jet water at scientists and use ink decoys. Hap Gung contains only “imitation” cuttlefish flavor.

“Hap” means “together” in Korean, or “coordination or harmony” in Vietnamese; “Gung” means “grandfather” in Chinese, “palace” in Korean, and “work, practice, accomplishment, cultivation”—or "ginger"—in Vietnamese. So “Hap Gung” could be translated as “grandfather bites,” “ginger bites,” “harmony cultivated,” or, probably, “ginger harmony.”

The strange words “oan” and “Tu’ti” on the package seem to translate to something like “Ghost … Toot! Toot!”

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Jean Berteau, Côtes du Rhône 2000, France
Submitted by Tavia Stewart

I mean, the guy in the liquor store said This Was The Stuff.

Quote, end quote.

The Stuff. The Stuff? Who is this Jean Berteau?

Granted it was in the $3.99 sale rack next to the plastic bin of beef jerky. But I am no wine snob; I have consumed plenty of liquor-store-sale-barrel wine in my past, plenty of two-buck chuck. This, though, was something altogether different. Something I could only compare to rotting flower-vase water, to fishbowl liquid after the fish have all gone and died while you were on vacation for weeks in a foreign country, maybe even months.

So I will have to dump The Stuff out, and pour myself a vodka with old margarita mix.

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Breast Milk, Andrea Watson Variety
Submitted by Andrea Watson

The milk is yellow and watery and not at all visually appealing. Breast milk does not taste like cow’s milk, although this reviewer’s expertise lies solely in skim milk, the flavor of which she forgets when under such pressure to recall the exact taste of milk for comparison purposes (answer: “milky”). It could be called sweet. It does not satisfy thirst. It is easily forgettable. It is like milk only in that it is closer to that end of the spectrum than it is to cola. It is bland but familiar. After settling, it forms a creamy cap that is most likely without butter-producing properties. The idea of spreading breast butter on bread is intriguing; however, the market for such might be so limited as to discourage production.

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Submitted by Tony Antoniadis

I found it in the fridge of a small Brooklyn health-food store. “Let It Loose,” the little can urged, and at that moment I knew I wasn’t purchasing a regular energy drink—the kind marketed to geeks who like to climb Big Bear or rearrange their furniture alphabetically. I swaggered out of the health-food store, setting off the pewter dolphin wind chimes. Imagine my surprise when, after I took my first gulp, I encountered an unmistakable taste I hadn’t experienced since my adolescence: grape-flavored Nerds!

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Frozen Apple-Cinnamon Eggo Waffles
Submitted by Lauren Greenberg

Take the frozen apple-cinnamon waffle straight from the buttery-yellow box in the freezer and place it directly into your mouth. No toaster necessary.

It was my older brother who started the frozen-waffle-consumption trend. When Mom wouldn’t let us take a snack from the pantry, he pretended he was getting ice for his Diet Rite (not recommended with frozen apple-cinnamon waffles) and, instead, slipped a waffle from the box and gnawed on it while watching Thundercats.

This treat is still the perfect afternoon snack, highly recommended if you can’t control a toaster or live with my mom or someone like her.

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Gwaltney’s Smithfield Ham (Uncooked, Bone-In)
Submitted by Ned Rust

Salt is hardly an unwelcome guest in our household. My 2-year-old daughter, left untended, is wont to spill shakers on tabletops—or even on the kitchen floor—and lick up the contents. Just yesterday, at the Landmark Diner, I busted her with the restaurant shaker’s head fully inside her mouth, injecting her saliva through the holes and drinking out the briny effluent.

And one of the first eyebrow-raising behaviors I discovered in my dear spouse is her habit of preparing salt bindles when we go to the movies. While I order the popcorn at the counter, she goes off to the salting station, unfolds a napkin, empties an ounce or so into it, folds it back up, and brings it into the theater.

And so, when our ham haunch arrived—the old-school kind, ordered over the Internet, brined to within an inch of being reclassified as a mineral and dangled for a year in a dimly lit Blue Ridge barn—with instructions to soak in a water bath as long as a day, and with at least one water change, we figured this was probably unnecessary caution and went with the suggested minimum eight-hour soak.

I should have known we were in trouble when I noticed the white pencil-point-sized nodules of salt still deep within the haunch. I tasted a piece of the dark pink meat and my lips puckered like a coke fiend’s sphincter.

I warned them all it might be too salty, but this was not a crowd to take such a warning seriously. So we all sat down at the table and had at it and pretty soon both kids were crying and Ruth, eyes watering, had brought her napkin to her mouth to remove a half-chewed bolus.

Maybe add a little extra soaking time.

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Colored Animal Crackers
Submitted by Sasha Richardson

I love me some animal crackers, but I found out the hard way that I don’t like the artificially (is there any other way?) colored ones. First of all, there are not a whole lot of colors—four, to be exact: green, turquoise blue, pinkish red, and natural (which isn’t even a color at all, since that’s the way the crackers are supposed to look without added dye). I was really hoping for the entire rainbow. Second, and this is a good thing, the colors don’t change the flavor of the crackers at all, which is why I wasn’t the least bit alarmed when I put the first turquoise cracker in my mouth. Third, I did, however, become alarmed when I went to the bathroom the day after trying the colored animal crackers. I know that green poop is at least somewhat natural, and common for babies, but clearly-not-from-nature solid turquoise-blue poop is really frightening, especially when it comes from your own body. I racked my brain for the next 15 minutes trying to figure out why my poop was the exact same hue as my turquoise iMac computer before I realized that it had to be the crackers. Scary. I’ve never eaten them since, and I never will. Unless I’m trying to freak out my doctor.

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Asian Pear
Submitted by Hilary Hammell

Sometimes you get duped into living in a guy’s attic in Portland under the false pretenses that his ex-girlfriend is newly sober and no longer lives with him, when in fact she (a) is still a raging alcoholic, (b) is still his girlfriend, and © two weeks into your under-the-table $100-a-month “lease,” moves back into the house and uses the kitchen for “secret” late-night boozing. But now you sleep on an air mattress in an attic walk-in closet formerly inhabited by a cat jungle gym and one of those evil squashed-faced cats named Monty, and you often wake late at night to Monty’s take-back-the-closet bids (read: scratching the shit out of your face).

On one such occasion you walk downstairs to the kitchen where Anginette is sipping gin from an Orangina bottle. You think, if you were drinking clear alcohol surreptitiously, how hard would it be to choose (a) an opaque cup or (b) a bottle meant to hold a clear beverage? Like Sprite? Or Perrier? Come on. So you try to ignore her and she tries to chat with you, one of those drunks who does the worst job ever at pretending not to be drunk. I mean, even if she could use appropriate syntax and actual words, the fact that she’s not wearing pants and has on only a turquoise man-style tank top with the words “Whale … Splashdance!” on it might be a giveaway. So you turn away, open the fridge, in pursuit of a light snack and an excuse not to look at Anginette’s junk. What’s this? This bowl of luscious, perfectly round apple-type things that are not green or red but instead a light matte-finish brown? You hold one in your palm and fondle it, feel its rough texture, like a Bosc pear. Could it be some kind of superawesome apple-pear hybrid? To a more simplistic thinker, sure. (In the same way that a mango is just a peach with elephantitis crossed with a softball.)

Anginette tells you in her smokers’ hack/Rhode Island accent/drunk slur that “issa asianpaya.” You bite into it, and all of a sudden the woman with the cracking-at-the-corners orange lipstick and this kitchen and this house and the city of Portland all disappear. You are lost in a taste sensation as all-encompassing as a first kiss with your seventh-grade crush, yet as subtle as a backhanded compliment. This thing is a pear, but without the drippiness and the fall-apart texture. It’s as convenient as an apple and as tender as a pear, with the satisfying crunch of a cucumber. But there I go, mixing metaphors and using inaccurate similes. Fuck that. Let me lay it on ya. The Asian pear is the King of Fruits. The Champagne of Snacks. If I could pick one phrase to describe it, it’d be: Taste … Splashdance.

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Old Faithful Bar
Submitted by Laura Silver

The packaging around the bumpy mass is red, white, and blue—with stripes albeit no stars. The candy’s name bursts from a treeline of pines in a well-manicured plume. There are other clues, too: “Original Creme Center. Net wt. 1 oz.” It’s made in Boise, Idaho, which explains the lumpy, potatoesque feel of the contents.

To artists, it’s a Klimt in thick satin. Sentimental outdoorsy Jews who’ve been to Alaska see it as petit Golem with a tentative erection above pigeoned feet, finding its way through the Lower 48. Seafaring folk imagine an underwater surveillance craft with mysterious holds and stubborn bubbles in a rickety paint job.

Three-quarters of an inch at its peak, the cluster is a slab of ancient mountain range with smooth sides that appear to have been groomed by human fingers. The respect for geology is unmistakable. A second bite reveals the beginning of the creme center. It’s white, gooey, overly sweet, and unpredictable, so there’s no hope of eating around it. Whole roasted peanuts abound and become increasingly difficult to separate from the molten core. I want some demarcation: a landmark or an orienteering map that shows how to avoid the perceived treasure. Onward, through the rolling hills.

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Red Bull Energy Drink
Submitted by Jessica Handler

Think orange-flavored baby aspirin. Think Sprite. Now watch me chug the whole can. Want to race to the clock tower by the dorm?

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Cape Cod Jalapeño and Aged Cheddar Potato Chips
Submitted by Christopher Burns

If you live in the Northeastern part of the country, as I do, you know that for us spicy food is not really considered a source of regional pride. In the rare event when a brave New Englander voluntarily ingests any substance hotter than white bread, he usually does so in a restaurant containing “Mexican” or “Indian” in the title, or some other such classification that tells him: “Don’t worry. This food is not from around here. You are sampling the native cuisine of a mysterious region far, far away.” This comforts him, and, as he wipes the sweat from his brow, he smiles and takes comfort in the knowledge that, when he is done with his meal, he will return to his world of bland food and liberal ideology, safe for now from all outside influences.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered these chips. I was in Ohio, of all places, when the “Cape Cod” printed in large blue letters caught my eye, and made me yearn once more for the simple pleasures of clam chowder and state-sanctioned gay marriage. Brand loyalty left over from my childhood drew me to the Cape Cod chips, but a Midwest-induced thirst for adventure forced me to pass on the original variety. That was when I picked up the green bag, the familiar lighthouse on the front complemented by a wheel of cheese and what appears to be an absurdly large jalapeño pepper (the length of the pepper and the diameter of the cheese are inexplicably equal). Taking this as proof of the New Englander’s complete ignorance in the ways of the spicy pepper, I decided to try the chips, unsure of what to expect.

My first reaction was one of complete shock. Not only were the chips very spicy, they were also extremely tasty! They actually tasted like jalapeños! It was clear right away that this was no attempt by the good people of Hyannis, Massachusetts, to create just another overly spicy but completely tasteless snack food. In order to get this perfect an end product, they must have gone to great lengths to accurately reproduce the taste and spice level of a jalapeño in chip form, and I applaud their efforts. The cheese is an afterthought, adding a hint of sweetness that is welcome but largely unnoticed. Wiping the sweat from my brow, I finished the bag as quickly as my Irish Catholic taste buds would allow. But how could such a snack come from the land of lobster and tax inflation? For now, I choose to ignore such questions and instead revel in the delicious incongruity.

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Worldwide Sports Nutrition Rapid Recovery Grape Rejuvenation Post Workout Drink
Submitted by Sean Hannah

As a rule, the more syllables contained within a food item’s name, the less foodlike it will taste. For the Worldwide Sports Nutrition Rapid Recovery Grape Rejuvenation Post Workout Drink, this does not bode well.

Also comes in Fruit Punch.

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Tasti DeLite: The Ice Cream That Never Will Be, Nor Ever Was
Submitted By Kristen Elde

On a given day, Apple Pie, Almond Joy, Angel Food Cake, Banana, Banana Fudge, Banana Pudding, Bananas Foster, Black Cherry, Black Raspberry, Blackberry, Black Forest Cake, Boysenberry, Blueberry Cheesecake, Butterscotch, Butterscotch Fudge, Butter Praline, Butterfinger, Butterfinger Mania, Creamy Coconut, Coconut Candy, Chocolate Mounds, Chocolate Macaroon, Chocolate, Chocoleche, Chocolate Pudding, Chocolate Mousse, Chunki, Candied Apple, Chocolate Marshmallow, Coffee ’N Cream, Coffee Cake, Coffee Espresso, Cookies ’N Crème, Cremesicle, Crème Brûlée, Cherry Upside-Down Cake, Dulce de Leche, Dutch Chocolate, Double Dutch Chocolate, Doubleberry, Egg Nog Cheesecake, English Toffee Fudge, Fluffer Nutter, Fluffer Nutter Fudge, French Custard, French Vanilla, German Chocolate Cake, Hazelnut Amaretto, Hazelnut Amaretto Fudge, Kahlua ’N Creame, or one of 50 additional selections is offered at various locations throughout New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, Texas, Maryland, and Illinois.

Notably, they all taste like peanut butter.

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Orbit CitrusMint Gum
Submitted by Shannon Chilcoate

Who knew that citrus and mint together could be so refreshing? Probably the people who have already switched to the new “less intense” Citrus Listerine, but that’s really beside the point, given that I have stuck with Coolmint. Nonetheless, I highly recommend this gum to anyone who enjoys the way orange Tic Tacs taste for the first 30 seconds, before the coating dissolves and you are stuck with the weird aftertaste of the white core.

Also, the packaging is a sunny tangerine color that brings to mind happy summer memories, like running through sprinklers. Or, better yet, a Slip ’n Slide! But only if you had a lawn with no rocks. Those hurt.

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Smucker’s Uncrustables Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches
Submitted by James Sepsey

Ogden Nash once said, “Progress may have been all right once, but it has gone on too long.” Mr. Nash, if only you were alive today, standing in your grocer’s freezer section, contemplating progress from a modern perspective. For if you were, I would stand in this same grocer’s freezer section with you, take your hand, and show you that progress has not been as futile as you once imagined.

I would take your hand and place it here, gently into the cool freezer, so that the two of us touch the same icy-cold box, a box within which the zenith of progress and ingenuity awaits us, like a nervous cheetah pacing his cage at the zoo.

And you would say, “You who have taken my hand, whom I hardly know, what is this very progressive thing that the two of us touch, with the tenderness of lovers?”

And I would say, blushing, “Smucker’s Uncrustables, sir. Sandwiches. Peanut butter and jelly. Strawberry. Grape. Even grilled cheese. This is the object of our desire.”

Resisting, you would pull your hand away. “But they’re round! They have no crust!”

And I would say, “They are! They do not!”

Again our hands would intertwine, our mad lust rekindled.

And the two of us would, as one, go to take a bite. But we’d have to pause. We’d have to because, well, as you can imagine, Smucker’s Uncrustables are frozen, sir. A 10-minute defrosting awaits us.

But during this brief delirium you’d write a poem. It would go:

They come in Grape,
Strawberry, Grilled Cheese;
Round, crustless miracles,
From Pilgrims to Indians will they please.
I’ve got to getsum,
Or surely will I regretsum—
Feeling rather fretsum,
Were I to letsum one else get thum.
But, alas, I think I am right:
Smucker’s Uncrustables are not
The answer to progress’s plight.
But do not get me wrong—
I imagine one day a throng!
A throng! a throng!
Of people will eat these
Tasty, convenient, delights—
By the bushel, by the peck, by dawn’s early lights.

You would look into my eyes and ask, “Has it been 10 minutes?”

I would bashfully nod and hand you an Uncrustable. You would take it, with force, and pull me to your side. I would shut my eyes and whisper: “Hold me, Mr. Nash. In the modern sense of the word.”

And you would. You would hold me forever, like witchcraft through the ages.

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Little Debbie Nutty Bars—Convenience Pack
Submitted by Jaan Bernberg

E9 is what I wanted—E6 is what I got. What dropped into the vend compartment was a shabby white package with meager red-and-brown graphics, which included a grinning redheaded girl donning a summer hat.

Despite a presentation that sat far below the status quo of mass-produced confectionery fat-kid treats, I was willing to give them a try. Strands of chocolate-covered packaging littered my desk and stuck to my arm as I took my first bite.

What I was met with was a flaky-chocolate-salty-sweetness both diabetic-coma-inducing and delicious. How Little Debbie continues to smile with a full set of what appear to be cavity-free teeth is a mystery. How my portly childself escaped into puberty (and a less bloblike form) without ever falling into the clutches of Little Debbie and her terrible bars is a miracle.

Thank you, Deb (can I call you Deb?), for sparing me then—it makes our meeting today that much sweeter.

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Canned Salmon
Submitted by Ellia Bisker

For starters, these salmon aren’t farmed, they’re wild, caught in the deep Alaskan seas, so the whole mercury/PCB thing isn’t a problem. Also, the skin and bones are left in, which sounds like a bad thing but is really a good thing; the skin provides you with healthy omega-3s and the bones are full of calcium. About those bones: You don’t have to worry about them! When the fish gets canned, they flash-heat it and the bones get so soft you can just mash them up with a fork and forget about them. Yeah! And since this stuff is already cooked, if you’re feeling malnutritioned or just lazy, you can eat it right out of the can, no frills. That’s right: no frills. You heard me. It’s even OK for pregnant ladies to eat! Are you listening, pregnant ladies? This is your fish!

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Anderson Valley Brewing Company Summer Solstice Cerveza Crema
Submitted by David Bill

Smooth, slightly sweet, and ridiculously creamy, this would be the perfect beer for sharing with your 12-year-old son on a warm summer afternoon (were it not for the multitude of legal and ethical issues). Not so much a traditional ale as a tasty soda that cannot be consumed on the road. This is a beverage that pushes the boundaries of safe role-play; each sip delivers another frisson along with innocence lost. Not recommended for the devout.

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Tiny Toasts Served With an Insufficient Amount of Brie Cheese
Submitted by Stefanie Freele

What is it about the word “toast” that sounds so ungratifying? Is it the finality of the dryness? The ending of the bread’s life cycle? I suppose a crouton could come next, really just a smaller, squarer version of the tiny toast. But being a crouton would be like being a one-hit band from ‘78 still wearing the same garb and playing at seedy places that attract the same 1978 groupies. They’d wear the same garb too. Why would you want to be a crouton? So many other aspirations, so many goals to attain. I’d like to see the Andes, for instance.

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7-Eleven’s StirCrazy
Submitted by Kevin Hayes

There’s something vaguely space-age-y about 7-Eleven’s new frozen dairy dessert StirCrazy. It’s the first soft-serve ice-cream-like product that can be kept in the freezer case. This means that science has created “ice cream” that remains soft at temperatures below freezing (without any sort of agitation). This means that people who used to work for NASA dehydrating ice-cream sandwiches and turning tangerines into Tang are now working for 7-Eleven. This doesn’t mean anything, really, but it does remind me that I’ll never live in a city on Mars.

I figured there was some scary, new lab-invented additive in this stuff to keep it unnaturally soft, but a quick scan of the ingredients revealed only scary, familiar lab-invented additives (though the sheer number of them was impressive). Intrigued, I bought the cookies-and-cream flavor (other option: cookie dough). Ingeniously, the crushed Oreos are separated from the vanilla “ice cream” by a thin layer of frozen chocolate. Less ingeniously, the cup is just a little too small to easily stir everything up without losing some of those precious cookie bits and/or inadequately distributing them. This is a problem because the “ice cream” is so blindingly sweet that you need the cookies to temper it. That’s right—the cookies serve as a de-sweetening agent, and if you misappropriate them, you’ll wind up eating the bottom layer of disturbingly sweet cookieless “ice cream” only because you have a deep-seated psychological need to finish every morsel of food put in front of you.

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Liberte Brand Six Grains Stirred Yogourt: Raspberries and Grains Flavor
Submitted by Molly Jane Quinn

Sitting stoically on the shelf next to those lesser yogurt brands (I’m looking at you Dannon and Columbo) was a small container emblazoned with a crest of grains, a lone berry, and a banner that proclaimed: “Raspberry!” It helped that “yogurt” was spelled “yogourt.” I felt glamorous; toting my yogourt out of the rundown mom-and-pop store around the corner from my office allowed me to fantasize for a brief moment that I was not returning to a cubicle to fact-check peppy articles for a family magazine but rather strolling to meet my amour for a Parisian picnic. Considering I have neither an amour nor a picnic, this was a compelling reason to purchase.

And then I peeled back the silver foil top and saw the chunks floating in the pale pink yogourt. I didn’t realize that “raspberries and grains” meant actual raspberry yogourt mixed with grains. Buckwheat, rice, barley, wheat, rye, and oats, to be exact. That’s a lot of grain. A lot of really grainy yogourt. But I have to say, Liberte, after my gag reflex calmed down, you won me over. I’ll never go back to the soft stuff after mouthfuls of this deliciously mild raspberry yogourt, interspersed with soft nuggets of grainy goodness. It’s slightly chewy, slightly gooey, and way better than laboriously stirring in granola, which I can now definitively say is for suckers.

Finally, I’d like to suggest that after you enjoy this refreshing snack you check out the Liberte website. Their well-meaning (and charmingly translated) homepage, urging us to recycle our Liberte containers (using lids they will send to you for free!) as receptacles for “dry fruits in kid’s lunch, paper clip at work, or paint for artist,” will make you want to toast your Liberte container in praise of these sweet naive French-Canadians in their berets and billowy white tunics churning out Six Grains Stirred Yogourt, saving the Earth one shallow American fact checker at a time.

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Butterfinger Crisp Candy Bar
Submitted by Will Hindmarch

The guy at the store said it was good. He said it was “like a Butterfinger humped a Kit-Kat.” Not untrue. By taste alone, we can glean a fair bit about this candy’s parentage. It’s inherited its mother’s body type—large, but with layers of light wafers cushioned by sugary creme—from which we can discern it comes from the Big-Kat line of Kat cousins. Knowing that reduces the impact of the bar’s complexion, which would normally seem to be inherited solely from the Butterfinger side. Sure, the size of the Butterfinger Crisp makes it look more like a Butterfinger, but when you get to know it you find that the Crisp acts, and even tastes, more like a Kat.

The candy’s name implies a bit about the relationship between the parent bars. Despite the candy’s texture and flavor traits, its mannerisms and voice, coming so clearly from the Kats on its mother’s side, it uses its father’s name. Hell, it’s even been titled in the surname-first tradition of the Butterfingers, eschewing the maternal name for the faddish, bland “Crisp.” Why not just call it “Butterfinger Madeline” or “Butterfinger Jack” if you wanted it to sound like every other candy bar in kindergarten? If ever it would have been appropriate for a candy bar to be given a hyphenate name, this would have been the one. Imagine: Butterfinger-Kat Crisp. It might have sounded pretentious, it might have raised an eyebrow when some glitterati read it off the platinum card, but at least it would have been honest about who it was and where it came from.

Butterfinger-Kat Mirumoto would probably be asking too much, though, I suppose.

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Din Tai Fung Juicy Buns in Arcadia, California, Just Down the Block From the Santa Anita Racetrack, and Yes, They’re Worth the Hour Wait and All the Taiwanese Folks Glaring at You and Cutting in Front of You in Line
Submitted by Theodore Ross

Inscrutable Chinese dumpling chefs roll the dumplings by the thousands while you loiter at the door clutching your numbered ticket. Each one is a miniature fat-guy dough purse the size of Uma Thurman’s prosthetic thumbs in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. This is the Blade Runner of dumplings. In a future where Wolfgang Puck is sacrificed to the restaurant gods for his frozen-pizza hubris and trumped-up accent, laws will be altered and regulations issued that require all food to change its name to juicy bun. Section 3505.15 of the Gastronomic Revised Code: Big Macs henceforth to be known as McJuicyBuns. Foie gras shall be Force-Fed Goose Juicy Buns à la Française. Whoppers will be recognized as just slightly ahead of the gustatory curve.

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Pepsi X Energy Drink
Submitted by Mike Jones

Fifteen minutes after consuming an entire 500 ml bottle of the stuff, I noticed that the skin on the inside of my upper and lower lips had shriveled. When I ran my tongue across them they felt very strange. I was trying to read up on Pepsi X when I noticed two more things. One was that my eyes were rattling along the words but nothing was registering. Two was that I was clenching my jaw really, really tightly. When my girlfriend arrived home from work, she took one look at me and asked if I had been sweating a lot. When I told her that no, I didn’t think I had been sweating a lot, she then asked if I was feeling all right. I told her that I felt pretty good and that I had drunk a Pepsi X. She fixed a disappointed look on me that asked “Why?”

That look pretty much sums up Pepsi X.

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Edy’s Slow-Churned Light Ice Cream
Submitted by Matt Zils

Recently, in the freezer aisle at my local “Soviet Safeway” (never any bread, always long lines), what to my wondering eyes should appear? Yay, for it shall be called Slow-Churned Light Ice Cream. It should be noted that such a discovery is especially heartening when one lives in the hatefully humid blast furnace of Washington, D.C., during the summer months. Choking back a burst of expectant salivation, I opened the freezer to get a better look. I almost wet myself upon seeing the label: “1/2 the fat, 1/3 the calories!” “Praise Jesus,” I thought to myself, “now I can eat twice as much!”

That night I forwent my usual sophisticated meal of mac ‘n’ cheese and just sat in my boxers eating heavenly spoonfuls of Slow-Churned directly from the carton.

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Blue Diamond BOLD Wasabi & Soy Sauce Almonds
Submitted by Carly Bourne

As someone who enjoys almonds, and as someone who really enjoys those wasabi-covered pea snacks found at Asian food stores and Trader Joe’s (if you are lucky enough to live near one), I was really, very, far too excited when a can of these showed up at a BBQ one afternoon. I started with a small handful, wary of what Americanized wasabi stuff would really taste like, but one handful quickly became two, three, and four until I was in danger of eating the entire can of almonds. I gave the can to my boyfriend and told him not to let me have any more. Then I waited patiently for him to look the other way while I took the can back and ate the rest in a quick binge.

I do have a warning about these things, though. After eating a few (or a lot) you will notice a fine green dust on your fingertips, much the way the orange powder paints your hands after eating Cheetos. Whatever you do, under absolutely no circumstances should you lick your fingertips when this occurs. You will be tempted, and it will seem like a perfectly reasonable thing to do since that delightful seasoning tasted so good when coating the almonds, but you must resist. Instead, get up, find a napkin, wash your hands, and whatever you do don’t touch any part of your face, especially near your eyes. If you do not heed these warnings, your sinuses will pretty much feel like they are exploding and your eyes will burn so ferociously that you will curse loudly and go into amazing spasms that will cause all other BBQ attendees to stop in their tracks and stare at your epileptic-like fit. Or so I’ve heard.

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SoyNut Butter
Submitted by Leah Strauss

Somebody stole the letter A and yesterday’s apostrophes. Or maybe the people doodling in their cubicle at the marketing department for SoyNut Butter have just spent a little too much time in the chatroom. How else do you explain the slogan “I.M. Healthy” that wraps its letter arms around the pseudo-peanut-butter jar? Chatroom Yoda says, “2 much time computer u on 4.”

Personally, the fitness of a nut spread is not something I am qualified to verify. It waddles into the land of subjectivity. If a jellyfish sheepishly rolled the eyes it doesn’t have upward toward you and said, “I am healthy,” then thundered, “Eat me, biotch!,” you’d be left to take it at its word and down the sucker. The jellyfish may very well be in top form for a cnidarian, but the chances of you being an expert and in possession of a pocket stethoscope are rather slim. The jellyfish never said it was healthy for you, just that it assays itself as primed for Jazzercise, headband or no.

While “I.M. Healthy” may well be an empirically irrefutable claim, there is one assertion, placed as a side thought at the base of the jar, that is worth questioning. SoyNut Butter demands recognition as “jelly’s new partner.” There is a certain gravity to this ostensibly inoffensive jest. First of all, jelly knows where its loyalty lies. Secondly, peanut butter may be creamy and delightful, but push the wrong buttons and an ancient rage awakens.

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Onion Sprouts
Submitted by Heather Taylor

I thought you would be a good idea. I like your other varieties—alfalfa, bean, broccoli, even fennelgreek. And I don’t even know what fennelgreek is. But I know what onions are. I like onions sometimes. They’re good on hamburgers and fried with mushrooms. What are stir-fries or curries or hamburger hash without the joy of the bulbous onion? But onion sprouts—you are a category all to yourself.

You look like you would be good, your springy green lushness overflowing the bounds of your small plastic holding pen. Your price is the same as any other package of sprouts on offer, which makes the purchase that much more tempting. Now I have to buy you. Count the last few pennies in my wallet and give them to the spotty teenager who doesn’t care if I am about to find enlightenment in your presence. I mean, he tries to pack you under a bag of flour. What was he thinking? You could have been crushed.

So, with your box safely stowed in its own plastic Safeway bag, I take you home, fully prepared to honor my hunger with your goodness. I load you on my sandwich—a boring bologna accompanied by an uneven tomato slice and plain-Jane cheese. I think even the thin layer of mustard coating the insides of my sliced white cannot compare to you.

Now I have learned. Oh. Have. I. Learned.

I cannot breathe without remembering you, my mouth’s insides burnt by your touch. It’s a burn that was less inspired by hints of onion than by the incarnate of all evil factors of onion packed in the cutest form ever. You are still on my plate. You have even scattered yourself about the countertop, fridge, and floor. You have a life of your own and are 10 times the price of a normal onion. You are the devil. I still smell of you. Oh how I curse the day I saw you.

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Vietnamese Coffee
Submitted by Sachin Hingoo

This amazing shit is just espresso with a hearty dollop of condensed milk on top (soon to be on the bottom), but let me tell you, it is so much more than the sum of its parts. Creamy going down, with that bitter taste that makes your stomach lining be all “fuck that.” It’s the perfect balance, even though I can’t imagine that the Vietnamese were the first to think of this.

When you get to the end, be prepared for an earth-shattering blast of SWEET! Yes, the term “earth-shattering” is bandied about a little too willy-nilly these days, but this amazing shit will literally shatter your earth. Not least because this is your third one and there has to be a better way of getting off the junk.

And what the hell are you doing with that stir stick? Put it down! Drink exactly as is, poured by the sour-looking non-Vietnamese girl at the coffee shop who overcharges you by 50 cents and then gives you cut-eye when you tell her so. Jesus, don’t you know anything?

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Reed’s All Natural Jamaican Style Ginger Beer
Submitted by Kristin Palla

Pay no mind that it’s bottled in L.A. Jamaican Style tastes like it was carefully brewed using a 100-year-old recipe in Ocho Rios under a smogless sky, inches from reefs filled with fish that cost $400 in a pet store. It’s $4.95 not including tax for a four-pack at my local food co-op, but I can’t help myself. I justify a three-packs-a-month habit with “Well, I don’t buy cigarettes.” And when I sit out on my deck on a nice day with a ginger beer in my hand, it doesn’t matter that there’s no alcohol in it.

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Trader Joe’s Mango Corn Chips
Submitted by Nissa Cannon

I have to begin this by telling everyone two things:

Thing 1: I have an unhealthy obsession with Trader Joe’s. So unhealthy, in fact, that, while spending a year living in Italy, hardly a day passed without me mentioning it.

Thing 2: I love mangoes. Born in Hawaii, I think eating fresh fruit may be my calling in life, and I was once given the title Mango Princess. (But that’s another story for another time—one involving too much angst and ire to fit in a food review.)

So when, scanning the shelves of new Trader Joe’s foods, I saw the mango corn chips, I knew what I had to do. How could I not buy them? It was my civic duty, and I’ll be damned if a little matter of the actual taste (as I could imagine it) of a mango chip was going to stand in my way.

Think really hard about what a mango corn chip might taste like. Imagine it on your tongue, chew it, swirl it like a wine. (Never mind that chip crumbs aren’t prone to swirling.) Got it in your head? Good. That’s exactly what it did taste like.

If you, like me, feel a compulsion to buy these chips, doubts or no, I recommend eating them with Trader Joe’s Mango Salsa. Then it’s just like eating normal chips.

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Miller High Life “Tall Boy”
Submitted by Danny Gasperut

At $3.99 a six-pack, is there a cheaper way to time-travel? No, friends, I don’t mean the charming alcohol-induced euphoria that makes tomorrow become today and makes mistakes disappear. I mean the kind triggered by the low punch of a screwdriver piercing the golden finish on the champagne of beers, instantly taking you back to a simpler time. A time when your roommate didn’t make out with all your friends and you weren’t home alone with her cat, shotgunning 16-ounce beers on your porch—alone—fantasizing about a crudely drawn lady in a sombrero riding sidesaddle on a crescent moon.

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Whole Kitchen “Taste of Quality” Butter Chicken (Organic White-Meat Chicken Drenched in a Traditional Indian-Inspired Tomato Butter Sauce
With White Basmati Rice)
Submitted by Diana Wurn

Dear Whole Kitchen,

I am not sure what you mean by the “taste of quality.” Many things with quality are not especially tasty; one of them is your frozen dinner in the orange box with the pretty picture of a creamy butter sauce. I am confused, and not just because it took longer to type the description of your entrée than it did to heat the thing in the microwave. I wondered what you had to hide with that elaborate title and such a tempting picture of the food on your packaging. I became suspicious. When I opened your box, I found that your sauce was not the beautiful orange shown in the photograph. No, it was not. It was the color of rain- and mud-soaked fall leaves mashed into a gory pulp collecting on a sidewalk somewhere in Brooklyn. When your entrée was finished cooking, my apartment took on the strange smell of burnt, yet quality, rubber. I’ve tasted your quality, Wholey. You tasted like public-high-school-cafeteria chili over white rice. I had to throw most of your entrée away and eat leftover chocolate-chip cookies for dinner. Don’t be embarrassed. I know your headquarters are in Texas, so it’s probably hard to make delicious frozen Indian food. I just thought you should know.

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Dove Ice Cream Miniatures
Submitted by Catherine Nichols

“Why a Dove Bar?” is a question that answers itself. There is the rich chocolate shell over full-fat vanilla ice cream. But why a Dove Miniature? These things are each about the size of a baby carrot. When do you ever want a Dove ice-cream bar but only one and a half bites of it? Breakfast. The people at Dove may not know this, but if tension causes you to grind your teeth at night, and you wake up with an aching jaw, a tiny lump of cold Dove Bar is exactly the antipasto breakfast needs.

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Clif Bars
Submitted by Sharon Bancroft

You’re chewy! You’re gooey! You are available in a variety of delicious flavors for enlightened adults. You are individually wrapped and do not require refrigeration. Your texture, reminiscent of a really beefy Rice Krispie Treat, provides a great activity for tense jaw muscles. You come in boxes that can be stacked neatly in the pantry, organized by flavor, color, or maybe even date of purchase.

Best of all, you are full of things that human bodies need: iron, protein, the vitamin B complex, calcium, etc. All of this from a low-fat, vegan, gluten-free product that even those of us who grew up as anxious first children with persistent migraines can consume in good conscience. Thank you, Clif Bar, for bringing my compulsive pursuit of perfection one meal closer to fruition.

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Bob Evans SnackWiches
Submitted by Marvin Astorga

Small as a sausage biscuit already is, sometimes you don’t want all of it. Sometimes you wish you could shrink it to a size that fits comfortably in your mouth so you can chew it once and be done with it. Or nibble at it daintily as if you were a caricature of Marie Antoinette, taking in food like an extra-careful bird, gingerly and unnecessarily dabbing at your mouth with embroidered gossamer napkins (heirlooms) after each microscopic bite. Whatever the case, this problem is solved by Bob Evans SnackWiches, compact versions of sausage biscuits for the working lazy and incorrigible microwavable-treat addicts (like children).

Like any self-respecting aristocrats, my roommate and I bought them at Costco. My reason for purchasing them was their dollhouse novelty; my roommate, conversely, was under the impression they were regular people-sized, despite the fact that the box front depicted a dinner plate holding about eight of them. We had an argument about truth, representation, and the merits of either with regard to breakfast sandwiches. “How big do you think a dinner plate could possibly be?” I clamored. His responses, like the sandwiches, were small and unsatisfactory.

The SnackWiches themselves are not all that bad if what you’re looking for is that lardy, overpeppered zip of a sausage biscuit (let’s not forget rubbery). But the real delight is that the sandwiches come individually wrapped in connected plastic pockets that end up looking like a square of giant bubble wrap, only with sausage biscuits in each bubble. Who is responsible for this baffling scale-shiftery? And what about this compound wordery? Bob Evans SnackWiches will leave you with more questions than answers, though the questions are superficial and easily forgettable, especially if you’re inebriated, and the answers probably point back to someone’s esoteric personal neurosis that you don’t want anything to do with. Do you?

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New Chili’s Menu Items: Quesadilla Explosion! Salad
Submitted by Gregory Plemmons

Chili’s has changed the menu items again. Where have you gone, Fried Chicken Salad? The purgatorial Island of Misfit Salads and Starter Items? Will the marquee outside announce your return someday, like so many other B-grade entrées that never seem to die off completely? (McRib / Frisco Burger / Back Porch Griller … Is Back!) In the interim, must we continue to suffer cheap Outback/P.F. Chang knockoffs of knockoffs? Awesome Blossoms: your crunchless cotyledons leave us disheartenedly emulsified. New low-carb option Lettuce Wraps: your limpid Bibb vessels cannot withstand more than a nonheaping tablespoon of “Asian”-spiced chicken, and the sauce: the chicken ratio is all wrong. Southwestern Egg Rolls: new nadir in fusion cuisine. Oh, Fried Chicken Salad, in your recent absence, there were only two comparable stand-ins: the Boneless Buffalo Chicken Salad or the Quesadilla Explosion! Salad. Unfortunately, I chose the latter. Topped with the paltry shrapnel of flavorless winter tomatoes (damn those Florida hurricanes!) and processed shredded cheese, and thoroughly doused in citrus-balsamic dressing, the aerial view does somewhat resemble Car Bomb at the Mercado, faintly Pollockesque, yet the quesadilla points (thankfully chipotle-less) are mysteriously equidistantly poised at the platter’s edge like a compass. Where are we going? Not back to Chili’s until Fried Chicken Salad returns. This newcomer’s seemingly sassy heterogeneity and raucous-sounding title alarmingly betray insipidly homogeneous flavor. Still, it was almost worth $7.49 to hear our befuddled and/or high server exclaim: “So who had the Explosion?”

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Hershey’s Take 5 Candy Bar
Submitted by Jonathan Shipley

I was jazzed about the new Hershey’s Take 5 candy bar, literally, because I really like the Dave Brubeck Quartet and Paul Desmond’s tune “Take Five,” which is essential listening for any jazz fan, what with Desmond’s loping saxophone melody and Brubeck’s heavy chording. It’s as smooth as milk chocolate, that tune is, but without the synthetic aftertaste. I bit into the Hershey’s Take 5 candy bar expecting a regular improv-jazz groove right there in my mouth. What I got was pretzels (1), caramel (2), peanuts (3), peanut butter (4), and milk chocolate (5). That’s Hershey’s Take 5. Get it? Five things right there inside the candy bar. And that’s not even true, because what about thiamin mononitrate? And partially hydrogenated vegetable oil? And dyglycerides? It’s more like Take 43, and that’s not a good candy bar, jazz fans, and it wouldn’t make a good tune, either. I mean, come on, who’s going to sit there late at night, their woman in their arms ready for romance right there by their turntable, and say, “You know what would get us in the mood, baby? Brubeck’s ‘Take 43.’”

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Locatelli Brand Pecorino Romano Cheese
Submitted by Stephanie Palumbo

This is the best kind of cheese that exists, except for maybe really good mozzarella. I like to eat it on pasta and pizza, and, honestly, it goes with almost anything. Also, I sometimes buy it in a big chunk and cut it into thin slices. If this cheese were in a movie, it would be the character that rises to overcome great odds and succeed in the end, whereas Parmesan would be lying by the wayside. This cheese is on my Wish List.

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Whole Foods Market’s 365 Everyday Value Deli Crackers
Submitted by Erin Martin Kratt

Three hundred sixty-five, no lie. You’ll want to eat a whole box of these delicious little bits EVERY SINGLE FUCKING DAY. A bagel lover’s dream, these tiny sourdough crackers are covered with every seed popular to the bird-feeder crowd, plus little dried bits of garlicky goodness. The best part is, when you finish a box in a sitting (which you will, guaranteed), all the leftover seeds in the bottom of the bag make a satisfying denouement to an otherwise empty, slightly shameful meal. Mmmmm, crunchy. My husband fears I am turning into a squirrel.

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House of Bazzini Prime Time Snack Mix
Submitted by Tony Antoniadis

This isn’t just a snack mix, people. This is a nylon rope ladder heroically cast from the rescue copter known as late afternoon—the snack will get you to a stalled lunch, no problem. It’s got peanuts, cashews, pretzels, and cheddar things—standard fare for a legitimate trail mix—yet everything’s been richly glazed with honey, sugar, and salt. More like lacquered, actually. The effect is one of physical renewal and genuine satisfaction, but, like anything exciting, it can’t truly be explained with language. I don’t know. Imagine a hot shower on the inside of your body for two hours. Wow, it’s that intense.

They list sugar on the ingredients list five times. I assume they do this just in case the eater takes on the frantically euphoric mind state of a grasshopper, where things like processing information become problematic, yet trying to chew the inside of one’s mouth does not. That’s what happens to me, at least. I can practically skip lunch if I want. But I don’t want to do that, and I won’t do that. I tell my boss I’m going to lunch, but what I do on my lunch hour is my business, capiche?

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McDonald’s OJ/Coffee Combo
Submitted by Cathy Hannan

I was somewhere in America’s Heartland this weekend and stopped at McDonald’s for breakfast. I know eating there is lame, but trust me, Ferrarri’s, the only other thing open, didn’t look safe. I ordered a biscuit-crap thing, orange juice, and coffee. The zit-faced teen shoved the tray at me. There was one cup.

“Wait,” I said, “where’s the orange juice?”

“In the cup,” she said.

“Well, then, where’s the coffee?”

Clearly, she was dealing with a retard. She sighed.

“In the cup,” she said.

I took the top off. There was a lukewarm, translucently caramel-colored liquid inside. Yes, she had given me a cup filled with half coffee/half OJ. Is this some taste sensation sweeping the nation? I have seen no ad for “I’m lovin’ it OJ/coffee combo,” but since she was so convincing in making it seem like it was a normal thing to order, I tasted it. I mean, the first time someone offered me a beet-and-goat-cheese salad I thought yuck, and now, well, it’s one of my favorite things. But the OJ and coffee? It really sucked.

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SkyFlakes Crackers
Submitted by Veronica Montes

If you are not Filipino (and it is likely that you are, indeed, not), then SkyFlakes Crackers—a product of the Philippines easily available in your local Asian market—are new to you. Unless, of course, you have spent ample amounts of time gallivanting with Filipinos, in which case you are already intimate with SkyFlakes Crackers and do not need me to tell you that they taste as if they are handmade by the cherubim and baked in heaven’s own oven.

But first let me discuss the tin. SkyFlakes Crackers are packed in a square metal tin with a round cut-out top that you must pry open with a butter knife or other similar tool. Crafty, ruffled-hair types who wear vintage clothing will be drawn to the tin because of its kitschy red, white, blue, and yellow motif and its zippy 1950s-style font. They will immediately sense the tin’s potential as a conversational centerpiece, photographic subject, and/or future receptacle for items such as calculators, pens, erasers, and paper clips. They will be amused by the exterior copy, part of which reads, “SkyFlakes Crackers in milk are favorite snacks of the youngsters.” It will remind them of Japanese stationery that says things like “Moon glows be my friend and flowers love. Thank you!” There is another packaging style, but it is typical cardboard packaging that is not remarkable.

Within the tin, the crackers are wrapped in packs of three, each of which is perforated so as to make them easy to snap off into three smaller crackers, making a total of nine. Isn’t that something? They are unsalted, flaky, and crisp yet somehow tender. I think this is owed entirely to the use of vegetable shortening and coconut oil. Whatever the case, the result is more than any eater of snacks can legitimately demand in a cracker. You should buy some.

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South Boston Chinese Food
Submitted by Jonelle Seitz

If you are in South Boston, do not attempt to order in Chinese food. Even if you’re dying of hunger and have the flu and there’s a nor’easter going on outside that already broke your umbrella earlier today, you must either venture to Chinatown or forgo the only appetizing idea you’ve had all day and settle for snacks from the Dunkin Donuts on the corner. No, no, you mustn’t—not China Garden, not Emerald Garden, and no, definitely not South Boston Chinese Restaurant. Yes, I know you’re thinking of a nice hot plastic container of hot and sour soup that would nourish your weak body, clear your stuffy head, and make your faux-wood-paneled apartment in Andrew Square fragrant and cozy. But I tell you, don’t do it! No! No! I told you—yes, you see, I tried to warn you. Don’t ask me what you are supposed to do with those dinner rolls that came with your soup—you could stab them with your chopsticks if you had been given any. Oh no!—is that crab rangoon? Yes, I could have told you they’re not supposed to be all puffy and soft like sopaipillas. Well, now you know. You should’ve taken my word for it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to divert my full attention to licking the sugar off my Munchkins.

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Pickled Shark
Submitted by Tim Wild

I ate this at a “Welcome to Iceland” dinner, along with some strips of smoked puffin and a sizable slice of whale, neither of which was anywhere near disagreeable enough to prevent me eating them again. When I gently asked where they’d got the whale from, the chef told me it had been killed years before the ban and that they just took the occasional piece out of the freezer, and then he burst into derisive laughter. If you ever want to annoy environmentalists, Iceland is an excellent place to start.

My hosts informed me that this pickled shark foodstuff was invented by early Icelandic settlers. Lacking refrigeration, they used to dig a big hole in the ground, piss on the shark fillets, and then bury them, to dig up months later when things got desperate. This turned out to be a hilarious lie, but after eating it, I took some convincing. I also thought the traditional accompaniment of Brennivín schnapps smelled vile, until I used it to wash down the shark. The most popular and profitable restaurant in Iceland is a hot-dog stand.

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Mountain Dew: Code Red
Submitted by Dale Beran

Like its name suggests, I recommend this for emergencies, contingency plans, terrorist strikes, and powerful feelings of revenge and panic. As you may know, it is the most delicious of all the Mountain Dews. Though I love it, I cannot drink it, because, mysteriously, it gives me the most vicious stomachaches I have ever experienced. Its soft bubbles become teeth in my viscera. I have only tasted it once since the summer it premiered.

Consider the occasion: Kameisha Honeydew, the worst of my sixth-graders. In the second semester she shot a laser pointer straight into my right eye. I saw the pale light dance into my sight like a little vision, like an assassination attempt. It exploded into a wondrous spider web. While I was gripping my right eye, my left eye found her concealing the device in her coat.

She was hanging in the doorway, just dismissed, on her way home. As she left she said something. It was an immense scream. It sounded something like this: “AaahaaaahHAHAHAHA HA!” I called her mother.

“Wait two weeks,” her mother told me, “for her medication to kick in.”

I saw little effect. She started eating incredible amounts of sugar. Each day would bring a new bag filled with candy, Sourpatch Kids, Jolly Ranchers, Twizzler Pull and Peels, all wrapped in plastic she would shed around her seat. In the back of the class, she would pour out Pepsi to her friends. Their paper cups would unite in a toast.

“I’ll bust you so hard I’ll knock your breaks off,” I overheard Kameisha promising one of her friends or enemies.

“What does that mean, Kameisha?” I asked, my right eye struggling to focus, blurring in and out.

“You know, their breaks,” Kameisha smiled, “their legs. They can’t break and run, I’ll hit them so hard.” She peeled the SpongeBob off a SpongeBob SquarePants lollipop and put it in her mouth.

Just this week she penned these simple but powerful lines for her spring poem assignment:

The fruit are so delicious.
It makes me want to be vicious.

By the end of that inspired day, she had cracked open the gumball she had been gnawing on. It was the size of her tiny fist. Where did they make them so big? How did she ever get there? Red dye was smeared all over her face. She looked like a technicolor vampire. Then, as I was beginning my lecture, I saw her do the most extraordinary thing.

She removed a Mountain Dew: Code Red from her desk. She poured her Mountain Dew: Code Red into the crack she had made in her gumball and began to sip it like it was champagne. This sickening scene wavered as my right eye blurred. I winked my right eye, then my left eye. Sometimes that fixed it.

After class, I had all her items on my desk.

“Kameisha, this is disgusting.”

“Do you want one, Mr. Dale? Do you want a gumball?” She dropped a gumball on my desk. It was slightly smaller than hers, the size of an eye. It was blue, the color of my eye. It rolled around uncertainly.

I picked it up and bit a big piece out of it and began to chew until the juice grew in my mouth. Kameisha poured me a dram into its insides. I took the sip.

“This is really good,” I said. My stomach began to purr, enraged.

She smiled, pleased.

I winked back.

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Everlast Nutrition Chocolate Mint Energy Bar
Submitted by Rachel Axler

Doesn’t Everlast make sports equipment? Well, it’s the same logo, but with a little “Nutrition” underneath, trumpeting their foray into the world of food. It tastes like boxing gloves.

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Kellogg’s Disney Princess Fruit Snacks
Submitted by Alana Marie Dease

Kellogg’s Disney Princess Fruit Snacks do not actually taste like princesses. They also don’t taste like artificially flavored strawberry, grape, orange, and cherry. I don’t know which is worse. What do they taste like? I spent a lot of time thinking about this while sucking on them. My husband said, “Can’t you be like a wine taster and spit them out?” Sage advice, but no go—it’s one of the enigmas of the food/snack world. Just like no one knows how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop and no one can eat just one potato chip, it’s impossible to put a fruit snack in your mouth and not eat it. And after eating all 10 pouches of them over the course of three days (read: 89 princesses and princess-y shapes, minus 1 Cinderella I dropped and 2 glass slippers my husband ate), this is what I’ve decided: They taste very sugary and vaguely familiar. Not quite like strawberry, not quite like grape, not quite like that fruit I was just about to eat but decided to forgo in favor of something less troublesome (the skins!) and less dangerous (the seeds!). Come to think of it, they taste like pure corn syrup, with a hint of red #40. Leave it to Disney to put sugar and fun in one easy-to-open package.

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Breakfast in a Can
Submitted by Ori Fienberg

Britain’s food scene has become so pervasively and popularly multinational that many Brits think their nation invented the curry. Recently, a popular food magazine even featured London as a hub for good eats. But in order to really appreciate London’s change we must delve into its sordid roots.

Brits have the standards: mutton sog, fish ‘n’ chips, blood pudding, bangers and mash, toad in a hole, fried Mars bars, and, in the northern regions, haggis and head cheese, but these all pale in comparison to a product available in every Tesco, Waitrose, and 24-hour convenience store: Breakfast in a Can. This is the quintessential British breakfast. The mushy fried tomato, the mushy canned mushrooms (always canned, never fresh, as if by some uncodified law), the mushy baked beans, sausage, and even a strangely mushy egg, over easy, all in one convenient container. When I first saw it in the supermarket I absolutely had to buy it.

I thought perhaps I’d save it for a time of desperation, or a special occasion. But eventually this waiting, and some apprehension over what I might unleash by opening it, turned it into a talisman and a shrine. An object to be both feared and revered. When it came time to leave London, the Breakfast in a Can was the last thing I took out of the cupboard, and even then I considered packing it to bring home, to show off to my friends, like a bizarre convenience-store hunting trophy.

Instead, I took the Breakfast in a Can out of the cupboard and put it into a box of nonperishable food goods to donate to the food bank. Perhaps someone will be able to enjoy it now. But I suspect it is the same for all those who live in Britain. Probably each family has a Breakfast in a Can in their cupboard, firmly respected, but never eaten.

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Korean Shrimp Frites with MSG
Submitted by Ava Dakota Kim

Imagine this: You stroll into Koreatown at 32nd and Broadway and proceed to the HanAhReum Market, and there it is, looming down on you: the 5-pound bag, bigger than your kitty litter. It’s fire-engine red with a red shrimp on the outside that looks like it’s been radioactively cooked to a crisp. Maybe their intention is to strike fear into the heart of the average consumer, creating a dangerous allure. Whatever it is, the buyer is an adventurous soul.

At first, the frites taste conspicuously fishy and woefully engineered, as if a shipload of shrimp were dropped in the vat by accident. They’re wheat-powdery, messy, salty, and, well, a kid in a moving vehicle’s queasy junk-food nightmare. But after a couple bites, the MSG kicks in, and it’s all smooth sailing from there. Every bite melts flakily in your mouth and you just can’t get enough.

MSG used to scare me, but I’ve been tricking myself psychosomatically; now I like to think that the MSG might be a natural ingredient contained within the shrimp powder haphazardly sprayed like DDT across the innards of the shiny silver bag. Who’s to know whether shrimp naturally produce MSG (just like tuna naturally produce mercury, according to the government)? Maybe shrimp just want to make themselves taste good because they’re naturally altruistic beings.

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Red Baron’s Stuffed Pizza Slices: Sausage and Pepperoni
Submitted by Agnes Borden

After five minutes, only my burps seem to want to recall Red Baron’s Sausage and Pepperoni Stuffed Pizza Slice. A wholly unnecessary experience, noted only for its too-thick crust that’s drier than my elbows midwinter and those tasty little sausages that are clearly a collage of meats. Not a terrible late-night snack, but for more bang for your buck, I’d recommend anything that doesn’t impersonate real food—like candy. Oh, Red #5, how much do I love thee?

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Osem Brand Soup Nuts
Submitted by Lisa Namdar Kaufman

Before getting married, I would never have gone near a soup nut, and, for months after marrying, I resisted my husband’s seductive offers of adding extra starch, fat, and sodium to my otherwise healthful bowl of homemade soup. And besides, wheat was on the list of no-noes from my acupuncturist, who could tell when I had succumbed by looking at my tongue. But little by little I broke down and began adding the soup nuts to my soup. And now I eat them all day long as a means of procrastinating from actually getting any work done. And I’ve stopped seeing my acupuncturist.

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Fuze Healthy Infusions: Tropical Punch
Submitted by Kevin Lauderdale

Wait a minute! Only 1 percent juice?! I wish it had said that in bigger print on the front. The images of pineapples, oranges, and mangoes misled me. Granted, I did read the ingredients list before I bought it and saw that filtered water was the first ingredient. But pineapple-juice concentrate was the second. Now, ingredients are listed in percentage order, with the first ingredient being the thing that there is the most of in a drink, the second being the thing there is the second most of, etc. But there are 14 ingredients on the ingredients list, and if pineapple is second (the other juices are purple carrot and mango—no orange) and there is still only a total of 1 percent juice, then this is 99 percent water, right? I know that an “infusion” has just a little bit of something in it, but, man! This really does taste like something that’s 99 percent water and 1 percent other stuff.

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Hubba Bubba SOUR Green Apple Bubble Tape with “Long Lasting Flavor” (“Six feet of Bubble Gum!”NET WT. 2.0 OZ (56.7g))
Submitted by Adriane Quinlan

It’s easy to imagine the white-smocked scientist, quaking in anticipation as the last drop falls from his glinting pipette: “This,” he shouts pridefully, “this tastes nothing like an apple!” The lesson here seems lifted from the canon: this is a flavor that seeks not to imitate Eve’s first mistake when dealing with apples but, like the serpent itself, to shock. Shock-me-down! Sour-me-up! … But six feet later there’s nothing to say.

Still, I’d like to buy five rolls and loop them end to end through my intestinal tract, feeding nothing to the women who ask about the neon-green taper hissing in my mouth like a second tongue.

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Coca-Cola with Lime
Submitted by Kevin Plumb

Whenever I hear Nilsson’s “Coconut,” my ears perk up, just like the people in the Coca-Cola marketing division wanted them to. But when I realized that this song by a very talented singer-songwriter was being used to shill yet another flavored-cola drink in a commercial that then proceeds to intentionally mangle the lyrics, well, the reader will just have to forgive my bias against the product. As a professional, I will try to assess the product as fairly and objectively as I can.

It tastes like cleaning fluid.

Honestly. On my mother’s grave, I swear, you might as well just give me a glass of Pine-Sol for all the epicurean enjoyment this citrus-flavored swill is going to provide me.

Drano! That’s it! Just take some Drano, swish it around in a glassful of sweat, drink the entire concoction, and you just might be able to get the taste of this product out of your mouth. You’d think Coca-Cola would learn by now. Stop fucking with your product. All I or anyone else on the planet wants from you is Coke and the Complete Lack of Presence of Anything Else.

Oh, and no more picking on singer-songwriters with a three-and-a-half-octave vocal range. Just because they’re dead doesn’t mean you can rewrite their lyrics.

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Homemade Banana-Cream-Flavor Jell-O Pudding Pops
Submitted by Ellia Bisker

If you’re excited by the news that Jell-O Pudding Pops can once again be found in stores, yet frustrated by your own grocery’s failure to supply them, here is what not to do: purchase a box of banana-cream-flavor instant Jell-O pudding, mix it with skim milk, pour into a plastic ice-pop mold, and freeze.

Your first hint that this is not going to be an adventure in deliciousness will be when the milk first hits the powder in the mixing bowl, for the scent that wafts upward will be penetrating and highly artificial. When you taste the pudding liquid in the bowl, you will note that while it isn’t unpleasant itself, exactly, it is evocative of something unpleasant that you can’t quite put your finger on.

Several hours later, when you eagerly slide a freshly frozen pudding popsicle out of its plastic mold and into your mouth, it will hit you: this flavor is exactly what they use to disguise the taste of children’s antibiotics. And even though the cloying sweetness doesn’t give way to the bitter tang of penicillin the way you keep expecting it to, that doesn’t make it any better. Neither does the realization that they also use this precise artificial banana flavor in the deworming medicine you had to wrestle into your cat six months ago.

The texture, however, is really what prevents this frozen treat from being delightful. Frozen as it is into a dense, solid lump that is exactly the opposite of refreshing—is, in fact, almost satisfyingly hearty—once bitten into, the pudding pop separates into creamy chunks and coats the inside of your mouth like snot. Don’t do this to yourself! Bill Cosby would not approve. Just wait for your supermarket to carry the real thing.

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Cherry NyQuil
Submitted by Michael Depp

I’ll be honest: I didn’t really need it last night. A slight sniffle, owing largely to the cat’s insistence on being stroked from head to tail, which caused his fur to collect at the base of his spine and then blow in all directions like dandelion spores (enough of which found their way to my nostrils). It did not truly merit an amply poured plastic-cap-ful of this cheery red alternative to the formidable Green Dragon. But flimsy pretenses aside, this was pure 1960s psychotropia from the moment it slid down my throat with melted-lollipop viscosity. Flash forward 25 minutes and the dreams were flipping across the screen of my unconscious mind like clicks on a Dadaist View-Master. Click: I’m back in high school and my mother is pulling me out of classes four months before graduation so she can spend my scholarship money on her funeral bill. Click: I’m watching Santa Claus—no, wait! I am Santa Claus—flying to Thailand in bright summer daylight. It’s a stealth trip, so the sleigh is enshrouded in a haze of butterflies, which all shrivel and die once we land on the beach. Click: The reindeer free themselves and scatter, and Santa (me) is left wearing only rags, watching the tide ebb from a creaky wooden deck chair. Click: A kindly local girl approaches, begs me to follow her to her father’s gift shop, where she bestows upon me the gift of a new red suit and a stack of old newspapers she’s been saving for me. I am moved to tears, at once watching Santa cry and feeling Santa’s tears as my own making bright cherry Rorschach blotches on my new red suit.

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Carl’s Jr. Six Dollar Burger
Submitted by Mike Singer

Let me preface this review by clarifying that “Six Dollar Burger” is not meant to be taken literally. It’s a trope. It’s like “million-dollar baby.” You’re not supposed to believe that the baby is actually worth one million dollars. The baby is worth thousands less than that. But with this new (or at least new to me) Carl’s Jr. burger, it comes close to reality. This thing is worth upwards of $4.80. The reason this burger is worth nearly four dollars and 72 cents more than other fast-food sandwiches is because it is composed of pure angus beef. A boy named Angus once said in a movie of the same name, “I’m still here, asshole! I’ll always be here.” And on the soundtrack of this movie there was a cool Ash song called “Kung Fu.” And if you were to take that song and replace the lyrics “my teenage lobotomy” with “Carl’s Jr. Six Dollar Burger,” one of the lines sung would go, “I haven’t been the same since Carl’s Jr. Six Dollar Burger.” Indeed, Ash. Indeed. So, I am certain that if you are a vegetarian and you eat one of these Carl’s Jr. Six Dollar Burgers, then you will no longer be a vegetarian, if for no other reason than the fact that you would have just consumed some beef. Chomp!

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Extra Bubblemint Gum
Submitted by L. Alsop

Oddly enough, the flavors of bubblegum and mint form a refreshingly sweet combination here. I like the soft pink color and the absence of Dentyne’s excessive, mouth-scalding mintiness or Bubblicious’s saccharine sweetness.

As an added bonus, I’ve realized that blowing bubbles with this gum, coupled with a stubborn insistence on hip-hop radio stations in the car, is the best way to end relationships with older men—no hurt feelings!

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Red Delicious Apples
Submitted by Brad Gregory

Perhaps in our country’s past, the Red Delicious apple, the apple archetype, was in fact delicious. However, in a nod to the idea that evolution works both ways, improvement and decline, the red apple today stinks. They’re invariably mealy, smooshy, yucky. Seems I read that this is why McDonald’s, a company that craves consistency, instead uses green apples in their new salads, because even they don’t want something consistently terrible. That’s saying something if McDonald’s won’t buy you and sell you.

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Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper
Submitted by Pat Roath

Aside from its having far too many syllables for a soft drink, my skepticism toward the new Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper began when someone informed me that “it probably won’t make you vomit.” To my chagrin, I subsequently found that this was not true. Now, I’m no soda drinker, but I do believe it’s a bad sign when the stuff comes up involuntarily. Is it cherry? Is it vanilla? Is it diet? I, unfortunately, could not keep it down long enough to say. More than the flavor, however, it’s the carbonation that gets you. I’m not exactly sure how to describe the accompanying sensation other than to say “it gets you.” That should be Dr. Pepper’s newest ad slogan: “Try NEW Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper—it gets you!”

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Reese’s Pieces Peanuts & Peanut Butter With Nuts!
Submitted by Eric Black

Why, Reese’s Pieces Peanuts & Peanut Butter With Nuts!, why am I ignoring my instincts and jumping into a relationship with you?

You’re not really interested in me; you just want to see if you can get me to buy you. See where you say “Limited Edition” in your upper left corner? You’re just playing on my fear of scarcity. There’s really nothing limited about you at all, but here I am, falling for your cheap candy-aisle come-on, because I’m suddenly terrified the rest of my life will seem like a long, grim march toward death if I can never have peanuts and peanut butter together in a crunchy candy shell.

As in all doomed relationships, you’re even telling me up front to keep away. “With nuts!” you say, in a bright blue explosion right there on your wrapper. You know, all my ex-girlfriends told me on the first date they were crazy, but I convinced myself it would somehow work out. Maybe this time I’ll heed the warning.

You also tell me you contain partially defatted peanuts and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Is your love partial too, then? If you’ve got one foot out the door, I don’t know how this will work.

But here I am, opening your wrapper. I smell a faint perfume of vanilla and corn syrup, and for a moment I think maybe this will be satisfying. Maybe you really are what I need. I eat one. Then a second, and a third.

I’m sorry, but I can’t do this. You taste awful, like what I should have known a partially defatted peanut would taste like. Your resinous glaze is leaving a waxy coat on my tongue. And you’re burning my throat. I’m throwing you out.

Oh, but I’m not. No, I’m having more of you, and by the handful now. Yes, there’s a fleeting moment of pleasure in each bite, and I want to drink as much of it in as I can before your acrid taste overwhelms me. That’s right, I want to enjoy you before you ruin the experience. And now I’m finishing with you.

Just leave me alone. I don’t want to talk about it.

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Early 2005 Recommendations
Submitted by West Salvia

Shanghai Kitchen—60 Vegetable Spring Rolls
With Shiitake Mushrooms

In late January, energy is hard to come by. Then these delightful rolls pin you on your favorite seat and you’re like, “Winter is totally rad. I should go to an unbearably cold mountainous location and make a snowman.” But it’s all a pipe dream because you’ve just dropped an immobilizing bit of teriyaki in your roll.

Foster Farms—14 Chili Cheese Flavor Corn Dogs

Best served drunk with BBQ sauce.

Airhead Extreme Roll—Blue Raspberry

Let us be honest here: You really like Airheads. Someone is like, “Hello, friend, would you care to sample this Airhead in my pocket? It’s a White Mystery.”

And you’re like, “Solid. I’m instantly back in 1993 playing Little League and going on family camping trips.”

I discovered the Extreme Roll at a gas station in Bakersfield. If you eat more than three, you may experience a somewhat Levi-Straussian proleptic paradigm of the quest.

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The Kiwano
Submitted by Ryutaro Murai

It started innocently enough. “Fruit bowls are the new flower arranging,” she said, and for a while, it was so. Bananas, pears, the occasional peach, all in a decorative red-lacquered bamboo bowl. They’d pretty up the house, give the living room a nice smell, and make it easier to eat healthy. Then it started going wrong. Pineapple, coconut, and kumquats led to carambola, guava, and rambutan. Then it happened: the kiwano.

A native of Africa, Cucumis metuliferus, the “Horned Melon,” is a relative of the cucumber and looks like hell. Mottled orange and yellow skin covered with spines. Oh Lord, not cute little nubs like a jackfruit or a litchi, but honest-to-God hardened blood-thorns. If science tells us fruit is tasty so we’ll eat it and propagate the seeds, then nature must hate the kiwano. “Stay away,” it yells. This little bastard is not going down without a fight.

Man’s ingenuity triumphs. Rock beats scissors and knife beats spines, but it’s all folly. The inside is worse than the outside, all radioactive green with evil-looking seeds floating in translucent pips of staggering maleficence. Too stubborn or stupid to be undone, man navigates a grapefruit spoon through the Gigeresque chambers to extract the evil and serve it over orange sherbet.

Tasty, yes, but now it’s inside me.

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The Breakfast Burger from Carl’s Jr.
Submitted by James Zaininger

For centuries skeptics and naysayers the world over have insisted upon the existence of an axiom or set of mathematical principles that would impose actual physical limitations upon the ingredients a human being could possibly place between a sesame-seed bun and sell to the general public for $3.59. But, yet again, the envelope has been pushed. Ladies and gentlemen, behold! The Breakfast Burger from Carl’s Jr is here.

Developed by the same forward-thinking visionaries and scientists who, 20-odd years ago, had the courage to rise up and shout, “Yes! You can put an onion ring and barbecue sauce on a hamburger,” this tasty morsel will revolutionize the way you think of breakfast. The fearlessly audacious Breakfast Burger shatters just about every fundamental dietary, social, and ethical standard known to man. But take warning, not a single animal species has been spared in the preparation of this corpulent feast, and it is not recommended for emotionally sensitive patrons, children under the age of 7, or people with a history of heart disease in their families; your grandma’s Egg McMuffin this is not.

Best described as robust, stout, and earthy, this strapping full-bodied sandwich is fare fit for a lumberjack. Although it can be somewhat gamy, this grubfest is so chock-full of nourishing, wholesome goodness that I can think of no better way to greet the morn. Now you can finally know what a buttery fried egg, crisp bacon, golden hash-brown nuggets, melted cheese, and a charbroiled all-beef patty would taste like in the same bite.

The Breakfast Burger from Carl’s Jr. is more than just a shrine to fat (46 g), cholesterol (275 mg), and sodium (1570 mg); it is a testament to the human spirit: from the courageous men and women who dreamed up its glorious creation to the gallant, lionhearted souls who dare ingest it.

Also available in an Atkins-friendly version: The Lettuce-Wrapped Breakfast Burger.

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Ocean Spray Cran-Tangerine Juice Drink
Submitted by Lincoln Michel

What genius thought this combination up?

Seriously, I want to know, because he was a fucking genius. We humans have been drinking various cran-combo drinks for decades but never were we offered cran-tangerine. Apple? Check. Cherry? Of course. Raspberry? Grape? Mixed grape? Yes, yes, yes. Hell, even strawberry, but tangerine? Never, not in our wildest dreams (even the one where our landlord is a werewolf). We never even knew what we were missing.

It seems to me that a combination this obvious and important might actually have happened by accident. Like penicillin, the answer may have been right below our noses for centuries, but it took dumb luck for us to realize. Perhaps in the sealed concrete Ocean Spray laboratories, a white-coated scientist was walking through the rows and rows of giant blue vats chewing on his favorite fruit, a tangerine. He was suddenly distracted, an escaped lab rat perhaps, and being irrationally frightened by rodents, he screams and accidentally flings the fruit across the room, where it falls into a petri dish of cranberry juice.

The rest is supermarket history.

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Tylenol Extra Strength Cool Caplets
Submitted by Alexander Zalben

Tylenol has finally attempted to edge into the lucrative candy-flavored-painkiller market (previously dominated by Advil), with their new Extra Strength Cool Caplets. At first glance, they look like any other Tylenol caplets, but pop them in your mouth and you’ll immediately notice the difference. A mint flavor slowly settles in the back of your mouth and throat, and proceeds to live there for the next 10 minutes. This turns from surprising and pleasing, to vaguely annoying, to kind of sticky and Olean-esque. However, I prefer mint over candy any day of the week, and the idea of getting pain relief while eliminating the need to chew gum is a pretty attractive prospect. Bonus Feature: The box is colored red and blue, which, as one friend pointed out, makes it look like you’re buying Spider-Man-flavored Tylenol. This fulfills a lifelong dream of mine to eat Peter Parker.

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Starbucks’ “Chantico” Drinking Chocolate
Submitted by Jenny Haynes

‘Round these parts, we’ve just taken to calling it “Liquid Denzel.”

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Pizza Hut’s Dippin’ Strips Pizza
Submitted by Lauren Spohrer

The biggest problem with this new pizza is the shape. A rectangle is such a lazy way to create strips! With Dippin’ Strips, the perimeter of the pizza is great, but the middle strips have no crust, creating a saucy wasteland. You can’t get to the middle section without plunging your fingers in there and making the full-fingered commitment you make with Buffalo wings or ribs. The shape is such an issue, I left the middle section in the box. Why don’t they try an asterisk? As for the three dipping sauces, ranch is best. The garlic sauce is nothing like its forefather, Papa John’s garlic sauce. It doesn’t taste like garlic and is thick like a yogurt. I honestly don’t know why anyone would want to dip a strip in marinara sauce. Not only is it already on the pizza but it’s destroyed the middle of this particular pizza. Pizza Hut allows you to substitute the marinara for a blue-cheese sauce, which I recommend. One high point is the thickness: this pizza crust is thicker than Chicago Style Deep Dish, greasy and delicious. Until Pizza Hut takes this idea back to the drawing board, your $10 is better spent on a fine pint of Chimay Belgian Ale.

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Ballpark Franks (24 pack)
Submitted by Edward Kirkpatrick

That Michael Jordan sure knows his beef, pork, and turkey byproducts.


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Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Colors
Submitted by Jonathan Shipley

It should be called Pepperidge Farm Fish Colors, shouldn’t it? “Goldfish” would denote the fish crackers in the snack bag are gold in color, but now, with these new Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Colors, we have all sorts of fish hues, like green, purple, orange, and red. Therefore, we’re really not eating merely goldfish anymore. We’re eating the following:

Green: Green Terror Cichlid. The scientific name is Aequidens rivulatus. They’re neotropical and can grow up to 10 inches in length. The cheddar-flavored ones in the Pepperidge Farm bag only go up to about π inches, though.

Purple: Royal Gramma. This beautiful little reef-fish cracker is found only in Caribbean reefs. This fish is very shy and secretive, so you really have to dig into the bag if you want to get your hands on one. The yellow and purple coloration of this species appears darker underwater, helping the fish to blend in with its surroundings. I dunked some of the purple snack crackers in milk to see what would happen and it just turned my milk purple.

Orange: Orange Peacock. Don’t be fooled. There aren’t any birds in the Pepperidge Farm snack bag, only fish, but the Orange Peacock might throw you. Since they’re found only in Lake Malawi in Africa, it’s amazing Pepperidge Farm can stock their snack bags with them. Even if they do, how can they sell them for only a couple of bucks? A bargain, to be sure.

Red: Rosy Barb. From India comes the Rosy Barb cheddar-flavored snack cracker. In the wild they are peaceful yet assertive. In the Pepperidge Farm bag they seem to group together, a kind of Rosy Barb clique. They taste like all the other colored fish, though, so I don’t know why they all huddled up as if they were better than everyone else. I guess that’s a Barbus conchonius for you!

The snack crackers taste like all the other Pepperidge Farm cheddar-flavored fish-shaped snack crackers, so there’s nothing new there. The only thing that’s new is that you get to eat an Aequidens rivulatus. And believe me, once I did, I was that much better for it.

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Skittles Bubble Gum
Submitted by Kendrick Channing and Edward Alvarez-Smith

It blows, or it would, if these dish-detergent-flavored tablets of dubious chicle worked as advertised.

You would have far better luck coaxing a sphere out of chewed-up crayon and oatmeal. (We did a series of double-blind trials. Look out for our paper next month.)

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Deer Park Natural Spring Water
Submitted by Bernd Sauermann

Try it. You’ll like it. It tastes like nothing. Not even a hint of deer feces.

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Whole Foods’ Dark Mocha Ice Blended
Submitted by Summer Burton

The Whole Foods next door debuted this drink a few months ago. I noticed it on the sign and scoped out the scene for a few weeks before I gave it a try. It felt strange to say it out loud to the woman in the tiny hat. Even though there are only four words, their arrangement makes the phrase feel like a novella. I want to be done after I ask for a Dark Mocha but it just keeps going and my pauses are gaping.

However, once it’s been said and the woman in the tiny hat has openly laughed at my miserable delivery, she is on her way. Vanilla frappé powder, two shots of espresso, soy milk, a small shot of dark-chocolate syrup, and a couple squirts of a fancy, squirtable chocolate—probably Ghirardelli. Do I want whipped cream? I do. She squirts more chocolate on top of that, just to seem like she’s doing me some kind of extraordinary favor. I guess she is. The drink costs $3.48.

Now the plastic volcano of delicious is mine. It’s rich. It tastes nothing like an adult coffee drink; it tastes like being 6 and scraping your fingernails across a huge hunk of chocolate in the bulk section. It’s also creamy and not grainy, none of that granita bullshit. It looks amazing, like a scientific diagram of earth and its layers, on a tiny scale.

I’ve realized, thanks to the Dark Mocha Ice Blended, that there is something romantic about a healthy-looking young woman indulging in a drink like this. The women in running shorts and the men with suitcases all pause for a barely discernible moment, as they raise bottled water to their lips. What they’re seeing, whether they realize it or not, is that my Dark Mocha Ice Blended and I are sharing a secret. It’s only now that I’ve had it alone for a few months that I am ready to share it with you.

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Double Fudge Yoohoo
Submitted by Sida Xiong

The time-honored tradition of shaking the chocolate sludge off the bottom of the Yoohoo bottle is made doubly better by Double Fudge Yoohoo. Indeed, this Yoohoo is twice as dark, twice as thick, and the equivalent of Samuel L. Jackson to regular Yoohoo’s Pootie Tang, or so it would seem. I have to regretfully inform the consumer that, while Double Fudge Yoohoo is an inspired chocolate flavor idea, it will have to go the way of celery Jell-O. Halfway through the bottle, your mouth is rocking on a sensation of drinking pudding, but nearing the last third, suddenly your glycemic level is going out of control. With your teeth aching and your eyes nervously twitching, you flash back to Uma Thurman’s OD scene in Pulp Fiction. Not wanting to be turned into a pillar of sugar, I dunked the last third of Double Fudge Yoohoo in the appropriate receptacle. Good riddance, to diabetes that is.

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Hot Chevda
Submitted by Bill Ayres

A distress purchase from the corner shop, Hot Chevda is what happens When Spiced Indian Snacks Attack. In a “Big Value” 750-gram bag, it could be mistaken for Bombay Mix, but instead of nuts and noodles, the primary constituent of Hot Chevda is puffed rice. It’s also studded with cloves (yes, cloves) and lightly dusted with sugar. Bangalore’s take on Rice Krispies, perhaps?

Initially, it’s lightly crunchy with a good curry flavor and sweet aftertaste. Better have some more. A bit of heat coming in now, might have just chewed up a clove, too. Just a bit more and a wave of chili heat hits like a daisy-cutter landing on your tongue. Jesus wept; this is so hot it feels as if your sinuses are going to implode. Eyes are watering like a maced delinquent.

Intermittent cashews provide fleeting relief, but Hot Chevda is, undeniably, the spiciest snack I’ve ever served. I can only guess that the puffing of the rice provides an increased surface area for flavoring to adhere to, or something. Definitely a talking point and one to lay on when consenting, snacking adults visit. But serve this stuff at a child’s birthday party and there will be tears and/or vomit before bedtime.

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Silver Hills Organic Sprouted Grain: Flax and Spelt Breads
Submitted by L. Suzanne Stockman

Peculiar-sounding breads generally bring to mind those with food allergies, or someone who carries a hemp satchel and is also troubled by food allergies. As a Wonder Bread kid, I never imagined voluntarily ingesting something like Silver Hills Flourless Flax and Spelt Breads. Flourless bread! That’s an oxymoron, right? But no! This stuff is totally bready, with exceptional bread qualities.

Each 7-pound loaf bursts with near-miracle fiber, supporting healthy cholesterol and digestion, while giving you the gold medal in regularity. But what makes these breads truly unique is a spongy yet resilient body packed with wall-to-wall crannies, producing extremely durable toasting breads. Possibly, the best ever. So, you can slather your slice with cream cheese, marmalade, or Nutella without fear you’ll end up with a godforsaken, mushy disaster. Plus, the abundant nuts and seeds give the bread a mild popcorn aftertaste.

And, if that weren’t enough, their names guarantee amusement. Spelt. See, it rhythms with smelt! Or, Flax. Stretch the “a” like this: Flaaaaaaaax. It’s fun, right? Do that on a really long car trip, from the back seat. What do you care? You’re regular!

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Amy’s Kitchen Bean & Rice Burrito—Non Dairy
Submitted by Daniel Gasperut

Amy, you know you don’t have to stick around just for me. I only started eating you so I could impress that vegetarian girl, or at least get her to not cringe when she saw my freezer. And at only three times the cost of a normal frozen burrito, you’d think I’d have slipped my brand loyalty to you into her pile with the records I was trying to get rid of. But while she is long gone, Amy, you remain. I suppose that’s a testament to our relationship.

Some say you’re using me, that just because you stick “Organic” on your packaging I’ll buy it whatever the price. Not so! I rebut, I wouldn’t buy the Bean & Rice Burrito—Non Dairy. That would be ridiculous. No cheese in a microwave burrito? What’s in there—children’s dreams? Well, so maybe I picked you up too fast, maybe I was drunk, maybe I was sleepy, the freezer section too cold, labels too illegible … I don’t know, but what I do know is this: if you are searching for a cheeseless organic burrito to steal and crush the cheese-hope-filled hole she left in your soul, these are your best bet.

Also, they’re kosher!

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Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer
Submitted by Ryan Young

Is there any better beer? Well, yes, probably pretty much any of them (except Hamm’s, maybe). But is there any better beer at 30 cents a can? Probably not. To get the 30-cents-per-can price you might have to shop at the San Leandro Albertson’s, but I’ll bet wherever you shop it is the best cheap beer. It’s been around since, like, 1860, and they used to put actual blue ribbons on the cans. And did I mention they can be had for almost a quarter per can? How can you beat that? You can’t, my friend.

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Goya Jamaican Style Ginger Beer
Submitted by Dong

Remember when you were 5 and Bambi’s mother gets shot offscreen? Right, well, for reasons best known only to themselves, Jamaicans have made a soda out of that, and Mexicans have taken it upon themselves to bottle it. The dominant ingredient in Goya’s whimsically named “Jamaican Ginger Beer” is neither ginger nor beer—it’s capsicum. Sound familiar? It does if you read the bit between “keep away from children” and “keep away from face” on the side of a canister of pepper spray. No kidding, go check it out if you need to. How it can be legally called “ginger beer” rather than “keep-away-from-face beer” in a country that won’t let toys shoot soft plastic missiles is beyond me, but you won’t drink this stuff twice unless the agent interrogating you doesn’t like your first answer.

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Submitted by Kristen Elde

I’m eating them right now. I’m taking in monosodium glutamate and some partially hydrogenated soybean oil—touché—but what else? Thirteen percent of the DV for fiber, that’s what. And 4 grams of protein, too. I hear that’s one-eleventh what my 118-pound, 27-year-old woman’s body needs to thrive. Whole-grain breads? Brown rice? Dried apricots? I don’t want to. CornNuts—rambunctious in Ranch, Barbeque, Nacho Cheese, Chili Picante, and Salsa Jalisco flavors, less so in ho-hum Original—are my answer, although the BBQ ones lose me in packaging. (Puzzlingly, they await consumption behind an incensed ear of corn, his husk-hand curled into an I’ll-get-you fist with the words “Corn Gone Wrong” printed beneath. Corn gone wrong? Corn off the hook, maybe, but not wrong.) Bread gets stale, rice hard, dried apricots, while tasty, can be stringy. CornNuts, crunchy like barnacles, age well, for which many, many preservatives are to thank. That I sometimes forget I’m not eating soft teeth is interesting, and hardly a deterrent.

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Ritter Sport Mini Variety Pack
Submitted by Sam Isaiah Saltz

I have the usual Jewy hesitations about all things German, but the good menschen at Ritter have me rethinking the fatherland with their mini “Sport” chocolates. I recommend the variety pack. It contains seven varieties of individually wrapped little chocolate storm troopers. Flavor highlights include Joghurt (similar to yogurt, but sweeter and spelled with a “J”) and Hasselnuss (Gesundheit!). The real winner, though, is the Knusperflakes, which is like an über-tasty Nestlé’s Crunch Bar but with crisp Nordic cornflakes instead of puffed rice. While the company website refuses to specify which sport Ritter has in mind (alpine skiing? invading Poland?), it does state quite prominently that they “welcome strategic alliances if they are of mutual benefit.” I say, “Ritter Sport, willkommen to my mouth!”

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Ice Breakers Liquid Ice Mints
Submitted by Steve DiPietro

Now, I understand the mint business is a very competitive one. If you want to stay on top, you always have to be reinventing, and the folks at Hershey’s have done just that. With Ice Breakers Liquid Ice, Hershey’s has proven that they should never venture outside the realm of chocolate ever again. The presentation is good: a clear case with what looks like 30 little fish eggs inside, but that’s where the good times end. Shortly after popping one of these miniature balls of death inside your mouth, the gelatin casing breaks open squirting its contents onto your tongue. There’s a nanosecond of nostalgia taking you back to the days of Chewels liquid-center gum until the taste hits you. What I can only assume is supposed to be spearmint flavor instantly fades, leaving you with a mouthful of Tab. You also have the deflated egg sac still in your mouth, which lasts almost as long as the horrible flavor. If all liquid ice—or “water” to us laypeople—tasted like this, then the world would have died of dehydration long ago. Utterly disgusting.

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Dunkin’ Donuts Cinnamon Sticks
Submitted by Donika Miller

Controlled graincrop production marked one of the greatest scientific watersheds in human history. Our innovative spirit further enkindled us to grind and mix grains into pastes for tasty flatbreads. From there, progress in microbiology and chemistry gave way to rising breads and cakes. The rising grain products boast some truly indulgent pastries, such as cookies, croissants, and Danish. Among these are Dunkin’ Donuts’ new Cinnamon Sticks, which are being advertised through gratuitous shots of steaming, flaky cinnamon dough, and drawn-out montages of slippery icing drizzling loop-upon-loop along a never-ending shaft.

It’s enough to inspire you to buy one on the way to work with a carpool friend. A friend who opts for the reliability of a jelly donut. The Cinnamon Stick is lumbering in size and weight, with a stiff brown outer shell, shellacked in a clear substance the consistency of Post-It-note glue. Except this leaves a residue on your fingers. The first bite makes you think you made a mistake. It couldn’t possibly be this dense, this realistically cardboard in form and taste. Maybe you’re hung-over. Have a sip of coffee to clear your palate.

Your jelly-donut lip-smacking friend asks about the Cinnamon Stick and accepts your offer of a bite. Agreed that it’s not seriously intended for consumption as is. You optimistically suggest that it’s meant to be dunked in coffee. A dunking stick, you’ve had those before. So you dip it in your coffee-with-cream. You try, he tries, and it’s the same, but soggy this time. By now most of the frosting loops have chipped off and are littering your friend’s car. As a variable, he offers his black coffee. So you each dip, sample, fail to explain it away, and by now you’re just not in the mood for it anymore.

There’s still one-third of a stick left after six bites, and the car arrives at your office. Undeterred, he suggests you microwave it and report the results when served warm. Here you reach your limit. “This is food, damn it,” you snap, “not a science experiment!” And you dash from the car yoked by your laptop, wondering about de-evolution.

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Ezekiel 4:9 Cinnamon Raisin Sprouted Grain Cereal
Submitted by Bethany Round

atest thou this certified organic six-grain granola and ye shall know the effects of 100 percent flourless protein cereal. Ye shall be a vessel for the spirit, taking the form of cinnamon, raisin, almond, and golden flax. That same spirit will serve as almighty roughage for thine lower intestines. Drinkest plenty of fluids to prevent a cursed protein blockage.

Pour onto thine yogurt for a divinely crunchy breakfast, or toss with chocolate chips and peanuts to make nourishing GORP for blessed hikes into wooded areas or canoe trips.

A reading from the holy side panel of the box reveals the almighty pitch phrase: “This Biblical Cereal is Truly the Staff of Life.”


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Dagoba New Moon Organic Chocolate Bar (74% Cacao)
Submitted by Gail Bartley

Put down that wan excuse for a cheap buzz you call Hershey’s and try some real God-fearing chocolate. Produced in the tiny, forgettable town of Central Point, Oregon (a place, prior to the birth of Dagoba, for which there seemed to be no point at all), the New Moon sees your froggy Valrhona and calls. Dagoba offers an entire bath-salts-inspired line of bars—Lime, Lavender, Mint-Rosemary, even Milk, but don’t bother. The New Moon is where the rubber meets the road.

So what accounts for this lunar magic? Sure, it’s a free-trade product and made in small, hand-stirred batches, but if that’s all there was to it, Great Britain’s competing Green & Black bar wouldn’t taste like East End dirt. Weighing in at a compact 2 ounces, the New Moon is neatly scored in tenths to prolong the dance (as if you could). Wrapped in gold foil like the winning ticket to Wonkaland, the New Moon is simply, darkly, bitterly divine.

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Tasty Bite Ready Meals: Vegetable Supreme
Submitted by Michelle Collins

There are two things I look for in a new food: quality and convenience. So when I came across Tasty Bite’s ready and willing offering, I couldn’t refuse. Little did I know that this so-called Vegetable Supreme would be the gateway curry into the menacing world of instant Indian food. I’ve already said too much.

Have you ever craved a hearty, warm, delicious, and borderline-healthy meal, but only had two minutes to spare? If you answered no, then stop reading—you will not appreciate the gospel of Tasty Bite. Your meal comes cleverly packaged in various airtight pouches and plastic bins. For a moment, you feel like an Indian pioneer on your very first space mission. And look! They even include a spoon! And a sturdy one, none of that “spoon-in-the-lid” nonsense shilled by that “famous” yogurt brand.

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White Chocolate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
Submitted by Patrick Cassels

What is it with remakes? As if it were not enough that they’ve infected Hollywood, it seems they’ve moved into our beloved world of candy as well. I don’t know what they smoke over in Hershey, Pennsylvania, but it must have been a bad dose the day they came up with White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups.

To be honest, I couldn’t bring myself to eat this thing. Just to look at it turned my stomach. If you’ve stepped in goose feces, you’ve stepped in a White Chocolate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. The white chocolate and brown peanut butter (which seemed suspiciously crumbly) simply don’t look appetizing together.

Since I did not eat it, a cannot comment on the taste as a matter of fact; however, I do feel qualified to speculate, as I’ve had both peanut butter and white chocolate individually. Although the combining of milk chocolate and peanut butter proved a stroke of pure genius back in 1928-29, when Peanut Butter Cups were invented, white chocolate is a whole different story. As we all know, white chocolate is quite different from its milk or dark counterparts. While the latter two have a smooth, smoky, almost baked feel to them, a perfect complement to a concoction of roasted peanuts, white chocolate is, on the other hand, tangy and overly sweet—like hard candy. Personally, I don’t feel it even deserves to be categorized in the chocolate family. It is far closer to yogurt or icing.

I am certain that H.B. Reese is turning in his grave. Surely he never intended his legacy to be perverted so. Compelled, I called the toll-free Hershey’s hotline on the back of the wrapper (Hershey’s acquired the H.B. Reese Candy Co. some years ago) to voice my distaste and concern:

OPERATOR: Thank you for calling the Reese’s customer-service center. This is [her name]. How may I help you?

ME: Oh, uh.

OPERATOR: Sir? Are you there?

ME: Oh yeah, I’m here. I just didn’t expect to hear someone so … young.

OPERATOR: I’m not that young. I’m 32.

ME: Oh, come on! You don’t sound a day over 22.

OPERATOR: (giggles)

ME: I’m Pat.

OPERATOR: (still giggling) Hi, Pat. Did you want to talk about our product?

ME: What? Oh, that. Never mind. So, what are you wearing, [her name]?

OPERATOR: A business suit …

I notice that the “Reviews of New Food” section is rife with new candies. Coffee Twix, Reese’s Big Cup, and Piña Colada Almond Joy, to name a few. My review is just another piece of evidence that the candy industry is the sequel-producing conglomerate of the food world.