Submitted by Brianna Privett
Crestline is a small town in the mountains above the Inland Empire region of Southern California. Ten years ago they installed a McDonald’s at a location formerly occupied by three eighty-foot tall pine trees. It’s never quite been able to compete with that stronghold of a 7-11 that’s been around for thirty years and stays open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week through snowstorms and wildfires alike. There’s nothing else open around the clock for miles… it is an oasis of fast food and convenience in the middle of the most populated desert on earth.
When the Go-Go Taquitos appeared on the endlessly rolling bars of the hot dog warmer last year, I altered my steady diet of dollar brownies and Arizona iced tea to try them out. I’d previously lost about fifty pounds through absolutely no effort of my own (but a fabulous effort on the part of my pissed-off gallbladder) and the women in my family have since made a habit of quizzing me about my slimming technique. I like giving them a new answer each time—olive oil, chickpeas for breakfast. A spiritual fast every third Monday.
I bit into the Buffalo Chicken Go-Go Taquito with no expectations; anything called a taquito is already advertising that the meat is probably unidentifiable, the cheese nearly non-existent, and much depends on the addition of guacamole or salsa for a superlative taquito experience. The filling was lukewarm and posed no threat to my skin if some should squirt out the other end. The spice was minimal, and the chunks of meat were slightly less grey than I’d have accepted, which put the Go-Go Taquito firmly in the “good” category. Inspired by this rousing success, I made the Go-Go Taquito the center of my midnight meals for three solid months.
My aunts asked me at our last family dinner if I’d been going to a new gym. I flexed my guns, rippling from the exertion of cramming my two daily Steak and Cheese or Monterey Chicken Go-Go Taquitos into my mouth on the drive home through the winding pine-needle littered highways and replied “No, no… just clean, healthy living.”
Hot Emergen-C Raspberry-Flavored Drink Mix
Submitted by Michael Pesant
Never mind the empty bag of Maxwell House in the break room, just pour this potent vitamin mix into a steaming mug of water. Some powder will escape into the air, enveloping you in a cloud of mineral goodness. Breathe it in. The drink looks like Star Wars, but the taste is a berry tea. Allow the soothing warmth of your fruity libation to ease you into the day.
As you sip, seven mineral ascorbates blast into your bloodstream with the veracity of a seasoned woodsman. Guess what? You just got 15% of your recommended daily intake of magnesium, 13 % of your Zinc, and a cool quarter of your Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Manganese, and Pantothenic Acid. Feel your cells tingling as they absorb 417% DV of Vitamin B12. Take ten deep breaths. You’ve just ingested over sixteen times the amount of Vitamin C considered reasonable by leading experts.
Can you feel it? You’ve left the mere mortals behind. You’re now a superhuman entity. Feel free to roam about your office bathroom sans the usual facemask and gallon of anti-bacterial sanitizer. Let your hand linger on the toilet handle. Drink heartily from the coughs and sneezes of your coworkers; kiss them where they pee. Challenge your bolstered immunity. It will not be denied.
Try moving something with your mind. Nothing major, maybe just that empty desk. Some light telekinesis. It moved. Did you see it? I thought you did.
Have you defied the laws of physics? No. You’re tripping balls on non-essential minerals.
Good morning, World.
Submitted by Jonathan Jay Holley
Grillz Candy is an artificially flavored choking hazard recommended for gourmands aged three and older who want to look like ridiculous caricatures of the Dirty South rappers who popularized jewel-encrusted dental accessories. Grillz Candy is essentially a lollipop with a fake chrome plastic handle in the shape of a partial upper denture. The idea is to jam it in your mouth, taste strawberry, smile, and, as is written in pink and yellow letters on the packaging, “have fun”
The reality is that you jam it in your mouth, taste strawberry, smile, and almost immediately start to gag as the small, slippery chunk of plastic slides past your gums and down your gullet like a well-oiled sardine.
Central Market’s Lemon-Flavored Homemade Marshmallows
Submitted by Claudia Peterson
My tolerance for mediocre lemon flavor, were it known to more people, would be legendary. I’ve happily drunk lemon sodas that were better suited to cleaning machinery than to consumption by humans. I’ve yet to meet a lemon bar I don’t like, though I’ve met several with whom I’d have had a problematic relationship, had their presence in my extra-intestinal life not been so short-lived. As for gooey things, what’s better? I’m perfectly content spending hours prying the last of a Sugar Baby from between two rear molars, tongue sore, taste buds occasionally and tantalizingly teased with sugary goodness. I understand these joys. I am a willing and gleeful participant.
There’s fake lemon flavor, and then there’s Central Market’s lemon-flavored homemade marshmallows. There’s the Idea of Lemon occurring in a foodstuff thanks only to science and human ingenuity, an Idea that has only the most fleeting acquaintance with its family of origin. This Idea has its place in the culinary canon. Then there’s the idea of what lemon would taste like were it a thing shat from the hinders of ailing livestock. Like, “Yeah, it’s crap, literally, but it’s the freshest-smelling crap you can imagine!”
It’s still crap.
There’s gooeyness, then there’s the consistency that you can be certain exists elsewhere only in certain body parts left out in the desert sun for several days. You bite into one of these marshmallows, and something in your consciousness wilts as you recognize a consistency that you, with your human soul, were never meant to experience with your mouth. It’s terribly, terribly wrong.
Nothing with this consistency should ever be put in one’s mouth, not even when one’s very survival is at stake.
The upside to these culinary abortions? There are two. One: they do a most impressive job of sticking to wooden privacy fences when thrown against them in a fit of astonished revulsion. (I suggest posting a warning sign for hobos if your privacy fence borders railroad tracks. It’s only humane.) Two: neither I nor my dining companions that night (one of whom is a gifted and inspired cook, who to this day apologizes for his transgression in purchasing this pile of pale yellow cubes of horror) will ever make that mistake again.
Canned Brown Bread
Submitted by Lauren Hudson
Every autumn, back in my years spent at F.E. Bellows Elementary, our school would hold a food drive just before Thanksgiving. This would be when we kids were told by our teachers to bring in canned food for people less fortunate than us, and that the class with the most cans at the end of a set period would win a pizza lunch or some other food that didn’t come from a can.
This (obviously) meant war. Each class wanted that goddamn pizza lunch. Kids would go home and ask for cans of food from their mothers, who, being the good citizens of the community that they were, would garnish us with a few items (usually the stuff that had remained dormant on shelves for months). But every kid knew two or three cans wouldn’t be enough to win the fucking pizza lunch, so, once the lights went out, we would sneak into our respective kitchen cupboards and steal a few cans from our mothers’ stores of food. Not wanting to expose our tactics, we were sure to only take one or two cans at a time—always from the back of the shelf. Anything more would be noticeable and warrant punishment.
In fourth grade, I was assigned the task of food drive organizer. I was ecstatic and also anxiety-ridden: it was my job to produce results. If we won I would be loved and applauded! On the other hand, if we lost, I would be to blame and everyone would fucking hate me. I would probably have to eat lunch alone for at least four days, maybe even a week.
As organizer, it was my task every morning to stand by the big cardboard box by the front of the room and receive and record all the canned donations from the other students as their names were called for attendance, and encourage everyone to do better, to do more. One day during role call, as the drive was winding down and each class particularly starved for a cheese and sauce filled forty-five minute victory lunch, one of my fellow classmates, Michelle Channing, was called by the teacher and proceeded to bring up an oversized can.
“What is that?” I asked.
“What do you do with it?” I asked.
“Make left-over sandwiches.”
This fucked me up. Bread came in a plastic bag, not a can. I took the canned item from her and inspected it. It read: “canned brown bread.” I threw the can in the wrapping-paper covered cardboard box, marked down another item donated by our class, and didn’t give the canned food much thought after that. We lost the drive that year. I only had to eat alone for three days.
Years later, while flipping channels, I came across the Good Eats with Alton Brown episode where he cooks brown bread in a coffee can. FLASHBACK! Remember the girl in fourth grade that brought in canned bread for the food drive? Did that shit still exist or was it a thing
of the past? Phased out like Fruity Yummy Mummy cereal and Giggle Cookies?
I immediately felt the need to do a little R & D and walked over to the 24-hour A & P super mart. As the automatic doors slid open I felt a wave of panic: where would I look? Should I start in the canned food section? Logically, one would think bread would be placed next to other bread, but instinct told me this was not the case. Not knowing where to begin, I started down the produce aisles, as they were (and always seem to be) closest to the entrance, and proceeded to walk down the remaining aisles in search of my prize—all the while trying my best not to look out-of-my-mind high at 2:30 am.
After hitting the pasta and juice aisles, and becoming increasingly nervous that I was being shadowed by an A&P employee, I started to think that canned bread no longer existed, and that I would have to think of something else to buy as to not arouse suspicion. (Paper towels? Didn’t we just run out?) But, as I turned down aisle seven, I learned I was wrong—holy shit was I wrong! Right there, sitting between the vegetarian baked beans and corned beef hash, was the same oversized can of brown bread that I remembered from my youth. I made a beeline for the register, paid my $2.59 plus applicable tax, and walked back home.
Upon entering my apartment, I sat down at my kitchen table to inspect my canned good. The label looked enticing: a loaf of hearty brown bread resting on a wooden slab set in front of a glowing hearth. Directions read: “REMOVE both ends of can. If necessary, gently push loaf out one end with a spoon.”
I shook the can. It made no sound. This struck me as foreign to all other canned food experiences; the silence departing far from the gelatinous “sllllshhhh” noise that is indicative of whatever solid packed in liquid you would soon be ingesting.
I followed the directions and opened both ends of the can. It did not come out. I used a spoon, like the directions had instructed me to do, and, with a little force, it slid out onto the plate. There it was—can indents and all! I inspected my find and questioned my next move. How should I eat it? Should it be toasted with butter? What was the proper way to cut it? Would it have a crust?
I decided on slicing off the edge closest to me and trying it just as it was so I could experience canned bread in its pure form. Upon cutting into I discovered it was denser than I thought it would be. I took a small bite and its weight hit me head on. This was not what I expected of bread. This was some heavy mound of molasses-infused carbs. This was the fruitcake of bread, leading you to believe it would be good and wholesome, but instead as misleading as hell.
Not wanting to waste my purchase, and also to justify the last forty-five minutes of my life, I finished about one-third of the loaf
and covered the rest in plastic wrap, asking myself what I would do with the remaining piece. (How long would canned bread last once opened anyway? Would it go stale just like other bread? If so, could it be made into croutons?)
As I pondered the remaining brown bread’s fate I was certain of one thing and one thing only: I wasn’t about to go and to make a goddamn leftover sandwich that was for sure.
Maple Hill “Pumpkin Crunch” Fragrance Oil
Submitted by Michaelanne Petrella
A few weeks ago, I purchased a tiny bottle of oil called “Pumpkin Crunch” from a local farmer’s market and it has changed me. I bet you think you know what it smells like, but you’re stupid and don’t even know. Maple Hill “Pumpkin Crunch” Fragrance Oil an amazing full-on smell celebration of the ages. It is, of course, inedible but that hasn’t stopped me from eating the potpourri that I drowned that stuff with. I put it in my boyfriend’s bath and he immediately scooped up a handful and TASTED HIS BATH WATER. Five drops makes the entire room smell good. It saddens me to have to exhale the stuff. This “Pumpkin Crunch” oil told Yankee Candle to suck it. I’ve even rubbed it inside my nostrils; it smells like Little Debbie and Harry London made pumpkin pie together and then they held hands and prayed over it while it cooked. This oil makes heroin seem like dog shit.
Fabulous Frutini Gum
Submitted by Matthew Mesick
My mother wouldn’t let me chew gum. Her rationale was that it wasn’t gentlemanly. She was correct, her boarding school- and Seven-Sisters-educated mother had taught her well; and my observations gleaned from movies featuring Douglas Fairbanks confirmed this.
But when I was in medical school, in one of my first acts of rebellion of my life, I thought I would take up gum chewing. I asked my younger brother (who while playing baseball used to mix his Red Man chew with bubble gum) which one I should try.
“Here,” he said, slapping an orange packet in my hand.
My parotid and sublingual glands, overcompensated for the artificial sweetener in their midst, shot forth a hot stream of saliva, rich in enzymes, which, were the sugar real, would have broken the bonds and released the chemically stored energy for use by my body. But the active sites did not accommodate the sorbitol, and peptides were spilled, onanastically. My masseter and temporalis muscles strained under the load, and my taste buds and olfactory receptors transduced myriad signals to my cerebral cortex. I was weakened by the experience, as my knees buckled slightly.
“What do you call it?” I asked.
“The real name is Fabulous Frutini, but we just call it Angel Poon.”
“Why is that?”
“Because if you were to go down on an angel, this is what it would taste like.”
I thought it tasted more like a “Nada-Colada” or “Banana Runts,” than the savory, salty warmth I associated with the female anatomy, but I gave him a nod of assent, “Fabulous Frutini indeed.”
100% Vegetarish Wiener Schnitzel
Submitted by Briana Brockett-Richmond
My fork pops through the crispy, golden brown breading, glides through the tender center and then exits the other side with another satisfying pop. The fried delicacy is not greasy in my mouth and, unlike many fried foods, leaves no disturbing coating on my tongue. The flavor is rich, but not overpowering. I am overwhelmed by its rewarding and surprising perfection. I suppose that there is nothing remarkable about a perfectly cooked Wiener Schnitzel in Germany. An equivalent delicacy is enjoyed daily by tourists and locals, but there is something revolutionary about this particular fried slab on my plate. As the package boasts, it is 100% Vegetarish.
Vegetarian Wiener Schnitzel, despite its alluring alliteration, feels like an oxymoron, even to a life-long vegetarian. Arguably the most iconic meat dish in a national cuisine that worships meat, I can visualize the original, flesh-based version coming to life and expressing fury at the idea of a vegetarian joining in the cultural fun (in its plated form—not the original animal, for obvious reasons). But my Wiener Schnitzel expresses no negative sentiments. It welcomes me to my new Germanic home, and displays no Anthony Bourdain-type prejudice against my kind. Rather, it vehemently protests the idea that I can’t truly experience a culture without forgoing my veggie ways (take that, Mr. Bourdain). When I first saw it in the grocery store, it seemed to throw a parade complete with a banner reading, “Willkommen.”
Now, if only I could get an equivalent welcome when I return to my own culture with a nice plate of 100% Vegetarish Fried Chicken.
Kerbey Lane Café Gingerbread Pancake Mix
Submitted by Jennifer Devroye
Not long ago, I dreamt that my sister gave birth to a gingerbread baby. He was pliant and warm, like a baby is supposed to be, but with a flat body, circular head, and limbs splayed out as if mid-cartwheel. He gnashed his horrible little teeth at me and I looked into my sister’s expectant face and told her he was a beautiful baby.
This same sister gave me a package of Kerbey Lane Café Gingerbread Pancake Mix last Christmas. I finally used some last weekend. It yielded pancakes bearing an eerie resemblance to the gingerbread baby of my dreams; an unnatural transubstantiation of cookie into a fleshier form. Each bite yielded a cognitive dissonance. But those babies were tasty.
Submitted by Marina Koestler Ruben
I purchased the cereal Chia Goodness because it claimed to be “the most nutritious seed ever.” (Its price was commensurate with its perceived self-importance.)
But I had trouble when I added milk. My first two attempts at chia prep yielded a gray glue dotted with equally gelatinous bulbous spheres. Think putrefying frog eggs or the evil, shrunken, dirty-dishwater stepsibling of bubble tea.
Chia sat blandly on the tongue with the crunch of kiwi seeds and the smooth casing of mini-eyeballs.
Drat. This was the latest in a string of my inadvisable purchases: hemp oil, açai juice, quinoa beverage. I had thrown each away. My husband, Adam, created a rule. In our newly no-waste household, you buy it, you eat it—particularly if you paid more than seven dollars for a small bag of cereal. I wanted to be chia-free, but how?
Fortunately, there was a double batch of cranberry-ginger chia muffins, as per an online Chia Goodness recipe. Better yet, I didn’t have to make them. Adam volunteered, declaring with glee that he himself also contained the most nutritious seed ever.
That weekend, Adam made the muffins. The directions, in effect:
- Salvage your decision to buy Chia Goodness by trading the remainder of your disposable income for muffin ingredients, including high-end crystallized ginger.
- Combine ingredients. Obey an online typo that prompts you to add an extra two cups of water.
- Wait. And wait. And wait and wait. While the outsides dry out and burn, the muffins’ insides will stay unbearably gluey.
We gave our leftover muffins to my parents, who gave them to their Labrador Retriever, who died. (To be fair, the Lab had a preexisting condition. But the muffins couldn’t have helped.)
Now bankrupt, disempowered, very hungry, and muttering “Chia Badness” under his breath, Adam sent an angry e-mail to the makers of Chia Goodness. He made our position clear: We did not like it in a box, with a fox, or as a chia-cranberry-ginger-water-water-water cocktail.
Quickly thereafter, Chia Goodness replied. They were sorry, so sorry, for our misfortune.
Be on the lookout, they wrote. In compensation, you should expect a free shipment of Chia Goodness.