Submitted by Benjamin Morris
Full disclosure: This food is not actually new. It has actually been around for some time, but it is new to me, because it is one of those foods that they don’t really publicize here in Scotland, for fear that no one will ever visit the country ever again. It has nothing to do with the fact that a haggis is the innards of a sheep ground up and spiced and wrapped in its own intestinal lining. Not at all. Regular haggis, which is actually quite tasty, has been around for hundreds of years, back to when nomadic Picts used to distill the first whiskeys over their campfires in a way strangely resembling my family in the Mississippi bayou. But no longer an efficient means to dispose of a spare farm animal, in the urban areas of Scotland haggis has now become one of those “experiences” that they try to sell to tourists with a great rousing kilted show of “Look, honey, it’s Scottish!”
But that is all well and good, compared to deep-fried haggis. If I ever meet the dude who had the idea to plunge a perfectly good haggis into a pool of boiling fat, right alongside cheeseburgers and pizza and Mars Bars (cf. Daniel Greengrass’s earlier review of Irn-Bru), I will say to him, “Dude! No, dude!” Really, it is every bit as awful as it sounds. In fact, I haven’t even tried it at all, and no amount of loose ironic play will enable or persuade me to do so. This is just terrible. Flat-out terrible.
Wrigley’s Sugarfree Eclipse Gum, “Lemon Ice” Flavor
Submitted by Jenny Haynes
Great news! Now lemon Pledge comes in small chewable tablets!
Submitted by Jenniffer Lesh
I’ve long sought some perestroika for the tastebuds. Gustatory glasnost. An end to this totalitarian state of snack-food boredom. So when I spied a microwavable piroshki in Foodmaxx’s frozen-food bin, I could hardly believe my luck.
Sure, out of the package it looks like a Twinkie that’s been stomped on by Rodney Dangerfield in golf shoes (Rodney, R.I.P.). And yes, odd that this post-Soviet meat pie smells tuna-fishy; the ingredients are purportedly chicken, rice, and cheese. Weighty in the hand, its underside is textured like the sole of a vintage track shoe, Rufflesesque ridges. It’s pale, seems undercooked, unfinished. Still, I was ready. Revolution! Into the microwave it goes, because “Russian piroshki’s [sic] always taste great.”
First bite is dough, chewy dough, with a garlicky tang. The innards are now exposed, the soft piroshkian underbelly torn asunder. (This Ruski Hot Pocket makes the electricity in my office go haywire. Lights flicker on and off. Tesla, is that you? Oh, wait, he’s not even Russian.)
Bite two. The crust gives way to creamy white oleaginous ooze, black specks (pepper? yak dander?). The rice seems to be pre-masticated, perhaps by a man named Boris. He’s got a protruding brow ridge, a plenitude of neck hair, and a penchant for wearing zip-up woolen “onesies” (doesn’t that zipper get stuck in the body hair?). A little slow but otherwise a kindly, mostly harmless fellow. The chicken has a grainy texture but does appear to be all white meat. Honestly, there isn’t a whole lot of identifiable chicken here. But what I can see looks whitish. Nope, I spoke too soon … does gristle have an official color? Or is this kidney? Beak?
Oh, yeah. Cheese. There’s supposed to be cheese. Oh, there goes the light again. Off. Now it’s on. Cheddar cheese ranks a distant fifth on the ingredient list. Water comes in fourth. Number one? Enriched, bleached (?!) wheat flour with ascorbic acid “added as a dough conditioner.” I didn’t know dough needed a conditioner. Kneaded one, that is. Ha, ha. VO5 Hot Oil Treatment, maybe?
And, as suddenly as it began, the piroshki is finished. I briefly consider licking my fingers, but this Russian delicacy doesn’t warrant such a gesture. Besides, my stomach is beginning to feel as harsh as a gulag, the hapless organ forced to do hard labor. Sadly, I crumple up the plastic wrapper and conclude this experiment into East-West dÂŽtente with a resounding recommendation: do not bother. If you want piroshki, there’s a decent enough place near Seattle’s Pike Place Market. They have borscht, too.
Super Veggie Tings
Submitted by Setareh Mohtarez
Super Veggie Tings look like Cheetos that have been thrown into the sea and come back to shore with the “cheese” washed off and in its place, flakes of green sea sludge. Although, after my guinea-pig boyfriend tried the first few, I discovered that they are a happy hybrid of Tings! and Pirate’s Booty made by the same company. Tings! (made from natural, simple ingredients: cornmeal, canola oil, nutritional yeast, and salt) are usually my answer to late-night snacking, giving the same effect of eating Cheetos, yet bypassing aftereffects of dry mouth, orange hands, and unhappy tummy.
I have to say that the Super Veggie Tings are quite satisfactory. I did not eat them in one sitting like a starving maniac, which is usually what happens with Tings!, because both my mind and body agree at the wholesome intake of food. I ate about two handfuls of Super Veggie Tings nonstop, tasted the spinach and broccoliÂ—took a break and then repeated. I suggest trying them when you want to break up the monotony of Tings!, with the added bonus of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron.
Ocean Spray Wildberry Diet Juice & Tea
Submitted by Steve Krodman
Sweet, good-for-you fruit juice. Refreshing, mildly caffeinated iced tea. Many have tried to combine these beverage concepts, few with happy results: Snapple and Arizona Iced Tea come to mind. What you want is a drink that gets these two different Flavor Ideas to interact with just the right amount of mutual assertiveness. It’s a tougher job than it looks.
Now let’s kick the difficulty level up a notch. Where all of these fine products run up against the rocks is in the Low-Calorie Zone, where the requisite artificial sweeteners just … don’t … fucking … work. Most low-calorie/low-carb juice-and-tea combos taste like ass.
But not anymore.
Finally. Finally! A drink with no unpleasant aspartame-saccharine pong, thanks to the beneficent goodness of Splenda, artificial sweetener of the gods. Wildberry Diet Juice & Tea makes my parched throat happy, and I can drink it by the gallon without giving Mr. Blood Sugar an aneurysm. It has given me a reason to rejoice.
Exult! Juice tea!
The Wild Mountain Chicken Sandwich at Wendy’s
Submitted by Rachel DuBois
If anyone ever tells you that you should eat a Wild Mountain Chicken Sandwich from Wendy’s, what they really mean is “I secretly hate you and now revenge is mine.”
Arizona Sweet Tea
Submitted by Steven Seighman
Sweet fancy! This is some sweet stuff. If you took Jolt cola and removed its carbonation, you’d get an idea of what Arizona Sweet Tea tastes like. But why would you want to do that when the real deal is available at almost every convenience store in America? It comes in either the standard Arizona bottle or the 99-cent 23.5 oz. can—my favorite. I like this because the can is heavy and makes you think there is a lot left in there, even when there isn’t. Which is good because, if it were bottomless, like the sweet tea I had in the Waffle House in Biloxi, Mississippi, two years ago, I’d be getting the Ooooh-I-drank-too-much-sweet-tea bellyache almost every day.
Nature Valley Roasted Almond Granola Bar
Submitted by Ellia Bisker
It starts out tasting toasty, almost smoky, like the salted almonds that always disappear first from a can of mixed nuts. But almost immediately that gives way to a sweeter, almost syrupy flavor, closer to almond extract or amaretto liqueur. What it tastes most like are those Toasted Almond ice-cream bars you’d buy from the Mister Softee truck as a kid, which you still remember fondly, even though when you occasionally buy one nowadays it’s never the same. Maybe they used to make them differently, or maybe it’s just that you’re grown up now and can’t really handle a lot of sugar/dairy, but at some point Toasted Almond bars started evoking a brick of Elmer’s glue covered in dust rather than the sweet summer freedom of your youth. Now, however, Nature Valley has returned to you a small piece of that lost deliciousness, magically refashioned into a form that fits in with your healthy-breakfast-eating lifestyle. You can eat one with your morning coffee at your desk job and pretend you are 10 years old, it’s August, and there’s nowhere you have to be.
Pina Coloda Almond Joy
Submitted by Erica Pellegrini
I saw it in the vending machine at school and had to have it. Even though I was never a coconut-mixed-with-pineapple type of girl, I couldn’t pass it up … but I should have. It was basically like a regular Almond Joy, but with white chocolate and yellow-tinted, pineapple-flavored coconut. The pineapple flavor tasted rather cheap and made the back of my throat itch. (Kind of the same feeling as those mini plastic barrels of “fruit drink” with the foil peel-off tops that I had to drink at the poor kid’s birthday party.) I wouldn’t recommend this candy bar to anyone … even if they do like pina-coloda-flavored foods.
Vanilla Tootsie Rolls
Submitted by Marc Leibert
Here’s the thing: Tootsie Rolls are goo. I picture, in a giant factory somewhere, an enormous vat with a latex udder at the bottom positioned over a conveyor belt, the udder squirting out pencil-eraser-sized portions of goo every two seconds. The conveyor belt whisks the goo away to where it can be hardened, wrapped, and distributed to the waiting Tootsie Roll-eating population in time for Halloween.
In my mind, the way to distinguish a Tootsie Roll from actual goo the size of a pencil eraser is to concentrate on the “chocolatey” taste inherent in a Tootsie Roll. I can pop an ordinary Tootsie Roll and be reasonably satisfied that I am not actually chewing on a pencil-eraser-sized lump of goo because I know a Tootsie Roll tastes “chocolatey,” while goo, I should think, does not. Upon tasting a Tootsie Roll, I am content with the chocolatey goodness pleasantly oozing across my tongue and I can temporarily remove from my brain the mental images of the giant vat filled with goo from whence this treat sprung forth.
Absent the chocolate flavor, however, I can’t blot out this image. A Vanilla Tootsie Roll is vanilla-flavored goo. It tastes exactly like vanilla-flavored goo that has been squeezed through a latex udder, hardened, wrapped, and shipped should taste.
Wasabi Peas and Relevant Mathematical Concerns
Submitted by Michael Liska
There are a few dozen reliable reported cases of “feral children,” such as the Jalpaiguri Bear-Girl or the Sheep-Boy of Ireland, throughout human history. If you are not one of these, then at some point in your development it was emphasized to you that there is a significant distinction between “food” and “snacks.” The complicated mathematics involved in determining if an edible is indeed a “food” or a “snack,” through repetition and enforcement, have become second nature. Nutritious plus legume equals, obviously, “food,” as does bread plus cold cuts plus cheeses, or meat plus potatoes. Caramel plus nougat, icing plus cake, and others of this variety, all equal “snack.” It is clear that any equation composed entirely of “food” elements will end up being “food,” and any equation that contains any “snack” element (consider: raisins plus chocolate; hamburgers plus chocolate; well, anything plus chocolate) will be relegated instead to the “snack” category.
What, then, is the explanation for Wasabi Peas? Two ingredients: peas (food) and wasabi (condiment). And food plus condiment, as we know, still equals food. (Condiments never change the value of an equation, unless, of course, they are “snack” condiments such as hot melted butterscotch, which wasabi is not. I wouldn’t put wasabi on ice cream. Maybe someone has. Maybe the Japanese do, I don’t know.) But how then do we reconcile this with the decidedly “snack”-like characteristics they exhibit? They are small, crunchy, and delicious, and are capable of being eaten out of a bag, by the handful, late at night in one’s underpants. They leave a slightly sticky film on your hands that must be wiped on your pants (or leg). It seems that Wasabi Peas are the very thing marketing companies have been fraudulently claiming their products to be for yearsÂ—something with the nutritional value of a “food” and the aesthetic qualities of a “snack.” They’re great.
Note: The health-food store where I discovered them also sells something called “Wasabi Party Mix,” which is really just a whole bunch of regular party mix with a few Wasabi Peas thrown in. I do not extend my recommendation to this product, as it causes a Cracker Jack effect, and you will find yourself fruitlessly digging through the inexpensive stuff, like pretzels and little sesame crackers, for the precious few Wasabi Peas, which will be your only source of pleasure.
Jimmy Dean Ham and Cheese Omelets
Submitted by Bob Sassone
I approached this new product with the usual trepidation one has when confronted with frozen versions of great foods that really shouldn’t be sold at the supermarket (see also french fries). So imagine my surprise when these ham and cheddar omelets turned out to be not only passable in that “I’m too tired or hung-over to actually cook so I’ll throw something in the microwave” way, but actually fantastic. You put them in for two minutes, and when they come out they’re like real omelets. Not rubbery or odd-tasting, these little ham and cheddar and Monterey Jack guys (they’re a little small, so cook two) would go great with some home fries and English muffins. I gotta see if Jimmy Dean makes microwave versions of those, too. If he does and they’re as good as this, I think I just found my last meal if I’m ever on death row.
OverLoad Peanut Butter Cups
Submitted by Kristen J. Elde
I’ll bet if OverLoad Cups appealed to my sense of taste, I’d hold them in higher regard. But the concept is a bust, straight up. Peanut-butter cups, let’s agree, are wonderful. On their own. They don’t need accompaniment (that is, until you bring up vanilla ice cream, and then only maybe/sometimes). Yet the OverLoad instigators remain defiant. Overload indeed: they’ve laid fake Oreos and wannabe Chips Ahoy! across roofs of milk chocolate housing dismayingly sweet rounds of what they’re calling peanut butter. That’s gross.
Their exploitations escalated with the bringing on board of M&M’s Minis. Observing a dozen of the colorful winks, fixed and holding at various angles like airborne pests to flypaper, at least a few whoring the trademark “m” with no uncertainty, I want to ask why. “Why?” On the packaging, Mars, you shout disaffiliation with OverLoad’s distributorÂ—one S&S, IncorporatedÂ—and swear off any participation in production. I know, you’re embarrassed; you want out.
And while I’m at it: NestlÃ©, wtf? Buncha Crunch and Butterfinger hardly needed a lift, yet there they are, stuck in cups. Bah.
Nabisco, stay smart. Hold tight to your front-running Oreo, your first-rate Chips Ahoy! OverLoad’s got loose morals.
The American Mars Bar
Submitted by Thomas Hulse
Once upon a time, my default candy bar of choice was the Snickers. Unoriginal perhaps, but I could never imagine a vending machine, a lunch break, or a gas-station stop without the option of the Snickers bar, a wonderfully chewy beacon of reliability in times when a Milky Way would be too damn soft or the Reese’s Cups were too short-lasting.
Then came the peanut allergies. They were not so severe as to disallow products that were manufactured alongside peanut-emblazoned snacks, but my relationship with the Snickers bar was unceremoniously ended, lest my psychological dependence on the candy give way to anaphylactic shock.
The American Mars BarÂ—a U.K. Milky Way that the U.S. added almonds toÂ—would be my short-lived substitute in this candy dearth of mine. Different but acceptable and comfortable, though moderately hard to come by, the Mars Bar was shorter, but also wider for a better bite, and more capable of keeping its interior compact and stratified, with just enough almonds to maintain a satisfying crunch, not like those poser Almond Joys.
Unfortunately, this respectable snack would eventually fade into increased obscurity in the Northeast, likely embarrassed by the Bush administration’s shameful and untimely exploitation of the space program. In its wake came the Almond Snickers, which as the name implies, replaces the legumes in the staple sweet. Though at first I was optimistic and excited by this new alternative, I quickly discovered upon the first bite that, though the body was there, the spirit of the classic Snickers was absent from this predictable surrogate. It was good, but the American Mars Bar was better.
Submitted by Dan Ryan
Do you like soy sauce, tofu, miso soup? The humble soybean gives us so many edible wonders that you probably didn’t know it is also used to make what Westerners consider to be one of the foulest foods ever to come from Japan.
It’s called natto, a food of the Japanese gods made of fermented soybeans, which can never be an “acquired taste” because a Westerner is either going to love it or hate it the very first time they try it. Personally, I have never seen another food spat immediately out of non-Japanese mouths more than I have seen this done with natto. One friend of mine went so far as to deposit this wonder food in his napkin and dispose of it in a restaurant lavatory waste bin. He didn’t want to leave it on the table for the wait crew, so hideous he thought the substance.
Oh, lovely natto! I keep a steady supply in my freezer, to appease my frequent craving for natto’s salty, stanky, gooey taste. The stuff I buy at a little grocery in San Francisco’s Japantown comes in many varieties: minced, whole bean, black soy, whole bean with red cabbage sauce, and others. Typically, though, natto from the grocery store comes with a small packet of horseradish mustard and a larger packet of soy-based sauce with bonito or other variants. The soy sauce alone is delicious enough to covet, but with these three ingredients mixed together in a bowl, or over white rice, you have some happy snacking. That is, if you like the smell, and the taste, and don’t live with someone who abhors either. My wife prefers that I not prepare natto while she is in the house, and if I have eaten natto, she won’t kiss me for about 30 minutes afterward. And I must brush my teeth. And I don’t blame her, because if you don’t like this stuff, you really don’t like this stuff.
Which, of course, means more for me.
Post’s Carb Well High Protein Cereal
Submitted by Kate Anger
Remember all those boxes of cereal in Jerry Seinfeld’s set kitchen? I had more: Go Lean, Raisin Bran, Wheat Chex, Kashi, Grape Nuts. I regarded Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Cocoa Puffs as “dessert cereals.” (Hey, it works with wine.) A bowl eaten after 10 p.m. (and after a glass of wine) was the perfect soporific snack.
Perfect, that is, until I couldn’t fit into my pants. Who to blame? Myself for lack of exercise? Certainly not. It was carbs. Bad, bad carbs. I read Atkins. If they came out with playing cards like the military with Iraq’s most wanted, cereal would be a face cardÂ—my beloved Mini Wheats, the queen of hearts.
I turned my back on her and her kind. Then one day, I saw it: Post’s Carb Well High Protein Cereal. “New! Cinnamon Crunch 9g net carbs!” I snapped it up, without even reading the ingredients. At home, before unpacking the many bags of eggs and beef jerky, I poured a bowl of Carb Well. It resembled Meow Mix cat food both in shape and color. It smelled cinnamon-y as promised, but not like the stick. More like the aerosol spray that overwhelms you when you walk into a freshly doused bathroom (reminding you of how bad the underlying odor must be). The pungent odor here is used as a mask for the primary ingredient: soy grits. I kid you not. This was the worst cereal I’ve ever tasted. I had to spit it out in the sink or puke. Post could not have test-marketed this on humans. I had to eat two bowls of Mini Wheats just to cleanse my palate. (Then I had to put on my sweatpants.)
Reese’s Big Cup
Submitted by Brian Russ
Throughout my entire life I’ve been bombarded with idiotic new ideas in the realm of chocolateering. The nugget crunch, the gumball filling, the coconut crÃ¨me center, the cherry goo drop, the bleached choco-bar, and the list goes on and on like Skittles being slammed into a 2-year-old’s mouth.
It’s just not fun anymore. And this time the blame is on Reese’s. Without getting into a debate over the long marriage of peanut butter and chocolate, I’d like to fast-forward to 2004, when Reese’s introduced its newest intensity cupÂ—the Reese’s Big Cup. To sum up everything I’m about to say, imagine I had children. We’d be in line at Target (I’d inevitably be buying the kids toothpastes, toothbrushes, mouthwashes, and some damn form of kid’s mouth floss) and my kids would see two thingsÂ—regular Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and these national-monument-inspired “Big Cups.” Here’s what the kids would say, “Big Cup! Big Cup! I want Big Cup!”
Kids. What can you do about ‘em? I’d like to think I’d say, “Listen, kiddies, my rule has always been, Any cylindrical piece of candy that can’t fit in the palm of your very hand shall always be deemed ‘not for you.’”
But I’m stupid, and I’d buy each kid his own Big Cup, and since I’m usually one to judge books by their covers, I’d take a biteÂ—just to see what America was up to.
So I did take a bite of one. It wasn’t bad.
Hamburger Helper Soft Taco Bake
Submitted by Kim Luke
First, the requisite disclaimerÂ—I never purchase anything with the word “Helper” in the title, from “hamburger” and “tuna” in the market to “self” in the bookstore. So why this sudden digression from the do-it-from-scratch-or-die ethos? Maybe it was the satisfaction-guaranteed promise posted by the grocery store under the “NEW!” flavor, the enticing graphic of the dripping packet of cheese sauce, or, most likely, the hope that maybe, just maybe, it really would cook in just 15 minutes (!), and (please, oh please) it might be the one miracle food that would be slightly edible in a pinch for grownups and somewhat agreeable to my three finicky monkey children, each of whom insists on having his or her own set of rules on what is delicious/detestable.
This dinner cannot be cooked in 15 minutes. That was my first disappointment. There’s the browning and draining, the stirring, the layering of the oddly appealing rectangle-shaped flour tortillasÂ—they fit so perfectly side by side in the 8-inch-square pan, like Lucy and Ricky in twin beds. As I tended to my browning I noticed helpful hints at the bottom of the box. “Easy additions” enhance the gustatory delight even more! They recommend adding black beans, corn, and diced chilies to the hamburger and spice-packet mixture. They also suggest topping the entire concoction with sour cream, green onions, and tomatoes. There is a movie quote that goes something like “I can’t think of a single film that couldn’t benefit from the addition of a lesbian love scene.” I couldn’t help but think that this was the Hamburger Helper version of this line of reasoning, since I can’t think of a single meal that couldn’t benefit from the addition of sour cream, green onions, and tomatoes. (It also smacked of the “part of a complete breakfast” campaign. Couldn’t a severed finger be part of a complete breakfast as long as said breakfast was already firmly in place?)
I know I should’ve sampled ye olde Soft Taco Bake straight up, but with every sideways glance at that little white glove on the package helping me “make a great meal,” I added another ingredient, until, really, I could have had a great meal without Betty Crocker’s MSG-laden help.
How did it taste? Sort of like how 7-Eleven nachos taste at 3 o’clock in the morning after a lot of beer or vodka. The first few bites are great. Then after a while reality sets in and you can’t figure out why you are licking your plate clean, but you do anyway. Then you spend the rest of the night drinking a lot of water. And now, the day after, I am craving leftovers. Is it the MSG? Or the sour cream, green onions, and tomatoes? It’s such a salty nacho trap/slippery slope.
The monkey count: One wanted it for dinner again the next night, two screamed when their forks came near them. (I’m assuming it was the food and not the forks causing the screaming.) I think I’ll make a great meal all by myself next time.
Submitted by Jessica Hulett
Frito-Lay has had some hits and misses in the Doritos department. Four Cheese? Not so much. Salsa? Kind of gross. I generally shy away from Doritos not shaped like Doritos, and thus avoided the 3D and Rollitos crazes. I gave your WOW chips a try once, and deemed it a huge mistake after spending an entire day in my bathroom. Guacamole, on the other hand? Salsa Verde? Two enthusiastic thumbs up.
Today, I went to Subway for lunch and received a bag of Doritos EDGE in error. With only six net carbs, they seemed the perfect complement to my turkey sandwich. First, I noticed the color was a bit off. They were lighter, and sorely lacking in the “brushed with cheesy goodness” department. I found this odd, as one would assume it is the chip, not the coating, that is the carb source. Texturewise, the chips were puffier than their regular counterparts, as though someone had taken a tiny little Doritos-sized air pump to them. The smell? Less like Doritos, more like sweaty feet. Then I ventured a taste.
The chips tasted gritty and stale. Even more troubling, they disintegrated in my mouth on impact. M&Ms can melt in your mouthÂ—tortilla chips should need to be chewed. The aftertaste was reminiscent of salty cardboard. After forcing down two more chips, there was nothing left to do but lick the coating off the remaining chips and then discard them.
Overall, Doritos EDGE chips are the most disgusting Doritos I have ever tasted. Spicy BBQ, you’re off the hook.
Viactiv, Caramel Flavor
Submitted by Ivy Hamlin
These are calcium-supplement chews, recommended to me by my new rheumatologist. I had tasted the original chocolate flavor sometime in the past but couldn’t get past the thought that extra ingredients were hidden somewhere within the little cube. But now comes caramel flavor along with a possible diagnosis of osteoporosis and I’m there.
What a difference a day makes!
Caramel, by the way, is the new chocolate. (Who says so? I say so.) And these Viactiv chews are scrumptious. I cannot taste the calcium and do not even think about it while blissfully following the instructions to “chew thoroughly before swallowing.” Mmmmm …
A word of caution: Don’t look directly at them, because they are strangely more opaque than unsupplemented caramel. Simply unwrap and enjoy!
Submitted by Andrew Holman
Product of Indonesia. Top Ramen squared. You cook it the same wayÂ—everyone knows the routine. Boil water, let ‘em cook for three minutes, no more, no less. Mi Goreng is what happens when you crossbreed traditional Top Ramen with a wretched hive of scum, villainy, and several metric tons of monosodium glutamateÂ—providing for a happening flavor party you won’t want to miss. It comes complete with oodles of noodles (in Top-Ramenesque biscuit form), flavoring dust, oil, sweet soy sauce, and fried-onion-and-chili sauce. Instead of noodle soup, you drain the water and add all the special features. I have a fleeting suspicion that the sexual arousal I get merely describing the product is a direct symptom of Mi Goreng consumption. Be careful: cooking instructions are available only in hilariously broken English.
Odwalla Bar: Superfood Flavor
Submitted by Sam Dvorchik
Brown and greenish with intermittent white chunks; resembles a brick of moldy potting soil. Smells vaguely of Scotch and peat moss. Soft texture, not particularly chewy; intermittent chunks are crispy. Taste reminiscent of dates … but mostly of sweetened moldy potting soil. Lingering spicy aftertaste.
Elway’s Comeback Crunch
Submitted by Kent Shelton
This breakfast cereal is currently available, stacked in towering “end-cap” displays, in all Colorado grocery stores. Upon purchasing a box and opening it, a consumer will discover that it is frosted flakes. The Elway’s Comeback Crunch flake is completely indistinguishable from any other frosted flake you may have encountered. The box is orange and features a (good) likeness of NFL great John Elway in an action pose. If you like frosted flakes and John Elway, then this is a product you might enjoy, but be prepared for your precocious 9-year-old son to make an annoying and poorly timed mess when you inadvertently request that he “pass the cereal.” He will then say, “Get it? Get it?” like you are one of the world’s great morons.
Near East Roasted Garlic & Olive Oil Couscous Mix
Submitted by James Sepsey
If I were to add one ingredient to a box of delectable Near East Roasted Garlic & Olive Oil Couscous Mix, other than broccoli florets, it would be a Rand McNally Premier World Atlas: With 80 Maps in Full Color. Why? Because where in the hell is the Near East? Although it’s tasty, I don’t get the same sensation normally associated with cuisine of either the Far or Middle East. There is a curious magic lost when one cannot imagine oneself behind the gasping rickshaw boy as he trundles the gutters of Beijing, or the thrill of pouring warm, rancid goat’s milk over your teats in a bazaar in Aqaba.
Still, is this stuff delicious? You bet. And with “convenience” as its middle name, Near East might opt for the slogan “Around the world in 80 days, our butts. Try 80 minutes. Or more like five, depending on stove, method, and altitude.” Or maybe: “Near East brings the Middle closer and the Farther nearer.”
Neat tip: During dinner, read aloud from Omar Sharif’s Life in Bridge; add cubed lamb and basil.
Fla-Vor-Ice Lite Freezer Pops
Submitted by Lincoln Michel
Diving boards, towel whips, soda, and sunburns. That was summer. But these days, I wonder what will be left for my children as diving boards are removed and deep ends are filled in due to safety concerns. I am sad to report that now another one of the linchpins of summer has been dealt a serious blow: the ice pop. I am sure you remember them; they came in packs of random increments, like 16, 20, 34, or 111, and were “flavored” after brightly colored fruits like lime, orange, and the ever-popular blue raspberry.
Recently, I had a chance to wallow in nostalgia when a friend bought a pack of freezer pops. But something was wrong. These did not taste like cannonballs or summer days. Instead they tasted like antifreeze and soap suds. When I looked closely at the box, I realized these were not my beloved Fla-Vor-Ice pops. They were some newfangled sugar-free Fla-Vor-Ice Lite pops.
While I don’t think low-sugar products are terrible out of hand, when a product’s essence is nothing more than liquid sugar you cannot make it sugar-free. It goes against all laws of nature. Hasn’t anyone read Frankenstein? Don’t they still teach that in school?
In addition to being sugar-free, Fla-Vor-Ice Lites are a “low carb, fat and cholesterol free food.” As I write this, similar products are sweeping through the grocery-store aisles like kudzu. They have thought of everything from soda to pasta. Even dog food is now available in low-carb form for that fat Fido of yours. However, Fla-Vor-Ice Lites leave me wondering if for once it would have been better if someone had not thought of the children.
Submitted by Eric Smith
I hate you Swiss chard. Oh, how I hate you. I have hated you ever since I figured out why dumpsters smell like dumpsters. It’s because of you. I always thought they took on that characteristic stench because long years of bad garbage odors combined together in an unholy stew that for some reason always smelled the same. Kind of like how mixing lots of different paint colors always gives you brown. But no, it turns out that they smell exactly like you did two days after I brought you home from the grocery store. So it was you all along. Screw you, Swiss chard.
Skippy Snack Bars (Peanut Butter & Fudge Variety)
Submitted by Ellen Rhudy
The first thing one must say about the new Skippy Snack Bars (and there is no getting around this) is that, once removed from their shiny, shiny teal and brown wrappers, they look like bricks of dog shit. There is clearly some Kudos influence going on here, with the massive photograph on the box (“Enlarged Illustration”) giving way to a bar that is roughly 1 inch wide and 1 finger long.
The problem with the peanut-butter snack bars is not that the outer layer of peanut butter tastes like wax, nor that the inner layer of peanut butter is, for all intents and purposes, nonexistent (it averages about a millimeter thick, surely for the safety of your family; “IS YOUR FAMILY NUTTY?” asks the packaging, with the clear insinuation being that these peanut-butter snack bars, at least, will not cause undue harm to your family’s mental health), nor that the layer of fudge does not seem to have any taste at all, but that your teeth, after sinking through the uppermost three layers with astonishing ease, will then slam into the granola and, if you are lucky, simply stick there for several minutes while you attempt to bend the peanut-butter bar to your will and remove it from your teeth.
But what’s this? You’re opening the box again? Well, there are five more bars. You could not possibly let them go to waste. And look at that shiny, shiny packaging.
Nature Valley Chewy Trail Mix Bars
Submitted by Wally Hasselbring
Nature Valley has raised the bar for the four-, six-, and eight-pack individually-wrapped-bar category with its Chewy Trail Mix Bars. Available now in three exciting varieties (Apple Cinnamon, Fruit & Nut, and Mixed Berry), these delicious bars fucking rule.
Where other “granola”-style bars consist of an indistinguishable mass of mystery "grains"Â—that’s right, Quaker, I’m talking to youÂ—Chewy Trail Mix Bars consist of high-quality ingredients that you can easily identify. The apple tastes like apple rather than the standard apple extract. The bar is loaded with whole fucking almonds, so if you don’t like nuts, stay away. Did you get that? Whole fucking almonds! Plus, everything is held together with honey for a just-sweet-enough taste. There are whole sunflower seeds too, but that’s not quite as groundbreaking as the almond thing. I mean, seriously, the salad bar at Golden Corral has sunflower seeds.
That said, it’s really important that you buy these delicious bars. If this, like most new products, fails, no one is going to bother with whole almonds in the four-, six-, and eight-pack individually-wrapped-bar category for at least seven years. Keep Chewy Trail Mix Bars a delicious source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, complete with ridiculously delicious whole fucking almonds.
Silhouette Skinny Cow Low-Fat Ice-Cream Sandwiches
Submitted by Katy Pieters
Why not just call them “Little Lard Ass” or “Trim Porker” or “Fat Slob Dropping Pounds” ice-cream sandwiches? It obviously doesn’t matter what they’re called, because these low-fat ice-cream sandwiches are a hit with dieters everywhere and are flying off grocery-store shelves. In fact, one poor stocker in a Milwaukee Piggly Wiggly is still recovering after being trampled by a mob of hungry women. The product hadn’t been in stock for over two weeks. It was unfortunate timing for the grocery boy, who happened to be pulling boxes of the sandwiches into the aisle just when a Weight Watchers meeting let out next door. Having gone without their two-point dessert for weeks, the women were ravenous and pissed. It’s always the grocery boy who suffers. While being lifted into the ambulance, the boy was seen shaking his one unbroken fist in the air and yelling, “Damn you, Skinny Cows!”
If you’re having trouble finding them in your frozen-food section, take note: there’s a drawing of a sultry female cow striking her best Monroe pose on the package. I know what you’re thinking, men. Moo moo! And before you askÂ—yes! Silhouette just came out with the “Skinny Carb” product line. Atkins followers can now conclude their “side of beef with a slab of ham” dinner with a Skinny Carb Cow. It just doesn’t get any meatier, folks.
Submitted By Jessica Handler
The fact that Pom comes in a bottle shaped something like Betty Boop sells the drink more than the idea of what’s actually in the bottle. “Pom” even sounds like a person’s name, some sort of unidentifiably Northern European but impish friend. PomÂ—your new wacky friendÂ—is healthier and more virtuous than you are, you toxin-laden, supermarket-shopping American, but has come to help you, buddy, so let’s start by fondling this sexy little bottle’s wide hips and narrow waist. The juice bottle comes with a charming little tag around its neck, like on a stuffed toy, with diagrams about how many more antioxidant properties Pom has than even, say, green tea. Antioxidants are good, I think. They are probably not bad, and I like fruit juice, except apple juice, which is another story. Pom looks like cranberry juice, which I know is really good for me, being a girl.
The concept of pomegranate juice caused me to be a little suspicious at first. Pomegranates themselves are bitter, if they have any taste at all. They are very attractive and are even mentioned in the Torah, but how do you get juice out of that warren of polyps that are the seeds inside the fruit?
Pom turns out to be good diluted in water, and the resulting drink is very garnet-y. They also make Pom mixed with tangerine juice or with mango juice, for people like me who can be a little wary meeting a new juice. Like I said, Pom wants to be friendly and helpful. Pom would not be good with rum. It might be good with vodka.
Quaker Breakfast Blast Oatmeal
Submitted By Jamie Bordeau
Everyone knows that there are two kinds of families: the sugar-cereal family and the fiber-cereal family.
Growing up, I was lucky enough to be a member of a sugar-cereal family, where thinly veiled junk foods like Cookie Crisp, Pop-Tarts, and Bagel Bites (pizza anytime) were passed off as wholesome breakfasts. My cousins, on the other hand, were subjected to dreary morning bowls of something called Product 19, which, to me, always sounded like a cereal that was made from the souls of bad children.
But now, finally, there’s a product that the wheat-bread gang and the Wonder-bread gang can sit down and enjoy together: Quaker Breakfast Blast Oatmeal, a box of hopped-up whole grains that includes four packets of Chocolatey Chip, four packets of Cinnamon Toast, and two packets of S’mores-flavored goodness.
The S’mores is the superior of the three, blending tiny marshmallows and chocolate chips with a graham-flavored base. Quaker obviously knows this, which is why they only give you two packs, so that you’ll have to buy an entire new box to get to the good stuff. It’s the curse of the variety pack; there are always certain flavors that are better than others. The Cinnamon Toast is the weak link here, playing out like the Special Darks in a bag of Hershey’s miniatures. Nobody really likes them, but eventually they’re all that’s left, and when you’re desperate, you’ll take what you can get. It’s kind of like dating in middle school.
Breakfast Blast Oatmeal is essentially a melted cookie in a bowl, and with a little vanilla ice cream on top, it’s a warm and gooey way to get your daily fiber and calcium without having to ingest something evil, like bad-seeded cereal or skim milk. Oatmeal has arrived, my friends, and it’s a blast.
Submitted by Eric Silver
When I first saw this Twix, I was a little disgusted but was prepared to disregard it as another attempt by the coffee-drinking population to foist their lifestyle upon my desserts (don’t get me started on their past ventures … coffee sucking candies, ugh). One day, however, I was bored with the selection at my local candy store, so I tried it. I was surprised, and a little disappointed, to find that the only difference between this new flavor and the well-respected original was a duller wrapper color. Ever the consumer activist, I decided to have a taste test, assisted by my girlfriend, to see if there was a difference. On second tasting, there was, though the coffee “flavor” was more like that taste you get in your mouth after kissing a coffee drinker. Afterward, I was attacked by diarrhea for two hours, at which point I determined that four Twix bars, of any flavor, are too much for my constitution. All in all, not a very impressive debut in my book.
Submitted by Garrett Palm
This is what started the water-enhancement revolution. Someone sitting around (most likely this someone had an upcoming midterm) realized what water was missing: caffeine. Since then, people have realized it’s also missing vitamins and flavor, and so we have drinks such as Propel (Gatorade’s “sports water”Â—of course, regular water is inadequate for the athlete). But caffeine is where I first came to notice the water reformation of the late ’90s.
Thanks to Mr. Joe, I can now hydrate and stimulate my body all in one gulp! What if I watered my plants with it? Would I grow caffeinated basil and tomatoes? Then I could make bruschetta for my next all-night cramfest. There are so many possibilities that making coffee out of Water Joe is too obvious to even try.
I can see a future where those with high blood pressure going out to eat will have to specify decaf waterÂ—which will be more expensive because the regular stuff flows right out the taps. I welcome this hyperproductive future, and I thank you, Mr. Joe, for making it all possible.
Pepsi Edge Versus Coke C2
Submitted by Stacey Schwier
The recent frenzy into all things low-carb led me to seek out the new Pepsi Edge and Coca-Cola C2 drinks in hope that I would finally have a middle ground, a coexistence of the taste of real (not diet!) cola sans one-half of the calories/carbs! Could it be too good to be true? Only taste would tell.
C2 is everywhere. It seems as though stores are overflowing with the new product. Once the beverage was purchased and properly chilled, I opened the cap and evaluated the bouquetÂ—regular pop, with nose-tickling carbonation. Slowly tilting the bottle to my lips, I took a small amount into my mouth. I swallowed. Hmm … rather refreshing. Tastes like regular Coke. Rather good! But … would there be an aftertaste? I waited. Hallelujah! No aftertaste!
After the positive result of C2, I set out on a mission to find Pepsi Edge, a much more difficult proposition, requiring trips to four different stores before finally finding a bottle. Surely, the scarcity of supply meant its stunning taste had it flying off the shelves. In my haste to sample, I bypassed the evaluation of the bouquet and took a giant gulp. It is important to pause here, because I feel I must explain my rush. You see, I was thirsty and hopeful. And I was excited. A mistake? Yes. As soon as that gulp hit my tongue, I knew I was in trouble. I gagged. I spewed. I coughed. I grimaced. I had been betrayed! Pepsi, you have wronged me! Pepsi Edge is worse than diet cola!
When you find yourself in search of a soda that won’t wreak havoc on your low-carb lifestyle, choose C2. Please! I beg you! Do not turn to Pepsi Edge, lest you wind up stumbling about your home gagging and stuttering, “But I love Pepsi! But I love Pepsi!”
Submitted by Ellia Bisker
If you’ve ever idly wondered what it might be like to eat a human eyeball, you might want to consider the litchi as a delicious (and more socially appropriate) alternative. Here is how to eat a litchi. Stick your thumbnail into the base of the stem and pull back slightly until the stem releases, then peel away the papery skin in a thin spiral strip. About this skin: it is covered with small rosy hexagonal scales, like the drupelets of a raspberry with some reptile in its family tree. You will expose a slippery globe of translucent white flesh about the size of a pingpong ball. Stop peeling about halfway down, because here comes the part you have been waiting for: press your lips to the perfectly smooth fruit, apply a little suction, and with a wet, satisfying plop, it will suddenly pop into your mouth, luscious, fragrant as nectar. Imagine that it’s the eye of your lover, or your nemesis. It’s just that good.
Grapples (a reprise)
Submitted by Nick Vagnoni
Despite my instincts telling me not to go near any fruit with a label that says “patent pending,” I found myself walking out of a local market with a package of Grapples. Not at all a genetic hybrid, the GrappleÂ—say, “grape-L”Â—is essentially a Fuji apple that has been doused with grape flavoring. The resultant fruit has the texture and flavor a regular Fuji (a Japanese crossbreed from the 1930s), plus an eerie top note reminiscent of grape lip-gloss. The first few bites were intriguing. The more I ate, however, the more repulsive the Grapple became. Perhaps it was just an overload of the sweet perfume coating the apple’s skin; or maybe it was the fact that the time it takes to eat an apple is just long enough to realize that, novelty value aside, spraying fresh fruit with other flavors really is a bad idea. I’m still not even clear as to what those other flavors are. The Grapple’s website offers little help, saying only that, aside from apples, the fruit contains “water, artificial flavors and fatty acids.” This much is clear: the Grapple is just another attempt to persuade people of all ages to reconsider the apple. We are not fooled, however. As my 11-year-old Grapple-eating companion said to me: “Dude, they’re, like, trying to ruin fruit.”
Seven Stars Farms Biodynamic Maple Yogurt
Submitted by Benjamin Watson
This ain’t your teenage sister’s yogurt, friend. It’s not whipped, or “French,” or flavored with mango and kiwi. It’s not touted in commercials with two feisty women in a convertible singing its praises. It’s whole fat.
This is a yogurt for the committed, the nondieting, the seeker of olde-tymey authenticity.
First off, you can only find it in health-food stores and gourmet shops, in the 32-ounce container. It has a quaint drawing of cows lolling under stars on the front that was most likely sketched by a woman with hair down to her ass who sews her own clothes and loves Joni Mitchell.
Open it up andÂ—surprise! There’s a quarter-inch of off-white curd on the top. Now, stop. Don’t mix it up. Take your spoon and gently dip itÂ—like a tender loverÂ—into the product, coming up with a portion of one-third curd to two-thirds yogurt. Insert the spoon into your lucky mouth, close your eyes, and taste the rich, mapley love infused by the hippies who make it.
(Full disclosure: I have a good friend who works on the Pennsylvania farm that supplies the milk for Seven Stars, and I can vouch that he is a long-standing, dedicated hippie. He has a big beard, loves music featuring mandolins, and drives an electric car. Plus, once, he wore a batik-printed dress around our college campus. He has told me what “biodynamic” means, but I forget. Let’s just say it means “good for you, and good for the cows.”)
When I first discovered this yogurt IÂ—in part due to this friendÂ—was in the midst of a torrid affair with Miss Mary Jane, and soon found that no other foodÂ—not even DoritosÂ—tasted as good while beguiled by her charms.
So. Finish the container slowly. This is the caviar of curded dairy products, so six to eight spoonfuls at a time should suffice. When the dark day comes that you’re done carefully cleaning off the sides with your spoon, please recycle. My tree-hugging friend would really appreciate it.
Submitted by Nancy Callahan
The secret ingredient of whipped yogurt is … air. That’s right, just air. In fact, whipped yogurt is so packed with bubbles, it looks positively carbonated. The inclusion of all that delicious, nutritious air makes whipped yogurt two-thirds lighter than regular yogurt. Inexplicably, it also makes whipped yogurt more expensive. (Who knew air cost so much?)
Whipped yogurt is frothy and fluffyÂ—even joyful, I would sayÂ—as if relaxed and renewed by an intense massage session with an eggbeater. It doesn’t have the sickening Play-Doh-purÃ©ed-with-whole-milk consistency of regular yogurt and hence doesn’t require additives like granola or nuts in order to be choked down. Plus, each spoonful of fruity foam makes a cute, fizzy ripping sound when scooped awayÂ—perhaps in protest of its dire fate (what fun!).
So, yes, paying more and getting less is, economically speaking, pretty dumb. But somehow, the entertaining nature of whipped yogurt always helps me forget that I was just completely ripped off.
Submitted by Mary Beth Caschetta
You should prepare in advance for the fact that akara look like brown sponges. But don’t let appearances diminish the sumptuous West African taste. I first discovered akara in Northampton, Massachusetts, the self-declared lesbian capital of the world. Lesbians are typically soy-eating, wheat-intolerant pains-in-the-asses who prowl the earth for food alternatives with an acceptable cakelike texture. (I hate to perpetuate this clichÃ©, but if the comfy shoe fits, I’m wearing it.) No need for alarm: you don’t have to be lesbian to enjoy these yummy African bean fritters.
Akara melt in your mouth like a slightly wet muffin. The luscious ground-lima-bean-flour concoction is fried to golden perfection in four flavors: onion, pea, corn, and shrimp. There is nothing overstated about blending cayenne and black pepper to tingle the tongue. You can eat them hot or cold, but hot is better. Do not order just one, or you’ll be sorry. Like lesbians, bean cakes are better when coupled. With gay marriage legal in the commonwealth, akara may well become the official food for married lesbians everywhere. Think of them as wedding cakes, only small and brown and beany.
You can find akara in gourmet shops in the Happy Valley, usually where the radio is playing Jerry Garcia 24/7, and dewy-eyed college students behind the counter wear hairnets over their dreadlocks. Visit Northampton some autumn to see the leaves, but go directly to the State Street Fruit Store for a nice akara snack. (They let you use the microwave to warm up your selection.) Or you could go to Nigeria and find a street vendor, but that seems hard.
Rap Snacks Potato Chips
Submitted by Randall DeVallance
Rap. Snacks. An unlikely synthesis, but that didn’t stop the folks at Rap Snacks Inc. from basing an entire company around the idea.
I was given my bag of Rap Snacks “Back at the Ranch”-flavored potato chips as a housewarming gift by my friend Terry. This is the same friend that once gave me a pack of Focus cigarettes for my 18th birthday. I took the bag and smiled at Terry’s keen sense of kitsch value. Then I gasped. On the front, looking as though they were challenging me to a fight, were my junior-high heroes BBD!
Well, maybe not my heroes, but I think I remember owning “Poison” on cassingle. Anyway, this was not an actual photo of BBD; rather, it was a crudely rendered cartoon of the three mike gladiators standing in front of a neon-green brick wall. Emblazoned across the men’s genitals were the words “Education = Success.” I couldn’t agree more, so I tore open the cellophane and popped a chip in my mouth. It was adequate. Sort of like Lay’s. I frowned and studied the bag some more.“BBD? These guys haven’t put out an album in like a decade.” “Maybe they’re making a comeback,” said Terry. “No way. Not BBD.” “It’s possible.” “No it isn’t!”
Luckily, Rap Snacks anticipated this sort of argument. The back of each bag features a short bio of the artist featured on the front. As it turns out, BBD is back. According to the bag, “BBD’s new single ‘Da Hot shit (Aight)’ is taking radio airwaves everywhere by storm.” Is it? I ran to the radio and turned it on. There it was! Usher, featuring Lil’ John. So I waited, through Nelly and Outkast, Petey Pablo and Lil’ Kim, David Banner and Bonecrusher. No BBD. Disappointed, I scarfed down the rest of the chips, rinsed out the bag, and hung it on my refrigerator with a pug magnet. And there it stays. Soon I’ll add Lil’ Romeo’s “Bar-B-Quing with my Honey” and Mack 10’s “Red Hot Cheddar,” until one day, I will have consumed the entire hip-hop community. Not a great snack, but definitely a great conversation piece.
Kelly Holcomb’s Hometown Mustard
Submitted by John Hyduk
A message in a squeeze bottle.
Kelly Holcomb is a quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. He’s 212 smiling pounds of undrafted football determination hung on a skeleton made largely of Delft china. Holcomb’s ascent from tiny Middle Tennessee State to the NFL—and condiment Valhalla—is a rags-to-royalties tale guaranteed to inspire anyone.
Mustard is low on the pantry shelf but high on the food chain. The Roman legions used the stuff to make spoiled meat palatable, and introduced it to Gaul. Medieval French monks hailed the yellow paste as a curative, and sniffed mustard to clear their tonsured heads. Not bad for wiener spread, huh?
Palm the Holcomb’s bottle and no such secrets are revealed. Just “Vinegar, Selected Mustard Seed, Salt, Spices and Turmeric”—a modest mantra for a hero.
In ’02, Holcomb led the Browns to the playoffs. He saved his best for last, throwing for 429 yards and three scores in a 36-33 loss to Pittsburgh at Heinz Field—named, ironically, for ketchup. Sixty-five thousand Steelers fans celebrated, then went home to change the tires on their houses. Back home, Clevelanders sank into their recliners in a mass grand mal seizure. On TV, the players milled, hooded against the chill like monks. Immortality tapped Kelly on the shoulder pad that day. It had bratwurst on its breath.
But hope is as fragile as bone. The ’03 Browns fell to 5-11. A battered Holcomb now enters training camp with a healing leg fracture, a surgical screw in his throwing shoulder, and a seat on the bench. Only his new mustard endures.
I sample my Holcomb’s now, with a Cleveland summer blowing through my screen door like a blowtorch, and my heart freezes. The taste? Like running your tongue over a scar. The texture is as spreadable as blame. There are chunks of spices, as unassimilated as the immigrants who built this town. The color is as rusty as the chain on the gate of the shuttered mill where I once worked. I use mustard to make my spoiled life palatable. I am furious yellow. But a comeback (for Kelly and me) is close. I can taste it.
French’s GourMayo: Wasabi Horseradish Flavor
Submitted by Bethany Round
You can get sushi almost as easily as you can get coffee. The local chain grocery stores offer prepackaged sushi meals, made fresh by sushi chefs, complete with pickled ginger slices, a little plastic garnish, and a pinch of green wasabi horseradish in each container. We have adapted, as a typically tasteless American culture, to a new level of gastro-experimentation by embracing Japanese food.
And then there’s French’s GourMayo: Wasabi—light mayonnaise flavored with, according to the product, “green flecks of onion throughout.” Clever name aside, my gripes with this product are many. For one thing, green mayonnaise is as unappetizing as any of the blue foods that flooded the market not long ago. The texture is greasy and, thanks to the squeeze bottle, emerges from the container as a shiny tube, coiling onto your food like a green-flecked mayo-worm.
I tried this stuff in a number of ways, hoping to find a happy fusion of American and Japanese flavors, but ended up with a half-eaten wasabi/turkey sandwich and a horrific wasabi/egg salad I won’t soon forget. Even a traditional sliced-roast-beef sandwich rejected this condiment. Instead of having the usual sinus-clearing, tangy bite one expects with horseradish, you end up with oily roast beef and a sense that the mayo has turned.
The joy of eating wasabi is ultimately dashed. I weep for those who are eating anything tainted with this frightening concoction. It will be tempting to try it, because you’ll think you can make it work … but I promise you … it won’t work. It will never work.
Submitted by Adam Kronk
Remember the old nutritional-food-group pyramid? I could be mistaken, but I thought that pasta stood as a prime example of carbohydrate-ness. Apparently, though, this Atkins character has inspired some sort of culinary postmodernism at Bella Vita and Darielle, not to mention his own new line of faux-carb foodstuffs.
Frankly, I’m baffled. Baffled and scared.
I must admit that, though I am writing this review, I have yet to try any of these low-carb carbs. But with right reason—how do I know what’s going to happen when I eat something that isn’t what it is? Might the universe implode? Or my intestines, at least?
Kellogg’s Corn Flakes with Real Bananas
Submitted by Shanna Germain
As if you didn’t already know that Bush’s space-exploration program was a bad idea, along comes a resurgence of freeze-dried breakfast foods to prove it. A perfect example of Operation Space Exploration gone awry is Kellogg’s Corn Flakes with Real Bananas. Just to clarify: By the term “Real Bananas,” Kellogg’s does not mean the kind with the peel that you can buy year-round at your local grocery store. No, they mean the kind of real bananas that look—and taste—like they lived former lives as banana-daiquiri-flavored air fresheners. (OK, that’s not quite true. They taste like used odor killers, but they look more like shrunken ears. Yum.) And, unlike plain old Corn Flakes topped with freshly sliced bananas, which offer that heavenly combination of crunchy and creamy, this space-age cereal is more along the lines of: crunch, crunch, squeak, squeak, eeww. Houston, we definitely have a problem.
Lest you think I’m prejudiced against all freeze-dried breakfast products, let me say this: As a kid, I loved Tang (that was freeze-dried, wasn’t it?). And even today, I am known to indulge in a bowl of Special K Red Berries cereal. But that’s only because red berries are good. And besides, I think red berries are seasonal, so if I have a craving for them in winter, it’s not as if I could just go buy fresh ones over in the produce section. Which brings me back to bananas, which are available all year round, come in a wrapper that’s so user-friendly a two-year-old can remove it, and are so soft you can break them apart with your fingers before throwing the pieces on your cereal. Does it get any easier? What possible reason could there be for creating a cereal with banana-like things already mixed in?
I think I have the answer. After extensive research, I discovered that in the sixties, Kellogg’s introduced Corn Flakes with Instant Bananas. Despite a kick-ass slogan (“Just add milk … presto! Real tasty banana slices!”), the cereal was a flop. Which leads me to wonder—what did they do with all those freeze-dried bananas? Is Kellogg’s in cahoots with the government? Have the cereal executives just been waiting for a space-happy president so they could rescue their Instant Bananas from storage and make them available to a starstruck public under a new name? If that’s true, then I guess I’m ahead of the game. I already have my supply of freeze-dried-banana cereal stored away in the cupboard, where it ought to keep for the next three hundred years or so. I don’t see it being eaten anytime soon.
Submitted by Kristen Elde
I pondered, briefly, the plight of the grape. The jam—the tight situation—of the slick-skinned finger food, its feeble armor protecting, barely, an interior all pulp and juice. What would it think, if it could think, of the rash overhaul of its little globular units—its pretty pendent clusters—in favor of more robust fruit?
Lifting one of the uncertain pomes—a Grapple—from its molded-plastic four-pack, its label specifying pronunciation (“Say ‘Grāpe-L’”), reputation (“Looks like an apple. Tastes like a grape”), and product standard (“Meets or exceeds U.S. Extra Fancy Fuji Apples”), I wondered. Before realizing I didn’t really care, that is. My friend Tiff once told me that apples made her feel strong and empowered; that after tearing into a crisp, cool Braeburn, she felt she could do anything, conquer the world if she had a mind to. It was the crunch, she told me.
Grapes crunch too, sort of, but mostly they just squish. So there’s that. Then, how many grapes have met their end in my fridge, leaving syrupy entrails to circulate and infect nearby foods with their no-good spoilage? Too many. Grapes are imperfect.
But what of the apple? Is it any better off? Valued for its hardy exterior and the porous nature of its wintry white flesh, its own flavor—its essence—gets overridden. Plugged with plenty of Concord zing. “Go grape!” says Get Fit Foods, the Grapple’s distributor. “The apple’s only your agent!” Again, I don’t really care. Half the time, I leave my neighborhood grocer with a sack of tasteless duds, anyway. I’ve eaten more bad apples than sour grapes. Apples are chancy. Maybe it’s better this way. Strange, then, that a Grapple doesn’t actually taste like grapes at all, but like pink (cherry) Smarties. Hmm … Chapple?
Submitted by Gina Hyams
Hershey’s new S’mores candy bar does not taste like a campfire.
Country Crock Plus Calcium and Vitamins
Submitted by Christopher Arnold
The butter and buttery-spread section of your local supermarket is a microcosm of the complex world we inhabit. Its refrigerated shelves address the priorities and concerns of a modern, globalized society. What is our first priority? Should we fear saturated fat? Have we lost touch with the spirit of taste? Is our plastic butter tub a recyclable product, or is there a more responsible, environmentally sustainable spread alternative?
A paradigm shift occurred in the 1990s when the nation realized that whipped butter was hard to spread and that margarine lacked a satisfying taste, sparking a buttery-spread war that would last through the decade. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, Smart Balance, and others appealed to the public’s new awareness of heart health, yet they addressed the health of the organ alone, ignoring the health of the delicate human spirit.
One brand distinguished itself as a “Shedd’s Spread.” Country Crock advertisements featured the hands of a couple deeply in love, and we only needed to see their soft, soft hands and hear their soothing voices to understand the depth of that love. Their hands spread the delicious Crock while the barn, grain silo, cattle, and rising sun on the recyclable plastic tub invoked a simpler time.
Now, in the new millennium, Country Crock Plus retains all the heart and soul of the original while offering calcium and vitamins A, D, and E. The infusion of nutrients does not interfere with the almost supernatural spreadability of Shedd’s Spread. The rich, creamy flavor is still there, just as you remember it. Then, a distinct burst of vitality and health, a quick, cool reminder that you are just ten tablespoons away from having your daily allowance of calcium and vitamins A, D, and E.
With the extra nutrition in Country Crock Plus, you can be a fit athlete like Crocky the Crocodile, the Country Crock mascot. He plays baseball and his biography can be found on countrycrock.com. You will soon learn, as I did, that this new Shedd’s Spread draws you to its presence on the World Wide Web. In this way, the Crock is our stabilizing force in the myriad of spreadable butters, drawing us at once inward, to the sun-filled country of the butter tub, and also outward, to the wired, broadband planet of the future.
Seffon Farms Chili Limon Pistachios
Submitted by Robin Kenwood
Do they taste like chili? No. Do they taste at all lemony? No. Are they frighteningly addictive? Absolutely. Take that first bite. Notice the lack of any actual discernible flavor, sans a little standard pistachio saltiness. But it’s … interesting. Eat another nut. Hmmm, these ain’t half bad. Eat another. Another. In fifteen minutes take note that the fourteen-ounce bag is about half gone.
I want to share these with friends, I really do. It’s fun introducing people to new and exciting foods. But then it means less for me. And what if they don’t love them like I do? What if they don’t appreciate their fabulousness? I’ll have wasted the nuts without feeding my jones. I think for now it’s best that I just keep them stashed away where no one else can find them.
Campbell’s “Soup at Hand” Soups
Submitted by Justin Droms
The Campbell Soup Company has outdone itself once again—"Soup at Hand" soups have arrived to save us from the monotonous tyranny of the bowl!
How many valuable hours have you wasted trying to eat your soup from a clumsy bowl? How many times have you or a loved one been severely injured in a bowl-related soup accident (e.g., drowning, crotch scalding, etc.)? How many times have the other kids at school called you “bowl face” and/or similar nicknames? If you’re like me, these instances are too many to count.
Campbell’s new “Soup at Hand” soups solve all of your bowl-related soup woes with an easy-to-use, microwaveable soda-style can, and provide a much-needed bowl alternative for today’s soup lover on the go. After all, who has enough time, energy, or skill to eat soup from a bowl? Not me; it’s just too much trouble.
Why struggle with a tricky bowl-and-spoon combo when you can chug a serving of Mexican Style Fiesta soup straight from a can? Why drink plain old soft drinks when you can quench your thirst with a can of creamy New England Clam Chowder? Most importantly, why put your loved ones in harm’s way with a dangerous (and time-consuming) bowl?
The answer to all your bowl-related soup problems is clear: put a can of “Soup at Hand” in your hand. This ain’t your daddy’s soup.
Quaker Squares (with a Hint of Brown Sugar)
Submitted by Leah Finnegan
I like to eat these plain, out of an orange Tupperware cup, while wearing a cable-knit cardigan and watching Magnum, P.I. reruns, just like my grandma did. My grandma loved Quaker Squares, and now everything old is new again, as these quirky squares are most certainly back in style. I think the kicker is the hint of brown sugar. It reels you in like a pyramid scheme, and pretty soon you’ve got eighty boxes of Squares in your cupboard and you shake when you go a day without eating some.
Even with their geriatric appearance that hints of Metamucil and Fixodent rather than a hip, unique crunch and a powerful, trendy texture, I always have seventeen or so young faces begging for just one of those “damn good squares” when I bring them to class. And I share, although with stringent limits because I cannot get enough for myself. Sometimes I eat them row by row, indulging in each hearty oat line, marveling at the Gehry-esque construction. I feel healthy when I eat them, too. Like I could compete in a triathlon afterward, or ice dance. That’s what the Squares do to you. They make you dream big. Dream of a world devoid of whaling and bicycle theft, with peace, prosperity, and simple brown-sugar cereals to please the masses. Yes. Alert the news media—it’s hip to eat Squares.
Palmer Chocolate Crosses
Submitted by John Tolley
The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson’s torch song to Jesus, seems to be popping up everywhere, from cinemas to multiplexes to churches to magazines to a place in pop culture where we never thought a two-thousand-year-old execution would be. That’s pretty good for an indie bankrolled by the Sexiest Man Alive (1985). It seems this film’s influence knows no bounds. And now in the Easter basket, alongside such Easter staples as Marshmallow Peeps and hollow chocolate bunnies, children can receive schooling in ancient Roman torture via chocolate. Yes, candy crosses are now on the major market thanks to Palmer Candy of West Reading, PA. The 390-calorie treats come in both white and dark chocolate, and are adorned with yellow flowers and green leaves, all in an effort to bring Jesus’ death back to the mouths of children in all of Christendom. Now, many of us have had the joy of experiencing the Cadbury Creme Egg, or in more recent years its caramel and chocolate incarnations, but few have had the pleasure of biting into what promises to be a most holy of indulgences, plenary or otherwise. The crosses come molded into beautifully even structures, fit for a king, and are detailed down to a wood-grained finish lest we forget that the original cross was made of wood and not a sumptuous cocoa product. Soft enough for even the youngest teeth, these confections stand up against other Easter fare prone to shoddy mass production and uninspired design. But beware, these treats melt in the hand before they melt in the mouth, so don’t plan on holding them for any long stretch of time. A hint: try taking little bites spread out over the course of your day. That way you don’t appear gluttonous in the eyes of the Savior himself, because when you eat a little chocolate cross, you’re eating with the King.
Altoids Apple Sours
Submitted by Tim Vasil
When it comes to designing artificially fruit-flavored confections, product creators have very little creative license when it comes to determining color. Lemon-flavored treats are almost certain to be some shade of yellow, while orange-flavored items are, well, orange. Apple-flavored candy generally takes on the tartness of the Granny Smith variety, so they wind up taking a hue that is a variation of that fruit’s light green skin, usually something in the Day-Glo spectrum.
“Not so fast,” say Callard & Bowser, manufacturers of Altoids, the curiously strong mints in the distinctive tin, “we’re taking a stand.” So, due to the creative minds in R&D at the Altoids plant, the red and silver tin that started surfacing in supermarkets recently did not contain cherry, raspberry, or even cinnamon candies. It contained sour apple candies about the size of a button. Big deal, you say, apples are red, more often than not. True, but in the world of candy, apple has almost always meant green—throw the word “sour” in front of “apple” and you can expect the same color used for nuclear waste in cartoons. Altoids, seemingly targeting a more sophisticated audience, with their old-fashioned fonts and metal packaging, decided to go with how the adult world sees the actual fruit rather than how the candy world has told us to see it.
The taste? Fans of the Jolly Rancher Apple candy (a translucent green confection) will not be disappointed. Eating these little red nuggets, I sometimes think they’re a different flavor than green apple candies I’ve had in the past, but I wonder if it’s just my vision messing with my taste buds. The ensuing battle between the eye, tongue, and brain only adds to the enjoyment of this product.
As a fan of apple-flavored items, sour or not, I’m glad Altoids added this flavor to their growing arsenal. Should they create a grape flavor in a pale green tin, I’ll probably buy that one, too.