Strafford Organic Creamery
Sweet Guernsey Cream Ice Cream
Submitted by JoAnna Novak

A few years ago, I started reading Michael Moss’s expose of the big business-y science behind snack foods, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. In his book, Moss writes about “bliss point,” which, in my recall, is a carefully engineered point at which human satiation — actually, satisfaction — maxes out. Any more sweet or salt or fat, and the palate will recoil; any less and that naughty urge won’t be sated. It’s ironic that Strafford Organic Creamery — a one-farm, one-family enterprise based out of Rock Bottom Farm in Vermont — should be the bearer of this message, but truth is truth: their Sweet Guernsey Cream Ice Cream has proven my “bliss point” to be effed.

Here’s what I mean: Strafford Organic Creamery’s Sweet Guernsey Cream Ice Cream is a little like eating a ladleful of Alfredo sauce. The mouthfeel is all velouté; the level of sweetness, an understated set of training wheels. It is does not provide the distraction-laden intensity of a Ben & Jerry’s cacophony, where texture might distract one from butterfat. No, Strafford’s ice cream is elegant and concentrated, and when I swallow a demitasse spoon of the custard-yellow stuff, I think, my vocabulary rendered in fat, Whoa, rich. A person with an intact bliss point would be thwarted.

Not me.

I keep going.

I eat through one heaping quarter-cup of the ice cream packed into an espresso cup, and it’s only my restraint, which wears black leather pants and a smug frown, that keeps me from scooping a second or licking out the first.

In middle school, I had a friend who boasted of her ability to eat butter by the cube. My father-in-law recalls childhood butter-and-sugar sandwiches. I suspect, though, that neither Prianka nor Pat could stomach more than a taste of Strafford Organic Creamery’s Sweet Guernsey Cream. This is ice cream for old timers or farmhands, men like my late grandfather who remembered slopping the froth off the top of a milk bottle and into his mouth, men whose sense of portion and satisfaction was made meager by the Great Depression, men who call servings of ice cream “dips.” Conversely, somehow, this is also ice cream for snobs, locavores who won’t stand for their boutique creamery selling out — I mean, paying — for a flashy website (as of this evening, Strafford Organic Creamery’s web presence is a chatty Facebook page and an undecorated Word Press site), patrons of speakeasies too cool to be demystified in any BuzzFeed list. There is no hidden elevator behind the barbershop that will lead you to this ice cream; there is only abandoning all manners and inhibitions, and rolling up your sleeves and heading down to the barn.

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Pineapple Cake Sweets
Submitted by Naomi Isaacs

Here is an item that defies straightforward classification. Provenance unknown. It has almost certainly been concocted in a petri dish by someone who has been briefed with the key attributes of a pineapple cake but never seen or tried one. As such, they have managed to create something sickly sweet that is simultaneously a cake and a jelly. Familiar yet distant, I find myself in uncanny valley. I ingest the whole thing before going for a long lie-down.

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Mulberry Jam with a Twist
Submitted by Mara Altman

You want to make fresh mulberry jam. You look up recipes online. Pectin, what is that? No thanks. Sounds like a naughty sex position for hummingbirds. You decide to go for a simple and straightforward concoction: mulberries, lemon and sugar.

You pick mulberries every other day for a week to ensure that you will have a large enough batch of jam to share with your whole family. You can’t wait to share the bounty of your garden with your family.

While you pick, you pop big juicy berries into your mouth. One for jam, one for you. You chuckle to yourself: Canning taxes.

If only everyone understood how hilarious you are.

Once you have collected enough, you quickly rinse the berries and then dump them into a large saucepan. Over medium heat, you begin to crush them by tamping down with a fork. You are very excited by tamping and do it quite enthusiastically. You ruin your shirt—it looks like blood spatter—but you don’t care because this is a worthy cause. You are basically an Earth pilgrim whose duty is to take Mother Nature to the next level via a mason jar.

As the berries heat, more and more juices are released and as they do, you begin to notice tiny white particles. You are concerned, but shrug it off. You suspect the juice is beginning to boil. Bubbles are often white. They are probably tiny white bubbles. Occam’s razor: No more assumptions should be made than are necessary.

You continue to stir.

After some time, you look more closely. The tiny white bubbles have not yet disappeared. You notice that in addition to not disappearing, they are in fact moving. Some might even call the motion ‘slithering.’

“Babe, come here!” you shout to your husband. “I think the jam is alive.”

He refuses to come and look. Instead, he brings up some moments from the past that he’s still sore about like that one time you made him smell your fingers after taking out the garbage and that other time you told him to try a bite of burrito and then when he did, you said, “Disgusting, right?”

He thinks you are deliberately trying to quash his peace and joy. It’s not true; you just happened to interpret the ‘in sickness’ part of ‘in sickness and in health’ in a slightly different way.

In other words, you are on your own.

You want to—you need to—save your jam! It’s a gift for your family!

You look up worms and mulberries on the Internet. No one on the Internet seems to be surprised that hundreds of invertebrates are streaming out of your preserves. In fact, the Internet tells you, Earth Pilgrim, that you are a fool. Everyone knows that before eating the berries, you’re supposed to soak them in warm water. That’s how you get the worms out. Duh!

You might be a lot of things, but you’re no quitter. You’re too far into the process to give up. Once the nausea subsides—it began when you thought back to all those canning taxes you collected—you take the edge of a spoon and carefully lift one tiny creature out at a time.

You are now forty-five minutes in and there are still hundreds of worms inside the saucepan. You suspect you had an epiphany, but are afraid you are actually losing your mind? See, you suddenly realize that you do not believe in superfluous killing. You do not want these worms’ lives to be lost in vain.

You point to the genocide inside of the pan. “You know, in some cultures they would consider this a delicacy,” you tell your husband.

You, Earth Pilgrim, feel reborn. You are at peace. You turn up the flame, bringing the dark red mixture back up to a boil. You add four cups of sugar and the juice of one lemon. After simmering for an hour, you pour the mixture into four sterile mason jars. They are beautiful artisanal masterpieces. You snap a photo and post it to Instagram.

It is at this point that your husband reminds you that both of your brothers will not be able to eat this jam: One is a vegetarian and the other one is kosher. Your father, you soon learn, is fine with the worms, but hates mulberries.

You are now the lucky owner of four pints of worm jam.

You toast and butter an English muffin and then swab a little worm jam on top. You convince yourself that a gourmand in China would probably pay $100 a gram for this stuff.

You take a bite. It tastes like a jolly rancher—wincingly sweet and sour all at the same time. You decide that it’s not half bad, but you clearly need a second opinion. You find your husband, reach the muffin toward his mouth and say, “If you love me, you’ll try a bite.”

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Vital Force Matcha Parfait
Submitted by Heather Struck

The day is hot, my apartment is thick with stale air and my head pounds from the allergens of the summer months. What I want is peanut butter and jam on toast just before the inevitable hazy collapse. But why? An intrepid business on my corner has generously concerned itself with the metabolic health of my neighbors and myself. I am indebted to this business for its healthful riffs on pineapple-ginger smoothies, for its macrobiotic salads and for its electrolyte-packed coconut water.

I have in my refrigerator a new product from the glass-walled oracle that speaks in whispers of healthy bacteria and natural allergy remedies. This, a Vital Force Matcha Parfait, will be my savior.

Mocking the traditional fruit and yogurt parfait, the Matcha was what hooked me when I bought it. It is used in tea ceremonies in Japan, we are told, and it contains a genius mixture of caffeine and enzyme compounds to help boost the brain and feed the gut. In the container, it is green and gloopy. Not resembling yogurt or even a pudding, like the chia bowl—which, at a divine 350 calories, has made my day before.

A layer of seed and amaranth granola sits atop the elixir in a plastic dome. I have not often willingly encountered these domes in food products. I am intimidated. The Solo™ technology that engendered the dome was undoubtedly tested and retested in the laboratory for consumer usability. My blind trust in the superiority of corporate food products in terms of efficiency and ease of waste production is well founded. It is perhaps not childproof, but I am no child. After a minute of deliberate study, I successfully remove the top of the vessel from its lower half. After another two minutes, I devise a way to release the granola from its domed container by spraying half the contents onto myself and onto the environment around my kitchen table. I believe the Vital Force to be near at this point.

The texture is liquid, with moderate viscosity and an odor—both sickly and grassy—that puts one in mind of one’s death and subsequent reunion with the earth. A rumination that is perhaps organic, but not quite the Vital Force that I am looking for. The green tint, turns a dull brown after it is exposed to the air. Like pesto or a guacamole. The remaining granola, when dumped atop the liquid, improves the taste but not the odor. I am, at this point, wholly disheartened and lacking the vitality that comes after performing a yoga practice or consuming a Vital Force parfait.

I make peanut butter and jam on toast and eat it while staring at the empty container. I scorn it now. But I will forgive the healthy shop on my corner, because I trust no other oracle than it.

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Ben & Jerry’s The Tonight Dough Starring Jimmy Fallon
Submitted by JoAnna Novak

You might wonder how a pint of ice cream can transubstantiate a comedian whose face is more capable than any other television-face of lighting up into a barometer of face-shaped joy; a comedian who has called his childhood “idyllic” and thus countered the prevailing narrative of comedian-as-sourpuss-with-compromised-beginnings; a comedian who grew up pedaling his two-wheeler around a Saugerties backyard and with his sister studying the skits of Saturday Night Live, who grew up both wanting to be a priest and mimicking so-very-mortal men like James Cagney and Dana Carvey; a comedian whose devotion to sketch comedy led him to drop out of college when cap and gown were in senior-ish striking distance; a comedian who, during his tenure on SNL, made giggling his way out of character a signature. Thank you, Wikipedia. Thank you, Jimmy Fallon, national treasure, rakish raffish bathetic boy toy. Thank you, Ben & Jerry’s: How can a single ice cream approximate, let alone star, a human man?

Leave it to the wacky uncles of frozen desserts to achieve the impossible. The Tonight Dough Starring Jimmy Fallon doesn’t taste like Jimmy Fallon (unless he’s actually a Keebler elf) so much as his spirit—an amalgamation of childhood flavors and textures, at once wholesome and a touch naughty: grainy, sugary, sticky, chewy, crunchy. Muddy.

Like most recent Ben & Jerry’s offerings, The Tonight Dough Starring Jimmy Fallon benefits from a roadmap. Let me be your docent.

Caramel Ice Cream: Though this base flavor is the first one listed on the carton, any distinct caramellyness all but disappears in the chocolate.

Chocolate Ice Cream: When I removed the lid from my pint, the predominant color was brown. A caramel top-heavy pint may offer an entirely different experience, one attainable for a mere $5.67 (a percentage of which is dedicated to “SeriousFun Children’s Network of globlal camps for children with serious illnesses). Like all cocoa-based chocolate ice creams, this could have used a little salt.

Chocolate Cookies Swirls: This crunchy ribbon is the stand-out taste in The Tonight Dough Starring Jimmy Fallon, leading me to wonder if Fallon, like this writer/eater, is a longtime fan of dirt. You know the treat: those Jell-O chocolate pudding and Oreo and gummi worm creations my mom (and maybe your mom or the junk-food positive mom in your ‘hood) made called Dirt Cups.

Gobs of Chocolate Chip Cookies Dough: I’m pretty sure my pint lacked these, which was a surprise given the name of this flavor.

Gobs of Peanut Butter Cookie Dough: The gobs were walnut-sized and the peanut butter flavor was pronounced. Given the fate of the caramel ice cream, the quantity and sassitude of the Gobs of Peanut Butter Cookie Dough is a testimony to the near-perfect and typically assertive presence of peanut butter.

The Tonight Dough Starring Jimmy Fallon seals in a pint one of those temerarious childhood days when your babysitter let you raid the fridge and the pantry and the cookie jar. I think it will be a hit, as likable and inoffensive and occasionally just-too-dang-adorable as Fallon himself. After all, grinning like a Muppet, his is the face on the front of the pint, besuited and, like a priest with his chalice, beholding his sweet offering: a teeming waffle cone.

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Wheatgrass Shots
Submitted by Campbell Birch

US$1.99. How big was one ounce? Whatever its bigness we could safely assume two ounces would be double it. One seemed the safer option.

My father has always been a cautious man. His proposal to imbibe shots of grass which had been juiceified, or whatever appellation it is which best describes the increasingly pervasive process whereby solid foodstuffs are rendered liquid, might be seen as a radical gesture for a man such as himself, a man who has subsisted on nightly dinners of meat and three veggies, who has worked the same insurance job at the same insurance company for fifty years, and for whom, no doubt bucking working theories of physics and biology, not stasis but change has long been viewed as an augury of death. But really upon closer view it fits perfectly with his modus operandi of cautiousness, as at sixty-six years of age his health and its maintenance have become newly of interest to him. Already on our journey down the West Coast I have listened to him tell me about the wonders of his NZ$500 juicer on multiple occasions.

Shivers, you should see what it does to the fruit, Campbell, he says, eyes growing large as levels of animation and demonstratively reach unusual levels. Turns it right into juice before your blimmin’ eyes.

I picture him in the kitchen of the home I lived in for my first twenty-six years. There he is, experimenting over the roaring juicer. In go the diced banana, the sliced up apple, the carrots which he once fed the family rabbit with tough-to-witness tenderness. Just the day before I asked him to imagine with me what it must have been like when the first human made fire. And here he is, with the help of more advanced tools, making juice on the countertop. Who would dare say that these things will not be one day viewed as of the same order.

Despite our cluelessness as to the operations of the imperial system those from our nation-state still use it commonly, in place of the metric, in at least two instances — for recording the weight of a child at birth and the height of an adult.

I am 6’ 1”. My father is 5’ 11”. I do not know our respective weights upon delivery.

My view of food is Knausgaardian. That is to say I do not really care for it, eat it for utilitarian reasons (that is to keep living), and would show indifference if asked whether for dinner I would prefer fries and cheeseburgers from the golden arches, a family sized bag of lays, a raw vegan gluten free zucchini linguine, a steak, a can of Trader Joe’s black beans, or an outing to the nearest multiple Michelin star. But my father and I are on our American Road Trip. The scene is ripe for Father-Son Bonding. For knocking back something stiff and exotic.

I have recently watched alcohol pass his lips for the first time in my life. It was in a bar in Petrolia, CA. The beer was Budweiser and the basketball was on. I could tell he felt too nervous to order a coke, and as always it was hard to watch the vulnerability of someone older than myself and I am happy in the knowledge that with my own aging these occasions should technically diminish.

Here in Joshua Tree we are at an Organic Café. It is 105 or so out, which is meaningless to us until we ask Siri what that converts to. After checking, Siri tells us to within one decimal place.

My father always uses the gendered pronoun to refer to Siri. Ask her what the population of Monterey is, Campbell. I refer to Siri with the inanimate and gender-neutral ‘it.’ My father’s usage ages him in my eyes but I can’t put my finger on why. Perhaps it is his conflation of the real with the artificial.

A deep green with a tiny sliver of froth at the top, the product arrives at room temperature in small shot glasses crowned with a chaser of apple. The smell is strong and putrid, and I know I will detest it even before I taste it. I suspect that you, too, will have eaten grass as a young child. Perhaps you were sitting on the school field, the sun was out and your teacher’s distant drone in the background addressing the class. You pull at the leaves of grass. Now breaking one off, you place the blade carefully between the paired joints of your aligned thumbs, hands cupped. Its scent touching your nose, you blow gently, the blade wavering between the slim gap formed by the bones, and if lucky a whistle issues forth, its substance and timbre commensurate with the width and quality of your selection. Your best friend leans over. He tells you you got a good one. The girls, including wondrous Holly, turn around and give you the evils, putting their index fingers to their lips. Then there is a countdown and you all crunch into your apples at the same time. In what should be viewed as one of the grandest works of art and music ever to be orchestrated, on par with 4’ 33”, kids all across New Zealand are doing it, chomping in synchronicity, because it is the 1995 America’s Cup and biting into this fruit will help the Team New Zealand boat sail faster on the other side of the Pacific as the reverberations of the crunch turn the winds off San Diego in our favor. If you hated apple, as I do, this was a particularly traumatic moment, the amalgamation of food, sport, and nationalism not just bizarre but actually unpalatable. Twenty years later I am again confronted with the unholy combination of grass and apple and my hold on separating past and present becomes tenuous.

But before you took the bite, and after you blew your leaf of grass—the flag of my disposition, as the poet said—you might have had cause to taste the green-stuff. If you can imagine that taste intensified to the nth degree, concentrated, and assuming the consistency of fruit juice, you will have some idea of what drinking this abomination is like. The leaves of grass were always tough to consume, catching in the throat, and in fact the human stomach is not made to process them, but allegedly has no trouble with the liquid form of wheatgrass.

The woman who brings us the shots answers my father’s question by saying it is good for detoxifying the skin, and his next one with a local supplies it.

Walt held that grass was a symbol of immortality. I try not to wretch as I sip the awful stuff. I made the mistake of consuming my bagel and coffee beforehand and now I have only water to wash it down. And the bloody apple, the slice taking the shape of a grin. My father, who I doubt has taken a shot of anything in his life, mucks up the order and eats the chaser before swigging the shot. Needlessly I inform him of his mistake while wondering as to the level of offense I would give to all present if I threw up my breakfast in the Cafe. I can’t see a restroom. There are a couple of people who look like trendy young tourists come to the desert. A photographer. And what is surely a model, or French. To debase oneself in front of beautiful or cool people is always worse than in front of others, and I wonder why this is. I hold my stomach in its place and after five visits to the glass I am finished. The noxious taste of grass remains in my mouth for the remainder of the day and I try to recall facts I know about cows and appendixes. My father knocks his back without problem. He enjoys it in fact. But whether it is the taste that he enjoys or the vision of his own vitality the verdant elixir produces remains unclear to me.

Completely flouting everything I know of him, later in the day he gets behind the wheel of the convertible as we drive through the desert valley and I take photographs of the rising temperature on the car’s display, documenting our endurance in the face of the heat and aridity. He is not listed as an additional driver on the insurance policy and on a straight he takes both hands from the wheel and puts them in the air above our heads.

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Nabisco Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup
Creme Oreo Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
Submitted by Jacob Fulk

“Please scan your first item,” the machine taunts.

In my right hand I hold the flavorless, soulless, communion wafers of the damned; the Harris Teeter store-brand Oreos.

In my left hand I hold the realest realest, the premium uncut pure stuff, the new kid on the block; Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Creme Oreo Chocolate Sandwich Cookies.

I swipe that store band shit. Beep.

“Please place the item in the bag,” the machine pleads.

Not a chance.

While the station attendant idly crushes candy on her phone and the burly security guard chats with an elderly woman about the proper technique used to determine cantaloupe ripeness, I place the good shit in the bag.

My act goes unnoticed. I am a golden god. I am the apex predator.

I peel out of the parking lot, speakers bumping to Clipse’s “Ride Around Shining.”

Back in my kitchen, I rip open the sleeve of cookies and cram two into my mouth. In a state of fervor, I pull the cap off of my roommate’s new half-gallon of milk and sip straight from the source. As the flavors swirl amongst my tongue and teeth, I find myself deeply satisfied with my deed; like candy taken from a baby, crime makes cookies taste all the sweeter.

Think it wrong, you may. Call me a thief, you might. But this is what they get. This is what they damn well deserve for inventing automated self-checkout.

Though I have triumphed over the machines for now, I am weary. I’ve seen The Terminator. I know how this story goes. It starts with waiting in line for the automated self-checkout and ends with us lined up in the streets, awaiting our death at the hands of Skynet’s fully sentient robotic death squads.

Steal these Oreos while you still can, fellow humans. The resistance begins now.

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365 Everyday Value Roasted Garlic Tandoori Naan
Submitted by JoAnna Novak

You’re not new, but you’re new to me. Ever since I ate you for dinner with a sludge-brown Swiss chard and cilantro soup, I’ve had Dido’s dismal-yet-catchy “White Flag” in my head. 365 Everyday Value Roasted Garlic Tandoori Naan, you are the ship—or at least the carb-loaded raft—with whom I will go down.

You taste like every great eating experience in my life, like Pizza Hut pizza day in the first grade. Brushed with olive oil and heated for two minutes at 400°F, you, 365 Everyday Value Roasted Garlic Tandoori Naan, approximate some of that personal cheese’s crust-bound tastiness. Or like summer days before my sophomore year of high school, those fasting days, hungering in anticipation of one gnarly Auntie Anne’s Original soft pretzel from the storefront beneath the escalator at the mall? Oh 365 E.V.R.G.T.N., I bet it’s your dextrose and sugar that mimic that pretzel’s sweetness.

I love you because you know I’m inexperienced, a naan novice. The first time I even ate Indian food was at a lunch buffet inside a four-story office building behind St. Louis’s Lambert Airport. A friend and I rode a sterile elevator up three floors, and the silver door slid open and revealed a hostess station festooned with orange pompons and gold coruscating Christmas lights. It was summer 2009 and the air was rich with exotic smells.

Beside the masalas and the tikkas, the paneers and the kormas, plain and garlic naan (Naans? Naas?) wilted in their chafing dishes. Chewy, blistered, lipilicious—I ate a triangle of each and licked my ghee-slicked fingers as I watched Boeing airbuses endlessly lift off, carrying poor, naan-less passengers to heights that couldn’t match my gustatory delight.

Six years ago being six years ago, I can’t compare you, 365 Everyday Value Roasted Garlic Tandoori Naan, to those first naans of my past, your flatbread folk, your bready brethren. I can only compare you to yourself. Each of the four rounds in cardboard-bolster-plastic-sleeve package in which you come is differently spotted with char, like a litter of Dalmatians. Cilantro confettis your paleness with quiet, subtle, nay, sophisticated dark green apostrophes. You are round, ovular, elongate, and I would eat you for every meal (with eggs and bacon and truffled pecorino, with peanut butter and chia seeds and Medjool dates, etc.) of every day. Every goddamn day, 365—because “I’m in love, and always will be.”

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McDonald’s Bacon and Cheese Sirloin Third Pound Burger
Submitted by Chris McDonald

I had just finished watching the Charlize Theron/Tom Hardy action vehicle Mad Max: Fury Road, and two full hours of sitting on my ass in a theater, eating popcorn and watching other people perform incredibly athletic feats of derring-do had made me ravenous. On the way home I decided to swing by McDonald’s, eager as I was to try out my newest acquisition from the App Store, the McD App from Mowingo, Inc. Today’s amazing deal was “FREE Med Fries w/ Any Sandwich purch.”

A colorful little sandwich board in the dining room was advertising McDonald’s brand new flagship burger, the Sirloin Third Pound Burger, declaring that it came in “Three Flavors.” I should have taken this as a warning sign. Burgers should come in “varieties,” or even “styles.” Flavors are for jelly beans and Doritos.

But I was here, I was hungry, and I was getting a free medium fry out of the deal. I chose the Bacon and Cheese Sirloin Third Pound Burger and asked for it “to go,” since few things are more depressing than the sight of a grown man sitting alone in an empty McDonald’s at 11 o’clock on a Sunday evening, a bummed-out parody of an Edward Hopper painting.

“We are not on our game,” new McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook admitted earlier this year. Indeed, Consumer Reports recently ranked McDonald’s at the very bottom of the fast food pack in taste and quality. Easterbrook declared that McDonald’s would henceforth be focusing on its food, a new strategy to be embodied by such exciting new offerings as the Artisan Chicken Sandwich and, of course, the Sirloin Third Pound Burger. This revolutionary shift to a focus on food was good news for fans of McDonalds, especially considering that McDonald’s main product is food.

Has McDonald’s upped their game? Well, they’ve upped their prices. They do not appear to have upped their game. Everything about this burger was tasteless and dry, including the pickles, if it is possible for pickles to be dry. The bun was stale. The patty was dusted with something called “beef seasoning,” which I guess was supposed to make the beef taste like beef. At this it failed.

As far as I can tell the Sirloin Burger is pretty much the exact same thing as the Angus burger that McDonald’s tried out a few years ago and quickly abandoned because pretty much everyone who bought it thought it sucked. I suppose it had also gotten hard to impress anyone with the label “Angus” anymore, since practically all the beef sold in the United States is Angus to begin with. Which made me wonder at the time: if only this “premium" burger was made of Angus, what are Quarter Pounders and Big Macs made of?

My wife was still awake on the couch, streaming cooking videos that featured actual food. She regarded me with sadness and pity as I ate. She also managed to steal half my fries while I was attempting to finish a burger that should have been ashamed of itself, although probably not as ashamed of itself as Steve Easterbrook should be for foisting this bullshit on us in the name of upping McDonalds’ game.

I collapsed into bed about 20 minutes later and fell into a deeply troubled sleep. A word to the wise: if you are a heterosexual man who thinks it impossible to have a bad dream about Charlize Theron, then you haven’t eaten a McDonald’s Bacon and Cheese Sirloin Third Pound Burger immediately after watching Mad Max: Fury Road in Real 3D, and shortly before bed time.

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Harry and David
NEW Spring Snacks Gift Tower
Submitted by Sylvia Irizarry

We were already off to a rough start when the USPS didn’t leave my Easter package of goodies on the stoop of my Queens apartment. I’m 25 and my mom still sends me Easter baskets (even though the last time we went to church for Easter was easily ten years ago).

I trudged back home from the post office on an extremely blustery day, perishables in hand and street grime in mouth. I knew exactly what to expect, this being my sixth Harry and David gift tower. I ripped open the cardboard shell, revealing a three-tiered tower of boxes‒robin’s-egg blue, chartreuse, and tickle me pink‒neatly tied together with a yellow ribbon.

The tickle me pink box contained a 9-oz. bottle of honey dill mustard. This deviated from the typical assortment of Easter sweet-treats, but I like the aforementioned ingredients, so color me intrigued. The chartreuse box was comprised of a block of white cheddar cheese, some mixed nuts, and a log of hickory-smoked summer sausage. How the cheddar survived the cross-country journey and three-day stay at the post office is beyond me. More importantly, was I to expect stomach issues in the foreseeable future?

Box three was a bit of a disappointment, as it held honey wheat pretzel rods. I like pretzels as much as the next person, but how am I supposed to eat white cheddar cheese and hickory-smoked summer sausage atop a pretzel rod? Am I so wrong in hoping the robin’s-egg blue box would contain crackers? And where do these mixed nuts come in?

I assembled everything on a small plate (sans nuts) and embarked on my spring snack tower adventure. White cheddar cubes doused in honey dill mustard, atop a slab of hickory-smoked summer sausage, followed by a honey wheat pretzel rod. Not quite the “wonderful way to elevate an afternoon” as promised, but not bad. Not bad at all.

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Garden of Eden Garden Burgers
Submitted by Neil Rose

The time has come where I have developed enough stomach fat where I can no longer see if I have an erection. Although there are few things in life more satisfying than lard, sugar, and sodium, my penis is indeed one of them. Therefore it is time that I start eating an organic, plant-based diet, or what my father refers to as, “coming out of the closet”.

Having never been to a produce section before, I decided to bring Mancala pieces to the market and scatter them on the floor in case I get lost and need to find my way back home. Once in the produce section, I found Garden of Eden Garden Burgers. The motto on the box read AN OR-GANIC-GASM IN YOUR MOUTH. I have heard of such things, veggie burgers, but I thought they were a fantasy like wizards, vampires and Zumba. A burger made out of vegetables? I had to give it a shot.

I have now developed a new rule to live by: Never eat something that looks the same going into you as it does coming out of you. What was in the box was not a burger, but rather a frozen piece of diarrhea. It was just a brownish/greenish blob of mushed beans, mushrooms, tofu, carrots, corn, and possibly hashish because the smell was similar to that of a frat house bathroom during Rush Week. Nevertheless, my penis was at stake so I decided to cook one up and give it a go.

A Garden of Eden Garden Burger is to a hamburger as a pot of soil is to a hamburger. At first I thought I did not cook the patty all the way through because when I took my first bite, it felt as if it had already been chewed and digested. Not only that, but I thought it was supposed to at least taste like a bunch of vegetables mashed up in a way that would somewhat resemble the taste of an actual burger. Instead, my taste buds were bombarded with something that must be akin to the gunk my plumber dug out from my clogged garbage disposal. Immediately, I spit out the vile excuse of a food item and called for help (Panda Express).

Overall rating for Garden of Eden Garden Burgers: -436 stars/5

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Mrs. Thinster’s Cookie Thins Cake Batter
Submitted by Amy Barnes

We get it, Mrs. Thinster: you’re thin. Your cookies are thin. Your packaging is thin. Even your packaging’s font is thin (so thin I can hardly read the high-calorie content without my reading glasses). Once we get your thin little cookies in our mouths, we might guess that we too will become thin. Alas, these thin little cookies are like Seinfeld fro-yo: four of them equals a whopping 260 calories. For 260 calories, I’d rather eat a piece of actual cake, or spoonfuls of salmonella-laden real cake batter.

Sadly, the extra attention made to thinning these cookies has come at the sacrifice of flavor. A cloying sweetness permeates through each bite. Texture is also hard to come by, as the company’s marketing team had to magnify the packaging photo and note that the cookies are “enlarged to show texture.”

Perhaps that is the true secret of these “thin” cookies: you just look at them. No eating. Just looking. Mrs. Thinsters cookies are the sad gluten-free, peanut-free, GMO-free cookies that kids at the allergy birthday party table in the adjacent building from the fun party eat while the rest of the party-goers gorge themselves on real cake with blue frosting.

Mrs. Thinster appears on the packaging as a young thin cookie-snapper, but I can’t help but lisp a little when reading off the packaging copy: MRS. SPINSTERS COOKIE SHINS SHAKE FATTER. The marketing team had to stop her from calling the cookies by that name even as she chanted “thin is in” to the 46 cats that accompanied her to the Mrs. Thinster factory.

When I tossed the package in the trash, I couldn’t tell if the rustle I heard was the almost-full bag hitting the bottom, or the sound of Mrs. Thinster shins flapping as she runs laps around the cookie display to the tune of some Richard Simmons’ Sweating to the Oldies song.

Whatever, keep on running, Mrs. Thinster; I’ll be on my couch eating Girl Scout Thin Mints. Now those are “thin” cookies that get it right.

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Nestle Carnation Evaporated Milk
Submitted by Verity Glass

Pre-Prozac, my flatmate’s anxiety disorders manifested in a belief that she was being haunted by Haiti. Earthquakes, voodoo, Zora Neale Hurston, all these things and more passed through her day, convincing her that Haiti was coming for her.

In an attempt to educate the fear away, she learned everything about Haiti, from the grisly specifics of its civil unrest to the most innocuous facts possible. She did this systematically, then popped out knowledge-pills on a daily basis. I now know all about the revolutions of 1791 and 1986, but also that Haiti is primarily Roman Catholic, that its national pastime is soccer, that one of its islands was once overrun by Spanish cows.

Here is the nub: I recently learned that evaporated milk is a family favourite in Haiti. They’re mad for it.

It didn’t seem they would be mad, the Haitians, for the 410g tin I bought from my local supermarket. Not from the international section, but lying lazy in the baking aisle: Nestle Carnation Evaporated Milk. Here’s a non-Haiti fact: Everyone I know thinks Carnation is an ancient UK staple, like Stonehenge and Protestantism. But it is not. Nor is it Haitian, but in fact, American. A forgivable mistake; the tins used to resemble the pauper cousin of Campbell’s, and have now been localised for retro-yearning Brits. Carnation’s label suggests a dining table c. 1938, polka-dotted and heaped with fruit crumble in the last gasp of unregulated agricultural production. “Force down your rhubarb!” cries the serif logo, cream dripping from its tittle. It’s Spam and beef tea from here on in.

Because I doubted that the spirit of “Keep Calm and Evaporate Your Dairy” would have fared well in Port-au-Prince, I doubted I’d bought the right stuff. First, it seemed too dowdy to appeal to anyone who hadn’t been trapped in their dugout all night waiting for the bombs to fall. Second, it called itself, not actually “Nestle Carnation Evaporated Milk,” but “Nestle Carnation Topping.” Topping what? Whatever you can dare to dream, presumably. Nestle, famously, upped the infant mortality rate in LEDCs by encouraging mothers to use their formula, and were taken to court. On opening the tin, it seems they have recouped their losses by rebranding said formula as “topping.”

Imagine breastmilk. That is Nestle Carnation Evaporated Milk.

Smell breastmilk. That is Nestle Carnation Evaporated Milk.

Drink breastmilk. That is not Nestle Carnation Evaporated Milk.

Nestle Carnation Evaporated Milk deserves to have taken over Haitian hearts and minds, as it has mine. It is a slow liquid, thicker and more beige and frothier than your average milk. It is simultaneously salty and sweet, exactly as if someone had juiced caramel popcorn into submission, then canned it. It is umami, the very umami-self, surely the guarded secret staple of every Asian patisserie. Yet, it does leave a sour, chalky residue in the cheeks. I choose to believe this is a reminder that nothing mortal is perfect.

I drank it all, hunched over the kitchen counter, hand a blur of spoon and delicious creamy repackaged boycott fuel.

“You should move to Haiti,” my flatmate advised, scrolling through charts of its violent crime rate.

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Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Buttah Cookie Core
Submitted by JoAnna Novak

I was the sort of child who ruined cookies for my family. That yellow box of Peanut Butter Sandwich Girl Scout Cookies was basically done-for the second I pulled off the cardboard strip. I would split each sandwich in the box, fingering any nubbin of frosting that shot out the perforation in the cookie, roll up the layer of peanut butter filling (kinda like a carpet), and collect the filling in a large pile that I would, half-smiling, half-cringing, eat.

Sometimes I threw out the sad, barren oatmeal cookies that remained. Other time, spiteful times, I left them in their plastic package, where they sat lined up like ugly wooden nickels.

I loved those cookies because they didn’t muck things up with chocolate. And for years, I’ve wished an ice cream would rival what I could create as a munching Girl Scout, even as a fifteen-year-old, hunking Jif into bowls of Edy’s vanilla, caution squealing in the breeze at my shoulders. Now Ben & Jerry’s has come up with Peanut Buttah Core, one of three new flavors in their Core line, and they have turned my wildest dreams into a real Tuesday afternoon disappointment.

If you’re not familiar with the Core line of Ben & Jerry’s, let me explain: Back in the early 2010s, Ben & Jerry’s decided to corner the hot fudge and caramel market. The average Ben & Jerry’s consumer wasn’t taking his or her pint out for the night without make-up. Nope, most of us at-home ice cream eaters wanted our dessert (or Tuesday lunch) blinged out. We weren’t just going for a lame scoop; we wanted a sundae like the one Kevin McAllister scarfs down in Home Alone, a drippy gloppy mess we could eat without embarrassment in the privacy of our own homes.

Now Ben & Jerry’s has released their Cookie Core flavors. These Cores—unlike the tame, typical, dare I say, “vanilla” cores of days of yore—are made by pulverizing cookies in the fashion of Speculoos, the British condiment that you can find alongside Nutella, Cashew and Almond Butters. (Yes, Spectacular Speculoos Core is in my freezer, and yes, you can try it. In fact, you can have it.)

The thing about Peanut Buttah Cookie Core, though, is that that creamy cookie core is… too much and not enough. ”SPREADS LIKE BUTTAH (AND TASTES EVEN BETTER)” reads the package copy on my pint. It doesn’t taste bad, per se, but, surrounded by the peanut butter ice cream, the crunchy peanut butter sugar bits (which taste just like the top of one of your mom’s old-fashioned peanut butter cookies, the ones crisscrossed with a sugared fork), peanut butter cookies (which taste more like peanut butter cookie dough to this mouth), that peanut butter cookie core tastes a little bit… muted. Not bad, still good—but dully pleasant, the way I can attest to a barfed-up milkshake tasting. It tastes like its recycled itself. And, for once, there’s nothing to add. No whipped cream, no hot fudge, no sprinkles.

I’ll be working my way through this pint au natural, with each bite, ironically, a bit less enamored with peanut butter.

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Trader Joe’s Organic Brown Rice Marshmallow Treats
Submitted by Dan Ouyang

I’ve loved Rice Krispie treats since the first time I made them on a hot plate in the middle of my 8th grade Home Ec class—by far the most valuable lesson from that semester. Growing up in a Chinese immigrant family, I was never exposed to exotic foods like boxed cereals and dairy, but from the first moment those toasty marshmallow covered kernels touched my lips I knew that, unlike my love for Andrew Keegan, this was a love that would transcend puberty.

Love makes you anticipate, it makes you daydream, but most of all it makes you tolerant. It’s not about expecting perfection; it’s about forgiving the flaws. That’s why I love the pre-packaged, ambiguously aged Rice Krispy treat I find in my travel bag. That’s why I love the too crunchy treats that I’ve Frankensteined together whenever I tried to eyeball the marshmallow-to-butter-to-krisy ratios (you’d think JUST ONCE, I’d get it right…). And that’s why I love the “rice chrispie” treat at my local deli that’s consistent staleness I’ve confirmed by purchasing multiple times.

And so when I walked into Trader Joe’s and was greeted by a 6 × 8-ft mount of Organic Brown Rice Marshmallow Treats my heart skipped a beat. My love for these treats is only trumped by my love for high-quality bargain-priced groceries, and if this new product had the proud stamp of TJ’s approval, well, then who am I to resist? Also it had all the right catch phrases: ORGANIC! BROWN RICE! GLUTEN FREE! It was by far one of the most responsible impulse buys I’ve ever purchased at a grocery store.

The next morning I found myself tearing into the box (because nothing proves you’re an adult and in control of your own life like deciding to have a desert bar for breakfast), unwrapping the wonderfully minimal and shiny silver packaging, and taking an eager bite.

It was bad. Really, really bad.

It had an immediate flavor profile of artificial sweetener and the aftertaste of cardboard. Possibly it gets better with time, I thought, my love for the confection obviously taste-blinding. Then I noticed VEGAN MARSHMALLOW in the fine print, and that’s when I knew there was no saving this bar. Even the most steadfast love cannot support such an abomination of ingredients.

So kudos to you, Trader Joe’s, for always improving our lives with your commitment to making us feel like we’re better than we actually are. Unfortunately, this product is undoubtedly a failed experiment. It may be low on empty calories, but eating it is low on joy.

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Scorpion Mezcal
Submitted by Adrienne Matei

I don’t want to drink any mezcal, because for one thing, it’s a weeknight, and for another, mezcal and I haven’t been on wonderful terms since this undergrad warehouse party in Montreal, where I remember offering a swig to a guy who looked at me skeptically and said, “Um, I’ll get a cup,” as I thought, Sure, be fancy. Mezcal just makes me think of second year university and some version of myself throwing a dance in an illegal, industrial structure, wearing red jeans and a blazer with no shirt under, my best gay boyfriend and I color coordinating. It reminds me of waking up queasy in cold eastern Canadian sunlight. Then, I get queasy thinking I used to be so much cooler than I am now, four years later, when all I want is a chicken taco at this midweek Mexican-themed birthday dinner, back in the town I grew up in. But as the mezcal crowd surfs around on a swell of salt and cheers, I see something in the bottle that catches my attention. It’s not a tiny grub (child’s play; I’d eaten one of those, dried like a corn chip, in middle school to impress a cute young teacher I liked) but a complicated creature. Almost black (sodden pinecone color) and menacingly mobile, suspended in liquor. A scorpion. When the bottle’s emptied, the birthday boy balks at eating it, and I extend my hand. It looks like a wet beef jerky jumbo prawn with pincers in my palm. A blunt, mean little face with fangs. It must have drowned alive, right? That must be how they die looking ready to reanimate. Two inches long with all those flexible tail segments. I toss it into my mouth. Its texture is dry shrimp and cat tongue; I mash all its pointy parts in my molars to the white noise of “no-ways” and feminine inhalations. I swallow quick and concede to opening my mouth for the crowd, and, with my coat already on (I’d been a half out the door when the scorpion was proffered) I leave. “Bounce” or “dip” are appropriate terms, too. “None of the grown men I know would have done that,” says my friend, who seems suddenly in love with me, “that was punk rock.” We split on a street corner and I make my way home, thinking about embalming things, preserving them perfectly in their fearsome prime. With my tongue, I pick scorpion out of my teeth.

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Monster Munch Ice Cream Flavoured Chips
Submitted by Abby Kearney

Like anyone, I often resort to things of the past to escape the ugly realities of the increasingly bleak present. I comfort myself with favorite childhood cartoons, food that´s way past its sell-by date, and music that was played to me whilst I was in the womb. 2004 was a year in the UK, a year in which British cultural life continued its slow, languid decline, and according to Wikipedia synopsis, ´2004,´ events occurred. I remember none of this because I was too busy salivating over the new hip snack of ´04, a snack labeled, “confusing,” “abhorrent,” and “deeply misguided.” For this was the year a great pioneer, a true renegade of the confectionary market, the giant company Smiths, plumbed the unplumbed depths of the culinary world, broke free of the petty and debilitating concerns with “taste” and “complimentary flavours” that for so long had imprisoned us in a world of bland gruel! They made the most anticipated marriage since all those great much anticipated marriages we love to remember but I can´t specifically think of right now. They combined the chip with dairy. They gave us Monster Munch Ice Cream Flavoured Chips.

I was never allowed them and it killed me. While trying to figure inventive and undetectable ways to dispose of the cherry tomatoes that were to plague my lunchbox for upwards of eight years, my peers were all chatting about how “gross” the Monster Munches were, how they tasted “so weird,” and how they were causing “serious gastric problems.” Unknown pleasures.

Now, at 23, my only unique characteristic being the late emergence of vicious acne, I look back to 2004, and think, could this early lunch time alienation be responsible for the unremarkable path my life has taken? Did being the girl always caught rolling cherry tomatoes under the table stunt my social flowering? Could be. Could be that these crisps are key to changing my life! Word on the street is there´s a man who sells, specializes in all the unholy forgotten and discontinued alliances of the food world. There´s a fantastic price. Whatever. I take them. The future is mine.

“These are so gross!” I say to the ten-year-old on the bus next to me and immediately I´m transported back to the canteen, about to make all the meaningful important early friendships that will make me a CEO or at least someone capable of learning to drive. Except. She doesn’t care! She doesn’t know what it is, this out-dated shiny weird relic from an unknown age I´m now waving in her face. If anything she´s frightened. Once more I´m irrelevant, maybe dangerous, and my mouth is full of an unsettling ice cream imitation flavour (incidentally, they suck, what a moronic idea, Ice Cream Chips!!). And apparently eating raw vegetables is somehow cool and celebrated now? Huh.

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De Alba’s Piloncillo Bread
Submitted by Matthew Michel

My friend invited me to the Rio Grande Valley, where we both schooled in the past.

We were able to document some of the troubles facing people fleeing crime and torture in Central America. We also stopped by De Alba’s Bakery, where we each selected some treats.

Churros by the register. Hay conchas y galletas.

I was dropped off near the border crossing for Reynosa, but did not have the 75 cents to cross the walking bridge. Two kind old men gave me change, but by then my friend had returned and we visited Brownsville and the beach.

Do the seed cakes have animal products? I hope not, and sincerely petition De Alba’s to concoct another version should it be so.

De Alba’s bread comes in a bag, pecans falling to the bottom. The flat, puffy circle was made from piloncillo, a sugar cone. This is tasty and would be good as my daily rations. The sweet bread is for ripping and passing back and forth with a friend, trying not to get your camera taken away before making it to the beach.

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Avec: Camembert Shortbread
Submitted by Adam Hayman

Someone took a rented-tuxedo, plastic-tablecloth style piss all over grandma’s shortbread. The “Avec” cookie, Korean in origin, tries to market itself as a Camembert cheese short bread cookie. Like, if you had a sudden dinner guest and didn’t have time to pop down to the cheese shop, why not just pop open a bag of dry, cheesy cookies to pair with your Australian Shiraz?

I’m not sure why you’d try convincing someone that a typically soft cheese would be well-suited to take the form of a dusty shortbread cookie. It’s like making a business tie out of SpongeBob-SquarePants-print pajamas.

These fucking cookies are as small as an overweight postage stamp. They come in a tiny chip bags, four miserable bags in a box the size of a VCR. It’s such a waste that they include a picture in every box of Mother Earth crying to save you the trouble of trying to imagine it.

I served the stuff with wine. I mean, I had to, right? I’m not going to eat a cheese-flavored shortbread cookie dry; I would’ve had worse dry mouth than an MDMA-sponsored Steve Aoki concert. It was a red Australian Shiraz. Not too fancy, but it didn’t come with a free keychain so I assumed I had done something right. The moment of reckoning was accompanied by the harsh crinkle and squeak of the plastic cookie bag being torn open.

You know what? These motherfuckers didn’t even have the half-assed dignity to make these things taste anything like cheese. I could’ve gotten closer to a wine and cheese night with a stale bag of Cheetos. It just tasted like shitty shortbread: shitty, store-bought shortbread. Granted, my first bite was only a modest, dignified nibble. It was just a small taste, as you would do with any cheese. I wasn’t ready to give up yet. Second bite was half a cookie. Nothing. I swished some wine and dug into the bag for another. This time I put the whole goddamned thing in at once. I then found that if you put a whole cookie in your mouth at once while thinking of Camembert and smelling an actual piece of Camembert you might just be able to pretend that you can taste the “Camembert cheese powder compound” its ingredients listing boasts about. The only original flavor to come from “Avec” is the unexplainable plastic-grease staining the back of my tongue.

For those who want to know, four glasses of Shiraz seems to be the only antidote for that flavor.

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Cadbury’s Curly Wurly Chocolate Bar
Submitted by Cara Marks

I’ve always wanted to go to England and wander the streets of London at four in the morning, or watch a Waterloo sunset while eating fish and chips with a dapper British fella. My fascination with the U.K. causes me to wander down the international aisle at the local grocery store from time-to-time.

That’s where I found these chocolate bars, next to bottles of blackcurrant juice and cans of Vanilla Coke. CURLY WURLY scrawled along the purple, shiny wrapper in violet, red, and blue bubbly font—a chocolate for the young and restless.

Granted, that last phrase is a bit of a stretch. I only assume Cadbury markets to the youth of the world, and we all know youths (myself, at twenty, included) are restless. We ache for cheap chocolate and flights to the UK. Youth is a beautiful thing, and, like chocolate-covered caramel, it is ephemeral. It is also tastes bittersweet. So too are Curly Wurlys. Chocolate-covered caramel curled into a long braid the size of my forearm: this is what my life has been missing. It’s cheap chocolate and the caramel is a little plastic—too hard and it makes my teeth stick together—but it’s delicious. The chocolate melts in my mouth and I chew on the toffee and I think: bliss! And cavities. That’s youth in a nutshell: bliss and cavities and delight and hangovers—-naivety as romanticized perfection, but with pain.

I wonder if England tastes as good as Curly Wurlys, if it’s sort of delicious but in the end a bit of a disappointment.

Curly Wurlys clearly aren’t good for you. They aren’t even that good tasting. But I am young and restless and with that, optimistic. So I hold on hope for England to be better than its chocolate.

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The Taco Bell Quesarito
Submitted by Jesse Kirkpatrick

I am a sucker for terrible fast food. Commercials for whatever atrocity Burger King, Quiznos, or Dominos perpetrated would make me salivate with anticipation. I had to go there and try one, because it might be the one perfect food item, the thing I could eat without end over and over, without any regrets except dying of heart disease at 30. My father once called me a “cheese enthusiast”. I have made pizzas that are spoken of with reverence years later.

You need to understand the above so you do not doubt what I am about to tell you: The Quesarito is not satisfying. I hesitate to say it is unsatisfying, as that implies that something else eaten immediately afterwards could make up for the sin you have committed against yourself.

“But the theory is sound!” you say in protest. “It combines two delicious quasi-Mexican offerings into one! The Chipotle version is excellent if they do not shout you out of the line when you order it!”

I admit it’s a difficult concept to wrap one’s head around, much like wave-particle duality.

I ordered the chicken version first, along with a cherry Pepsi. My first impression was how small it was. Yes it was the approximate color, shape, and temperature of something I would willingly consume, but it was off.

First bite: Acceptable. Not much burrito to it, mainly dominated by rice and cheese.

Second bite: Their new shredded chicken is horrible. It is slick and greasy, the con man of the proteins offered. In order to get the old-style unmolested chicken, one has to ask for the full-size quesadilla or the grillers (which I highly recommend).

Third bite and beyond: Discontent set in. The whole enterprise devolved into a cheesy mess, without a distinct flavor or texture to save it. I had the nagging feeling of eating some sort of grub.

I felt the effects immediately after finishing. I was the cheese emperor, and I only spoke in dairy-based proclamations. There was a slowness to my very being, my thoughts struggling against waves of “Latin rice,” sour cream, and cheese made in a vat somewhere by sad men or sadder machines.

With a child’s innocence, I tried again several days later. The steak version this time. It was no better, except each bite was punctuated by a beef nugget instead of semi-liquid fowl. Suffering ensued again.

The Taco Bell Quesarito is the Devil’s cheddar-stuffed work.