3/14/2012

Pretty Much the Ultimate in Food Fright

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 4:30 pm

My buddy Shawn sent this my way this morning. Ye Gods and severed digits!

Welcome to The Morgue Bakery

As Shawn himself suggested: PTSD much? Still, you can’t deny the craftsmanship. I’d really like to check the place out (next time I’m on one of my many trips to Thailand), but I’m not sure I could actually bring myself to sample the wares. 😯

11/9/2010

Food Fright, Part 25

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 6:00 pm

If you own a television you’ve no doubt seen these gawdawful things being advertised incessantly thereon as of late.

The burning, itching, swollen-and-accompanied-by-painful-discharge question that most readily comes to my mind is, how galactically, mind-crogglingly bad must a pizza be before dipping it into a plastic tublet of ersatz Ranch or (insert your favorite quantity of question marks and/or exclamation points here) “Polynesian” sauce sounds like a good idea?

Some food combinations just naturally complement each other, at least for the plurality of Western palates. Pasta and cheese. Seafood and freshly-squeezed lemon. Peanut butter and jelly. Anything not actively toxic and Nutella. And certainly, pizza is itself a prime example of the synergy of certain foodstuffs, a magical congregation of flavors, textures and aromas that has proven wildly popular for so many people. But unless you are a member of a very specialized minority in this great big gastronomic rainbow of diversity that finds anything and everything—from sashimi to sloe gin fizzes—improved by the addition of ranch dressing, there is simply no getting around the fact that a pizza only benefits from the application of same if it was a very, very poor specimen of the genus to begin with.

Using this line of reasoning, every can of Miller Lite should come with a free packet of “Flav-R-Crystals” one might elect to add, to make the stuff taste like something a bit more palatable. Like Rustoleum.

Round Table’s tagline for many years now has been “The last Honest Pizza”. How honest can your pizza possibly be if you need to slather it in something else in order to fix it?

Cheap bastards probably don’t even use fresh Polynesians.

7/11/2009

Food Fright, Part 24

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 4:32 pm

foodfright-24

This episode of Food Fright is brought to you by the letters B and K. Also by Dalek and Fisherbear, who saw these at the store on their way to our July 4 barbecue and couldn’t resist.

I guess I can’t really blame Burger King for trying to weasel its way into the fickle home-snack market. After all, their market share in the arena of fast food restaurants is tiny, 4% in 2008 as compared to their closest competitor, the Evil M-pire. Seems like all poor old BK ever does is play catch-up to its arch nemesis but never quite hitting the mark. This product would seem to be another one of those near-misses for which this company is so rightly famous. It’s not always good to be the King.

To start off, I am usually openly suspicious of any comestible that attempts to conceal itself in the guise of something else. There are two main exceptions to this rule of thumb. One is the obvious exception of works of true artistry such as the piece of chocolate sushi that was delivered anonymously to me some years ago (and which I have maintained, mint in box, on a shelf in our living room). The other is any foodstuff that is pretending to be something else entirely, like a gourmet chocolate bar in the shape of a gun, or anything from The Erotic Bakery. But despite these divergences, as a rule foods masquerading as other foods tend to be a gross disappointment to aficionados of either.

foodfright-24-1

A potato chip is not a french fry. And these only barely qualify as potato chips. They are sclerotia of dehydrated potatoes, potato starch and other binders. The overall mouth-feel is very similar to the one that Pringles‘ parent company Procter & Gamble pioneered in the 1970s with their distinctive “pre-chewed for your enjoyment” snacking experience. Not horrible by any means (I happen to enjoy the occasional Pringle), but reminiscent of neither potato chip nor french fry, these things seem to dwell in some secretive twilight domain between food groups. Perhaps they need their own unique designation: prototato. Starchestrol. Something, anyway. Despite what you may think of them culinarily, a Tim’s Cascade Style Potato Chip looks and tastes exactly like what it is; a slice of potato boiled in oil. A Burger King Ketchup & Fries Flavored Potato Snack (and doesn’t that name alone ring some alarm bells? Not “Potato Chip”, but “Flavored Potato Snack”. Like reading “Processed Cheese Food” instead of just “Cheese”, the name seems like a gustatory prevarication all by itself) looks like fragments of flash-fried sticks of Doublemint Gum accidentally exposed to an auto detailer’s red touch-up spray gun.

As for the flavor: once again, it’s not bad. But it sure ain’t ketchup. In fact, selling this flavor as “ketchup” is to do it a bit of a disservice. There are notes of garlic, onion and other spices in there somewhere. It’s rather more like a barbecue flavor. Which I’m sure was the goal all along. Ketchup is too bland, too tomato-and-sugar flavored to really “pop” on a chip. Give a Pringle a quick dunk in a shallow pool of ketchup and you’ll likely wish you hadn’t. I think the wiser heads at the Inventure Group (progenitors of this fine flavored potato snack) decided that they needed to furnish the consumer with a “ketchup-like” sensation without actually exposing them to ketchup, which in this instance would have detracted from the overall experience. Like watching an action-packed gunfight sequence in a movie as opposed to being in an actual gunfight, sometimes an approximation is preferable to the actuality.

So what this all boils down to, Food Frightwise, is a massive deception on the part of Burger King, perpetrated on both the consumer and upon the company itself. These things bear no relationship whatsoever to their namesake, nor to anything one might find in any respectable burger joint (or even a Burger King) except perhaps a food-spattered plastic place mat. Had this product been marketed under any other name, it would just be yet another failed venture into the inhospitable, heart-of-darkness wilderness of modern food marketing: not great by any means, but not truly awful either. It’s the pretension—no, that’s not quite it—the hallucination that this product has even the remotest scintilla to do with a piping-hot basket of crispy fries dunked in ketchup that demotes Ketchup & Fries Flavored Potato Snacks from a mere failure to a Food Fright. God only knows where this desperate turf battle will take Burger King next. Can’t wait to try their Whopper-flavored all-day suckers. 😯

7/15/2008

Food Fright, Part 23

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 10:14 pm

Food Fright Part 23

Muchas Mahalos to my friend Gavin for sending this along. These have been around since February, but I only just became aware of them.

Kellogg’s Wild Animal Crunch is a naturally-and-artificially-flavored cereal that comes in a variety of “Collector’s Package” Animal Planet-themed boxes featuring seals, pandas, meerkats and polar bears.

God knows, cereal companies like Kellogg’s have been responsible for some damn silly cross-brandings and tie-ins over the years (see one of my previous Food Fright entries for an example), but this pertickler venture kind of makes my skin crawl.

There’s the obvious point of interest regarding the product’s name, of course. While it was inevitable in this case that the concept of the wild, animals, or wild animals would play a big role in the packaging, I have to take exception to the designers’—and more to the point, the marketers’—seemingly total lack of skill in wielding it.

If one buys a box of, say, Raisin Bran, does one not assume that the product ensconced therein is made—at least in part—of those selfsame constituents? Is it not the same for Corn Pops, Rice Krispies, and Honey Nut Cheerios? Oh sure, there are exceptions: no one who has sampled it expects that there are any grapes or nuts in Grape Nuts—just quarry gravel—nor any actual naval officers in Captain Crunch. But the general rule is that the things named on the label are representative, in whole or in some part, of the stuff in the box.

Mmmmm….wild animals….

I’ll admit that baby seals can be a nutritious part of a complete breakfast. (And certainly crunchy!) Only problem is you take a chance on receiving a hefty dose of brucellosis with your breakfast.

The designers could not seem to be troubled to find a more deft play on words to use than one that brings to mind the insouciant mastication of still-wriggling field/forest/ocean critters. Hell, I just right this moment pulled the phrase, “Animal Planet’s Wild Crunch” straight outta my ass, and it’s at least fifty times better than “Wild Animal Crunch”. So where’s my multimillion-dollar advertising contract?

Further reinforcing the somewhat gruesome idiom represented by the name “Wild Animal Crunch” (I’m reminded of the old “Whizzo Quality Assortment” sketch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, where a member of the Hygiene Squad is drilling the president of the Whizzo Chocolate Company about his popular confectionery, Crunchy Frog. “Don’t you even take the bones out?” he shouts. To which the proprietor hotly replies, “If we took the bones out, it wouldn’t be crunchy, would it?”) is the fact that the cereal itself comes in a myriad of fun-type animal shapes like elephants, turtles, and yes, seals. So you can extend the metaphor all the way through to the actual consumption of the cereal. Now that’s a complete package!

Beyond the weirdly disjointed package design/marketing strategy, I also think it’s worth noting that, despite the animal-friendly (if chewing on them can really be considered “friendly”) theme, the purchase of this product does not seem in any way to help protect, preserve or enhance the quality of life for any animal, wild or domestic. The box bears the logo of Discovery Channel’s R.O.A.R. program, a non-profit enterprise that covers a lot of ground, from animal adoption to habitat conservation. I’m not sure how effective the R.O.A.R. program is or how much of the money it receives in donations actually goes into their programs, but that’s not really terribly relevant to this polemic. Whatever the impact, hooray for them, chalk one up for the good guys, etc. The real point of my bringing it up is the fact that, as far as I can tell, the Kellogg’s company does not contribute so much as a farthing to the actual R.O.A.R. program itself, or to any other pro-animal/pro-wildlife endeavor. If they did, you think they would be crowing it from the highest mountaintops….or at least from the side of their own cereal box. The logo is there, but no “Proud Sponsor of” emblazoned above it, no mention of Kellogg’s unwavering support for this or any other program of its type on the Wild Animal Crunch web site. Zippo.

So at its core, what this boils down to is a simple cross-marketing campaign used to pimp another form of sugar-crusted oat chaff to kids, coupled with an added extra-flaccid educational/activist component to provide a little filler. What this product gains in karma is immediately lost through disingenuousness. Leaving just about back where you started, at the level of a box of Lucky Charms….only without even a purple horseshoe to show for it.

6/13/2008

Food Fright, Part 22

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:32 am

This installment of Food Fright comes courtesy of my lovely wife, who picked this item up for me at the 99 Ranch Market in Renton whilst out on an errand:

She thought they might be a good candidate for a Food Fright. Can’t say I was inclined to disagree….

This is another of those Asian concoctions that make for such good sport among food wags here in the West. We get to jeer at the packaging, prose (directly under the logo on the front of the box are emblazoned the words, “Natural * Regimen * Leisure Time * Refreshment”) and product positioning of items never really intended for consumption by us round-eyes, all the while failing to remember that we’re the ones who came up with things like an 8,000 calorie burger and Hostess Sno Balls.

The name “Pasture Cake” seems to stem from the presence in the confection of a substance known as “pasture powder”. It took a bit of digging to figure out that pasture powder is most likely a mixture of one or more edible grasses, processed into a powder reputed to have health-stimulating benefits: cholesterol reduction, elimination of free radicals and promotion of cardiovascular health. The Asians have always been able to teach us barbarians a thing or two on the subject of functional foods. I was delighted to discover that the name came from a specific ingredient or constituent, and was not just an odd translation from the product’s language of origin or a misguided attempt at a more Western-friendly moniker. Were the latter the case, I would take it upon myself to deem the effort a complete failure: the term “Pasture Cake” is entirely too reminiscent of the American English idiom, “meadow muffin”. 😯

Like many Eastern treats, it is lightly sweetened (making it totally unsuited for the—ahem—bulk of the American market), with a relatively modest 115 calories per pager-sized serving. The outer texture is very soft and a little crumbly (too crumbly, really; thank goodness for iSkins), with a sort of melt-in-your-mouth feel that I attribute to the presence of milk powder and butter amongst the ingredients. The inside is a little gummy, with a slight flavor of melon and something else, an undertone of “green” that I suspect is old Mr. Pasture Powder making his presence known. The center does not, thank my lucky stars, consist of the gelid Cyalume-green ectoplasm that the picture on the box would suggest. I was quite hesitant with my first bite, openly terrified that the sensation would be not unlike nomming on a long-haul trucker’s used hankie.

The overall experience of the Pasture Cake is not unpleasant by any means; just sort of bland and a little odd. If a Fig Newton had connubial relations with a Cotlet, and their offspring went on to knock up a green-melon-flavored Gummi Bear, I imagine that the runt of that litter would probably look and taste rather like a Pasture Cake. The sensation is nothing I would pursue with any zeal (unlike, say, Pocky or TIng Ting Jahe), but sufficiently inoffensive to ensure that the eight-ounce package Margaret brought home won’t go to waste. I can feel my radicals becoming less free already….

So I guess, since there’s nothing particularly frightening or outrageous about Pasture Cakes, the term “Food Fright” doesn’t really apply in this instance. Too bad, ’cause I already took the time to superimpose the logo on the picture; no going back now.

1/28/2008

Food Fright, Part 21

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:43 pm

I was twigged to this particular Food Fright by my lovely wife, who spotted it at the QFC a few days previous:

Food Fright, Part 21

Yes, you read it right: Bacon Saltâ„¢. When your creme brulee simply doesn’t taste sufficiently bacony.

Now it must be said that, as an avowed carnivore, I have no quarrel with the concept of bacon in general, nor bacon-flavored seasoning in particular. If creators Justin and Dave manage to make a living off of this product, more nitrites to ’em. The mere existence of this product doth not a Food Fright make.

No, the only real stumbling block for me can be found on the display rack pictured above, around the end of the first line of text under the logo: “vegetarian“.

To begin with, while a cursory Web search was unable to confirm this, I can only assume that the chief flavoring agent is something incredibly, overwhelmingly artificial, something inherently non-bacony in origin. After all, if the creators could have made this product from ingredients that would allow them to include the phrase “all natural”, don’t you think they would have? (Amusing side note: Proving once again that the science of sponsored search-query-driven advertising is still in its infancy, check out the ad I got back when doing a search for “artificial flavor bacon”.)

Secondly, while this may be excessively vindictive, there is some part of me that wants very much to deny those who spurn meat the ersatz trappings of a carnivorous/omnivorous diet. It seems somehow unfair that vegetarians should be given the opportunity to sup at the banquet of flesh rent asunder without getting blood on their hands. After all, I’m not scrambling to add artificial quinoa essence to my hot dogs, so why should my herbivorous brethren—these dietary dilettantes—be free to avail themselves of my kind’s dead-animaly goodness? As my brother-in-law once said, “vegetarians eating fake meat is like monks having sex with blow-up love dolls”. (Ironically, he has since gone veg, and is known to bring soy bratwurst to our barbecues, which I do my best to rub up against a burger or two whilst grilling.)

But beyond these arguments is a simple, axiomatic principle: I’m sorry, but much like alcohol-free beer, meat-free bacon flavoring is a crime against Nature, a perversion of the basic underlying principles of the Universe. In fact, I’m fairly sure that it is one of the signs of the Apocalypse. For is it not foretold in the Book of Revelation:

And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood, and the bacon became as broccoli.

10/2/2007

Food Fright, Part 20

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 5:55 pm

Food Fright Part 20

I’ve had this picture sitting around for a few weeks but just stumbled across it whilst paring down my iPhoto library.

When I saw these babies in my local grocery, I knew that I must, not only photograph them, but in fact take them home and try them out for myself, in all of their artificial-strawberryish glory. These are part of Nabisco’s “Limited Edition” line of Oreo formulations….so limited that they are already off the shelves. And with good reason, IMHO. They boast the standard Oreo chocolate-cookie platform, but with a filling of an entirely new order.

The first thing you notice when you crack open a bag of these things is the aroma. Ever own a “Hello Kitty“-style strawberry-scented eraser? Growing up in Hawaii, I was exposed to not only the bona-fide product, but countless hundreds of knockoffs from suppliers all over Asia. When you first peeled back the plastic from a brand-new Hello Kitty (or Bonjour Porpoise, or Whassup Tapir, or similar South Korean impostor) eraser, the initial layer of artificial strawberry scenting agent would instantly volatilize in contact with the air, and the fumes wafting up from the rent in the package would cause both eyes and mouth to water. I think Nabisco has done an admirable job of capturing that old sense memory with these cookies. You get the same “throat burns because your nostrils flared involuntarily upon contact with the fumes” effect. Kind of the solid-food equivalent of the yummy chemical burn you get when taking a big slug of Hawaiian Punch.

Food Fright Part 20, 2

One of the stranger things about these cookies—aside from the kind of icky color scheme—is the consistency of the filling. The guts of a regular Oreo is somewhat stiff and unyielding, doubtless from the heady mixture of cornstarch and several varieties of vegetable oils. By contrast, the filling of a Strawberry Milkshake Creme Oreo is decidedly squishy. Simply pressing down on the two cookie halves will cause pink mung to squelch out from around the circumference of the thing. This can lead to a not-particularly-appetizing sensation when you bite down on one.

But of course, it’s all about the flavor, isn’t it? Yes; yes, it is. As one might guess from my description of their smell, the Strawberry Milkshake Creme Oreo is not one of life’s more noteworthy epicurean experiences. Among other things, I can’t for the life of me imagine from whence the Nabisco Corporation drew the “Milkshake” part of the name. “Strawberry” is a bit easier; anything with a little ethyl methylphenylglycidate in it can make some sort of claim, however anemic, to the title “strawberry”. But what exactly makes a milkshake? These cookies have none of the essential characteristics of a milkshake. They are neither cool nor creamy, bracing nor refreshing. They don’t come in a steel cup, they don’t fit through a straw. Why then, would Nabisco not elect to omit the totally spurious “Milkshake” tag and opt for the simpler and more conventional designation “Strawberry Creme” for this product? “Creme” is barely a word, in English; it is open to massive interpretation, and by default imparts an impression of artificiality upon the reader. “Milkshake” on the other hand means something very particular, very choate to every American consumer. And “gummy off-pink eraser-smelling cookie spooge” ain’t it.

One of the most amazing parts of this little exercise was the reaction of my wife to the cookies. She likes them. The woman who is ridiculously proud of the fact that she has never sullied her palate with a Twinkie finished off the entire bag of Strawberry Milkshake Creme Oreos. Not singlehandedly, by any means, and not in one sitting. But long after I had decided to shun the balance of the bag (about three cookies into the experiment), Margaret continued to be seen with a glass of milk and a plate of three or four of the vile things.

You’re on notice, Dear: you are never, ever to make another deprecating observation regarding my taste in junk food. No amount of deep-fried Twinkies can hold a candle, esthetically, to the snackcrime represented by your precious Strawberry Milkshake Oreos.

9/11/2007

Food Fright, Part 19

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 10:16 am

Food Fright, Part 19

Shot this in an end-cap cooler case at the grocery store yesterday.

I have long been known to comment on the fact that so many of the insta-foods—particularly those marketed to children—seem to have colors in place of flavors. Finally, someone has closed the conceptual loop by producing the Crayons® Fruit Juice Drink.

The product’s Web address, http://www.drinkcrayons.com/, would seem to say it all.

Ironically, this product is marketed as a healthier alternative to many kid-oriented fruitish juicoid products: all-natural (for what that’s worth: the USDA is pretty spotty on the use of the term), no high-fructose corn syrup, 30% juice, 90 calories per 8 ounce serving (only 7 calories less than a can of Coke). Not bad. Not great, but not bad. Certainly appreciably less like drinking a real Crayon than would be the case with, say, a bottle of Sunny Delight.

Hmm….upon further reflection, perhaps drinking a Crayons® Fruit Juice Drink really is more analogous to ingesting an actual crayon. After all, crayons contain natural ingredients as well (wax, paper), and as many a parent of a toddler will tell you, they can be taken internally with relatively few adverse side effects.

Following this logic, then, drinking something like a Sunny D or a Snapple would be more akin to, say, sucking on a purple Sharpie.

8/13/2007

Food Fright, Part 18

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:09 am

Food Fright, Part 18

Eagle-eyed Margaret spotted this in the Dog Food aisle as we were leaving the QFC this weekend. Food Fright is no longer just for humans, if it ever was.

I don’t even have to expound on this one; a picture is worth a thousand words.

Though I will add one observation: the bag ought to have a big yellow starburst on it reading, “FREE RIFLE IN EVERY BAG!”

8/9/2007

Food Fright, Part 17

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 2:57 pm

Food Fright, Part 17

This one courtesy of Shawn, who spotted this at the grocery store and brought me a couple to feature here.

Where to begin, where to begin….

I think I will start where I would more typically end one of these entries; at the taste. A Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup is by no measure an epicurean delight. The chocolate that constitutes the major sensory platform doesn’t have much of a flavor at all besides “sweet”, and the peanut butter features a texture that is a miraculous alchemical combination of waxy and crumbly. For all that, it’s a pretty decent wad of low-bandwidth yumminess, just right for bingeing on during a schlocky horror film while waiting for Trick-or-Treaters to come a-knocking on your door.

That being said, the addition of a layer of mucilaginous artificial-banana-flavored “creme” (and it’s always “creme”, never “cream”; like spelling “crab” with a “k”, that novel nomenclature should hip you to the fact that there is in fact nothing cream-based, cream-like or even cream-esque about this substance) does nothing to contribute to the overall experience. It’s a fairly valiant attempt at banana flavoring as these things go, with a note of tart underlying the basic bland sweetness. (Ever have a stick of banana-flavored Tangy Taffy back in the day? [It’s since been taken over by the Wonka brand, and that site is so goddamn overloaded with Flash content that I won’t deign to post a link] Take that flavor and dial it back from “10” down to about “4”, and you get the basic idea.) But the effect is almost totally drowned out by the other signature flavors of their standard peanut butter cup, leaving the taster with only a light “off” note. Sort of a “milk on the edge of going sour” thing that makes you wonder if someone tampered with the package.

So thanks, Reese’s, but no thanks.

Then there’s everything else about this concept. Like, f’rinstance, the very notion of a “Collector’s Edition” peanut butter cup. I mean, I understand the basic concept of a collector’s edition: take the same old thing you’ve been manufacturing for eons, and change the packaging slightly in order to get impulsive whackjobs to buy thousands of them in the hopes that some day they will become valuable….or perhaps just to fill the black-and-cold-as-deep-space hole in their soul stemming from the knowledge that they may not have an absolutely complete set of Flintstones jelly jars/Microman action figures/Franklin Mint commemorative chess sets. (Hell, I myself have three different cans of Limited Edition Spam®: Hot & Spicy Spam®, Spam® with Cheese and Hawaiian Spam® No, it’s not as weird as collecting Flintstones jelly jars. Why? Because shut up, that’s why!).

But the main difference between collecting glass or plastic objects—or steel-jacketed foodstuffs so laden with nitrites and other preservatives that they are the nutritional equivalent of glass or plastic objects—and collecting a delicate, perishable and highly temperature-sensitive confectionery is that everything about the candy, from its constituent ingredients to the packaging, is not designed to withstand the tests of time. From the standpoint of the manufacturer and the reseller, this would seem to be the perfect collectible: a commodity that is by its very nature and composition ephemeral, fleeting, essentially uncollectible. Guaranteed repeat business.

And if the “Collector” idea isn’t weird enough, there’s the whole Elvis thing. Of course the connection between Elvis, peanut butter and bananas is well-established (not so sure about the addition of chocolate, but where The King is involved I wouldn’t label any gastronomic peccadillo beyond the scope of possibility). But, one’s feelings about his music aside, is anyone out there really interested in eating like Elvis? The fact that the Reese’s company chose an earlier portrait of Presley for their wrapper artwork instead of the more contemporary, anatomically accurate “Fat Elvis” should tell the consumer everything they might like to know about the wisdom of taking one’s meals ala King.

And what’s this “Live Like The King” sweepstakes? What exactly to I get if I win? Underage wife? Drug addiction? Early grave?

All in all, the total user experience of this product runs the gamut from slightly icky (flavor) through totally creepy (play our sweepstakes for the chance to live—briefly—like a famous fat train wreck of a pop star). Think next time I’ll just have a Twix instead. Assuming they’re neither offering their limited-edition Mackerel Creme Flavor, nor running some sort of Kurt Cobain-based sweepstakes.

4/4/2007

Food Fright, Part 16

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 7:54 am

Food Fright Part 16

I snapped this picture in my local grocery store earlier in the week. Where to begin, where to begin….

First of all, one wouldn’t think that Oreos and organic anything would be capable of peaceful coexistence on the same shelf, much less the same cookie. I would have thought that such an endeavor would be like handing a thirsty vampire a glass of holy water. Upon introduction of the offending additives, you’d expect the cookie to emit an anguished squeal and hurl itself bodily out of the baking tray, like the alien-contaminated blood sample in John Carpenter’s The Thing. (Off topic: did you know that The Thing was banned in Finland when it first came out? Whoda thunk. It’s amazing the kind of useless crap you can learn whilst trawling for a hyperlink to reference.)

Secondly, what marketing genius decided that what Oreos really needed was organic ingredients anyway? What’s next, animal-testing-free rat poison? Fair Trade Certified hollow-point bullets? Dolphin Safe Strontium 90?

At 160 calories and 7 fat grams per cookie, you’d be better off eating the strontium.

Junk food is junk food, and nothing in the cookie arena is junkier than an Oreo. And that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with letting a little junk food into your life. Just don’t let it get out of hand. To this common-sense proclamation I would add a codicil: don’t try to tart up your junk food and pretend it’s something it’s not. Like healthy. Or good for the planet. Or even food, really.

I am reminded of that sage old adage, “You can’t polish a turd”.

8/24/2006

Food Fright, Part 15

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 5:31 pm

I was strolling through my local QFC when I spied this:

foodfright-15.jpg

I screeched (“scruch”?) to a halt in the aisle, unable to truly convince myself of what I had just seen.

I mean, sure, I’m aware that Starbucks makes a number of non-coffee drinks under the Frappuccino label; I myself am not above the occasional Venti Green Tea, no whip. But this, in my opinion, is a stroke of genius. The good folks at America’s—hell, probably the world’s—most widely-recognized gourmet coffee chain are charging Yuppies 6 bucks a 4-pack for Strawberry Quik. What a riot.

Naturally, the next thing that came to mind was a taste test.

I was fortunate in that I happen to live with two “uncontaminated” test subjects: neither Margaret nor Shawn had ever tasted either Strawberries & Créme Frappuccino (no surprise there) nor Strawberry Quik (huge surprise to me. I mean, Margaret maybe—hell, she’s never even set lips on a Twinkie—but Shawn? I would have thought his Mama had raised him poorer than that 😉 ).

foodfright-15-2.jpg

I set up each participant with two glasses, made from a special wavelength-adjusted optical blue glass to hide the minor color differences between the two samples (okay, so the four clean glasses in the cupboard happened to be blue). The Starbucks product has a slightly darker cast to it than the Quik, presumably to connote a more natural, fruit-based ancestry than the Hello-Kitty-backpack-pink Nestle stuff, and I didn’t want either of them to take their cues from the color. The blue glass masked the colors quite nicely.

I started our subjects off with Sample A, code named, for the purposes of this procedure, “Gossamer”. Results were unambiguous.

foodfright-15-3.jpg

Both Margaret and Shawn felt that Gossamer’s primary flavor signature was that of sweetener, most likely corn syrup, with other, slightly astringent artificial flavors lurking just beneath the surface. Any relationship to fruit was purely coincidental.

foodfright-15-4.jpg

Both agreed the flavor resembled that of milk left over from the consumption of some strawberry-flavored children’s cereal. They also agreed that it was completely nasty.

By comparison, Sample B—code named “Platycore”—was a real breath of fresh air. Though by no means a strawberry smoothie, Platycore lacked much of the overwhelming sweetness, gag-inducing artificial flavorings and chemical tang of its table mate. While neither test subject felt they would find themselves picking up a sixer of either beverage any time this side of the Apocalypse, the vote was unanimous: it was Platycore by a landslide.

Of course, we can all see it coming, can’t we? Sample A was the gourmet créme concoction from the internationally acknowledged gourmet coffee chain, Sample B was the radioactive sugar sludge fed to prediabetic children by their soap-opera-watching white-trash moms. And at 9.9 cents per fluid ounce compared to Starbuck’s 15.7, Strawberry Nesquik’s not only better-tasting, it’s a bargain to boot. It’s so deliciously funny, it’s—it’s Strawberry Nesquik deliciously funny!

After the reveal, Shawn had a great idea: drag his kid out of bed and have her taste test the stuff as well. After all, half of this stuff is being pimped directly to children in her age bracket; shouldn’t her demographic be represented in the study?

foodfright-15-5.jpg

Truth be told, Anastatia wasn’t hugely fond of either beverage (when asked what she thought she was drinking, she ventured that the stuff smelled like strawberry GoGurt). Upon further sampling and reflection, she proclaimed the Frappuccino to be the winner.

foodfright-15-6.jpg

It seems like the ultimate irony of this experiment that the adult test subjects picked the child-oriented drink as being the more natural, sophisticated—in other words, “adult”—beverage, while the only child participant in the experiment displayed a strong preference for the beverage intened for the adult market. Who knows? Certainly Anastatia is an extremely prodigious youngster, and none of the three of us adults can honestly lay claim to the description “mature”. Perhaps this wasn’t the ideal batch of test subjects for this experiment. Was pretty fun, though. 😉

8/10/2006

Food Fright, Part 14

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 6:22 pm

foodfright-14.jpg

Shot this while shopping at Costco with Margaret last week. There was a whole pallet of these 5-gallon buckets on an end cap between the deli stuff and the beer and wine. Gosh, where to begin….

Firstly there’s the idea that Costco has jumped on the “Disaster Preparedness” bandwagon. That’s just so….well, so incredibly American. I mean, it’s cute in a way, thinking of folks going about their Costco-y business, loading up their preposterous aircraft-carrier-landing-deck-sized commodity sleds with frozen chicken nuggets and cases of Kirkland Signature® Sports Drink (aka Gatoresque) stopping in front of the stack of Kegs-O-Human Chow and saying, “hey, yeah, what the hell, there’s still room in the garage next to the lawn edger.”

And yet, if you’re the type of person who regularly shops at Costco (as do we), you already by definition have at least a half an Apocalypse worth of food stored in your home; isn’t an additional 5-gallon tub of yummy foodlike substance just a redundancy?

Then there’s the fascinating array of foodish substanceoids present in the container. You can’t read it from here, but among the entrees proffered herein are: blueberry pancakes, mashed potatoes and something unnervingly called a “scramble”. A survival situation is by its very nature one of personified by the act of making do or doing without; tarting up your friendly neighborhood disaster with gourmet-style rations seems, well, unnecessary and slightly daffy. Personally, if I decide to stock up for the End Times, I think I’ll go with something simple, like a 55-gallon garbage can of beans and another one of rice, triple-sacked and stored with a few bricks of dry ice to keep the aerobes down. If you want something more exotic, dry dog kibble is almost perfectly nutritionally balanced for human consumption (and that’s before you count the extra protein from all the bugs); just a few vitamin supplements will round out your meal plan.

Unless you’ve packed some dehydrated maple syrup in your survival kit, them pancakes are gonna be mighty dry.

Lastly there’s the wierd vibe I get off these things. I’m reminded of nothing so much as the scene in Repo Man where punk wannabe Emilio Estevez pulls a can of “FOOD” (in black block letters on a plain white label) out of his parents’ fridge and starts digging into it with a spoon. During an interchange with his parents watching TV in the living room, he is seen to be masticating something chewy from the can one instant and crunching something quite hard and brittle the next. I don’t think I’m quite ready to be one of tens or hundreds of thousands of people who will be rooting through my bucket of “FOOD” when the Big One hits, desperately trying to find something that goes well with a side of anthrax, cesium or contaminated drinking water. For some reason I’d rather eat dog food. Or the cats, maybe. After all, we’ve been feeding them for years; only fair that we get something back on the investment.

6/29/2006

Welcome to my life

MargaretMargaret
Filed under: @ 9:31 am

Andrew has asked me to be a permanent guest blogger since he says “I need the content” (to which I say phoo! But I’m happy to keep blogging) and Zeus alone knows that my every day professional life is certainly content-ful so here we go.

For those, including myself, who worry that my blog entries may be nothing more than a long series of work rants, I would ask that you calm your worries. I’ll make every attempt to bore the pants off y’all every so often with long rambling discourses on how my garden grows. I may even figure out how to post photos! 🙂

And with that odd introduction I begin my preliminary rant.

Case The First:

Why on EARTH would an adult woman name her dog a 6 letter name starting with “C” that is a common slang term for female genitalia? Now granted, she was a young and somewhat dumb adult, but that just seems to prove my point all the more. This girl, ponytail sprouting from the top of her head, “Hello Kitty” clutch purse, cell phone semi-permanently glued to her ear and the word “PINK” boldy blazoned across her butt (or the seat of her shorts, but you at least get the picture) wasn’t the little old lady type who you might expect to come up with this sort of semi-cutesy name with hideous slang undertones. For the record this “C” word is one section of a three word combo, something that grandma types could potentially be expected to coo out when tickling their grandchildren. But, as I said, this wasn’t a grandma type. She was young enough to have only heard this word in its slang/genitalia disguise and we had to try REAL hard not to laugh when talking to her about her dog.

Especially since the dog, poor thing, was having problems associated with having puppies.

Case The Second:

Why, oh why, oh why do people bring me their pets, pay for my opinion about what needs to be done with their pets and then not take my advice? The case in point involves a 10 month old puppy whose owner is feeding him nothing but people food. “He used to eat dog food, but we kind of got in the habit of feeding him people food and now he doesn’t want to eat anything else!” So she feeds him (eek) bacon. And tater tots. And meat if the family is having it, but otherwise she just cooks him up some eggs. And he really likes pizza.

I’m sure, even though most of you haven’t had much exposure to the back workings of a veterinary hospital (and the lunacy so involved), you can get the idea. Young woman, maybe mid to late 20s, lower income, and it’s obvious that her diet isn’t of the best. Intact male puppy who should have been neutered months ago, no compliance on the part of the owner with our reccomendations about vaccines even though “We love him so much he’s just like part of the family!”. Puppy is allowed to jump and scratch the owner’s legs and he was aggressively demanding to chew on the owner (her hands, her clothing, her purse) while I was talking to her.

I spent half an hour or more explaining to her what needs to be done with her dog so he doesn’t continue these behaviors that are, the owner is now beginning to realize, pretty damned annoying. I spent at least another half an hour explaining to her how she was killing her dog by feeding it (shudder) three pieces of bacon and a scrambled egg for breakfast.

She sat and listened to me in between fending off her creature’s advances.

And then responded with……..

“Okay, I’ll think about it.”

Y’know there are other, wildly more productive things I could have spent that hour doing.

Case The Third:

Involves an article I read in a recent People magazine. No, we don’t subscribe, it was in the staff john at work and it was much more interesting to read than the AAHA magazine that was also there.

Woman in Connecticut (I believe) owns a cat that has viciously and unprovokedly attacked two neighbors and her Avon lady, putting at least one of them in the hospital. In accordance with local statues the owner was charged with felony reckless endangerment (oh how I wish that owners of dangerous animals in King county could be charged with a felony!). The prosecutor’s office offered to drop all the charges if she has the cat euthanized to which she, of course said “NO” and promptly started a stink about it. She claims the cat is, well, a pussy cat, but there’s ample evidence to the contrary.

There’s now a PayPal site set up to take donations for this cat’s (and, one presumes the owner’s) legal defense.

Now WDF is up with that? Granted she loves her cat so she doesn’t want him euthanized. Okay, that’s easy, keep the vicious little shit inside. And if you can’t do that then suck it up, take your lumps and get prosecuted for owning a dangerous animal. And when you’re convicted, take your punishment.

If you’re a grown up, being a grown up means that sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do. Quit with the national sob story just because someone is making you take responsibility for your (or your pet’s) actions.

If someone were to unearth the creature’s medical records from his regular veterinarian’s office, I’d bet they’d be covered with WILL BITE stickers.

5/14/2006

Food Fright, Part 13

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 3:43 pm

Food Fright, Part 13

Sorry it’s been a while since I posted. I got hit with a nasty-ass flu virus that’s been going around (“nasty ass” being the term, if you get my drift. [“Goodness, is he talking about diarrhea?” Why yes, yes I am, thanks for asking. Can’t you take a hint?]).

So as a celebration of my (near) recovery, I thought I’d take a moment to bring you the latest installment of Food Fright: Coca-Cola Blak, a “carbonated fusion beverage”. What it appears to be a “fusion” of is Coke, Diet Coke, and black coffee.

Food Fright, Part 13

Or, if you happen to agree with my brother-in-law (pictured above), a fusion of Coke, Diet Coke and ass.

I don’t happen to agree. I mean, the stuff ain’t nothin’ to write home about (which, given the banality of the Web in general and UUdN in particular, still makes it more than worthy of writing online about), but it’s not terrible. It doesn’t make one physically gag or spew a fizzy rooster-tail of expelled beverage across the room upon contact with your tongue. It’s less sweet than regular ol’ Coke, which is just fine in my book, with a slight artificial-sweetener aftertaste that is partially masked by the coffee notes.

The coffee part is—well, it’s interesting. They seem to have been trying for a fairly strong, “Starbucks French Roast” kind of effect (strong as in strong coffee, not necessarily strong presence in the overall flavor. The coffee part is actually pretty subtle….if “subtle” is the term for anything put into a soda), and they seem to have hit it pretty well. Coke and coffee actually go together all right, to my great suprise. It’s nothing you would horse down after a hard day of rock climbing or anything, but if the experts are to be believed, a soda isn’t the kind of thing one should be drinking after heavy exertion anyway. (Off-topic: does anyone else remember those Dannon Yogurt commercials that first aired sometime in the late 70’s/early 80’s that showed a woman climbing into her car after a hard run, her breath steaming in the morning chill, reaching into the bag on the back seat and pulling out a plastic container of yogurt and digging into it, her face a mask of sublime but winded bliss? How fucked up was that? About the only thing I’d want less after a jog than a tub of yogurt would be a peanut butter sandwich.)

No, the flavor is not the real problem with this beverage. The problem is twofold: first, the marketing campaign is, well, weird. Coca-Cola seems to want to try to position this stuff to appeal to a group of people who only truly exist in stereotype: edgy, artsy, hip, gallery-crawling trendoids, arrogant androgynes presumably dressed to the nines (do you kids today still say “dressed to the nines”?) in dark, stylishly-cut suits and titanium-framed sunglasses. Like New Yorkers as they might appear in the nightmares of Red-State Heartlanders or something. (Which, come to think of it, is also a stereotype. Perhaps the Coca Cola Company is working on a beverage for them as well.)

Slurking down a bottle of Coke Blak did not make me feel any closer to the pulse of the city at the bleeding edge of the envelope, or whatever the hell it was supposed to do. It did make me feel a bit gassy, though. Maybe they were trying for artsy and overshot into artsy-fartsy? Stranger things have happened.

The second and more prevalent problem is the price. This shit retails for as much as $8.99 for a four-pack of 8 fluid ounce bottles. At that price you’d better draw a serious MoMA salary if you plan to make a habit of the stuff.

My conclusion is this: if you have the hankering for a quick jolt of less-than-Coke-sweet cola goodness and have two bucks burning a hole in your pocket, you might want to give Coca-Cola Blak a try. I think you’ll say, “Wow! I can’t wait until X-Men 3 comes to the Cinerama!” Then you’ll either finish your drink or dump it out onto the sidewalk. Either way, please remember to recycle the bottle.

4/8/2006

Food Fright, Part 12

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 5:20 pm
Food Fright Part 12

Shawn brought this one home from the store a few weeks ago, and I’ve been wrestling with how to present it ever since.

Most of you will recall the heyday of TaB, the diet beverage put out by the Coca Cola Company that rose to ascendancy in the early 1960s. Originally sweetened with cyclamate which was banned by the FDA in 1973, Coke switched to saccharin, which was subsequently found to cause cancer in laboratory animals. Today TaB is sweetened with a combination of saccharin and aspartame.

I would have thought that we were approaching the sunset years of the functional beverage craze. Now that every other person in a given public space is no longer pulling on a SoBe, it seemed as though we Americans were getting back to enjoying sugary beverages for the tooth-rotting junk food that they are; drawing energy from their mind-blowing levels of refined sucrose, instead of trace amounts of taurine, guarana or chromine picolinate.

But a new breed of specialty soda seems to have surfaced. This may be pure speculation on my part, but it seems to me that these new drinks are less about “health” (or perhaps more more accurately, “wellness”, that twilight region between science and shamanism that offers such fertile soil for marketers) and more about “energy” (perhaps more accurately defined by the term “hyperactivity”). Red Bull is kind of the aging patiarch of this market, first appearing on American shelves in 1997 (unless you want to count Jolt Cola, which with its slogan of “All the Sugar and Twice the Caffeine!” was to my mind a more honestly marketed product but not really an “energy drink” in the commercial sense of the term. Is confectioner’s sugar an “energy powder”?). Mountain Dew is now offering MDX, a beverage whose truly disturbing TV ad campaign—featuring a host of CG-altered nocturnal animals singing along to Lionel Richie’s All Night Long—offers the tagline: “Be Nocturnal”. The subtext: stay amped up all night on our sugary swill! (in fact, Mountain Dew’s other successful spin-off beverage is called “Amp“.) And of course there’s the venerable, awfully-named Bawls, a drink so leveraged towards the ADHD demographic that the parent company has been known to sponsor LAN parties.

Somewhere after the turn of the milennium the producers of energy drinks began to take notice of a hole in their product line: what of those who wanted the zippy rush of largely-undertested stimulants but were for one reason or another unwilling or unable to tolerate the overadundance of that most common of stimulants, sugar? (One of the things I find so amazingly, endearingly fucked-up about our society is that half of us are worried about our Multiple Chemical Sensitivity while the other half is so overloaded with chemical stimulants that an 8 ounce beverage containing 32 grams of sugar is not sufficient to move our down around without throwing some other uppers into the mix. For reference: 100 mililieters of water can hold up to 179.2 grams of sucrose [table sugar] before becoming saturated. At that ratio, that can of MDX is 67 percent staurated with sugar. I’m sure they would have preferred to hike it up to 100 percent, but hey, that artifical color’s gotta be squeezed in there somewhere).

Hence the emergence of the diet energy drink, a concoction sufficiently bizarre and self-contradictory as to hold its own on the field of honor against non-alcoholic beer and vegetarian corn dogs.

I think the first sign of this coming hydropocalypse would have been the arrival of Propel Fitness Water, a product of the Gatorade company. Though not technically an “energy drink”, Propel is marketed as a performance-maintaining beverage for active people who don’t want the extra sugar that comes from chugging Gatorade. Sweetened with acesulfame K, it basically provides a lighter alternative to the chilled-sweat-and-urine goodness of Gatorade, without the sugar. In other words, it’s closer than ever to a bottle of water with a high-tech cap….for $1.39.

At this point, pretty much every big-box energy drink comes in a sugar-free formulation, and every major beverage manufacturer has one or four or twelve different products out on the market to fullfill perceived public need for specially-tainted water. The Coca Cola Company already offers a number of items in the genre, including Diet Rockstar, Full Throttle Sugar Free and Vault Zero. Where, one might ask, in this paralyzingly plentiful panoply of power-producing potential purgatives is the special evolutionary niche for a product like TaB Energy Drink? (You do remember that TaB Energy Drink was purportedly the topic of this missive, don’t you? More to the point, do I? Well, now I do….)

This dinky 10.5 fluid ounce (why 10.5? Is there something wrong with 10? It’s not as though 10.5 fluid ounces equals some more sensible number in milileters or something [311, in case you’re curious]. Better yet, why not make it eleven fluid ounces? That way, when people ask why TaB Energy Drink comes in a can .5 fluid ounces larger than a can of, oh, say, XCyto, the rep from Coke can reply, “Yes, but this one goes to eleven.”) can contains a mixture of all the usual culprits, plus taurine, ginseng and guarana, as well as regular old garden-variety caffeine. It is sweetened with a mixture of acesulfame K and sucralose, aka Splenda, which presumably helps to offset the tongue-out-ripping aftertaste one usually associates with beverages sweetened with saccharin.

I say “presumably”, because I have not tasted this product, I will not taste this product, and in fact the only way this product will ever get past my lips will be if it crawls into my mouth whilst I sleep. For I despise the so-called “flavor” of TaB, and refuse to subject myself to any derivative works thereof.

To fully describe my take on this most vile of coloid substances, allow me to relate a personal anecdote:

When I was fifteen or sixteen, deep in my punk phase (I still have a few random dots of black pigment on dorsal surface of the first joint of my left thumb that are all that’s left of the Dead Kennedys logo I tattooed there at the time) and almost criminally devoid of the faculty of forethought, I was getting ready to attend a showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the University of Hawaii when I realized that I did not have a squirt gun to use during the storm sequence (and for self-defense uring the rest of the show). The squirt gun was intened to do double-duty for me, as I also wanted to get drunk during the film but had not had time to buy any easily-portable/concealable alcohol to carry on my person. I figured I could just fill the squirt gun with the contents of one or another liquor bottles in my parents’ collection and kill two birds with one stone….or at least get the two birds severely pickled. If anyone at the show complained about getting hosed down with hooch, well, that would be compelling impetus for them to avoid squirting me, now, wouldn’t it?

Casting about, I found a geriatric spray bottle of Ortho insecticide in the tool shed. Reasoning that if I washed it out carefully there probably would be insufficient organophosphates left in the bottle to cause me to start SLUDing in the middle of the second reel, I rinsed it out real good. Now that I was working with such a large-capacity reservoir, I decided I could afford to go extra swanky and fill the thing with a mixed drink, rather than simple booze. I chose a rum and coke, filling the former bottle of nerve agent with a mixture of approximately one-third Myers’s Rum and two-thirds Cragmont cola.

By the time I got to the tiny, packed theater in the bowels of University’s Manoa Gardens Ballroom, the mixture of lukewarm effervescent store-brand cola and cheap rum had drawn what was left of the insecticide out of the polyethelyne walls of the spray bottle. The resulting witches’ brew of toxins had a piquant, chromosome-unwinding flavor suspiciously reminiscent of TaB. Well, once was enough for me, thank you.

Personal preferences aside, what I can’t seem for the life of me to figure out is what place in the grand scheme of diet energy drinks this product is supposed to fill. I mean, I can accept the idea that sufficient numbers of consumers like the (shudder) taste of TaB to keep Coca Cola from culling the brand from its product line. But just what engendered the genesis of a specialty functional beverage offshoot of same? For precisely whom is this stuff intended? “Oh, if only there were an arificially-sweetened soda-like compound with all the yummy roach-spray goodness of TaB, only blessed with an additional payload of faddish dietary supplements!” When I try to picture this particular consumer demographic in its natural environment, all I get is a hazy mental image of a three-hundred-pound person in a grungy sweatsuit, straining against gravity on an Ab Roller in a living room littered with empty Tab Energy Drink cans and tattered Hostess Ho Hos wrappers. Someone straining ineffectually along two distinct, tragically contraindicated paths. Much like the concept of the beverage itself.

Rather than confirm the obvious—that this shit tastes awful—I think I will instead place it in my display of novel beverages, between the Monty Python’s Holy Grail Ale and my can of Pocari Sweat. I think it’s likely that this particular beverage will serve me better on the shelf than in myself. 😛

3/21/2006

Food Fright, Part 11

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:39 pm
Food Fright, Part 11

I’ve been bandying about this particular entry for at least a week or two, but was only recently able to snag a few screen captures via the TV tuner card in my computer so I could bring this to life for you, my adoring readership (hack puke wheeze).

This is—purportedly—the new Prime Rib Sub from Quiznos. According to Quiznos’ (I have no goddamn idea what a “Quiznos” is; it is apparently not a name, since if it was you’d assume that there’d be a possessive apostrophe thrown in there somewhere, other than the one I just hung on myself for the sake of good grammar) Web site, the Prime Rib Sub consists of a “Double portion of prime rib [“double” compared to what, I wonder?] with mozzarella, sautéed onions, and Mild Peppercorn Sauce.”

I have to say up front that I’m not a huge fan of Quiznos. Their food, while not particularly vile or poorly prepared, aspires to something it most certainly is not, namely not fast food. That is to say, it ain’t not fast food. It is. Fast food. I don’t care if you toast it, squirt some sort of weird sauce over it and serve it on flaccid, wholly contrived faux-artisan bread. It still tastes about the same as an equivalent Subway sandwich. Which itself is largely reminiscent of Hollofil sleeping-bag insulation.

So basically what you get at Quiznos is a warmer, slightly knobbier version of what you get at just about any megachain fast-food sub joint. Only more pretentious.

With this new sandwich, however—and particularly the attendant, incessant television campaign—the Quiznos Corporation seems to aspire to so much more than mere fooditude. They seem to be reaching for genuine terror, a veritable Subzilla.

I’d be willing to bet that the folks who threw this commercial together never previewed it on a big-screen TV:

Food Fright, Part 11

The first time I ran across this ad, I literally let out a yelp. “Holy crap, what the hell is that?” I exclaimed. I witnessed a similar reaction in our housemate while he and I were channel-surfing a few nights later. “My God!” he yelled. “That is one ugly sandwich!”

When my words returned, I managed to say, “It looks like it’s made from toasted skin grafts.”

I repeated this line to Margaret when she returned home from work, during a reprise of the ad. To my mingled delight and revulsion, she replied, “I’ve done skin grafts, and you’re right: they look pretty much just like that.”

I mentioned this offhandedly to another friend during a car trip, and he responded by telling me that his girlfriend is terrified of these ads.

So apparently this phenomenon is not isolated to our household, and is therefore less likely to be a byproduct of some other random factor, such as radon or carbon monoxide. If anything, this makes me feel worse. It means that someone felt—in fact, was paid probably quite handsomely to feel—that presenting this baleful, glistening Signal 30 of a concoction to the after-dinner television audience would cause folks to flock to their local Quiznos instead of making a mad dash for the john.

Remember, you can’t spell “Quiznos” without “Quease”. 😛

2/4/2006

Food Fright, Part 10

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 6:09 pm
Food Fright, Part 10

I was out with a couple of friends this afternoon when I spotted this particular gem in the window of some ice cream store—Rocky Mountain Creamery? Creamy Mountain Rockery? Creamy Rocky Mountainry? Whatever—and had to snap a shot of it for Food Fright.

I don’t feel that a ton of explanation is necessary, but I have to day that I just love the oh-so-subtle correlation between Valentine’s Day (and, by proxy, sex), chocolate and boobies. “Whoa, check out the tarts on that one!”

The medium is the message, and the message is mammaries.

12/6/2005

Food Fright, Part 9

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:29 pm
Food Fright Part 9

This photo was sent to me by my good friend Gavin. Where he managed to find a 55-gallon drum of Yamasa Soy Sauce to photograph I can only imagine. On second thought, no, I can’t. And so far he hasn’t told me.

The obvious anomaly here (made even obviouser by my Photoshopping) is the Servings Per Container. Whoah, Doggies!

Now, if only I could find a twenty-seven-thousand-pound plate lunch to put it on. Two scoops mac salad, yeah? And one thirty-five-hundred-gallon fruit punch.

11/6/2005

Food Fright, Part 8

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 7:34 am

This installment of Food Fright features a product from diminutive restaurateur Wolfgang Puck. I personally have never eaten at any of Mr. Puck’s establishments nor sampled any of his other consumer wares, so my first tentative step onto the fertile plains of his culinary imagination involves today’s subject, the Wolfgang Puck Self-Heating Gourmet Coffee. Shawn spotted these at the local Fred Meyer and, being a professional in the coffee field, couldn’t resist snagging a couple and bringing them home for evaluation.

Food Fright Part 8

Let me just say up front that I have dreamt of this day for years. Ever since I read Alan Dean Foster’s snowbound sci-fi adventure Icerigger as a child, I have imagined a time when, if one was in the mood for a meal, one would take a silvery, cylindrical or rectilinear container out of a cupboard, press a button or pull a tab, and moments later enjoy a piping-hot cup of hot-and-sour soup or plate of lasagna. To a young person addicted to food, obsessed with technology and almost pathologically lazy, this seemed like the crowning achievement in the realm of Science.

Sadly, as a fledgeling attempt at this sort of indolent gastronome’s vision of utopia, Wolfgang Puck’s Self-Heating Gourmet Coffee seems doomed to flop ineffectually along the ground, never quite taking wing, until it has exhausted itself and is pecked to death and consumed by a raven. Or possibly a seagull.

The first impression you get when looking at one of these things is, “holy crap, that’s a lot of coffee!” This notion is, unfortunately, incorrect. The superstructure apparently required to support a self-heating beverage means that, for a container seemingly the size of a can of Sapporo Reserve, the actual total yield of coffee is ten fluid ounces. As much of a fan of gadgetry as I am, I can’t help but feel disappointed by the low coffee-to-container ratio….not to mention a little guilty at the amount of waste generated through the consumption of this product.

To heat the coffee, you must turn the can upside-down and remove the tabbed metal lid on the base. Underneath you find a plastic bubble that must be depressed in order to release and blend the chemicals (calcium oxide, aka quicklime, and water) that will heat the coffee.

Food Fright, Part 8 Food Fright, Part 8

Upon pressing in the plastic bubble on his Mocha, Shawn swears he saw a tiny puff of smoke. I personally saw no such thing when I did the same to my Vanilla Latte. After the chemicals mingle for five seconds, you turn the container right-side-up and let it sit for six minutes.

During the six minutes, two of our test subjects (Margaret and Shawn) noted a distinct odor arising from the cans, a smell vaguely akin to both chemicals and candy, presumably a byproduct of the reactions taking place within the containers. Not necessarily unpleasant or off-putting, but definitely not the aroma you associate with the neighborhood coffee bar or espresso stand.

A handy temperature-indicator on the side of the vessel changes from pink to white when the coffee has reached the optimal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

Food Fright, Part 8

After the patch has changed color, you give the thing 30 seconds of gentle oscillation to evenly distribute the heat, rotate the plastic guard on the top of the can to access the opener tab (or, if you are more perceptive, you pry the entire guard off the top of the unit, properly assaying that it is nothing but a piece of pointless and awkward gewgawery designed to force the unobservant to think twice about simply opening the can without first following the heating instructions), open the container much as you would any other canned beverage, and enjoy your steaming mug of delicious gourmet coffee. Or, if you don’t feel like dumping the contents and replacing them with delicious gourmet coffee, you can just drink the stuff that’s in there already.

For some insane reason, Mr. Puck elected to make these products “low carb”, which means using artifical sweeteners such as Splenda and acesulfame potassium to offset the natural carbohydrates found in other ingredients (milk, cocoa powder, etc.) The resulting combination of mediocre coffee, canned whole milk, artificial sweeteners and “natural flavoring” leaves a lot to be desired. More specifically, it leaves one desiring a cup of actual coffee, instead of this sad Frankenstein’s Monster of a beverage, more machine than mocha.

To be sure, the science behind this product is cool, and I’m sure there will be many refinements in the technology over the coming months and years. The major stumbling block of this particular implementation isn’t the technology itself, but the quality of the product to which it is married. Perhaps this kind of gimmick would work better with something savory like soup, or instant noodles, or Cup-O-Beef-Wellington. Or even coffee that didn’t happen to taste like it was brewed using a diabetic’s urine. Sadly, I think I can go out on a limb here and say that showy gadgetry like this will probably always be the provenance of the marketers of junk.

For a dissection of the self-heating container, consult Gizmodo’s nice article on the subject.


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