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.

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