130: PayDay

April 12th, 2011

As a fan of board games, I naturally gravitate to anything that shares a name with one of my favorite titles: the forthcoming Battleship movie, my Hi Ho Cherry-O 2-in-1 Shampoo and Conditioner, etc. It will not therefore surprise you to learn that I have a weakness for the PayDay bar.

Ah, the name brings to mind those halcyon days of youth, gathered around the game board, rolling the die, and learning the fundamentals of lifelong debt slavery. Good times.

I also like PayDay because it looks like the sort of candy bar my son would bring home from Kindergarten in his Big Bag O’ Craft Projects.

I assume that this delectable got its name when some Candy Bar Architect at Hershey’s realized that he wasn’t going to get a paid unless he produced something, and so hastily Rubber Cement’ed a bunch of peanuts together on the 31st of the month to ensure he received a check the following morning.

Rating: Like entrees on a Mexican restaurants menu, the vast array of candy bars on the market are essentially just permutations on the same five ingredients. In this case we have peanuts, which I like, and caramel, which frankly I prefer when it is a semi-solid rather than the shape and consistency of a pink eraser as it is here. Honestly, the caramel is less “ingredient” than “medium” in this thing–I bet you could water one of these puppies and a bunch of peanut bushes would sprout.

Ugh. Unfortunately, typing that last sentence made my PayDay bar retroactively taste like a Chia Pet. 55¢/$1

152: Kar’s Sweet ‘N Salty Mix

February 3rd, 2011

You know that screenplay in your dresser drawer, the one you pull out every few years and tinker with? The plot’s a little uneven, and the dialogue certainly needs polish, but you are positive that the central premise is solid: a modern adaptation of Romeo & Juliet, but with a potato chip and a piece of chocolate-covered carmel as the starcrossed lovers, forever prevented from being together by a society that will never–never!–let the savory and sweet worlds intermingle.

Yeah, bad news champ. Kar’s has once again ruined everything for everybody:

Noooo! And you had that great “Wherefore art thou, Rolo?” line!

If the back of the package is to believed, eating this will cause “your yin to high-five your yang in delicious fashion”. Honestly, I find that easier to believe than the claim that this bag contains 3.5 servings.

With a net weight of 3.5oz., that works out to about an ounce of trail mix per serving. (MATH!!!!) Perfect for when you are hiking the 15 foot trail from your back door to your tool shed.

The back of the package also says “We’d Like to Know What You Think.” OK!

Rating: I like chocolate candies and I like peanuts and I like raisins, but add a handful of sunflower kernels to anything and suddenly you’re eating birdseed. Although if you consider one ounce of anything to be a “serving”, then you are already eating like a bird. 40¢/$1.

145: Peanut M&Ms

December 15th, 2010

Sometimes sequels surpass the original. Like how The Empire Strikes Back was better than Star Wars. And how the second Bush administration had 100% more terms and wars than the first (not to mention a 100% reduction in Japanese Prime Minister vomiting upons).

Here’s another example:

These are so superior to plain M&Ms that I prefer to think that the peanuts were always intended to be there. Like, M&M were introduced in 1941, and 13 years later the CEO, Eminem Mars, finally got around to buying a bag at the local store, and was all “What the poppycock?!” (that’s how people talked in 1954), and went to the factory and said, “dude, why aren’t you adding the peanuts?”, and the M&M maker guy was all like “oh pishaw, I was totally forgetting that step” and the CEO says, “then what have you been doing with the peanuts we have been sending you over a decade?!”, and to find out what happens next please buy the novel I am writing on this premise, “You Don’t Have To Be Nuts To Work Here … But It Helps!”, to be published by Random House in April of next year.

Anyway, they introduced Peanut M&Ms in 1954 and the old ones got renamed “plain M&Ms”. Like how people used to say you were a beautiful little girl and then your younger sister blossomed and then everyone was all, “yeah but you’re the smart one, kind of”.

Rating: Having previously raved about peanuts alone and peanuts in the company of chocolate and caramel, it will come as no surprise to you that I like the middleground as well: peanuts and chocolate, period. Plus, unlike a candybar, these come in tiny bite-sized units, so you don’t feel obligated to eat them all at once. I mean you do eat them all at once, because you have the self-control of a randy ferret. But you could hypothetically strictly speaking eat only a few at a time in theory. So that’s a plus. 90¢/$1.

160: Juicy Fruit Gum

December 14th, 2010

Oh jeeze, gum again?

Bother.

I have groused over gum in these pages before. I don’t dislike gum, per se. It’s just so … you know. Gummy. Whattayagonnado?

At least Juicy Fruit is the most flavorful stick gum, although that is like calling Daisy Miller the most engrossing Henry James novel. And! It was also the first product to ever bear a bar code, which was scanned on June 26, 1974. How do you like them apples and/or other fruit of the juicy variety?

Hmm, I guess if you believe that barcodes will bring about the mark of the beast, that would make Juicy Fruit gum like a harbinger of the Dark Lord. Although you could have deduced that from its color:

Okay! Thank goodness there was an Interesting Fact about Juicy Fruit so I didn’t have to come up with original material about gum. That worked out great (except for the part about Satan enslaving mankind, which was a bit of a downer to be honest).

Rating: If I am going to chew gum, this is the flavor of gum I am going to chew. But I am not. Also, actual juicy fruit does not leave you parched after chewing it for three minutes, so this doesn’t function very well as a simulation either. 40¢/$1.

143: Oats ‘N Honey Granola Bars

December 13th, 2010

Growing up, no three words terrified my sister and I more than, “Dad’s grocery shopping”…

Wait, is that three words or four? In an essay or short story, where the word count topped 1000, I would definitely count “Dad’s” as one. But when your down in the realm of three words, it almost seems like cheating to use a contraction. I guess I could sidestep the whole moral quandary by changing the sentence to “Dad is grocery shopping”, and then say “no four words terrified”. But, you know, things are always funnier in threes: Stooges, branches of the federal government, etc. And of course, all this assumes that I was using a contraction instead of a possessive, as in: the grocery shopping that belonged to my father. I wasn’t of course, but there’s no way to distinguish between the two aside from context. Which is pretty stupid, when you think about it. I mean, whose idea was that? I bet when they were hammering out the rules for English were they like “how should indicate plurals” someone said, “what if we add an s to the end?” and everyone sort of murmured agreeably, but one of the Founding Grammarians (hereafter: Doug) was sort of jealous that the other dude was getting all the attention with his fancy plural idea so when they moved on to the next agenda item and asked “and how shall we indicate possession?” Doug was all “what if we add an s to the end?” figuring that he would just stick with what worked in the past but then everyone was like “well we just did that for plurals…” and Doug said “uhhh yeah but I meant apostrophe s, so it’s like totally different” and since Doug was the nephew of the Grammarian in Chief everyone had to sort of grudgingly go along with it and that why now when you want to type “it’s” in a text message you have to navigate to a whole different “symbols” keyboard to get the apostrophe although that’s kind of a bad example since “it’s” is actually a contraction like “Dad’s”.

Anyway.

My mother would usually do the grocery shopping, which meant that my sister and I got what the universe owed us: sugar cereal, Pepsi, and pepperoni sticks. But occasionally my father would be called up to do the shopping duties, and he would return home with abominations like Shredded Wheat. Not frosted Shredded Wheat. Not Mini Shredded Wheat. The original Shredded Wheat, which had all the flavor and mouthfeel of steel wool.

Everything was like that. Where before we would have Fritos, now we would have banana chips. Cola was replaced with grapefruit juice. And seriously, carob? Come on.

Thank god for these:

Seemingly healthy to the uninformed father/shopper, these rascals are packed with sugar. Number two ingredient, yo. Candy is still candy, even if it contains baking soda: fact.

Rating: I love granola bars. They taste like subversion. 95¢/$1

118: Jack Link’s Premium Cuts Original Beef Jerky

December 12th, 2010

When it comes to this:

I will defer the expert, my buddy John Moe:

Stopping off for gas, I realized that I had not yet fulfilled part of rule #11: beef jerky, so I spent five bucks on a large bag of Oberto brand jerky. It looked like tree bark but smelled like a dead animal that had been left outside for a few weeks. I hadn’t tried the stuff in years, actually, since it’s expensive, and to be honest, I always associated beef jerky with the suburban/redneck element of my hometown, which was an element that I had spent most of my postsurburban New Yorker-subscribing life distancing myself from. Still, on this morning I was hungry, the sack of jerky was on the passenger side, and with Rush blaring on the car radio, I decided to try it. And Oh My Ever-Loving God. It went straight to my bloodstream. I was flying. This was the best thing I had ever tasted! If this was what conservatives ate, I was ready to sign up for the John Birch Society right then and there.

If you enjoy this blog but sometimes wish it were “well written” or “funny” or “proofread”, please check out John’s book Conservatize Me: How I Tried to Become a Righty with the Help of Richard Nixon, Sean Hannity, Toby Keith, & Beef Jerky.

Rating: Having already farmed the commentary of this entry out to John, I think I will delegate the evaluation as well. In this case to another close friend, Edgar:

Eddie is not the most articulate food critic in my household, but he is far and away the most passionate. Yesterday when I opened the package of beef jerky while sitting on the couch and watching The Wire, this black, amorphous mass was on me like Venom on Parker. After I relented and gave him a few pieces, little dude sounded like an idling Hummer. So yeah, we’ll chalk that up as approval. Edgar’s rating: this is the best day of my life/$1.

1445: Oatmeal Raisin Walnut Clif Bar

December 11th, 2010

I admire the Clif Bar.

Nothing about it is glamorous, unlike most energy bars (e.g.). The packaging is brown and baggy, like an ill-fitting burlap dress. The logo looks like an illustration from Boy’s Life. It is completely lacking in catchy slogans, unless you count “Made with soybeans!™” And let’s not even talk about the aesthetics of the bar itself:

It definitely looks like an underdog. Or something produced by an underdog, at any rate. It’s like when you see an unattractive person in an MTV music video* and root for them instinctively, figuring that they must have actual talent to have gotten on air. Given the proliferation of energy bars in the last score of years, it’s a testament to the Clif Bar’s staying power that the vending machine still stocks this fugly whatever.

(* I am so old that I actually think that MTV still plays music videos.)

I did not know this until I read the Wikipedia page, but the Clif Bar guys make the LUNA Bar as well. My wife has a stash of LUNA bars that I routinely raid, despite the fact that they claim to provide “Energy for Women”. Presumably they are made from calories taken directly from the Indigo Girls.

Rating: Well it’s an energy bar, which means you are eating if for something other than taste. At least Clif has flavors like “Oatmeal Raisin Walnut”, which have a rough correlation to actual ingredients and flavor, instead of that “Super Hot Fudge & Whipped Cream Sundae!!” BS. So, points for honesty. Unfortunately, honesty ranks up there with soybeans when it comes to things that are good for you but kind of unappetizing. 45¢/$1

154: Hostess Chocolate Donettes

December 10th, 2010

This project has forced me to eat many, many items in the vending machine that I would normally avoid like the plague. In most cases, these are products that no sane individual would put into their mouth, which is why it has fallen to me. But some are items I avoid because I love them too much, and don’t want to get The Addiction.

You know, like these:

Actually, these I can resist. But back when slot 154 held Hostess Donette Crunch … yeah, that was bad. They appeared in the machine so rarely that, whenever I saw them, I would purchase all available and squirrel them away in my workspace. This proved to be a problem during the month or so when, for whatever reason, Hostess Donette Crunch was reappearing in the machine every morning. It got until my office could have been featured in the pilot of Pastry Hoarders.

But all things must come to an end (except for the 13 lbs. I gained while eating 24 Donettes daily, it seems), and the chocolate ones eventually returned. I carried on with these for a bit, but it was like dating the homely sister to your true love: you see the resemblance but it’s just not the same, and after each encounter you have to lick chocolate off your fingers (don’t ask).

Rating: Pretty much every element of these is a little off. The core is dry and flavorless; the “frosting” is waxy, as if someone aggressively colored the pastry portion with a brown, chocolate-scented crayon. In short, they are exactly what they are: not real donuts, but a passable substitute for same. Judged by that standard they are a raging success. But, objectively, these are less Lord of the Rings and more Willow. 75¢/$1

102: Doritos Nacho Cheese

December 9th, 2010

Translated from Spanish, “Doritos” means “small, masculine versions of Dora the Explorer”, which is why you so often find them in the company of shrill, anthropomorphized maps. This particular bag is of the Nacho Cheese variety:

Growing up, I couldn’t stand the Nacho Cheese Doritos, preferring instead the … uhhh, the regular kind? Is there a “regular” kind of Doritos, or do they all have some hideous flavor or another? I honestly have no idea.

To Teh NetarWeb–let’s go!!!

Okay, so Wikipedia says that “the first flavor of Doritos was Toasted Corn followed by Taco flavor”. The first flavor of a toasted corn chip was “Toasted Corn”. Gotcha. That sounds a lot like beef-flavored beef to me, but I guess why that’s I write a blog about snacks instead of racking in the moolah as a marketer.

Andrew Womack recently railed against Doritos® Late Night® All Nighter Cheeseburger® Flavored Tortilla Chips, but I don’t think even he is aware of the wide range of repulsive flavors in which Doritos is now or was at one time available, including:

  • DORITOS® Collisions Cheesy Enchilada Sour Cream
  • DORITOS® Pizza-La Curry Monterey
  • DORITOS® Kale and Cough Syrup
  • DORITOS® Stadium Nacho Inspired by EA Sports Madden NFL 11
  • DORITOS® Extreme Kickin’ Chili
  • DORITOS® Small Hotdog in Pastry Shell Like You Used to Eat in College
  • DORITOS® 3rd Degree Burn Scorchin’ Habanero
  • DORITOS® Hunk O’ Asphalt
  • DORITOS® I Made Some of These Up I Bet You Can’t Even Tell Which

Rating: Doritos “Toasted Corn” has three ingredients: corn, oil, and salt. Doritos “Nacho Cheese” has, literally, like three times that:

I can’t say it’s an improvement. In fact, I’m pretty sure that 25 of those ingredients don’t even contribute anything. They are like nacho cheese middle management or something. 30¢/$1

141: Skittles

December 8th, 2010

In my mind, Skittles is the first of the “new” candies.

I realize the distinction is completely arbitrary, a product of my age than of any clear dividing line between generations of sweets. But, growing up, it seemed as though the existing candybars had been around forever: Snickers, M&Ms, Mr. Goodbar, Crunch, Almond Joy, and so forth. And then in 1979 came Skittles, a quantum leap forward in candy technology. Rather than trying to find a perfect combination and proportion of chocolate and peanuts and nougat and the six or seven other staple candybar ingredients, the fine folks at Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company figured out that they could just put pure, concentrated balls of sugar in a colorful, candy coating, and the kids of America would (literally) eat them up.

(For the record, here are some other candies I consider to belong to the silver, rather than the golden, age: Twix, Whatchamacallit, Nerds, and the sadly defunct Bonkers.)

In case you missed it, last year Skittles tried to harness the power of Twitter by turning their site into an aggregator for all tweets containing the word “Skittles”. Naturally the cleverati began making jokes ranging from the disgusting to the profane, all of which were reprinted verbatim on the Skittles homepage. Even now, if you search Google for “skittles twitter“, you will get Mike_FTW’s announcement that “Skittles fit perfectly in my cat’s anus! #skittles“.

Rating: Well Skittles, you have succeeded where every product so far has failed: in giving me a stomachache. Gonna have to knock off some points for that. I generally prefer to only taste the rainbow once, on the way down. 60¢/$1