A culture is perhaps best experienced through its cuisine. This is, at least, the mantra of rotund television farm animal Andrew Zimmern — a man who, evidently by choice, makes testicles and various other offal a part of his regular diet. There’s truth in his sentiment, though, and you’ll sense it if you consider the idea for just a moment.
What do we know about Italian food, for instance? Well, it can be labor intensive and time consuming to properly prepare. Homemade ragù simmers for hours and making fresh noodles is a bridge too far for many cooks. Meals are often served family style, meaning comically large sausages and city blocks of lasagna are de rigueur. Finally, the components of most Italian meals are almost absurdly inexpensive, with the possible exception of good wine. And you were going to drink that anyway, weren’t you? Obviously you were. You know the wife gets the remote tonight, and if you’re not upside-down by 9:30, you’re going to have to discuss the finer points of the “aggressive” hairstyles of the Real Housewives, so why don’t you just get the corkscrew and…
Anyway, look. Italy is full of big, drunk working-class families who cook and eat together. Indian people cook with spices because they love blowing their noses at the table. Mexicans have a deep, dark fear of spillage, so they put everything in the culinary equivalent of a paper towel. The English don’t eat, and instead turn light into fuel by the use of a process known as photosynthesis. Everybody’s different, and it’s grand.
Except for Zimmern. His diet reveals that he is not to be trusted.
What might be even more telling, though, than the food we eat when we’re supposed to be eating, is the food we eat when we’re not supposed to be eating. That’s right, I’m talkin’ snacks. All around the world, hungry-but-not-really grazers, curious just-walkin-through-the-kitchen tasters and diabetic youths alike reach for a certain something when it’s not quite meal time – and what do they reach for?
Our neighbors to the south likely reach for churros, a wonderful deep fried confection that goes great with coffee. Our neighbors to the north enjoy “poutine” — a rich and horrifying chunky porridge poured over french fries for some reason. Elsewhere, people probably chew on some sappy bark or something. I don’t know, I didn’t do a lot of research on this, but I’m trying to make a point. And that point is: American snacks suck.
As I pause for a moment to allow you to dejectedly unwind the unfunny comic strip from your sickly pinkish sugar puck, reflect on what you’re doing. First of all, bubble gum is bullshit. Second – even if you like gum, why are you gobbling down what would be a Minor League Chew at best (and I’m being charitable)? It’s time to get called up to The Show….of Gum, I guess.
Most mass-produced American snacks are just like ol’ shitty comedic timing and flavor Bazooka Joe: a bad concept executed poorly. Take raisins, for example.
No, really, take them! Haha! Yuck.
No, seriously, take these motherfuckers. I don’t know if these are the kind that sing, but they’re wigging me out. One of them asked me if I was a Christian. This is wild and fucked up. Crush these things, goddammit.
Well, raisins don’t just suck because sometimes they get reanimated like little undead grape hell puppets and stalk you around the yard. They also don’t taste good. And why would they? The idea is horrible. “Let’s forget about those grapes for a spell and see if that improves their taste and mouthfeel.” What a catastrophe. Okay, okay, granted, we’d be better off eating nature’s turds here than some of the fabricated crap in the snack aisle, but that doesn’t make them good.
Meanwhile, we created these awful sons of bitches from start to finish. You’re entitled to your opinion about Pringles in general (that they are the particleboard of potato snacks is the correct assessment), but for this particular flavor you are permitted no thought save abject scorn and derision. Loaded? The only load here, Pringles, is the load of bullshit you’re feeding us.
To be fair, it’s not just the House of Pringle offloading bacon scent and cheese smell as “LOADED” or “Xtreme” taters. There are plenty of other offenders. But the chutzpah it takes to design a flavor of potato chips that is, essentially, “potato”, and present it so earnestly in their little tube adorned with the long-dead ghoulish face of the man who made chips into mini shoehorns….aghhh I just can’t take it. Fuck these things. *Opens lid too fast and chip fragments spill everywhere*
Look, anyway – most snacks we have around here ain’t that good. Original chips give white bread a bad name, the stuff we’re willing to call “cheese” is increasingly distressing, and I’m pretty sure that trail mix is a “free blankets for all Native American dudes, come and get ’em” – level troll job at this point. We need to get better, don’t we? Wouldn’t it be cool to tuck into some squid candy when you’re feeling a little peckish? Okay, well, no, but we should have the option, right?! When are these bullshit snack fascists going to learn that we have a distinguished palate and a RIGHT to good goddamned snacky snacks?
Well here’s the secret: they do know that already. That is, as long as we’re not American. The truth is, as you’re surely aware, countries around the globe have way badder-ass snack foods than we do. And drinks, too!
But those exotic, wonderful (and, erm, bold) flavors are not known to you now, and they never will be. They’re behind the curtain of taste, and you’re way back in row VV. Suck on your bland sunflower seeds you fat idiot, the Governor of Flavortown has named your tongue Public Enemy no. 1.
If only you had a friend with access to some of those international delights. If only that friend were a big loser with a shitty blog.
[a bunch of weird chips fall off the back of a truck]
Holy shit, guys!
– Numb & Spicy Hot Pot Flavor (Intense & Stimulating)
Right off the bat, the bag lets you know what you’re in for: an “Intense & Stimulating” experience. Is that accurate? Well, I fucked my tongue (and didn’t call him) after I ate this bag, so what does that tell you? I actually hope they adopt this bizarre branding strategy in the US. Maybe we’d stop reaching for the “Old & Busted” original Ruffles, or the “Chewy & Weird” Harvest Cheddar Sun Chips. Probably not.
“Spicy bowl of wet meat” is an odd goal for a crunchy potato snack, but it more or less resembles the dish it’s supposed to. The chip is hot and very greasy with more than a hint of ginger up front. Actually it’s a lot of ginger. A disconcerting amount of ginger. I would probably cross to the other side of the street if I saw someone eating as much ginger as is on one of these chips.
But they’re spicy and beefy/porky, and so I lifted the bag over my head and poured the contents into my gaping maw like I was trying to find Boba Fett. I disgust myself and others, but these chips sure don’t. Approved.
– Pepsi Chicken
Unlike the Hot Pot bag, this one gives no indication of the horrors that await inside. The only English on the entire bag is the “Potato Chips” disclaimer down in the bottom right corner which is obviously not helpful. I guess the graphic makes it clear to a certain extent – a brown liquid is being poured onto the cheapest-and-least-meaty part of a chicken while it cooks in a big wok. Is that scary enough for you?
If not, consider the aroma that hits you as soon as you open the bag (these bags are fucking hard to open, by the way. Let’s not start a war in Asia anytime soon — their hand strength is obviously outrageous). You ever start drinking some soda out of a bottle, only to abandon the endeavor partway through, and shelve the remainder in the fridge? Do you ever then forget about the bottle for a long time? Mountains crumble, rivers run dry, continents shift, and humanity has retreated to the caves? What’s that bottle smell like when you crack it open? Flat, saccharine death.
Chicken is not present. Distressingly Disapproved.
– Italian Red Meat Flavor (Classic Great Taste)
[This review was yelled from the passenger window of a speeding car into a tape recorder strapped to a stationary dog]
THESE DON’T TASTE WEIRD AT ALL – REALLYGOOD. WHYDOTHEYHAVETHESEINCHINA?! GOOOOODDD BOOOOOYYYYYY
Image provided by PolkPanther.