Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Round-Up Of Seasonal Foodstuffs, Volume One!

Just in case you were in the mood for a haunted colon this Halloween. . .


You know what the three most alluring words in the English language are to me?

Limited time only.

It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about week long engagements for obscure European art house flicks down at the local independent movie house or a weekend long sale on furniture coverings at a discount store three counties over - if I realize that a specific timeframe may be my only opportunity to score certain goods and services, you best bet my ears prick up considerably.

Although I have always considered myself something of an anti-consumer (or at the least, I guy with really, really inexpensive tastes), I can’t help but feel a little entranced by the deluge of temporary, Halloween-themed goods lining up the store shelves of America this time of year. Heck, October may very well be the only month of the year where I stroll down certain aisles at the super market, let alone drop heavy change on such off-the-cuff purchases.

For example, take the candy and cookies aisles. From January to August, those two rows might as well not even exist, for all I care - the only reason I might take a gander there is if I wanted to see what kind of chewing gum was on sale, but even then, I’d probably just swoop up whatever was cheapest on the counter next to the checkout lane on my way out of the store. However, around early September, that aisle becomes like a bug zapper to me, no doubt due to all of the orange and black decorations positioned directly above the foodstuffs. And if they have ghost and Frankenstein piñatas dangling overhead? I’m an absolute goner.

This year, as I do every year, I decided to take a stroll down the neighborhood grocery store and note some of the more attractive, seasonal-themed desserts and snack cakes on display. Some of these are re-releases, and some of them are brand new attractions: some are minor re-hashes of tried-and-true favorites, and some are newfangled, sugar-soaked I.P.s. With twelve dollars in hand, I decided to play the consumer version of Russian Roulette, jamming random oblong boxes of brightly colored candies and snacks into my cart and speeding home to taste-test this year’s crop of Hallow-food. . .and this year, I reckon I pulled in a mighty heavy haul of the exclusive sweet stuff.

First up on our whirlwind tour of limited time only, Halloween-themed comestibles of 2011: Little Debbie’s Pumpkin Delights. 



The box art, admittedly, is pretty bland, but once you actually see what the snack cakes themselves resemble, you’ll be more than glad you plopped down the two bucks for the carton.

You really can’t see it in photographs, but I swear, these things glow in the dark. I’m not sure what Debbie is putting in the crème filling, but it very well could turn out to be a radioactive solution, if the illumination coming off these things eyes is any indication. As you can tell, the snack cakes are supposed to resemble Jack O Lanterns, but to me, they look sort of like smug versions of Pac-Man. . .which, obviously, is a huge bonus for the brand in question. I really like the way the smiles are all sort of different on each cookie, as if they used different stamping plates for each snack cake. . .although for all we know, maybe Little Debbie IS using the same stamp, only they’re trying to cut costs by using methadone patients to cut the cookies.



As far as the taste goes, these things are pretty darned delicious: over the years, “pumpkin” has become one of my favorite tastes/scents/basic geometric shapes, so yeah, I guess you could say I am kind of biased here, but whatever. You get eight per bag, but after two, you should be pretty filled; these things are pretty big, and they have a mighty strong flavor to boot. If you ever wanted to chew on a baked version of Jack Skellington’s noggin (or if you’re too darned lazy to bake a pumpkin pie), I suppose these here “Delights” more than live up to their namesake.

Up next: freaking HALLOWEEN OREOS. 



Yeah, these things are really nothing new (heck, Nabisco has been trotting out orange-hued snack cakes since the Clinton Administration), but this year, we get SPOOKY NEW DESIGNS ON OUR COOKIES. 



Let’s see: we get a ghost (which looks way too much like an octopus for my liking), a very smiley Jack O Lantern, a couple of bats, a cat, and a witch. Yeah, the product tastes exactly like the “regular” product, but you know what?

THE CRÈME IS ORANGE, THEREFORE IT’S BETTER THAN THE NORMAL KIND AND ALSO WORTH THE ADDITIONAL $0.20 CHARGE.



Life changing fare? Not really, but you could presumably find worse ways to spend three bucks. . .like laying three dollars on the conveyer belt and having them sucked underneath the cash register when the check out girl turns on the machine.

The next item is what pretty much DROVE me to do to a roundup of this year’s seasonal foodstuffs. As soon as you see the package, I think you can see why



I think it’s pretty much a known statement of fact that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are pretty much the best thing ever invented by man, and by finding a way to get Halloween AND pumpkins involved, it’s like super gluing a $100 bill to the back of a gold bar. As much as I hate to say it, though, the end result was, well. . .



. . .yeah, kind of disappointing. For starters, the cups really aren’t pumpkin flavored as much as they are pumpkin shaped. And by the way, calling these things “pumpkin shaped” is about as loose as you can get with the term as you can imagine, as my two cups ended up looking more like morbidly obese vampire bats and bagpipes than any fruit I’ve encountered. Yeah, the things still tasted like Reese’s, which I guess is all that really matters, but at the end of the day, I still feel a little gypped. And out of breath, because just holding one of these things in your palm makes you gain about five pounds by osmosis. 



And lastly, we come to the Pop-Tarts. Chocolate fudge Pop-Tarts, with orange frosting, and miniature half moons and ghosts on them. The moniker? “Spookylicious Pop-Tarts,” AKA, the greatest argument for intelligent design that I’ve yet to stumble across. 



There’s no way I couldn’t drop the four bucks on this one. If the promise of sixteen toaster pastries that look like something culled from a third grader’s nightmares wasn’t enough, the back of the box, featuring cut out finger puppets, was practically reading my credit card number by telepathy. There are only so many opportunities a 25 year old man gets to tape a werewolf head to a toothpick, and I surmised that now was as good a time as there ever would be



The thing that I really like about the “Spookylicious” Pop-Tarts is just how damned ugly they are. It’s like Kellogg didn’t even bother making the things aesthetically pleasing, which is actually sort of a good idea, since I doubt the purchaser of said item really picks them up with the intent of artfully critiquing them. The Cleveland Browns color scheme is pretty sore on the eyes, and the “decorations” - the mini ghosts, bats and moons - are pretty much slung all over the place. As soon as you open the package, half of the mini-frostings fall out of the bag, and no matter how delicately you eat the things, you’re guaranteed to end up with a small mountain of chocolate debris by your side by the time you’re finished with the pastry. 



The important thing, of course, is the taste, and the “Spookylicious” Pop-Tarts pass that test with flying (but mostly, just orange and black) colors. The funny thing is that a week before picking up this “variety,” I had a “regular” fudge Pop-Tart and. . .what do you know? The two taste pretty much identical, except one comes with poltergeists and lunar eclipses glued to it. Obviously, we know which is the superior product based on that knowledge alone.



Of course, being the mad scientist I am, I simply had to merge the treats into a singularity, and now, I too know what it feels like to play Frankenstein:



So, the Mega-S’More of Doom really didn’t pan out the way I hoped it would (I’d either need barbecue tongs or about fifty bucks in supplies to make that reverie even remotely plausible), but dabnabit, I’ve got the memories, if nothing else. And a really, really knotted up stomach, because after imbibing all of these trans-fats, I don’t think I’ll be able to stand totally erect / donate usable human blood for at least a week or two afterward.

So, what more can really be said about this fearsome foursome of foodstuffs? Well, they’re not exactly top-tier cuisine, and for the amount of moolah you drop on them, you could probably afford one quasi decent meal elsewhere, but then, you wouldn’t experience the sheer kitsch that you would here. Alike Halloween in general, these things are fleeting, all about the visuals, and probably likely to do major harm to your gastrointestinal tract if experienced in large enough quantities, but that’s what the season is all about. You can say blowing an Andrew Jackson on candy bars is a waste of money, but I beg to differ: as far as I’m concerned, dropping cash-ola on any of the four products here is money well-wasted, thank you very much. 


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