Friday, June 1, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man Pop-Tarts!


The Web Slinger makes his toaster pastry debut, but is his Pop-Tart premiere really all that “yum-azing?” 


Like everybody else on the planet, I’m really, really concerned about “The Amazing Spider-Man.” While the last Spider-Man flick was, admittedly, pretty god-awful, you at least had a bona-fide genius - with a reverence for the source material - at the helm of the franchise, who, in turn, gave us arguably the single greatest superhero movie of all time before things got all…well, 2007-ish, for the Web Slinger.

Needless to say, the ironically named Marc Webb has some gargantuan sneakers to fill, and seeing as how the dude’s ONLY directorial credit to date is a stupid romantic comedy starring my two least favorite people on the planet, it certainly looks like the next Spidey movie is destined for a one way ticket to Fails-ville. While I will attempt to withhold judgment until early July, this much, I CAN get excited about; all of the newfangled, Spider-Man branded merchandise hitting store shelves this summer.

Yeah, yeah, there’s the obvious stuff on the horizon (video games, action figures, pool toys, etc.), but what has me REALLY excited is all of the Spidey food tie-ins that have recently landed on the aisles of Big Box Mart-America. And when you mix my all-time favorite fictitious character with my all-time favorite toaster pastry brand, you know damn well how excited I’m going to get.


During my college years, I became downright addicted to Pop-Tarts. Primarily, that’s because it was the only thing widely available on campus that was within my price range, and it really wasn’t out of the norm for me to chow down on as many as six of the pastries during one day. Hell, there were times when I literally had the things for breakfast, lunch and dinner; if I tabulated the exact sum I spent on just vending machine Pop-Tarts over the last four years, I’d say that it’s probably enough to score a really nice TV set today.

In many ways, Pop-Tarts are sort of the ultimate post-modern food. For that matter, they may very well be the definitive post-food item, since calling the product an organic foodstuff is sort of like referring to Styrofoam as a gemstone. Alas, whatever artificial flavors or preservatives Kellogg stuffs into their breakfast pastries, they are indeed some generally scrumptious offerings, and a template that lends itself to an almost endless array of flavor variations. Boring selections like “cherry” and “strawberry” are old hat, man - “Wildberry Passion Fruit” and “Chocolate Cream Extravaganza” is the new hawtness when it comes to Tarts and Tarts-like substances.


So, I guess it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of the brand’s latest offerings is a tie-in to the upcoming Spider-flick. Ever the linguistic sages, the folks at Pop-Tart, Inc. decided to name the product “Yum-azing Vanilla,” because…well, why not? Personally, I would have vouched for a key-lime flavor that sort of represented that irradiated spider blood in Peter Parker’s veins, but dude, it’s Spider-Man flavored Pop-Tarts - the fact that it exists is reason alone to get inordinately excited about strolling down the cereal island the next time you’re at Super Target.

As you can see, there are two limited edition boxes (NOT flavors) out there to commemorate this July’s flick. The back of the package contains a pretty half-hearted puzzle for the wee ones to pencil through, and if you’re not very good at spatial challenges of the like, the guys at Kellogg decided to include a cheat sheet on the interior packaging materials to guide your way through it.


As far as the packaging, in general, goes, it’s not too exciting. You get lots of blues (which, considering the fact that it’s a Pop-Tart box featuring Spider-Man, is sort of expected), some web-like decorations here and there, and Spider-logos a plenty. The interior packaging - you know, those silvery body bags your actual Pop-Tarts come in - are even less inspired, featuring a standard blue-on-grey scheme, a few context-less blurbs, and virtually ZERO references to the fact that it’s Spider-Man-related. Feasibly, you could yank these out of the box and mix ‘em with a few S’mores flavored Tarts, and you would never empirically spot a difference until you tore into the packaging.



As boring as the packaging material may be, the Tarts themselves are, at least, pretty eye-catching. If you can imagine a giant Graham cracker covered in melted red wax and sprinkled with some fat, blue star decorations, you pretty much have the Spider-Tarts imagined perfectly. As always, the consistency of the icing and the per capita sprinkles you will find on your Tarts fluctuates from overloaded to underwhelming - sometimes, it looks like your pastry is a cracker with five pounds of frosting on it, and at others, it looks like a crouton with a few speckles of paint on it. Clearly, it appears as if entropy still reigns when it comes to toaster pastries.


You know, one of the great debates of the 20th century was whether Pop-Tarts are better fresh out of the packaging or toaster roasted. Hell, there’s even a third camp out there that prefer their Tarts semi-frozen, which I guess makes them the breakfast pastry equivalent of the Green Party or something. As a general rule, I prefer my Tarts toaster-baked, although I could see how some people would prefer certain varieties as-is. The more typical and naturally occurring flavors, I have noted - like blueberry or strawberry - are generally better warm, whereas some of the more dessert-tinged items - essentially, ANYTHING that claims to be ice-cream flavored - are typically better un-toasted. As far as the Spider-Tarts are concerned, I really, really preferred them toasted as opposed to straight-out-of-the-box - for one VERY specific reason.


So, the one question you have is whether that “yum-azing” vanilla flavor is really all that, uh, yum-mazing. The answer I would give you is - not at all. In fact, these Spider-Tarts may very well be the most flavor-less toaster pastries I’ve ever had, and this is coming from a dude that’s eaten more Dollar Tree-branded Pop-Tart knockoffs than any still-living person ever should. My first go-around, I munched one of the pastries sans toasting, and I figured the lack of taste could be attributed to the fact that my Spider-Tart was room temperature. After toasting the pastries at the second highest setting (an unpardonable offense, as the back packaging tells you to NEVER, EVER go beyond the first notch on your toaster), I was left with a mildly more flavorful offering that, still, tasted incredibly bland and generic. It’s hard to replicate vanilla as an artificial flavor, but I still don’t think that’s the root problem of the product - rather, I think it’s the fact that Kellogg just didn’t pump the interior stuffing with ENOUGH sugar to make the stuff palatable.


I’m sure that at some point, you’ve probably had an Oreo before. Well, the stuff in these “yum-mazing” pastries are pretty much the same thing, only pureed, and apparently sans sugaring of any kind. Perhaps an ode to Peter Parker’s mischievous mentality, the damn things irritatingly keep making you think that you may have tasted something vanilla-tinged, but the bulk of the interior frosting is so confounding flavorless that you’ll keep plunging your tongue into the pastry like a coked-up hummingbird in order to taste anything. Granted, the exterior frosting - which is, of course, excessively sugar - negates some of the interior frosting nags, but at the end of the day, you’ll most likely be scratching your head, wondering what in the blue hell you just crammed down your throat hole. I guess that would be acceptable if it was Mysterio on the front of the box, but as a major summertime product, this stuff is just inconceivably - and dare I say it, “yum-azingly” - bland.


So, these newfangled Spider-Tarts really aren’t worthy of the vaunted legacy of both Spider-Man or Pop-Tarts…a little informational nugget that makes me really anxious about the prospects of the upcoming movie NOT sucking EVEN MORE now. As a breakfast item, it’s pretty substandard, but as a collector’s item, I suppose you could amass worse things in the back of your closet - although sandwiched between those Poison Ivy “Batman and Robin” fruit snacks and Eric Foreman-as-Venom action figures, that might end up a very contentious point of debate once the summer’s over.

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