Friday, November 9, 2012

A Round-Up of the Seasonal Foodstuffs of Halloween 2012

Warning: Reading This Article May or May Not Give Your Eyes Diabetes

I don’t know about you, but to me, it just feels as if this year’s Halloween season flew by WAY too quickly. It seemed like just five minutes ago, we were still having to rummage our way through summertime junk to find the pre-sale Jack O’ Lantern sippy cups at Walgreens, and now? The seasonal sections of every single big-box-mart in America is cluttered with red, white and green trinkets as opposed to black and orange doodads. Hell, All Hallows Eve went by so fast, I’m not even 100 percent sure we actually HAD a Halloween this autumn.

While I can’t say with all sincerity that I got the most out of my Halloween sojourns in 2012, I can say that as far as seasonal junk food went, my ass got fat in a hurry. While lacking in most of the other areas of seasonal merriment, I made darn sure that I wasn’t going to miss out on the cavalcade of “limited time only” releases that get spat out during the autumn deluge, and all in all? I’d say this year’s roundup of seasonal-ish food items was every bit as stellar - if not even better - than the championship season we had back in 2011.

First up on a whirlwind tour of this year‘s Hallow-foods, we’ve got Little Debbie’s “Bat Brownies.” Last year, the same company gave us these weird pumpkin-flavored snack cakes that had spooky (albeit smiling) demon faces on them, and in 2012, they definitely upped the ante and then some.

As you can no doubt see, the bats more or less resemble brown bowties, but really, who can complain about having brownies of ANY size, shape or consistency in front of them?

The overall craftsmanship on the bats isn’t too bad, as the things had a lot of etched-in grooves and lines that gave them a better overall definition than most animal-shaped snack cakes you’ll encounter. That, and the taste was pretty palatable, too - if you can’t enjoy fudge-flavored vampires, how are you ever going to enjoy this thing we call “existing,” anyway?

While I may be cheating just  a bit with these pumpkin pie-flavored Pop-Tarts (in two aspects, since not only are the snacks NOT directly Halloween-related, they were actually released as “limited-time” items last year, as well), I think I can easily be forgiven for this trespass for one VERY compelling reason:

THE BACK OF THE BOX HAS INSTRUCTIONS FOR DO IT YOURSELF POP-TART TURKEYS, WITH CANDY CORN GOBBLERS. If you don’t think there will be a cornucopia of these things at my Thanksgiving table later this month, you sir, have no understanding of what it is that makes life worth living.

As far as the gustatory quality of the Tarts themselves, they weren’t too shabby. I hate to summarize them by saying that they had a pumpkin taste (quite surprising, I know), but there was a pretty strong, almost cinnamon-like flavor on display here. It’s not my favorite Tart variation out there (certainly, it’s no match for the Spookylicious variety we all know and love), but they weren’t too bad, either.

I’ve seen these Russell Stover mini-packets on display for a couple of years now, but this was the first Halloween season I ever worked up enough curiosity to try them out.

As you can see, the two varieties I picked up were of the milk chocolate and peanut butter-with-chocolate-around it genus. Personally, I’m more of a fan of the PB’n’chocolate set-up, but if milk chocolate is in front of me, you know it’s going to get devoured, regardless. Hell, if I was lactose-intolerant, it would still probably get eaten. “Yummy” takes precedence over “burning” any day, doesn’t it?

While the peanut butter variation was, all in all, the better-tasting product, there’s no denying which product had the better aesthetic merits. The one on the right looks more like a hand grenade than a seeded, vegetable-like fruit, if you polled me on the matter.

I saw these Count Chocula cereal bars at just one retailer throughout the entire Halloween season, and had I not strolled in there that fateful weekday evening (primarily because I was out of knockoff vanilla flavored-soda) I never would have known that such a product existed.

Earlier this year, I decided to make my own Rice Krispies-like Count Chocula bars, and wouldn’t you know it? These envious souls over at General Mills had steal my proverbial thunder and make their own comestible of the sort. Granted, the things are more like glorified granola bars than marshmallow squares, but irked, I doth remain.

I hope you like chocolate, because eating one of these things is akin to drowning in a river of cocoa ala that fat German kid in “Willy Wonka.” Traditionalists will be happy to note that the bars have a very distinct Count Chocula taste, but that puffy texture doesn’t necessarily gel all that well with the little chocolate drops that stud the bars like rhinestone. It’s all right, overall, but I doubt that anyone would want to make it a weekly purchase.

White Chocolate Candy Corn M&Ms are one of the few totally new offerings that I gave a look-see this season. As one of officially two candy corn fans on the planet, I was quite ecstatic to see this variation on store shelves. And then, I tried them, and well…let’s just say I have more than a few problems.

I’m not 100 percent sure what the guys at Mars put on these things, but SOMETHING in it has to be an ingredient I’m allergic to. After downing about three handfuls of the candies, my throat started to burn. By the time I was finished with the bag, I was almost ready to dry heave.

Of course, that’s not to say that the products taste bad or anything, because I thought they were pretty damn yummy, actually. That, and I really dug the autumnal color scheme - perhaps not enough to overlook the fact that the product almost killed me, but enough to take it into consideration for a re-buy, though.

Most folks know Cadberry best for their chocolate, syrup-nucleus candies released every Easter. Perhaps smelling dinero to be made-o, they decided to hop aboard the Halloween bandwagon and release a special All Hallows Eve variation - called, fittingly enough, a “SCREME EGG.”

As stated earlier, I’m not the world’s biggest milk chocolate fan, but you really don’t have to twist my arm to eat some, either. Well, this newfangled product officially crossed over my threshold for milk-chocolate tolerance, as it was so damned sweet that I could feel my teeth revolt as soon as I crunched into one.

And for those of you that have a thing against multi-textured food, the inside of one of these things are super-duper sugary and gooey, and to some extent, resemble alien afterbirth. Just for-your-information, folks.

In case you couldn’t tell, pumpkin-shaped candies are the Halloween du jour in 2012, and the fine folks behind Snickers just KNEW that they couldn’t be the only kids on the block without a gourd-shaped chocolate bar this year.

I think these Snickers Pumpkins were probably the weirdest shaped candies I encountered over the holiday season. When most people think “pumpkins,” they think rotund, but the choc-o-engineer Snickers hired decided to take the completely antithetical route. Wait, you mean zucchini AREN’T traditionally used to make Jack O’ Lanterns in the States?

To be fair though, the anorexic pumpkins DID taste quite a bit like Snickers. They may not have gotten the noun right, but at least they can take solace in nailing the adjective part of the item’s moniker.

I guess Wonka’s Spooky Nerds were sort of the odd duck out among this year’s Halloween foodstuffs, since they were literally the only product I tried this season that DIDN’T, in part or in whole, consist of gooey, sugary constituents.

As you’d surmise, the one-two punch here consists of orange and nondescript tropical drink-flavored candies. I’m not exactly sure what the white candies are supposed to taste like, but I think they had a nicer kick than the tangerine ones. And that may or may not mean I’m racist, at least as far as junk food is concerned.

Of course, the fun with Nerds is just shoveling an entire box into your mouth hole and slurping down as many various flavors as possible with about as much discretion as one of Pavlov’s puppies. In that, I can most certainly say that Spooky Nerds, indeed, are things you could probably eat, if you really wanted to.

And to conclude this year’s round-up, we come to yet ANOTHER pumpkin-shaped candy bar variation - this time around, Butterfingers’ attempt to corner the totally not-at-all over-served market.

And visually, these things don’t disappoint at all. While most of the chocolate pumpkin items released this season fluctuate from totally blank to well-defined (albeit predictable), the Pumpkin-fingers look like miniature works of pop-art; if we can build engraving machines that can mass produce artifacts of such a fine aesthetic as these, then certainly, a cancer cure can’t be far off.

And yeah, to totally seal the deal, the things even taste just like their source inspiration. It’s difficult to name any single candy as the absolute best of the holiday period, but considering the qualitative and visual merits of these chocolate bars, I think it’s hard to argue against naming anything else as “the Samhain season’s best.”

And while it wasn’t a bad haul this year for me, individually, I still think I should’ve taste-tested more foodstuffs than I actually ended up ingesting. With that in mind, I assure you that next Halloween, I will at least DOUBLE my tally or I’ll do something amazingly stupid, like eat cheese spread from the Family Dollar or pay full price for a Ron Paul book or something. All in all, my inability to devour as much Halloween candies as I thought I could is surely a sign of detrimental aging. Sigh…I can’t believe I never found time to try the new “spooky-flavored” Big League Chew gum pouches, either!


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