Today’s field report comes from the intrepid Dr. T.C. Ariano, SoCal lab jefe.
Description. When it comes to feeding their children, the only thing that worries today’s mothers more than that their offspring might accidentally smell, see, or hear about a peanut is the specter of creeping obesity. And yet, when Dakota’s birthday comes along, and the cupcakes that were JUST FINE FOR US are now verboten, you can’t send him or her to class empty-handed — or, worse, with…fruit. Enter Birthday Cake Popcorn.
Description. The limited-edition Confetti Cake Pop Tart seems superfluous. Of course, most Pop Tarts seem superfluous — what niche does “cherry turnover” fill that a cherry Pop Tart (or, preferably, an actual cherry turnover, created by humans in a non-factory environment without the aid of sodium stearoyl lactylate) does not? What chemical nano-tweak differentiates the strawberry-milkshake flavor from the frosted Tart with strawberry filling? And what, pray tell, is a “Spookylicious”? (It is “chocolate” “fudge.” Evasion is strongly counseled.)
Drs. Ariano and Bunting would never have confronted these questions during their recent sample-collection sojourn into the New Jersey interior, were it not for the accidental intervention of a native whom they overheard enthusing about the CCPT while restocking the ample shelves of a Target in Hanover. Intrigued, they procured a box for the lab.
Packaging/Branding. Despite straining heartily for a party atmosphere via the box art (confetti; piñata filling; even a “To / From” field should the consumer unwisely substitute these Tarts for a proper birthday gift), the Confetti Cake Pop Tart does not look very promising. …Well, perhaps this is an unfair characterization. The Tart itself presents neutrally; the rendition of a piece of birthday cake, helpfully provided to remind prospective purchasers of what the Tart is supposed to taste like, resembles an infected marshmallow.
Dr. Bunting finds the microwave instructions hilarious. Step 2: “Microwave on high setting for 3 seconds.” Three seconds? Holding the Tart over a candle or coughing on it vigorously is probably more efficient.
One also wonders what fumarole of the Kellogg’s legal department belched up this advisory: “Due to possible risk of fire, never leave your toasting appliance or microwave unattended.” First of all, “toasting appliance”? Second of all, “never”? And third of all, shouldn’t such a warning mention the product on whose package it appears? Even as a lawsuit preventive, the phrasing is rather broad. Why not take it a step further and remind us to look both ways when crossing the street, or to buckle up for safety?
Flavor Profile. A birthday-cake-flavored thing that is not birthday cake should not work. What makes birthday cake appealing is that it is cake; the lack of portability is beside the point. For reasons that the B.A.R.F. has not yet pinned down, however, such products frequently succeed. Birthday-cake ice cream is a particular weakness of Dr. Bunting’s, and more than one summertime breakfast hour has found her firmly facing a pint from Uncle Louie G’s.
The Pop-Tart version is markedly less pleasurable. In what we must assume is an attempt to stress the savory or starchy aspects of a cake, thus creating contrast with the frosting and the sugary confetti discs, the Tart itself features a salty bass note that lingers spitefully on the palate. In addition to suggesting that a popcorn-and-candy Pop Tart would fail miserably, the flavor is, for lack of a better term, creepy.
Habitat. Last-minute office parties in the Trust Territories; the Target in Hanover, NJ.
Field Notes. If someone could please ask the anthropomorphized hipster blobule that represents the Wildlicious Wild! Strawberry Pop Tart to calm down at once, thank you and good day.
Revulsion Scale: 7
Description. Various colleagues alerted us to the presence of the Snoballimus in the field, including Drs. Ariano and Barkenbush — the latter of whom risked life and limb to collect a mid-Atlantic specimen to send to B.A.R.F. headquarters.
The Snoballimus is a Transformers-branded version of the Hostess Glo-Ball, which itself is an unnatural variation on the already-artificial Sno-Ball…or Lucky Puff…or Hopper…or whichever name the Sno-Ball elects to go by depending on the time of year. The Transformers version, of course, offers even more synthetic horror for the snack-cake buck: a Smurf-hued coconut coating, over a rubbery and resistant layer of marshmallow, which in turn overlays a dry pale chunk of devil’s food cake that surrounds a luridly red crème filling. Said filling brought to mind notorious scenes from the horror-film genre — Sissy Spacek, sticky and staring. Janet Leigh in the throes. The head on the dance floor in Prom Night.
The color scheme is not only toxic but baffling also. Is it intended to create patriotic feeling? If so, whither the brown layer?
Description. Many years ago, during a field study in Chicago, Drs. Ariano, Bunting, and Savel stared in horrified wonderment at an entire display rack of gummi pizza. The ensuing discussion led to an elaborate experiment involving the mails and Canadian chocolate, and ended in an unfortunate banana-candy incident at U.S. Customs, but suffice it to say that gummi pizza has cast a long shadow over the B.A.R.F.
If we may pay the E. Frutti iteration one compliment — and we may, but…only the one — we can say that its rendering of two-day-old subpar pizza’s layer of congealed grease and decompensated toppings is uncanny. And revolting.