Description. A tubular “hot chili pepper & lime corn snack,” the Taki Fire is a violent cerise in color. This is well past the orangey-red “hot” snacks usually use to denote their fieriness; this is if Hieronymous Bosch stretched out a Corn Nut and dipped it in lye. The average Taki is a bit awkward in size, too long for a single bite but not satisfying when bitten in two, necessitating an annoying snap-in-half/pairing maneuver. Fortunately, death comes for the snacker long before this can become too tiresome.
Packaging/Branding. Takis are a product of the delightfully named Grupo Bimbo; the Taki package, like most Bimbo products, makes up in enthusiasm what it lacks in professionalism. The cross-section of fire on the front, for instance, is reminiscent of a home-movie still, and beset by two testicular limes; the front also depicts a handful of Takis falling through space like Zod and his henchmen when trapped in that pane of glass. The back is just as disturbing, and we don’t mean the revelation that Takis have a Twitter account. Rather, it’s the information about sodium levels, to wit: a single serving of Fire Takis — an ounce, or one quarter of a four-ounce bag — is 18% of the RDA for sodium. And…contains propylene glycol and an “anticaking” agent.
Flavor Profile. Fire Takis also contain hot chili pepper; that, and more vinegar than we use to clean the lab coffeemaker, dominate the proceedings. The heat is cumulative and unpleasant, but though both Drs. Bunting have the genetic makeup required to withstand and even enjoy extremely spicy foods, Dr. Bunting the Elder isn’t sure the Taki is a food at all, much less that it has anything else to offer in the way of alleged corn or lime. The spiciness does not augment the Taki; it merely ninjas the taste buds.
Habitat. The losing ends of late-night bets; JetBlue to Vegas.
Field Notes. Conveyed to the main lab according to correct postal hazmat protocols by Dr. Barkenbush.
Revulsion Scale: 10
Description. The spelling of “flavoured” indicates that the Miaow Miaow cuttlefish crackers belong more properly to a field guide of Malaysian snacks. The disodium 5’-inosinate E631 on the ingredients panel, meanwhile, suggests that the cuttlefish crackers originated at the Malaysian equivalent of NASA, and should return thereto before harming an unsuspecting global populace. While each cracker is modest in size, the replication of octopodean tentacle suckers on each cracker may have unwelcome associations with low-budget horror movies for the consumer.
Description. Ding Dong is, if not the most cluelessly branded in the field of Asian snack mixes, definitely in the top three. Nor does it help itself with its unappetizing visual presentation, a sickly hybrid of small-batch dog kibble and institutional succotash.
Packaging/Branding. For starters, “Dong.” Also, “mixed nuts.” (Pornographic and inaccurate: Ding Dong contains only one nut, the peanut, and a meager supply at that.) Furthermore, “cracker nuts”; “enjoy your munching”; and the mysterious “cornick.” Our researchers have failed to discover whether “cornick” is a real word, but the JBC Food Corp. appears to have snigletted a word for the substance from which Corn Nuts are made. We had to wonder why they didn’t also coin a synonym for fava beans, given their unfortunate associations with charismatic pop-culture cannibalism.
The packaging also features a Keeblerian troll daydreaming under a mushroom cap. His ear is the same size as his hand. We give up.
Flavor Profile. Standard and inoffensive, but again, the packaging misspeaks; the only “spice” on offer is salt, and plenty of it (10% of the RDA, compliments of a third of a 3.5-oz bag).
Habitat. The break room at a swingers’ club; regional airports.
Field Notes. Submitted by Dr. Barkenbush of the Bay Area collection team.
Revulsion Scale: 8
Description. Ever since that ill-advised promotion 25 years ago during which the Mars Corp. asked America to vote on which color M would replace the staid but reliable beige, the M&M has become progressively more antic in its desire to be all candies to all people. Specialty colors, pretzel fillings, uncomfortable advertising campaigns that ask us not only to anthropomorphize these tiny edibles, but also to infer that they are sexually active — there is the whiff of desperation.
The candy-corn/white-chocolate M&M pairs that whiff with a much stronger literal one, of candied orange peel rolled in Nerds. Each M is between a classic and a peanut M in size; the colors follow the stripes of a classic kernel of candy corn.
Packaging/Branding. Standard for the M&M family. Our AV technician failed to capture an in-focus shot of the package, but the front features the red M dressed in a candy-corn “costume” and looking too drunk to care what foolishness his overlords have forced him to promote this time. He may also be staggering under the weight of the 35% RDA of sat fats the single-serving package contains.
Description. A visual hybrid of a classic Entenmann’s chocolate-chip cookie and the cinnamon roll promised by the name, the CRC is distinguished primarily by the intensity of its odor. Dr. Barkenbush furnished the samples in two Ziploc bags, themselves within a USPS Priority Mail box sealed with packing tape; the cookies still managed to suffuse the lab’s entryway with the jackhammer scent of Cinnabon (a co-brander of this cookie venture).
Each cookie is festooned with pointedly random stripes of caramel — or so it appeared through eyes made watery by ersatz-pecan fumes.
Description. An attempt to shoehorn the experience of Sunday-afternoon football-watching tavern cuisine into a three-quarter-inch tube of dangerously over-salted paste, the Buffalo Blue Cheese Pretzel Combo is surprisingly successful. It is not good, quite, but nor is it the disaster that would seem to be presaged by 1) the choice of pretzel base, the least appealing of the Combo shells in Dr. Bunting’s opinion; or 2) the inevitably doomed effort to replicate any cheese, or “cheese,” more upmarket than government-issue Velveeta.
Again, it is not great, but given the possible — and revolting — alternatives, merely skirting an utter palate catastrophe should be deemed a victory.
Description. Deconstructing the Butterfinger into its component parts: decent idea. Using the actual parts, instead of the ersatz orangey “peanut butter” and cocoa-powdery coating of the Butterfinger: even better idea.
Adding superfluous coconut to an already overloaded flavor profile: confusing, but not the dumbest idea we’ve ever heard.
The result is a honey-roasted-asteroid affair with a vague resemblance to deer pellets.
Description. A Nickelodeon-branded version of your standard gummi hamburger (if we can say that a “standard” gummi hamburger exists), derived, of course, from Sponge Bob Square Pants. The TV show is fun; the dense, rubbery, flattened blob masquerading as a stack of fast-food burger parts is not.
Packaging/Branding. Nickelodeon and the Frankford Candy and Chocolate Company have taken great care with the fonts and graphics on the exterior box, as well as the individual servings, each of which comes in its own plastic sleeve with a teeny serving tray — presumably to prevent the Patties from melting into a gelatinous massif. If only as much concern had been expended on the…