Description. Dr. Blankenship toted the Burger Rings all the way from Down Under for testing in the home office. Dr. Bunting The Elder does not eat anything which walked on land, but “happily” for her, Burger Rings do not contain actual burger. (Or rings.) The Rings themselves do not contain any resemblance to their depiction on the packaging. As portrayed, Rings do not look appealing, exactly, but they are sizeable, and reminiscent at least of the pub grub they apparently aim to replicate. In real life, Rings look like Totis, but not as red or suggestive of irradiated Spaghetti-Os.
Packaging/Branding. Misleading, as mentioned above, and also counterintuitive. The color scheme probably wants to evoke a browned patty, with black singe marks, and mustard…but the dusky shades bring to mind a mid-eighties office park at night. Australian package notes and warnings provide some interest, although the “When you’re done, put the pack in the bin!” exhortation is properly read as “Put the pack in the bin; then you’re done.” The back label also disclaims that “average values [are] subject to seasonal variation.” In what season whey powder is at its freshest is not mentioned.
Description. A comparatively faithful rendition of Sanrio’s most ubiquitous character, the Hello Kitty Marshmallow Pop does hit a couple of uncanny-valley snags. Its in-packaging presentation implies that it is composed entirely of Christmas-cookie sprinkles, but this isn’t the cause of the unsettlement; rather, it’s the rodent-y placement of Kitty’s button nose, which never quite succeeds in three dimensions — and the nipple-y placement of Kitty’s shirt buttons.
Speaking of buttons, their texture may startle some consumers; they, and Kitty’s other “features” (her bow, whiskers, et al.), resemble button candy in both diamond hardness and dearth of flavor. Setting them aside for future messages to be written on glass is advised.
Description. Dr. Blankenship won a research grant to study the revolting snacks of China, and while he was in Shanghai, he discovered the Frito-Lay corporation’s darkest secret. Thin, brittle, and oily, the cheese lobster chip looks just like a regular Lay’s, which is terrible news for the unobservant snacker.
Packaging/Branding. Though much of the text is in Chinese, the package promises English speakers a “classic great taste.” Despite extensive interviews, however, Dr. Blankenship could not find anyone who felt this flavor was “classic,” or even part of God’s plan.
The branding image is unnerving: next to a splay of potato chips, a lobster lies belly-up on a bed of lettuce. The creature has been sliced open, spilling lobster bits everywhere, and a floating gravy boat pours melted cheese on its carcass. Claws raised in the air, the mutilated lobster seems to beg for its life as it drowns in a dairy waterfall.
Flavor Profile. The flavors come in waves. There is an explosion of spray cheese, followed by a nauseating blend of lobster and “seafood musk.” The musky taste lingers for at least 10 seconds after swallowing, suggesting the snacker has ingested the entire seafood counter at an unsanitary grocery store.
Habitat. Chinese convenience stores; the backpacks of desperate travelers; boardroom presentations of PETA members who are “trying to make a point.”
Field Notes. All of the ingredients are in Chinese, so we may never know what makes these flavors possible.
Revulsion Scale: 10
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.
Description. Also known in certain quarters as “Italian flag cookies,” “tri-color cakes,” and “those pink-and-green thingies,” the seven-layer is recognized in almost all quarters as the last sweetmeat left on the Italian-bakery platter. Our tester’s customary strategy when confronted with a platter of that type is to divest it of every last pignoli cookie, then retire from the field to enjoy three hundred abdominal crunches and a nap, so she had little experience with the seven-layer — except to note that it, and it alone, remains on the plate at the end of a dessert service, a few of its number scarred by a single half-moon of teeth.
Anecdotal evidence suggested a determination of “revolting.” What would formal testing reveal?
Description. Turkish delight comes in two varieties: the type that may have contact with a card-carrying Turkish national at some point, and consists of a dense nougat studded with nuts and flavored with rosewater or honey; and the mass-produced powdered-sugar-donut-hole-meets-Gummi-cube type. The former is in fact a delight, suggesting luxury, seduction, warm evenings under a canopy of fruit trees.
The latter is baffling at best, and the Turkish consulate should do everything in its power to revoke the credentials of this insufficiently precious ambassador de cuisine. What need does it fill? What market does it serve? Who thought that an artificially colored gelid blob needed sugaring — with confectioner’s sugar, the substance most likely to cause an inadvertent fit of choking?
Needless to say, it is the latter that arrived at the B.A.R.F.’s loading bay, trailing a plume of sugar motes behind it into the lab…
Packaging/Branding. …thanks to the dense coating of powder that blanketed the entire rack of delight, and which the packaging failed entirely to contain. Waxed paper around the candy, nestled in a box, nestled in another box, wrapped in cellophane merely slowed the sugar’s progress throughout our facility; its presence lingered well into the afternoon in the form of ghostly fingerprints and the occasional sneeze of unknown origin.