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. A standard Pringle masquerading as a case of rosacea, the pizza-flavored Pringle sports an awkwardly randomized coating of what looks like ketchup-chip powder. It is hard to believe that any process could make a Pringle seem more synthetic, as the “chip” is already an artifice-in-processed-food standard-bearer, reconstituted from powdered potatoes into a perfect palate arch, then over-packaged into a space-agey tube. But the tacky stippling of pizzoid flavor dust succeeds.
Description. The world had not clamored, or even whispered shamefully under its covers at night, for a snack that represents the uncomfortable visual union between rotini pasta and magnified rhinovirus, and shares an unnatural orange with the Sea-Monkey-sized sea life that populates a “shrimp” Cup o’ Noodles. Yet said snack exists, presumably in not one but two flavors (the tester retrieved only the “picoso” subspecies).
Packaging/Branding. The depiction of the product on the front is accurate. This honesty is refreshing, but unfortunate, and the photograph resembles a bag of Ore-Ida crinkle fries to a suspicious degree. Other poor choices include the font, a stereotypical karate-school-signage affair; the “0g trans fat” tag (one third of the bag supplies 10% of the RDA of fat overall); and the watercolor shrimp next to the product name. The creature still has legs, antennae, and eyes…and the eyes look terrified.
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. If it is not a truth universally acknowledged that bar food should not be replicated in vacuum-sealed cornmeal form, it should become one, as the B.A.R.F. lab has asserted in the past. Attempts to imitate pub snacks that depend in large part on greasy breading and/or melted cheese to succeed cannot possibly thrive in a chip-aisle environment, and necessarily suffer by comparison.
The Funyun is no exception. “Onion Flavored Rings” fashioned of corn starch, buttermilk powder, and sundry chemical shapers can never approach a genuine onion ring in flavor or texture.
Comparisons to a superior original aside, however, Funyuns do have a certain appeal. While we cannot deem them “good,” exactly, we cannot deny that, when paired with a Coca-Cola, their peppery crunch is at least interesting.