Considering a career in the alimentary-research field? Think twice, for you will spend many a greyish-green hour whomping room-temperature cream of mushroom onto sidewalks, to compare its similarity to vomit with that of tapioca; grinding off-brand cheese puffs in a pestle until you develop RSI; and horrifying first dates and prospective in-laws by comparing the top note of a lobster cracker to bacterial vaginosis.
But if you can get through a worthy tome like The Great American Cereal Book: How Breakfast Got Its Crunch by Marty Gitlin and Topher Ellis without requiring an Alka-Seltzer or a meditation break, you just might have a future in this business.
TGACB is a tirelessly researched, gorgeously illustrated, and astonishingly straight-faced encyclopedic history of the cold-cereal industry. Readers will learn that SpongeBob and Hannah Montana have their own cereals, for instance, and that General Mills VP John Holahan invented the tiny versions of marshmallows we find in breakfast cereals — known within the industry as “marbits” — by cutting up a Brach’s circus peanut. (He subsequently eluded justice.) It’s also an invaluable window into the metric tonnes of horseshit the naïve American consumer would put up with in decades gone by.
The B.A.R.F. has compiled a (Cheeri-)overview of the lowlights, both the cereals themselves and a few of the more egregious forgotten mascots. We highly recommend experiencing the book for yourselves, however.
“Girl Cootie Crunch” didn’t survive the first draft, evidently.
Without the equally off-putting mascot, “Bixby Beaver,” Crunchy Loggs might have avoided the association with turds in the punchbowl. Alas.
Fiesta Fruity Pebbles with Confetti Sprinkles
As a result of a parental sugar-cereal embargo that continues to this day, Dr. Bunting spent most of the ’80s craving the most diabetically sugar-laden breakfast foods on the market, but this would have been a Pixy Stik too far even for her.
Description. A cynical and unpleasant mash-up of rum-raisin ice cream, holiday rum balls, and malted-milk balls, Schweddy Balls is touted on the Ben & Jerry’s website as “an ode to a classic ‘Saturday Night Live’ sketch comedy” [sic]. In the sense that the rummy aftertaste, much like the average SNL segment, lingers on too long, this is entirely accurate. The adjective “classic,” however, is not, except in the sense that gagging and dumping most of a pint of ice cream into the trash is a “classic” response to a repellent dessert.
Half the day’s sat-fat allowance is expended on a half-cup serving of the Balls. Not worth it, my friends.
Description. How to pronounce the name of the airy chocolate bar? “Uno,” like the game? “You know,” as if eating the bar confers upon the consumer membership in an elite — albeit boring and fat-logged — secret club?
Our tester has chosen to go with “ooh…no.” The only discernible reason for selecting a chocolate novelty as dull as the U-No is the hope that its stratospherically high fat content will induce a stroke.
Packaging/Branding. A sleek silver wrapper and mid-century lettering belie the utter tedium of the product within.
The candy’s cheery attempt to spin its utterly uninteresting stale-pudding center as a delicate truffle is a deluded failure.
Description. Indulge Dr. Bunting in a careless Hollywood comparison for a moment, won’t you? Taking it as a given that a Hostess snack cake is the Doris Day of nibbles, straitlaced, functional, and attractive yet not sexy; and that the Little Debbie version is more of a Mamie Van Doren (presents as trashy but is merely prone to falling in love too easily, and genuinely regrets the C-minus sex she had with Bo Belinsky); with what troubled mid-century starlet shall we compare the Lady Linda Crème Finger? The fuchsia and coconut cloak brings to mind the pink champagne and maribou of a Gabor, but also the blood and single-minded desperation of a Manson girl.
Alas, yes: the Lady Linda Crème Finger, at least in its “berry” iteration, is Susan Atkins.
Its visual and corporate profiles only contribute to that impression. The Finger is extremely sweaty and sticky within its plastic sleeve, but performing the snack-uivalent of a sex-offender search turns up little on its company parent — no website, no online ordering, just the threateningly named Operative Cake Corp. and a handful of reviews touting the calorie-to-price ratio of various Lady Linda products. Like the spy or dominatrix its DBAs imply, it keeps a suspiciously low profile.
Except, of course, for the searing magenta of the product itself.
Packaging/Branding. Original-flavor Fingers evidently come in pairs, but the pink Finger appeared on its own, with no per-Finger label or nutritional information. The Finger is more or less a Twinkie, but slightly shorter and narrower so as not to arouse the ire of Hostess.
Flavor Profile. Whether it proceeds from the food dye, the lazily applied clumps of coconut, or the too-sweet crème filling, the Finger tastes like spongey baby powder.
Habitat. Delis acting as a front for some other business; the California desert; Queens.
Field Notes. When purchased with a Mexican Coca-Cola, may occasion a frightened “Daaaang” from the cashier.
Revulsion Scale: 10
Description. Off-puttingly blunt though it seems, the Pearson’s Salted Nut Roll’s name is somewhat misleading; it is not a roll in the cinnamon-roll sense, but rather a tube of crème nougat rolled in salted peanuts.
The tube is 5-6 inches long; it is salty; it is filled with a white substance; and there is nut involvement. We trust that its selection for testing requires no further explanation.
Packaging/Branding. The presence of a yellow crown containing the words “king size” on the wrapper forced our data-collection technician to turn the Roll face-down at the Walgreen’s checkout, lest she be subject to the sort of “girl, please” reaction that greets boastful requests for Magnum condoms.
The front of the wrapper is otherwise nondescript. The back, meanwhile, is a nauseating horror movie in nutrition-panel format; a single Nut Roll contains 22g of fat, for 34% of the recommended daily allowance, as well as 18% of the carb allowance and 12% of the sodium.
The Choco Ball does not photograph terribly well, but is not itself all that appalling. We have seen and sampled far worse here at the Bunting Alimentary Research Foundation; Choco Balls were selected for testing primarily on the basis of a garden-variety name fail. The packaging, however, should automatically notify various departments of child protection, thanks to the cartoon baby giraffe excitedly watching a white liquid descend onto a bowlful of fecal-pellet-esque balls while a mommy (or druncle) giraffe looks on.
Looks on, and nearly gets hit in the chin. With…a ball.