The Hungover Gourmet

 

One Small Step for Fat Kids... One Giant Leap for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

It recently came to my attention that President Nixon — before the disgrace of Watergate and the phrase "I am not a crook" made him a caricature of political misconduct — was one prepared son-of-a-bitch. As the crew of Apollo 11 blasted into the July sky with the world awaiting their history-making moon landing, Nixon and his flunkies prepared a contingency speech for use in case Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon but weren't able to get off.

From the parts I've read it's a touching, heartfelt speech. The astronauts of Apollo 11 are lauded for "laying down their lives in mankind's most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding."

Sitting here, staring at the task laid out before me, I feel like those brave souls who dared go where no man had gone before. Somebody may want to have a speech prepared in case I don't return.

  • FACT: One out of every four American children is obese.
  • FACT: 40% of boys 6-12 can't touch their toes.
  • FACT: American children watch more than 24 hours of tv per week.
  • FACT: 87% of American teenagers have tried to perform fellatio on themselves.

Gotcha! Just wanted to see if you were paying attention. I made up the one about touching your toes.

Statistics don't lie, except, of course, in the case of Larry Bowa vs. Ozzie Smith. But when it comes to fat kids, we're #1! Add in the undeniable results of worldwide intelligence tests and America's well on its way to producing a nation of fat, stupid kids. Pretty soon, the stereotypical "Fat Kid with Glasses" given so little screen time in the sex comedies of my youth will be the norm. Come on kids, don't get left out…start shoveling in those Twinkies, Milky Ways, Yodels and Ding-Dongs NOW!

What's even more frightening than a nation of kids who look like Flounder from ANIMAL HOUSE roaming the streets looking for snacks is the fact that there's just too many damn people to blame for this atrocity. Television studios create those wildly colorful and entertaining commercials, er, I mean cartoons that suck 'em in every day after school. Hell, why play ball and get some exercise when you can watch great entertainment like the 'Power Rangers' or 'Beetle Borgs.' God, if this crap had been on when I was a kid I'd probably be living my adolescent dream of "tanned tennis pro who bangs lonely housewives." Damn you 'Speed Racer'!

But if we can't blame tv, why not focus our icy glare on Mom, Dad and the manufacturers that make it so easy for our nation of adolescents to live in the slovenly fashion they do. When a Young Hungover Gourmet (soon to be an animated series from DreamWorks) was growing up, lunches were homemade and homemade with love. Even when Mrs. Sarlo, the real-life equivalent of Lunchlady Doris, berated you for taking too many napkins you knew she was only looking out for your best interests.

What the hell's a kid to think when he opens his 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' lunchbox only to find a frickin' Oscar Meyer Lunchable staring back at him with its cold, dead eyes? "Wow, Mom cared enough to fill my lunchbag with Potassium Sorbate, Thiamine Mononitrate and Sodium Diacetate!" Is it likely that kids are trading their Taco Bell Beef Taco Lunchable for a similarly fun to eat Waffles & Oscar Mayer Sausage Lunchable? If there was any truth in advertising Oscar Mayer would have to call these things what they really are…Leftovers.

Since I don't have any kids of my own — doctors think that years of White Castles and Mountain Dew have rendered me sterile — I did what any bored journalist staring down the barrel at a deadline would do. I put on a disguise and bought a handful of "ready-to-eat" or "complete" meals and settled in for a day of taste-testing. I may not be an astronaut, but I think you'll agree that I'm one brave soul.

Guys, better get that speech ready.

Breakfast...

Since most nutritionists insist that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I came to the ultra-modern Hungover Gourmet Test Kitchen well prepared. Just from the looks of it, I somehow knew that the Waffles & Oscar Mayer Sausage Lunchable wasn't going to provide the proper base for a day of Propylene Glycol Alginate and Cellulose Gum. Especially when I noticed that the package featured a "Waffle Stick" with wide eyes and salivating mouth looking at…other Waffle Sticks! Ahhhhhh! Like the astronauts of Apollo 11, I was more than a little apprehensive.

The big "selling point" of the Lunchable line is that they're ready-to-eat right from the package. In fact, the Shakespearian "Fun to Eat, No Need to Heat" rhyming couplet can be found on each and every package of breakfast and lunch items in the line. From waffles to pizza, tacos to burgers…it's a cold food bonanza when you're livin' la vida Lunchable!

Still a bit skeptical, I decided to break up the package of four waffle sticks and two sausage patties, heating one-half and eating the other half the way Oscar Mayer intended — ice fucking cold. Cold, the waffle sticks (can you tell how much I like writing that?) have the consistency of the biodegradable packaging peanuts that pad the contents from your more ecologically sound catalog retailers. Like those protective peanuts the cold sticks are chewy like styrofoam, but stale like that week-old banana bread your grandmother in Massachusetts insists on sending.

Warmed up, the waffle sticks lose any consistency they have and become unholdable, uncutable and inedible. The highlight of the package comes from the silver dollar-sized sausage patties which taste just like the ones McDonald's serves with their pancake breakfast. It's up to you to decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

Fearing the worst when I bought this stuff, I also grabbed a couple boxes of Knauss Creamed Chipped Beef, a compact little package that promised a hot meal "anytime in 5 minutes." You know, for those days when a salad just won't do. I'll be the first to confess that I love a good plate of Creamed Chipped Beef and even have a secret pipeline into the Knauss factory here in Pennsylvania that gets me the succulent dried beef available only to employees. (Who would like to touch me?) This instant version isn't as good as my homemade, as the "cream" produces a thick, lumpy sauce with a strange, not unpleasant smell and taste. The "pre-diced beef" is chewy and kinda rubbery and would probably pass for those "meat" treats you give to Fido.

What I'm wondering is this…Creamed Chipped Beef is probably one of the easiest breakfast dishes to make. Wouldn't a "just add water" version of Eggs Benedict have been more important?

Oscar Meyer Waffle Sticks and Sausage: F…I wouldn't feed this to my worst enemy.

Knauss Creamed Chipped Beef: C+…I've got an extra package, and lord knows I'll eventually get desperate enough to eat it.

Lunchie, Munchie...

Ah, lunch. Nothing warms the heart like opening the fridge and finding…a vacuum-sealed package of Taco Bell Beef Tacos Lunchables! If my mom had been that passive aggressive I would've run away from home long before I did!

Kids, here's the truth. I love Taco Bell food. Taco Bell food has gotten me through some particularly nasty Saturday mornings, if you know what I mean. Unfortunately, the area surrounding the palatial THG Headquarters features nearly every fast food emporium known to man. Except for Taco Bell.

So, deep in my heart of hearts, I was hoping to love these Lunchables. For those cold, lonely nights when nothing will do except for the Bell. When a run for the border is the only run I want to make. And you know what? These things aren't damn bad!

Now, before you start to question my sanity and wonder where it all went wrong, I have to offer the following caveat: these things aren't damn bad as long as you can heat them up. Cold, they have the consistency of two-day-old stale castoffs from a Taco Bell Grande Meal. The "Taco Filling" is a nasty-looking paste that resembles, well, I won't even go there. The flour tortillas are thick and chewy, with only the packet of mild sauce making the experience semi-palatable.

But, heat these puppies up — following the explicit directions on the back of the package, mind you — and they come deceptively close to a fave TB menu item from yesteryear: The Mexi Melt! Who knew that these delightful microwave treats were as close as my grocer's freezer?!

Taco Bell Beef Taco Lunchables: Cold…D; Hot…A-

The Snacking Hour...

Having survived a pre-packaged breakfast and lunch without hurling, I figured it was time to treat myself to a snack before making some real food for dinner. And what's the thing for the zine editor on the go? Why, Go-Gurt naturally, the latest entry into the "fast food for kids on the go" sweepstakes. But, with so many kids shopping in the Portly Dept. at Sears these days, where are they on the go to?! Do they really need a snack to get them from the tv to the fridge and back?

Speaking of truth in advertising, this Yoplait product certainly gets a passing grade. Touted as "yogurt in a tube" during their Saturday morning cartoon ads, Go-Gurt is "yogurt in a tube." Want to feel like an astronaut but don't want to do all that zero gravity bullshit? Then rip open a pack of Go-Gurt and squeeze, squeeze, squeeze! Frankly, I was a bit unsettled by the sexual nature of it all, but that's 'cause I pulled it out of my mouth early and got some up my nose.

Yoplait Go-Gurt: B+

[This article originally appeared in CRIMEWAVE and ER #50]



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