5 Allegedly Awful Foods Everyone Should Try Once
Do you enjoy food? Possibly the stupidest opening sentence of any article ever. That's what that was. Even if you don't ingest it for pleasure, you obviously enjoy food because you enjoy not dying. It's circle-of-life shit. That's something we can hopefully all agree on. If not, I don't know, I suspect you'll starve and die soon and it won't matter anyway.
What kind of food you enjoy is a far more contentious issue. The things we eat and drink matter as much as any religion in this country, to the point that we sometimes go to war over it.
Of the litany of problems Billy Joel rattled off in that awful "We Didn't Start the Fire" song, the Cola Wars were the thing that finally pushed him over the edge. He mentioned actual wars in that song, you guys. Lots of them. But once he hit the Cola Wars, that's when he couldn't take it anymore.
And he hasn't written a new song since.
Diet is not something people take lightly, is what I'm getting at. Good food vs. bad food is a war that will rage on for time eternal, and, if I'm being completely honest, I definitely fall more on the "bad food" side of things. At least that's how the food snobs of the world with their fancy-pants "foie gras" and "meat made from actual animals" and other such delicacies see it. We talk about that on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by comic and fellow shitty food enthusiast Jeff May. Our main order of business: get a bunch of people to try the greatest awful food item of all-time and tell us how much they love it. I am, of course, talking about ...
I'm just going to be completely upfront here -- there isn't a single goddamn thing any one of you can tell me or show me that will make me stop lusting after the delicious taste of the McDonald's McRib. I'm very open about how much I love it, so whenever it returns, as it did recently, I tend to get bombarded with messages from friends and family about the "horrors" that go into making it. This is the latest entry in that parade of propaganda films.
Plenty of people have sent me links to that video this week. That's well within anyone's rights, but please understand, I simply do not give a fuck. For one thing, McDonald's produced that video. How harrowing do you think they're going to make the process seem? Whatever your answer, it doesn't matter to me. It could be a video of McDonald's executives tossing small children into a raging river; I'd still eat the McRib and enjoy it thoroughly.
Innocence is the tastiest seasoning of all.
We're talking about a sandwich that comes back around only when pork prices are low. In other words, you can't eat one until the monetary value of the life of one of God's cutest creations has plummeted enough that McDonald's slaughtering them in mass makes financial sense. That's already pretty grim, and it doesn't do a thing to change my stance on this most wonderful of fast-food treats.
Yes, I get that it barely tastes like and definitely doesn't look like any meat item in existence. Sure, fashioning the patty in a way that makes it look like there used to be bones in there has the unfortunate effect of making it seem even less like real meat.
They don't have to do this, you know? Be thankful.
Right, the "barbecue sauce" tastes like it has turpentine in it.
You probably have too much stomach lining anyway.
Indeed, fuck onions.
I agree with your position on all of those things, but when they come together under the same roof, magic happens. That's how everything at McDonald's works. You wouldn't put the dehydrated version of their onions on anything but a McDonald's cheeseburger, but damn if they don't perform well in that setting.
The McRib is no different. It's a bunch of individually awful components that come together to make something special. It's like the underdog team winning a championship of sandwiches. You don't expect the McRib to prevail, but it does anyway. I don't eat the McRib for the taste, I eat it for the inspiration.
Also the taste, though. It's really great.
In general, name brand vs. generic is a pointless battle. More often than not, what you're paying for is the pride that comes from knowing you can afford brand-name prices while people confined to the less well-off segments of society eat Aldi's green beans like a bunch of soup-kitchen patrons. Name brands are a self-esteem booster and nothing more ... usually.
I say usually because there's at least one product that this rule doesn't apply to, and that's Kraft Singles.
The Cadillac of cheese flavored foods.
Well, Kraft mac and cheese, also. And that shitty powdered Parmesan cheese? Again, Kraft is way better than the generic. I don't know how they do it, but that screechy lady from Moonlighting said it had something to do with fillers.
That was the 1980s, though, when lawlessness was the only rule of product labeling. It was a simpler time when Chicken McNuggets were mostly man-made material and we didn't give a shit because we didn't know any better and they tasted like paradise. There's no telling what Kraft was up to in the name of getting a flavor leg up on the competition, but their wacky claims about the science and nutrition behind their food eventually earned them a stern warning from the Federal Trade Commission.
Whatever it was they were doing, it still works to this day. Test it out for yourself sometime if you don't believe me. I'm focusing on Kraft Singles here because they are the most direct path to proving that brand's dominance. You don't have to cook them. You don't have to put them on anything. You just have to struggle to undo that confounding envelope each one is lovingly packaged in without leaving two-thirds of the "cheese" frustratingly wedged in the crevices and enjoy.
The "dairy" equivalent of childproof packaging.
Don't get me wrong, they cook up a mighty fine grilled cheese and make a great addition to sandwiches of any nature, but they hold up just as well as a standalone snack food, provided you're a fan of delicious flavor.
Now, after you've proven that to yourself, try it again with some off-brand cheese slice. You will taste the difference, and you won't enjoy it. Don't ask me to explain why. I'm not a food scientist, I'm just a fan of a good slice of pretend cheese.
I really can't overstate how good Kraft is at producing terrible food. Lunchables are another fine example. A lot of different companies make something similar, and every single one of them is ass except Kraft. I'm sorry, I know this is starting to read like advertising, but facts are facts. Kraft pairs cracker with cheese with uncomfortably slimy lunch meat like no other. I can't vouch for the more "experimental" varieties, like pizza or nachos, because I'm not 11 years old anymore. I'm not much of a purist in most areas in my life, but your newfangled Lunchables can blow me. Cold pizza works only if it was actually hot at some point in the past and only a psychopath would eat cold nachos under any circumstances.
Have some respect for yourself.
That said, the traditional varieties, your grandfather's Lunchables, if you will, still stand as one of the greatest achievements in on-the-go meal technology and deserve to be respected as such.
There are those among us who would argue that using the word "lunch" in the name is a stretch. Others might make claims about having outgrown Lunchables around the same time instant ramen noodles lost their appeal.
That's precisely the point where you should stop listening to everything they say. Those ramen noodles don't lose their appeal just because your station in life no longer makes them a necessity.
That's especially true now that science lets us cook them in half the time.
Lunchables are no different. There's all kinds of shit you can eat for cheap. If it was just a matter of survival you could eat a bag of rice like a disaster-relief recipient. You don't, though, because some cheap foods are better than others. And when it comes to hassle-free lunch options, Lunchables are better than most.
Hooters Chicken Wings
If I had one wish right now, I'd ask for the ability to look every single one of you dead in the eyes as I say the following words: "Hooters chicken wings are fucking amazing."
Listen, I don't give a fuck if you don't believe me. Be suspicious of what motivates me to eat there. All of that, it is of no concern to me. If you can't appreciate a Hooters chicken wing, that's your cross to bear.
You're tasty too, buffalo shrimp.
For what it's worth, I wouldn't care if that place was called Bananas and the wait stuff was just dudes in Speedos. I would throw down on those chicken wings with the exact same intensity and frequency as I do right now.
Translation: I'd still just go there to watch sports occasionally.
The secret is the flour. I mean, you can definitely order them without breading, which makes flour seemingly less important. You can also visit the ocean without ever getting in the water. What's the point if you're not going to immerse yourself in the full experience? Also, the term they use for chicken wings without breading is "naked." There's absolutely no way to say that word out loud in a Hooters without feeling like the creepiest motherfucker on Earth. Just order them breaded like a real American and avoid the unnecessary discomfort.
A little modesty never hurt a chicken wing anyway.
Also, and I understand that there's a stigma attached to doing so, but you're going to have to eat them at the "restaurant." Breaded chicken wings to go are a disaster. The transformation from dream to nightmare is not a slow one. You need to get in, eat that chicken while the eating is good, and then get the fuck out of there before anyone you respect sees you eating at Hooters. It's the only proper way to go about it. The part where you might get spotted leaving a Hooters like some kind of degenerate just makes it all the more exciting. It's like having sex in public, except with chicken.
Is there a more maligned version of Italian food than Chef Boyardee? Yep, Olive Garden. I view every "Never Ending Pasta Bowl" commercial as an explicit threat against my safety and well-being and nothing more.
I accept that I should feel the same way about Chef Boyardee, but sorry, I absolutely do not. That man is a miracle worker, and I will defend the creations that have sprung forth from his infernal kitchen for the rest of my days.
For one thing, unlike Olive Garden, C-BAD harbors no delusions about the value of his food. There are things at Olive Garden that cost more than a lot of Americans make during an hour of work. That is unbridled lunacy.
Olive Garden: When you're here, you've clearly given up.
Meanwhile, your average homeless person still brings in enough cash to enjoy Chef Boyardee. Does it taste good? Yeah, good-ish, I guess, but what does it fucking matter? It's a dollar a can, maximum. It tastes good enough for that price point, if nothing else.
Does it taste like authentic Italian food? Well, no ... but do you? You sure don't, so stop being such a judgmental jerk about things. Besides, Chef Boyardee did start out as an actual restaurant founded by an Italian immigrant named Hector Boiardi in Cleveland in 1924.
Yes, Beefaroni happened in an actual kitchen.
He only branched out into canning his wares after being inundated with recipe requests from scores of Cleveland's most obviously discerning food enthusiasts.
We're just a decade shy of the 100th anniversary of Chef Boyardee. A lot of things have changed over time, that people enjoy the culinary oddity that is perfectly executed ravioli in a can is not one of those things. It hasn't survived this long for nothing, food snobs.
Adam bought five cans of Chef Boyardee ravioli three days ago and has only one left. Follow him on Twitter @adamtodbrown.