Taste Test: Snack Imposters

Due to popular demand and the fact that we love trying
weird foods and candies, The A.V. Club will now regularly feature "Taste Tests."
Feel free to suggest disgusting and/or delicious new edibles for future
installments: E-mail us at tastetest@theonion.com.

As explored in previous Taste Tests, there's been a recent, Wonka-esque trend of
condensing entire meals—or at least appetizers/side dishes—into
bite-sized comestibles. Whether this is simply a fleeting tangent in the long,
undistinguished history of gimmicky snack foods—think clear colas and
multi-colored popcorn—or the harbinger of a utensil-free, plate-free,
artificially preserved food future remains to be seen. Our money rests on the
former, as these charlatan snacks almost always taste like slightly crappier
versions of their original-flavor snack-food counterparts, and immensely
crappier versions of the foods they're trying to imitate.

Perhaps we're just being naive purists. Maybe the more
forward-thinking snack-food visionaries see some redeeming logic that we can't
grasp in reducing every menu item from the local family-dining establishment
down into chip/cracker form. Maybe the crunch makes these familiar,
all-American staples more "dynamic." Or maybe it's more practical than that.
Perhaps consumers have grown weary of all that burdensome chicken mucking up
their preferred Buffalo-sauce delivery device: hence, Pringles' Extreme
Blazin' Buffalo Wing
flavor. And why
should we have to place unnecessary stress on our atrophied wrist muscles in
order to dip our fries in ketchup when both Herr's and Burger King will sauce up and chip-ify our favorite side dish
for us? And pizza? You're just asking for trouble there, what with all that
dripping sauce and oozing cheese waiting to stain your crisp white Oxford
shirt. Thanks for helping us dodge that bullet, Pringles Pizza flavor! And don't even get us started on macaroni
and cheese, which actually requires diners to use—get this—some
sort of utensil in order to consume it. Not only do Kraft Macaroni
& Cheese Crackers
do away with that
silly precondition, they come in a nifty, animal crackers-esque carry-along
case, meaning macaroni lovers can plop down on any old curb and shovel handfuls
of crackers into their waiting maws whenever the urge strikes, sans fork,
plate, or dignity. Truly, it is a glorious future.

Taste: Reactions to
the five products we tasted ranged from "Ugh, dear God why?" to "I might eat
that again," with most testers tending toward bemused indifference. Sure,
pizza-flavored Pringles taste okay, but not especially different from
pizza-flavored Combos or pizza-flavored Doritos. Same goes for the Kraft
Macaroni & Cheese Crackers, which, aside from their wilted-pasta shape,
aren't very different from Cheez-Its or Nips or the gabazillions of other
cheese-flavored crackers lining the aisles of the local mega-mart. The Extreme
Blazin' Buffalo Wing Pringles were the closest we had to a hit; most tasters
were impressed with the accuracy of the Buffalo-sauce flavor, and we're always
in favor of anything that's "extreme," because it makes us feel more extreme in
turn. The biggest taste-controversy (or "tastroversy") resulted from the two
variations on ketchup-flavored chips, which were almost universally despised
with the exception of one brave soul—okay, me—who was willing to
stand up and say, "Come on guys, they aren't that bad...." Most people would
probably be put off by the chips' sweetness, but the Herr's version at least
had an interesting vinegar-y aftertaste that might appeal to some palates.
Still, neither approximation came even remotely close to recreating the simple,
all-American appeal of a plain ol' French fry dipped in ketchup.

Office reactions

Pizza Pringles

— "Yeah, I would eat this."

— "In a blind taste test I don't
think I'd say it was pizza."

— "It's kinda like pizza
Combos—that same artificial pizza flavor."

— "Any pizza-flavored chip kinda
tastes the same. Some sort of pseudo-tomato, pseudo-oregano taste."

— "All pizza-flavored foodstuffs
taste the same. I think these companies all use the same recipe. It's not bad,
but it's nothing I would pick up to eat."

— "An unholy alliance of sausage
pizza powder and a Pringles chip. Freakishly accurate taste, however."

— "Pizza sauce, cheese, meat
flavors. It's got everything a 'za has to offer except warmth and fulfillment."

— "If pizza-flavored
Pringles are the best tasting food on your table, you should get a new table."

Extreme Blazin' Buffalo Wings Pringles

— "It doesn't look like it
tastes extreme."

— "They smell like vinegar

— "Wow. That really tastes
like Buffalo wings."

— "It's not extreme,
though." "For Pringles it's extreme." "So it's relatively extreme."

— "It's no Death Rain."

— "I had a second helping
of these, though I'm not sure why. They taste okay, but I think I'd seriously
regret having more than a few of them. They don't have much of a flavor, but
it's pleasant enough."

— "Strong vinegar aroma and
initial flavor, gives way to sweet spiciness. Kinda miss the chicken."

— "Exactly like Louisiana
Hot Sauce. Probably worthy of a lawsuit."

Burger King Ketchup & Fries Flavored Potato Snacks

— [Grimaces, makes thumbs-down

— "They smell like the tomato
." "Oh, then I'm not touching that."

— "It kinda bothers me that
they're sparkly."

— "They have a gingerbread
exit flavor."

— "It almost tastes like
Cinnamon Toast Crunch."

— "Yeah! They taste like
rotten on the way in and Cinnamon Toast Crunch on the way out."

— "Why do we need this in
chip form? French fries are readily available everywhere. These taste as
unnecessary as they are."

— "It's a long chip like a flat
Frito. Light salty-sour dusting does remind me of ketchup. Hardly an
accomplishment. Great if you like ketchup but it's not like you can't buy

— "Doesn't accurately recreate the
Burger King fry experience. Why would BK put their name on something like this?
If this is what R&D; thinks French fries taste like, they must be shoving
the fries in the wrong hole."

Herr's Heinz Ketchup Flavored
Potato Chips

— "Oh, UGH!" [Makes angry face.]

— "I'm trying to swallow it without
tasting it."

— "Dear God, these are awful. My
stomach actually cramped when I started chewing. More would induce vomiting."

— "Of all the bad things we've
eaten, nothing has made me actually want to vomit as much as the Herr's ketchup

— "I don't actually hate these.
They're definitely weird, and it wouldn't be something I'd want to eat every
day, but I could see me getting a craving for these once in a while."

— "The sweetness is a little off-putting,
but if you eat it in a 'ketchup' mindframe instead of expecting a potato chip,
it's pretty accurate."

— "Just plain awful. Dull
tomato flavor and overly sweet overtones makes it difficult to finish. Yeech."

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Crackers

— "It's like Cheez-Its in a
macaroni shape."

— "No, they're goldfish
crackers. They taste exactly like goldfish crackers."

— "The cheese taste really
kicks in as you chew."

— "That's delightful."

— "I don't know, I'm not getting
much of a cheese taste at all. Tastes more like I'm eating undercooked pasta."

— "These taste like
nothing. The cheese flavor is so minimal as to be non-existent. What's the

— "You'd expect this to
taste mostly like cheese but it doesn't. The cheese flavor doesn't even arrive
until a few seconds after you pop it in your mouth, and it's super subtle."

— "I think Kraft spent more
time on packaging and shaping the crackers than they did on taste."

— "Maybe if the chips were
served wet it would taste more like the real thing. How about Kraft Mac &
Cheese cereal? I'm just throwing out ideas."

Where to get them: They're
potato chips and cheese crackers. Where do you think you get them?