REVIEW: Post Sesame Street C is for Cereal A is for Apple

Post Sesame Street C is for Cereal A is for Apple Box

A is for apple. B is for banana. C is for childless woman purchasing alcohol and a box of toddler cereal at the self-checkout, pretending that this is perfectly normal.

Wait, sorry, got that wrong. C is for cereal!

Being the childless woman mentioned above, I questioned my ability to fairly judge Post Sesame Street C is for Cereal. I have no nieces or nephews, and my time around children has been pretty limited in general. To be honest, they make me a little uncomfortable. There’s always something going on with their snot and they ask strange questions that I don’t know how to answer.

After a little thought, though, I realized I do have the mind of a child. I like poop and fart jokes, and I do run into things a lot. I don’t pick my nose in public, but I do occasionally burp out loud, forgetting I’m not at home.

I chose “A is for Apple” over “B is for Banana” (do you “C” what they did there?) partly because I’m not fond of fake banana flavoring and partly because the Cookie Monster is the mascot for that flavor. I get that they’re promoting “healthy” flavors, but dude…Cookie Monster. Cookie cereal. It makes me angry enough that cookies are now a “sometimes food”, but forcing the Cookie Monster to shill bananas is just sad.

Apple gets Elmo as a mascot. I’m cool with Elmo. I’m also going to completely ignore that his voice actor allegedly had sex with underaged boys or whatever. This is about cereal and toddlers and snot. Let’s not drag out any nasty business.

Post Sesame Street C is for Cereal A is for Apple Box Back

Palate cleanser: the back of Sesame Street Apple shows Elmo trying to catch butterflies. He could not be any happier about it, and the butterflies are happy too, probably because they realize that Elmo’s net is too small to catch any of them, so this is more of a fun outdoor dance party than anything else.

Because there’s a long-standing tradition of kids staring at the back of cereal boxes while they eat their breakfast, there’s some fun activities to occupy a young child’s mind. They are encouraged to count both the butterflies and the X’s and O’s on each butterfly.

Post Sesame Street C is for Cereal A is for Apple Close-Up

These letters were not chosen randomly – Sesame Street Cereal is shaped like X’s and O’s, which I personally find a little puzzling. Why are they limited to the letters that are universally recognized as hugs and kisses? Does Alpha-Bits have a trademark on the rest of the alphabet?

After a quick Google search, I discovered that Alpha-Bits is also a Post product, so what’s the problem, here? Your toddler could be learning how to spell words like “booger” and “poopyhead” with Elmo!

Of course, you could always play tic-tac-toe with your X’s and O’s. I always tie when I play against myself, though.

According to Post’s website, “Sunny days start with Post Sesame Street Cereal: Elmo Apple! It has just-for-toddlers nutrition that moms can feel good about (whole grains, low sugar, and natural colors and flavors), the classic fun of Elmo, and naturally-flavored X’s and O’s that kids will love.”

I guess cloudy and rainy days are out of luck. No Elmo for you.

I was surprised that apple was not actually listed as an ingredient in “Elmo Apple” (which is how Post seems to refer to it everywhere but on the actual cereal box). There’s the presence of always-vague “natural flavor”, but that’s it. While I found this discouraging, the ingredient list as a whole is short and composed of words I can actually pronounce, so moms really can feel good about that. Plus, the list of vitamins and minerals takes up half the side of the box, making my job at the end of this review harder, but making moms feel better knowing their toddler just ate 50 percent of their suggested daily intake of folic acid.

Like any other human being, I first tried A is for Apple by sticking my hand in the box and shoving the dry cereal into my mouth. This did not go well. It tasted like I was eating horse feed. Granted, I’ve never tried horse feed, but I’d imagine this cereal would make a fine substitute.

Post Sesame Street C is for Cereal A is for Apple Dry

The best way I could describe the flavor is “grains”. Not grainy, just grains, like if you’d gotten a box of Lucky Charms that had gone horribly wrong somewhere along the assembly line and was completely devoid of marshmallows or any sweetness. There was also a rather prominent, odd bitter taste.

I was so distracted by how blandly healthy the cereal tasted that I forgot for a second that it was supposed to taste like apple. It did not taste like apple. I reached my arms out, struggling to find the apple taste, much like how a toddler reaches up to his mommy when he wants to be picked up. I was able to find a faint taste, a tongue whiff, if you will, of apple, but even that lacked all signs of sweetness.

Post Sesame Street C is for Cereal A is for Apple with Milk

The box said that one serving for children over the age of four was one cup with ½ cup of fat free milk. I don’t think I’ve ever measured out cereal and milk in my life, but I figured for the sake of the children, I would do it. It made a respectable bowlful. I only had 2% milk on-hand, and I wasn’t willing to commit enough to go buy some watery fat free milk just for this, so…deal.

The milk didn’t really help any. The best I can say is that the cereal stayed surprisingly crunchy in the milk, with only a few soggy pieces. The taste, however, was largely the same – blandly oat-ish, bitter, and with almost zero apple flavor to liven things up.

I may not be a child, but I have vague memories of being one, and I probably would have protested greatly had I been forced to eat Post Sesame Street C is for Cereal A is for Apple. Even the presence of Elmo would not have helped. I understand that it is made to be super healthy for growing little brains and bodies, but bitter oats and no apple flavor are not going to fly for any kid old enough to throw their food off the table.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cup – 110 calories, 15 calories from fat, 1.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 0.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 125 milligrams of sodium, 85 milligrams of potassium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 1 gram of sugar, 18 grams of other carbohydrates, 3 grams of protein, 15% vitamin A, 10% vitamin C, 50% iron, 20% vitamin D, 25% thiamin, 25% riboflavin, 25% niacin, 25% vitamin B6, 50% folic acid, 25% vitamin B12, 10% phosphorus, 8% magnesium, 10% zinc and 4% copper.)

Item: Post Sesame Street C is for Cereal A is for Apple
Purchased Price: $3.19
Size: 10.5 oz. box
Purchased at: Fry’s Foods
Rating: 2 out of 10
Pros: Provides 2/3 of toddler’s daily whole grains. Elmo. Chock full of vitamins and minerals. Outdoor dance parties with butterflies.
Cons: Tastes like grain-and-oat based horse feed. Unpleasant information about the voice of Elmo. Has a distinct bitter flavor. Having to play tic-tac-toe with yourself. Very little apple flavor. Snot.

REVIEW: Taco Bell A.M. Crunchwrap (Bacon & Sausage)

Taco Bell A.M. Crunchwrap

There are many terrible things I am more likely to do before I ever again eat the latest addition to Taco Bell’s signature FirstMeal menu:

Walk barefoot in an Irish bar on St. Patrick’s Day.

Get some fillings when I don’t really have cavities, “just for the heck of it.”

Watch Paranormal Activity by myself in an empty house and then leave the bedroom door open when I go to bed.

Steal my boss’s corporate card to buy myself an expensive lunch and defiantly say it’s because “they owe me.”

Accidentally swallow a goldfish.

That is how little I enjoyed these pudgy little artery-cloggers they call the Taco Bell A.M. Crunchwraps. Speaking of which, let’s break down the title of this new breakfast item: “Taco Bell” – OK, so we know where we can buy this. “A.M.” – Only available in the morning. Check. “Crunchwrap” – Woah, now… slow your roll. There wasn’t anything crunchy inside these wraps. Just chewy, oily, and rubbery things.

The A.M. Crunchwrap comes in two inexpensive, standard breakfast varieties, Bacon or Sausage. I tried both, and let me tell you that while the grilled flour tortilla is warm, toasty and crisp around the edges, the insides do not crunch. Both A.M. Crunchwraps come with the meat on top of a layer of scrambled eggs and cheese paired with a once-crispy hash brown. Unfortunately the hash brown patties inside of the two A.M. Crunchwraps I got were soggy with grease and excess moisture from being trapped in between a jacket of melted cheese and a flour tortilla, so what had probably been a nice, hot golden exterior was now golden mush. They get some points for even thinking of including hash browns though. It’s the idea of hash browns that counts.

Taco Bell Bacon A.M. Crunchwrap

That still isn’t the worst of it. Let’s talk specifically about the Bacon A.M. Crunchwrap. Contrary to my preconceived notions, there were no crisp, savory strips of bacon in this breakfast contraption, just bacon bits — the kind you’d probably find in a pre-packaged Cobb salad sold for $10.95 at the airport sandwich express counter right next to the case of SoBe and Evian. If Taco Bell were being really honest, they would’ve named this thing the “Bacon Bits A.M. Crunchwrap.” And if Taco Bell were being really, really honest, they would call it the “Chunks of Rubber A.M. Gushwrap.”

The hash brown made everything excessively oily. The bacon bits were tough. I imagine ground-up eraser tips from #2 pencils would taste like those bacon bits. Furthermore, they were stuffed inside one corner of the wrap instead of sprinkled throughout, so when I sliced it in half, all the bacon bits spilled out onto the plate. I can’t imagine what would’ve happened if I had been eating this straight out of the wrapper. Best case scenario, I would’ve ended up with a final bite filled with nothing but bacon bits. Worst case, a shower of bacon bits on my lap. The decent flavor of the scrambled egg and cheese was the only factor that kept the Bacon A.M. Crunchwrap from being 100 percent garbage.

Taco Bell Sausage A.M. Crunchwrap

The good news is that the Sausage A.M. Crunchwrap is better. Not excellent, but better. The Sausage A.M. Crunchwrap is sufficiently savory. Ironically, it wasn’t dripping with grease like the Bacon one. I’d think that a thick sausage patty would be oozing with the slick stuff, but alas, no. The sausage patty inside the Sausage A.M. Crunchwrap was of a decent diameter, too, and it was thick — a nice meaty counterpart to the egg, cheese and fried potato inside the tortilla. It also had some heft and felt like more of a substantial meal than the Bacon A.M. Crunchwrap.

The Sausage A.M. Crunchwrap seems like the final draft while the Bacon A.M. Crunchwrap was the shitty rough draft Taco Bell churned out in 30 minutes because they were working under deadline and hadn’t slept a wink after watching Paranormal Activity by themselves the night before.

If you’re in the mood for something relatively cheap and quick that’s not the worst fast food breakfast you’ll ever eat, then the Sausage A.M. Crunchwrap is for you. But if you’re interested in flavor, texture and experiencing complete satisfaction with your breakfast, then why are you eating at Taco Bell?

(Nutrition Facts – Bacon – 680 calories. Sausage – 720 calories.)

Item: Taco Bell A.M. Crunchwrap (Bacon & Sausage)
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Taco Bell
Rating: 2 out of 10 (Bacon)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Sausage)
Pros: Tortilla is warm and crisp around the edges. Sausage A.M. Crunchwrap has nice heft to it. Sausage patty is savory and thick. The idea of hash browns.
Cons: Greasy. Bacon tastes like #2 pencil erasers. Something totally slamming that bedroom door shut in the middle of the night. Soggy hash browns.

REVIEW: Mixchief by Jell-O Make Your Own…Add Soda

Jello Mixchief Make Your Own...Add Soda

Jell-O has been a ubiquitous part of my life. As a child, I was mesmerized. I have memories of perfect translucent cubes of red or green topped with whipped cream in a tulip sundae glass at a greasy diner. The way the light came through the gelatin mystified me. On Jell-O salads, I thought it was magic the way grapes and bananas were suspended in the dessert.

Then as the years continued on, the magic of the wobbly treat gave way to how much alcohol I could fortify it with. Imbibing on Jell-O shots with whip cream as an underage college student was a rite of passage as much as a part of an end to my childhood innocence. Nothing says sexy like a college freshman with red stained lips from downing too many Jell-O shots pumped with grain alcohol.

Recently, I was in an accident where I proved an SUV will always win against a pedestrian in a Ben Sherman jacket (I still miss that jacket…). Guess it doesn’t matter how cool and mod the jacket is, it won’t protect your bones any more than an ordinary one. The first comforting meal after several surgeries I found was a Jell-O cup. They called them gelatin gems in the hospital but it’s the same thing. The nurses liked me enough to ensure I would get an extra cup that my I’m sure my insurance company paid a premium for. I would not be surprised to learn that for every gelatin gem I ate, an underwriter lost their job.

Like I said, Jell-O has always been a part of my life to some degree. Walking down the baking goods aisle, scoffing at the tubs of cornstarch and flour (which is knowingly weird but I think I have Tourette’s where I scoff at things randomly), I was looking for nothing in particular. Then there it was, my eyes fixated on the boxes of Jell-O. How refreshing to make Jell-O from scratch than to buy it in those already convenient six pack cups. I’m doing it I declared to no one.

Scouring the boxes, one stuck out and it wasn’t just the annoying name. Mixchief by Jell-O. Sounds sophisticated since there is a byline in the product. The weird mascot on the box looks like Spongebob SquarePants dressed up as “The Gimp” from Pulp Fiction.

Then there is the pun. Puns just suck but what grabbed me about this product was “Add Soda.” Scarfing down a dessert that will quench my thirst simultaneously? How could I pass? It’s unflavored so whatever soda I use will paint the canvas per se.

I decided to use a common soft drink we should all be able to buy, Coke Zero. I was going to use Seagram’s Cranberry Ginger Ale since it is the holidays but I didn’t want to hear “Well, we don’t get that in Timbukthree or Tristram” or wherever the hell you all come from. Coke Zero sounds like a reasonable choice. Breaking out my pots with the grace of an alchemist, I ripped open the box like an ordinary person.

Jello Mixchief Make Your Own...Add Soda Mixed

The instructions on the back are insipidly simple. If you cannot follow them, give up on life and drink a cup of bleach or beat yourself into a coma with a frying pan because you are pretty much useless. Sorry to sound so harsh but the directions fit on a small box if that tells you anything.

I followed the “extra special” variation where I used boiled soda instead of boiled water. The bubbling cola on the stove emanated a sickly pungent raisin-like smell. It grossed me out and I wanted to stop but I forced myself to proceed. The thought of Jell-O tasting like Coke was a tiny bit offsetting but so does chicken livers soaked in whole milk overnight and that shit is good.

Jello Mixchief Make Your Own...Add Soda Soda

Sometimes texture is just as important as the taste. Being Chinese, texture is a big component in the cuisine. How else to explain our obsession for soups laden with beef tendon or sucking on dried sour plums until they become slightly chewy? I like Coke Zero but in gelatin form would it taste as good? Would the texture compliment the soda? Would it be like a sixty-nine in my mouth? The answer is HELL NO! HELL NO TO ALL THREE!

The Impulsive Buy meet The Repulsive Buy. Somehow the gelatin mix was able to sap all the flavor out of the cola. It was flavorless and the tiny carbonated swallows made it even more repugnant. It was a truly an alien experience and eating it made me feel like the subject of a bukkake video.

Jello Mixchief Make Your Own...Add Soda Made

I understand the Jell-O may taste as good as the soft drink you choose but I think the texture negates that fact. Maybe I should have not used a diet cola and something sweeter. Maybe an orange soda or a cranberry soda would come off better. Either way, you’re welcome to try because I won’t. This was so unappealing that even a dollop (or five) of whipped cream only intensified the blandness.

The only thing I can think of this Jell-O being used for is perhaps a novelty cocktail Jell-O shot like a Captain Morgan’s and Coke or a Gin and Tonic garnished with a candied lime, maybe even a beer. This will require a lot of trial and error (along with tomato juice to satiate any hangover pains) but I don’t believe will be worth it. I also think fans of “molecular” cookery might find it a fun and easy way to play with texture. However if that’s the case, you’re probably advanced enough to use gelatins sheets anyhow.

Sadly, this was a big fail, or more specifically the Coke Zero was a fail. I still believe the timid carbonated effect with each gulp is a bit disgusting regardless of the choice of soda. I’m all for new ideas, especially when it comes something as kitschy as Jell-O. Sometimes you win and sometimes you just suck. Jell-O, this sucked, but we’ll always have lime or beef tendon.

(Nutrition facts – 1/2 cup (prepared with cola and water) – 40 calories, 0 grams of fat, 10 milligrams of sodium, 9 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Mixchief by Jell-O Make Your Own…Add Soda
Price: $1.29
Size: 0.25 ounces
Purchased: A Publix supermarket that is weirdly dim and where an angry old lady surveys the deli.
Rating: 2 out of 10
Pros: This did not give me the farts. Imagining a war between the writers of The Impulsive Buy and its parallel earth counterpart The Repulsive Buy which inadvertently cause another Crisis of The Infinite Earths!!!
Cons: Bylines for products. Bukakke vids. The faint carbonation in the Jell-O is repulsive. My Mom making me eat things by trickery, claiming they were “Chinese hamburgers” or “Chinese hot dogs.”

REVIEW: Mentos UP2U Gum (Sweet Mint/Bubble Fresh and Daylight Mint/Mintnight Mint)

Mentos UP2U Gum (Sweet Mint/Bubble Fresh and Daylight Mint/Mintnight Mint)

On the growing list of things I do not look competent doing, gum chewing is right in between “throwing a football around with the guys” and dancing. After a marathon of John Woo films in college (Dolph Lundgren wasn’t so bad in Blackjack, right?), I caught myself in the mirror chewing gum. Instead of that cool and casual look almost everyone has when they chew, I looked like a hamster with a bunch of sunflower seeds in my cheek. I don’t hate gum chewing; I just hate myself chewing gum.

Having a pleasant breath is important to me. My job entails a lot of talking to an audience, a great deal of whining, some begging, a bit of folding my arms as if I am making a point and an uncomfortable amount of quiet farting. …You know what I am talking about.

Speaking of unwanted odors, I am hyper aware of bad breath. I habitually pop Altoids in my mouth and avoid gum. I one time had a piece of Wrigley’s because I was out of mints and the result was at Hindenburg levels. I was just nibbling the gum which made me look like I had that “grinding teeth” problem and I ended up biting the side of mouth. The mint gave way to the copper taste of blood that my unforgiving teeth drew. That was the last time I can remember chewing gum.

As I was in the line of impatient customers waiting to check out at Target, I saw the usual suspects of candy bars and ultra-mint gums that promise refreshment that will give you icy cold breath that act like Mr. Freeze’s ray gun. However something caught my eye. It wasn’t that pack of Stride with Shaun White eerily staring and beckoning me to walk into oncoming traffic.

It was gum made by Mentos and I couldn’t stop staring at the package because the name was so weird if not a bit annoying. UP2U gum by Mentos and the name was boldly stamped across the pack. The UP2U was in all caps and the name was so strange. It felt like I was reading those awful vanity plates on the road that say “B Kewl” or “IM Awz0m”. UP2UdamnU! UP2ME? Well then I had to try it since it was UP2WHATIWANTED2DO and NO1 can tell me what 2DO.

See what I mean? A bit annoying, L-O-L. L-M-F-A-O and all that jazz.

The package proclaims “2 Flavors. 1 Pack. You Decide.” Kind of like our electoral process don’t ya think?

I felt compelled to try them since I’ve been a fan of Mentos from the early days of their odd Eurotrash-like commercials. Each package had two flavors, and there were two varieties so I had to try both of them, which is really four of them since, so I had to try all four of them…God, this is more complicated than string theory.

Okay, to simplify I bought the pink pack which had Sweet Mint and Bubble Fresh while the blue-green pack had Daylight Mint and Mintnight Mint. I believe there are other flavors but my Target only had these two.

Mentos UP2U Gum (Sweet Mint/Bubble Fresh and Daylight Mint/Mintnight Mint) Inside Packs

I have to admit that the packaging is quite chic, albeit a bit pretentious. In fact it looks like a sleek compact minus the brush and makeup. They both open like a mini book where one flavor resides on each respective side. The pink one with Sweet Mint/Bubble Fresh has a quote by poet John Millington Synge while Walt Whitman (it would be cool if they called him Walt Whitmint) greets me on the other one.

The effect is no different than cracking open a fortune cookie and scoffing at the supposed inspiration (i.e. “You have many friends” or “A man with a great heart is richer than the man with the great wallet”—pphht!). It’s chew time.

Mentos UP2U Gum (Sweet Mint/Bubble Fresh and Daylight Mint/Mintnight Mint) Unwrapped

Mintnight Mint is not as minty nor as mintnighty as I would like. It’s a bit like that tiny bottle of no name hotel mouthwash that sits next to the shower cap. The mint tastes like timid spearmint but an unappealing rush of sugary sweetness overrides everything. I’ve smoked menthol cigarettes that had a stronger mint taste. Hell, the Girl Scouts’ Thin Mints cookies are more minty. The flavor also dissipates quicker than your average stick of mint gum. The name however, is amusing as I picture a vampire with fresh breath.

Daylight Mint, its resident brother has a weird texture. It was stiff not unlike those crappy sticks you would get from ripping open a pack of baseball cards and had a give like gummi bears. The mint was even less intense than the Mintnight one.

If you consume saltines or seltzer water, this mint will struggle to mask your breath. The mint tastes like the wintergreen variety but after the first few chews, this flavor goes away and again is replaced by that syrupy sugar taste. I wanted to spit this out immediately. Like Neil Tennant sang in Brit supergroup Electronic, “Dissapointed…”

Do not depend on the package containing Mintnight and Daylight mints to do anything to freshen your breath. I’m not sure what qualifies as a daytime or nighttime flavor but they should not be chewed anytime.

Mentos UP2U Gum (Sweet Mint/Bubble Fresh and Daylight Mint/Mintnight Mint) Pieces

Bubble Fresh is an interesting flavor. It tastes like the usual bubblegum but there is a tang like those sour candies without the sourness if that makes any sense. I really liked this flavor as it was a good play on the ordinary bubblegum flavor we all know. It was not overly sweet and there is a bit of a mint that works well, hence the fresh part. The gum itself was a very soft chew which is nice. Both combined flavors lasted quite some time and the mint lingered for a while.

I recommend this one if you love mint but you want a new spin on the flavor. I would equate it like this: sometimes you just want a comfy old burger with that melty processed cheese but once in a while you want a burger topped with yummy Applewood smoked bacon, aged cheddar and onion jam. By no means is Bubble Fresh as good as bacon but it’s familiar in taste with a surprising twist.

Sweet Mint is funny in a good way. It is the least sweet of the four and the most intense in mint. The taste is very pleasant as the mint slowly builds in your mouth and then it fades into the sweetness. This is the important factor, the sweetness is not cloying or fake sugary like that weird aunt you hate. Additionally, the mint stays in your mouth and with each chew, it maintained a freshness in my breath.

I can recommend the Sweet Mint/Bubble Fresh pack. The flavors are good, the mint stays with you and the package despite its snobbery, is fun. The Daylight/Mintnight is a fiasco and if it were UP2U…I would avoid it.

(Nutritional Facts – 1 piece – less than 5 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of sodium, 1 gram of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, 1 gram of sugar alcohols, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Mentos UP2U Gum (Sweet Mint/Bubble Fresh and Daylight Mint/Mintnight Mint)
Price: $1.29 each
Size: 14 pieces per pack (7 pieces each per flavor)
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Sweet Mint/Bubble Fresh)
Rating: 2 out of 10 (Daylight Mint/Mintnight Mint)
Pros: Sweet Mint is a good mint gum that’s not really sweet. Bubble Fresh is indeed a fresh take on the mint gum. John Woo’s Hard Boiled (Only the Cantonese version). Old Target commercials with the coolest indy songs. The packaging is admittedly cool.
Cons: Daylight and Mintnight mint gums are weak in the mint and taste department. The texture of Daylight is stiff. John Woo’s Mission Impossible 2 (any version). Those old weird Mentos commercials. Vanity plates. Bad breath. I chewed all four together, that was a mistake.

REVIEW: CMMG Pepperoni Tactical Sammich

CMMG Pepperoni Tactical Sammich

They all said I was crazy. But where are they now? That’s right, they’re down there, with them, and I’m up here, safe. Well, as safe as anyone could be in these times. Heck, I could be the only one left. Just me and this journal and…them.

If you’re reading this, you know how it all started. But I was ahead of the game. Guns, ammo, canned foods, fortifying my house; I was as ready as I could be. And when they came, it all went down just like I knew it would. It all went to hell.

But I’ve written about all this already. Now, it’s all about daily survival. I ate my last can of creamed corn yesterday. All of my supplies were running low. Much as I hated to do it, I knew I would have to leave the safety and security of my house to find more supplies.

Fortunately, I knew there was a Vietnam vet who lived right across the street. I found the “trespassers will be shot” sign on his fence and the fact that I rarely saw him leave the house to be encouraging. Maybe get some ammo; figured I might get lucky and he’d have some MREs or something. I knew I’d never be able to get to a store; there are too many of them out there now, and even with Lucy (my trusty shotgun), I wouldn’t stand a chance. Besides, I’m sure the stores have already been ransacked, before things got really bad. But getting across the street…I could do that. They are slow and I am fast and wily.

So last night, I made my move. I ran across the brick wall that I accessed via the tree next to my second story window. Lucy and I cleared a large enough path for me to run across the street and climb the vet’s chain link fence surrounding his yard. It seemed to have been an effective deterrent, as there were none of them in the yard. I wondered why they hadn’t knocked over the fence through sheer numbers. Once they smell fresh meat, almost no obstacle can stop them.

Once I’d broken inside, I immediately saw the reason why. Old man sitting in a ragged armchair, wearing his Army uniform, shotgun under his chin. Looked like he’d been there for a while. Guess this was one war he didn’t want to fight.

I grabbed the shotgun (trigger finger accidentally fell off in the process; sorry old man) and headed into the kitchen. Found a few cans of condensed soup and not much else. I was surprised; I figured that, like me, he’d be more prepared for something like this.

My surprise vanished when I hit the basement. Jackpot! More guns and ammo than I could fit in my pack. Evaporated milk. Jugs of water. But there was one thing that really caught my eye: the Tactical Sammiches.

They were in a box on the floor. On top of the box was a print-out from ThinkGeek’s website (Ha! Websites. Hadn’t thought about those in a while) giving some details about the “sammiches”. (That’s cutesy slang for “sandwich”; if anyone ever reads this, they may not even know what the Internet was, so I figured I’d spell that one out.) According to the paper, the Sammiches have a 2 year shelf life! The old man really was prepared. I wonder what made him give up so quickly. Too old for this shit, I guess.

I didn’t have much time for contemplation. I could hear the fence rattling outside. The Sammiches came in two flavors: Pepperoni and Honey BBQ Beef. My pack space was at a premium, and even in these lean times the thought of a Honey BBQ Beef sandwich that wouldn’t spoil for two years turned my stomach a little, so I grabbed as many of the Pepperoni Sammiches as I could and booked it out of there.

Lucy and I got back home pretty much without incident. Had to smash a little girl’s head in with the butt of one of my newly acquired pistols; she had no eyes but she knew exactly where I was. Her pigtails were cute, even if they were matted with blood.

Once I was safe inside my house again, I took some time to look at the Tactical Sammich’s packaging. It’s a shiny brown package with a label on the front that says, “CMMG Small Arms ^and Sammiches Manufacturing”. The “^and Sammiches” part was inserted with cutesy font. I remembered the company from when I was shopping around for a 9mm to add to my collection. I bet they never figured their little gimmick would be taken seriously one day.

The back of the package describes the sandwich as “shelf stable pepperoni in bread”. Bread! I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had bread, but I could remember the lovely smell of it baking in my mother’s oven like it was yesterday. My mouth watered at the memory, even though my brain knew that whatever bread was actually in the Tactical Sammich wouldn’t exactly live up to my mother’s.

An interesting note: while the print-out claimed the Tactical Sammich had a shelf life of two years, there was no expiration date on the package. The one’s I’d taken from the dead guy’s house could have been sitting there for five weeks or five years. I had no way of knowing.

CMMG Pepperoni Tactical Sammich Outards

The first thing I noticed when I took the Tactical Sammich out of its sealed pouch was that it had a face. Two eyes, jagged teeth pattern forming a rictus smile, cracked skin…I shuddered. It took me a moment to compose myself. It looked too much like…

Well, after I got past the unintentional face, I was able to examine it more closely. The Tactical Sammich was about the same size as a Pop-Tart. The bread was unnaturally smooth and dense; it felt almost oily, but left no trace behind on my fingers.

CMMG Pepperoni Tactical Sammich Innards

When I cut it open, I was rather surprised at what I saw. The back of the package wasn’t kidding when it described the Sammich as “pepperoni in bread”. I’ve been taking some pictures with what’s left of the battery power in my camera; if anyone ever reads this, you can find pictures of the Tactical Sammich on it. As you can see, it looks like someone shoved a Slim Jim into two cheap hot dog buns that had been smashed together.

And that’s pretty much what it tasted like, too. Obviously, only one out of every three bites actually had the pepperoni in it, leaving the rest as mouthfuls of dense, mostly flavorless white bread. I worry that I might blow through my entire emergency water supply just trying to get these sammiches down my gullet.

Unfortunately, having my mouth full of gummy enriched flour was the best part of the meal. Having been at this whole survival thing for a while now, I have eaten my share of stale, expired Slim Jims, and that is exactly what the pepperoni in my Tactical Sammich was like. Leathery and yet greasy on the outside, skin shriveled, and very tough to bite through and chew. The pepperoni flavor was faint; I would describe it more accurately as faded. It was also bitter, and there was a lovely subtle aftertaste of dirt. There was nothing redeeming about this pepperoni stick.

And that is the long and short of the Tactical Sammich. Dense, flavorless bread and tough, heartburn-inducing, just plain bad-tasting pepperoni stick. No sauce, no cheese, nothing to tie the two together. If the Pepperoni Tactical Sammich was this bad, I can’t even imagine what was going on inside the Honey BBQ Beef. Now I know what really caused that old Vietnam vet to off himself.

You may think I’m being too critical of the Tactical Sammich. After all, the world as we knew it has essentially ended, they have taken over, and survival is next to impossible. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve eaten worse in my struggle to stay alive, and with a two-year shelf life, these Sammiches will help me to continue to exist for a while now, if they don’t get to me first. But I’m still a human being, last time I checked, and I still have a palate. I will choke down these “food” products because I have to. But that doesn’t mean I’ll like it.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 sandwich (70 grams) – 270 calories, 130 calories from fat, 15 grams of total fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 580 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 0 grams of sugar, 10 grams of protein, 4% vitamin A, 4% calcium, and 8% iron.)

Item: CMMG Pepperoni Tactical Sammich
Price: $5.99
Size: 1 sandwich
Purchased at: thinkgeek.com
Rating: 2 out of 10
Pros: Can help keep you alive. Dead guys with convenient stashes. Two year shelf life. Lucy.
Cons: Dense, flavorless bread. Employing overused tropes to write a review. Bitter, tough pepperoni. Them. No expiration date on the package.

REVIEW: Carl’s Jr. Charbroiled Turkey Burger

Carl's Jr. Charbroiled Turkey Burger

There used to be a Carl’s Jr. in my neighborhood that was the definition of foul. You know what I’m talking about – that fluorescent-bulb buzzing, greasy-smelling, un-swept trash on the floor, poorly-lit parking-lot-mugging sort of joint. Not being a big fast food eater, I didn’t have a reason to go there very often, but despite this, I ate there exactly twice. Both times, it was after midnight, I was starving after a cross-country plane trip where there had been no meals, and I had refused to pay the inflated airport price for sub-par food. (I’m looking at YOU, LAX McDonald’s!!!) The burgers I consumed from Carl’s Jr. were greasy, bloated and messy — pretty typical fare, and not the worst thing if you’re famished, but I always felt like I was doing a real disservice to my arteries, waistline, lymph nodes, etc.

That being said, I really wanted to like Carl’s Jr.’s recent foray into “healthy food.” I thought it would help me overcome my deeply-ingrained mistrust of this particular fast food chain and expand my list of low-fat fast food options. (A girl can only order a 6-inch turkey sub from not-so-skinny Jared so many times). So when the new TV ads hit, proclaiming that Carl’s Jr. had enlisted the renowned nutrition experts of “Eat This, Not That” and Men’s Health to develop a trio of leaner burgers for the menu (the Teriyaki Turkey Burger and the Guacamole Turkey Burger are the other two), I was down to try it, despite the fact that I lack the Y chromosome. I thought to myself, Hey, Self, if the “Eat This, Not That” folks can endorse this product, I figure I can help them out a little, maybe satisfy my burger jones while avoiding the unhealthier items on the menu. I figured that a burger under 500 calories would be okay to eat, even if it’s still about 200 more calories than what I would normally ingest in one sitting.

They weren’t lying when they said each burger was under 500 calories, but they just barely squeaked by with that count – the Charbroiled Turkey Burger, the plainest of the three has 490 calories. Really, Carl’s Jr.? You boast about making sandwiches under 500 calories when the caloric difference is two sticks of sugar-free gum. Yes, most of your burgers are in the 700-1100 calorie range, and this burger is much less than that, but that’s kind of like being the air traffic controller who snores the most quietly while on duty. I wouldn’t call slapping together a sandwich that barely meets the “healthy” criteria an awesome accomplishment. Even the turkey burger you doused in sugary teriyaki sauce has fewer calories than your regular one! Do you see how strange that is, Carl’s Jr.? And don’t get me started on the 1,000+ milligrams of sodium.

Carl's Jr. Charbroiled Turkey Burger Halves

Let’s start with the patty. It is ground turkey, and we all know that turkey is the most dignified of all poultry. It’s the only bird that gets its own holiday, and the only bird we dress up in jaunty Pilgrim hats and shiny black shoes with buckles. However, the Charbroiled Turkey Burger patty is supremely unseemly. It looks like something straight out of an elementary school cafeteria or a maximum security prison mess hall. Pale and stiff on the outside, chewy and flavorless on the inside. They probably serve this turkey burger in Hell. How could something so bland contain so much salt? The fixins are standard – I counted two pieces of lettuce, one tomato slice, and a couple teensy pickles. The pile of sliced red onion was a nice touch, but it didn’t make up for the overall lack of flavor. Lastly, there was a glob of mayonnaise on the bottom bun and a slathering of “special sauce” with chopped onion on the top. The special sauce was clearly mayo mixed with ketchup. NOT SPECIAL. Thankfully, the burger wasn’t too messy, but that was probably because the decently-toasted, whole-grain bun soaked up all the spread.

Carl’s Jr. and their partners were really trying to make something healthy here, and I commend them for their efforts. It’s just too bad that the end result tastes like a half-hearted attempt. I expected something meaty and tasty with fewer calories than their usual burgers, and I got school district leftovers. Carl’s Jr. understands that people want better choices for their quick-service meals, but I think they could’ve done a lot better with this burger, especially with the assistance they received from “Eat This, Not That.” They got so preoccupied with looking out for our expanding guts that they left our taste buds out in the cold.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 Charbroiled Turkey Burger (268g) – 490 calories, 200 calories from fat, 23 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 80 milligrams of cholesterol, 1010 milligrams of sodium, 45 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 10 grams of sugar, 29 grams of protein.)

Other Carl’s Jr. Turkey Burger reviews:
An Immovable Feast
Grub Grade

Item: Carl’s Jr. Charbroiled Turkey Burger
Price: $3.61
Size: 1 turkey burger
Purchased at: Carl’s Jr.
Rating: 2 out of 10
Pros: Burger Jones. Under 500 calories. Two X Chromosomes. Red onions. Eat This, Not That. Turkeys in doublets, breeches, and tall, black hats with buckles.
Cons: Bland, school-lunch-grade meat. Really, really close to 500 calories. Enough sodium to blast your blood pressure into the stratosphere. Buying fast food at the airport. Maximum security prison.