25 Şubat 2013 Pazartesi

Review: Farmer's Pride Pickled Bologna

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Late last week, I got a heads-up from Steve Wood, who writes Connecticut Museum Quest, a top-notch Connecticut blog that is about so much more than just museums. He alerted me to a new product at Ocean State Job Lot: Farmer's Pride Snack Bologna (which just so happened to be featured in OSJL's "internet coupon" selection.)
Holy shit, pickled bologna! How could I resist?
Lynnafred found the jars at our local Ocean State. She picked one up - it was the size of a largish peanut butter jar - and peered at the "bologna" within: they were in the form of huge, fat Vienna sausages (and according to the ingredient panel, they're composed of pretty much the same stuff.) The jars were plastic and sealed with soft plastic lids, and as Lynnafred looked through the brine at the bologna she said, "Eww. These are grey. Are they supposed to look like that?" After looking at a dozen other jars, and finding all of them containing somewhat greyish weiners sealed within, we concluded that the answer was probably Yes, they are supposed to look like that. The coupon said that there was a limit of 12 jars per family, but we curbed our enthusiasm and held ourselves to the purchase of a single jar which, at $1.20, seemed to be a fair price.

Let me start the actual review by saying that I can not believe that Farmer's Pride pickled bologna is a regularly-produced consumer good. Every single component of this product screams "DISPOSE OF CHEAP SHIT!!"  The jars are flimsy plastic, the lids seem to be made of the same quality plastic as imported dollar-store toys from China, the labels look like they were run off on a laser printer. Most of the jars at the store had sticky label residue clinging to the non-labeled areas, telling me that these snacks were probably rejected by the company which originally contracted them, leading the manufacturer to hastily peel the original label and rebrand them for the "remainder market" (i.e. dollar stores and job lot joints like OSJL.) And then, of course, there is the actual bologna itself:

That is one nasty-ass piece of tubesteak right there. Check out the gradations of coloring, from a kind of brownish-grey at the ends to rather pinkish in the middle. I swear I used no filtering or image manipulation to change those colors - that is exactly how they come out of the jar. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to capture the true beauty of the grey lines that run from tip to tip on the wieners, especially where the meat was in contact with the sides of the jar. These things are truly ghastly to look at.

At least when we cut into the wiener we found that the grey color doesn't go all the way through - once you get a little way into the surface, everything kind of turns pink again. I guess that means that they're okay to eat. Honestly, eyeballs are all we have to go by for safety, because there are absolutely no olfactory cues here. No scent of spices, no aroma of meat - nothing at all except the pungency of strong vinegar stabbing at our nostrils like fleets of aromatic daggers. The manufacturer (Monogram Meat Snacks LLC, USDA EST 795) could not possibly have made the brine any more unpleasantly sharp.

And the wieners are just as unpleasant to eat as they are to look at. The texture is firm and smooth, but there is little flavor beyond the powerful vinegar brine, which is so acidic that it actually produces a burning sensation in the mouth and throat. And - worst of all to me - the meat leaves a disgusting tallowy film coating the mouth and tongue. These things are grossly misnamed - they should be called "Farmer's Shame."

As with so many other oddball snacks we've tried over the years, Farmer's Pride Snack Bologna proved to be pretty popular with the dogs, though I didn't dare give them all they wanted due to the acidity of the pickle (the last thing I want to do is spend an afternoon scrubbing dog puke out of the dining room rug.)

So there you have it. Cheap, shitty, only marginally edible, and obviously close to the end of its shelf life - Look for 'em at a dollar store near you - and pass them up in favor of almost anything else you find.


Out of the Can: Senora Verde's Beef Tamales

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The pale- and incredibly foul-looking cylinders of evil pictured above are the contents of a can of Senora Verde Beef Tamales,  directly as emptied onto a paper plate. Some of them retained their paper sleeves as the can was tipped, others slipped from them like vile giant larvae shedding their outgrown skin. They were supposedly packed in "sauce," but that proved to be merely a watery tomato-flavored bile with a thick film of bright red grease floating on top. The "sauce" was easily disposed of, but globs of the grease stuck sort of randomly to everything else (including the plate, my fingers, and the walls of the microwave when I heated up this mess at work.)
Fast and cheap beef tamales don't have to be bad. I've picked up packages of them at the dollar store that were pretty decent. But these...things...were hideous.
Despite the illustration on the label showing a thick meaty center surrounded by a layer of corn, the tamales that actually writhed from the can were much more heavily maize-based. It was difficult to tell exactly where the cornmeal stopped and the meat began, but it was immediately apparent when I cut through the center of one that the beef filling was little more than a thin line running down the middle of each flaccid cornwobble. 
Sometimes I get a product that looks terrible, but then redeems itself with an enjoyable flavor. Not so with these tamales. Eating them only made the experience worse. The texture was disgusting - slippery and about as resilient as melty gelatine - and the greasy globs that clung to everything gave a tallowy coating to the roof of my mouth. The tallow carried through in the flavor, but there were also backnotes of rancid corn and slightly "off" canner-grade beef with the overall sourness of tomato sauce that has just started to go bad.  I managed to eat two or three bites before tipping the whole pile of shit into the bin, which is two or three bites more than anyone should ever have to eat of these goddamn yellow turds.


REVIEW: Mendelsohn's Frozen Lasagna

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Single-serve frozen lasagna is one of my favorite lunches, and I'm always looking for new brands to try. So naturally, I grabbed a couple of boxes of Mendelsohn's Lasagna when I found it at The Barn in Greenfield MA.
This is a very simple lasagna - four layers of noodles each separated by a miniscule sprinkling of mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce, topped with a generous portion of more mozzarella, and not a bit of ricotta cheese to be found anywhere.
So basically., this "lasagna" is actually just pasta and cheese with some sauce.  And bad sauce it is, with so much sugar it's like eating candied pasta. Too bad, really, because despite the other shortcomings, I would be inclined to buy Mendelsohn's Lasagna again if it weren't for that awful tomato syrup.
On the positive side, it's the only frozen lasagna I've found which is certified Kosher. I guess you should consider that a warning - if you're keeping Kosher and you're relying on Mendelsohn's Lasagna for lunchtime deliciousness you will find only disappointment.

REVIEW: McDonald's New CBO (Cheddar Bacon Onion) Sandwiches

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A strange thing happened over the weekend: Maryanne and I were out wandering in the car at lunchtime, and found ourselves looking for a quick bite to eat at the very moment that a McDonald's appeared on the road ahead.
Now, you guys all know how much I like McDonald's breakfast and bakery offerings. But you also know I am somewhat less-than-enthusiastic about their burgers. Maryanne kind of half-heartedly said, "There's a McDonald's up on the right," and I think I really surprised her when I replied, "Cool. Let's try out the new CBOs they introduced last week."
We got two sandwiches - one made with crispy chicken, and the other made on an Angus Third Pounder - and cut them in half so we could each try both sandwiches, and added a large fries to share and large coffees.

Out of the two sandwiches, the Crispy Chicken CBO was hands-down our favorite. The cheese and bacon were worthy complements to the chicken patty, and the caramelized onion brought a welcome touch of sweetness to counterbalance the salty bacon (and salty chicken coating.) It reminded us (favorably) of KFC's Double Down, but on a roll.

The Angus Third Pounder CBO was somewhat less successful. For one thing, the patty is far too dry. And because bacon-cheeseburgers have become a fairly standard offering for many a fast-food chain, finding one at McDonald's just isn't that special, even if there is caramelized onions sprinkled atop the patty. (C'mon, there's already an Angus Bacon & Cheese burger on the menu which is almost identical to the CBO.) And though the beef version of the CBO is larger than the chicken, we found it less satisfying because of its ordinariness. When we were done eating, both of wished we'd ordered our own Crispy Chicken CBOs and left the beef ones behind.

A couple of other notes about the ingredients:

  • McDonald's bacon is decent - better than the bacon served on sandwiches at most other chains (I'm lookin' at you, Wendy) but it would be even better if they used thick-sliced bacon instead of standard. 
  • I can't figure out what is so special about their "white cheddar" cheese since it tastes exactly like the orange cheddar that McDonald's uses on every other burger. 
  • The so-called "creamy mustard sauce" is so bland that it might as well be generic Ranch Dressing straight from a supermarket bottle.
My recommendation: Check out the Crispy Chicken CBO (or the Grilled Chicken CBO, for a slightly different take on it) and forget the Angus variety.


Review: Dominique's Snapper Turtle Soup

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My only previous experience with turtle soup was the poem in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland:

Beautiful Soup, so rich and green, 
Waiting in a hot tureen! 
Who for such dainties would not stoop? 
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup! 
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!

So, you can see that I'm totally unqualified to review this stuff in comparison to any other canned or homemade turtle soup (not that that's ever stopped me from reviewing anything else I've found on a grocery store shelf.)
Anyway, as a total Snapper Turtle Soup N00b, I had no idea what to expect. I read the ingredient panel and found stuff like beef stock, celery, carrots, wine, and snapper turtle meat and figured it couldn't be all that bad. So I gambled a couple of bucks and bought a can to give it a try.
Dominique's Snapper Turtle Soup is condensed, so it requires the addition of one can-measure of water before heating. I opened up the can and poured the soup out into a saucepan to find a thick, gelatinous glob the consistency of slightly warming Jell-O, which dropped into the pan with a wet slap. I added the canful of water and stirred with little effect - the brown glue just didn't want to combine with the water. Eventually, I was able to stir it together and put it over the fire. I heated and stirred, but the soup never thinned out. (I've found out since then that snapper turtle soup is supposed to be thick like a gravy, so I guess that's the way it was actually intended to be.)

Mon dieu.
With the soup heated up and ready to eat, I sat down to try it out. It was, in a word, disgusting.

It was thicker than gravy, brown and viscous, swimming with tiny bits of what were probably vegetables, and small squares of spongy, flavorless meat which I think was supposed to be turtle. The flavor was sickening - slightly sour, as though they used the cheapest industrial-cleaning-fluid-grade wine they could find. It took a concerted effort to eat more than the first couple spoonfuls, but it didn't take me long to just give up.

Personally, I would never buy this again. And if this is an example of what snapper turtle soup is like, I'd never order it out, either.


24 Şubat 2013 Pazar

It's Groundhog Day!

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Do NOT trust what the groundhog says, because it says something different for every region that has its own groundhog.  The more southerly groundhogs ("General Beauregard" comes to mind) are always going to predict an early spring due to their latitude.  More northern groundhogs (like "Punxatawny Phil") are always going to predict 6 more weeks of winter.

Regardless of what a groundhog's shadow says, THE CALENDAR NEVER LIES!  If the calendar says spring isn't coming for another month or two, then that's the final word.

Boomers' Health Fails To Measure Up to Parents'

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From HealthDay News.  Gosh, I wonder why...could it be the proliferation of processed foods, convenience foods, foods drowned in a sea of chemicals and toxins, and fed whatever happens to be cheapest while confined to the point of strangulation?  We worked so hard to achieve this processed life, and look what it's doing to us!  THIS is progress?

"The baby boom is turning out to be a health bust.

Despite growing up at a time of great innovation in health care, the 78 million people born in the United States between 1946 and 1964 aren't looking all that healthy today, according to a new study.

Medical advances have led to the longest life expectancy ever, but U.S. baby boomers have higher rates of chronic disease, more disability and lower self-rated health than did their parents at a comparable age.

The research may surprise many baby boomers, who have embraced activities such as running, fitness classes and backpacking in unprecedented numbers.

"There seems to be somewhat of a disconnect between the reputation of baby boomers for being healthy and what we see in increasing rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity," said study author Dr. Dana King, a professor of family medicine at West Virginia University School of Medicine. "It's really discouraging that they're not the healthiest generation."

The study, published as a research letter Feb. 4 in JAMA Internal Medicine, compared data on people aged 46 to 64 in two time periods -- from 1988 to 1994 for the older generation, and from 2007 to 2010 for the baby boomers.

While 32 percent of their parents' generation described their health as "excellent," only about 13 percent of baby boomers did so.

Obesity was more common among baby boomers than their parents (39 percent versus 29 percent). In addition, 52 percent of boomers said they had no regular physical activity, while only 17 percent in their parents' generation reported inactivity.

There was one area of good news, however. Boomers have lower rates of heart attack and emphysema, and are less likely to smoke cigarettes, the study reported. King noted that the reduction in smoking -- from 28 percent of the population to 21 percent -- shows the value of conducting a concerted public health campaign. He said the nation needs to focus the same amount of effort now on obesity to discover truly effective solutions.

The findings didn't surprise some experts.

"Obesity seems to be the underlying cause of many of the health issues baby boomers are facing," said Nancy Copperman, a registered dietitian and director of public health initiatives at North Shore-LIJ Health System, in Great Neck, N.Y. "I wasn't surprised to see the data because we've seen the obesity epidemic over the past two to three decades really increase, and with that heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure." 

The study tapped data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Factors used to compare the two generations included health status, functional and work disability, healthy lifestyle characteristics, and presence of chronic disease.

The baby boomer generation had a higher percentage of people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity than did their parents' generation.

Disability was defined conservatively, said King. "To be considered disabled you had to be walking only with an assistance device, such as a cane, or only able to climb up 10 steps, have trouble stooping down, or walking a quarter of a mile," he explained. Again, boomers consistently had a higher level of disability than their parents' generation.

So what was the previous generation doing right? "There was a huge difference in their typical amount of exercise," said King. "Fifty percent were getting moderate physical activity 12 times a month, while just 35 percent of baby boomers got that much exercise." 

The research also showed that medication use for high blood pressure was higher among baby boomers, and prescription drug use for high cholesterol was 10 times greater among the younger generation than among the previous generation. Of course, many of the medications boomers take were not widely available when their parents were of similar age.

Do boomers rely too much on medications to solve their health issues? "I'm concerned that has a great deal to do with the problem," said King. "The drugs are supposed to be used in addition to a healthy lifestyle, not instead of it." 

Baby boomers are definitely moving less than their parents did, said Copperman. "Our parents didn't have the conveniences we have. Now, often both parents are working and spending less time doing manual labor. Instead of mowing the lawn or cleaning the house, they might hire someone to do it," she noted.

But King said it's still not too late for baby boomers to get healthier. He said his previous research showed that it is possible to "turn back the clock" even in one's 50s and 60s."

The study in question has not been released in print yet, and Mama ain't payin' for access to a sneak peek.