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Ruffles Ultimate Kickin’ Jalapeño Ranch Chips, Smokehouse Bacon Dip and Beef N’ Cheese Dip

Snack food companies love to throw around words like “extreme” (or Xtreme, or XXXTREEEME), “intense”, “maximum”, and all manner of other adjectives that they want you to think makes their product seem like the craziest, most flavorful, most BLOWIN’ YOUR MIND food you’ve ever eaten.

And I fall for it every time.

Well, not exactly. I don’t expect said product to explode my head, blowing my brains all over my kitchen, or even just make me say, “Wow, that was intense.” But every time I see one of these adjectives on the shelves, I have to at least give it a glance. It is just my nature.

This time, it took a brief post on Facebook to catch my attention. Namely, a post from Ruffles proudly letting me know that their Ultimate Beef N’ Cheese Dip contained real beef brisket.

Such a matter-of-fact post, and yet, to my trained eye, I was instantly revolted and intrigued at the same time.

Soon afterward, I saw a commercial for Ruffles Ultimate that was 30 seconds of so much stupid that I had to take an inordinate amount of time pausing and rewinding it to break it down for all of you:

We open with three shlubs playing poker; balding shlub #4 walks in with his innocent-looking girlfriend (played by actress Emily Chang, whose IMDB credits include “Sexy Nurse” and “Flight Attendant”) and asks if they have room for her. She smiles, all “what are these cards and chips (get it? Poker chips in a chip commercial!) and Texas Hold ‘Em oh my goodness” and the shlubs are immediately roped in by her good looks and seeming gullibility.

She sits down; there’s a bag of Ruffles Ultimate Kickin’ Jalapeño Ranch chips and a jar of Smokehouse Bacon Dip already in front of her chair, which begs the question: who was eating the chips and dip before she arrived? Did Dave just go to take a piss and was instantly usurped by the arrival of a female? Was it some sort of shrine to a dead friend and former poker buddy, who refused to play unless chips and dip were provided for him and him only? I guess we’ll never know.

She sits down and immediately says, “Mmmm, new Ruffles Ultimate,” which is a thing nobody in real life would ever actually say, and sticks a chip into the jar of dip, shoving it into her mouth with lightning speed, like she hasn’t eaten in days.

“Never seen ridges this deep,” she says, pile-driving another dip-loaded chip into her mouth. But wait! What has happened? Innocent girlfriend is suddenly wearing oversized sunglasses and a Bedazzled pair of headphones!

“ Is [sic] there chunks of bacon in this dip? Awesome!” The “awesome” is said in a reverent whisper I would reserve for, say, watching a live feed of the Curiosity rover landing on Mars while in a public library. As she says this, she makes an almost O-face and her sad-sack boyfriend sitting next to her leers. Once dressed modestly, she is now wearing a spaghetti-strapped tank top. One of the shlubs announces that he is “all in”, which I’m sure he wishes he was, in a different context.

“Bro, [unintelligible] me a cold one,” she says, now wearing a blinged-out necklace and a tight leather jacket over her tank top.

“I love you so much right now,” her boyfriend says, immediately getting up to do her bidding. It’s obvious he likes this dressed-for-the-club chick over the nice, sweet girl he walked in with, pre-Ruffles. This is sad but telling. My feminist hackles rise like the ridges of Ruffles Ultimate chips.

“Whatchoo got,” one of the guys off-camera says, in a desperate attempt to sound cool in front of the newly-sexified girlfriend while the boyfriend is in the kitchen, oblivious to one of his friends making what I assume is a double entendre.

“Ba-ZIIIIING,” she says, which is also something nobody has ever actually said, and throws her cards down. “Love boys night out,” she says, and takes, like, three chips from the pot. I take this to mean she has no idea how to play poker, and was just randomly throwing cards down and taking chips. Poker chips, not Ruffles chips.

This scene ends abruptly, leaving me to believe that the guys continue to let her win by just throwing down random cards and taking arbitrary amounts of chips from the pot, all in the hopes of having a quad-way with her as she shovels more and more Ruffles into her mouth.

“The new Ruffles Ultimate: snack like you mean it,” a voiceover says, trying his hardest to sound like the manliest man in the land. What does that phrase even mean? Have I ever snacked like I didn’t mean it? I’ve never taken anything with “sleep-eating” as a side effect, so I guess I wouldn’t know.

That sure was a hell of a lot of words to describe a commercial. Heck, you can just watch the damn thing here.

Now that I’m thoroughly disgusted with Ruffles’ advertising agency and myself, let’s get to the actual food. The word “disgusted” may or may not come up again.

Ruffles Ultimate Kickin’ Jalapeño Chips

What makes these chips “ultimate” is explained right on the front of the bag: “HARDERcore ridges for hardcore dips”.

While I’d love to go on a rant about the use of the non-word “hardercore”, there’s an even deeper issue here. Deeper than one stupid commercial. Deeper than hardercore ridges. It’s called manvertising, and Frito-Lay’s Snack Chat post makes it clear that that is what they’re going for:

“The chips rock ridges twice the size and depth of the ridges in original Ruffles Potato Chips and come in a variety of real food flavors sure to satisfy any guy gathering. The thick, deep ridges in the chips allow for guys to load up on hearty flavor with new hardcore dips…”

I’m trying desperately to stay on-topic, but I have to at least mention the ridiculousness of the phrase “real food flavors”. Have you ever seen a chip that was not “real food” flavored?

“Oh man, you gotta try these new PVC Pipe Pringles. Tastes just like plastic!”

“Check out these limited edition cotton-flavored Doritos!” (Never got past test marketing; potheads and those suffering from hangovers complained of cotton mouth.)

Okay, okay, I got it out of my system. Anyways, I don’t go around burning my bras, but stuff like this is so blatantly sexist that my feminist hackles can’t help but go up. I really don’t mind if products that are obviously intended for guys, like, say, Old Spice deodorant, are directly marketed to the male gender, but things like low-calorie soda or chips with bigger ridges can be enjoyed by both genders.

More on this later. Oh, that’s right. We’re not done yet.

Here’s some words about these stupid chips. As you can see, they do have deeper ridges, but they aren’t much thicker than regular Ruffles. Will deeper ridges alone allow for less chip breakage when dipping? We shall find out in a moment.

As for the flavor, I’m completely dismissing the “Kickin’” part because that’s just regular ol’ unnecessary adjective addition, which has become pedestrian in this day and age of snack food marketing. It’s like when you type the same word over and over again; after a while, it loses all meaning and your eyeballs just pass right over it. I don’t even care that Ruffle is doin’ the whole gerund-abbreviation thin’. It don’t mean nothin’.

The jalapeño flavor does have some actual heat to it, which is always appreciated in a product that claims to have some spice goin’ on. The ranch flavor was surprisingly strong, especially on the finishing end; it lingers more than the jalapeño flavor, but has an authentic ranch flavor that I enjoyed.

Oh, by the way, the back of the bag also says, “Your hunger’s about to get kicked in the tail by the hottest ranch this side of Carson City.”

If you don’t quite get the joke there, you’re obviously an out-of-touch woman, or a sissy man who has never been with a legal whore. Watch out; Ruffles will revoke your Man Card for such an offense.

Ruffles Ultimate Smokehouse Bacon Dip

The jar wants to make sure I know that there’s real bacon inside, which is not inherently bad, because, hey, bacon, but I’m a little disturbed at what this bacon is suspended in. The name of the dip is completely bacon-centric, but its creamy whiteness left me unsettled.

I decided to plow ahead without reading the ingredients on the jar and let my tongue decide what was going on. It’s not like I wasn’t going to eat it anyways, and ignorance is bliss, right?

I also decided to try to Smokehouse Bacon Dip with the Kickin’ Jalapeño Ranch Chips, because that’s what Emily Chang did in the commercial, and I always follow the serving suggestions of snack food manufacturers.

Speaking of which, why not just have Emily Chang turn into a dude at the end of the Ruffles Ultimate commercial? Who wants a sexy chick interrupting your male-bonding poker game? After all, nothing says “completely heterosexual guy gathering” like getting something thick, white and creamy all over your hands with your best buds?

Damn these hackles! So distracting! Anyways, as you can see, Ruffles Ultimate chips immediately failed the “hardercore” test, breaking almost immediately after contact with the thick dip. Way to fail at the one thing you claimed you could accomplish, Ultimate chips. I just so happened to have a bag of regular Ruffles in my cupboard, so I thought a comparison might be in order…

Well, this is awkward...


As for the taste of the dip, it was…well, kind of bland, really. Kind of like a half-assed blend of ranch and sour cream flavors. Out of the three rather large chipfuls of Smokehouse Bacon Dip I ate, only one actually contained a chunk with texture that suggested I was eating a piece of bacon, and even then, it was limp and chewy.

The bacon flavor itself, despite the jar’s claim of real bacon, tasted more like Bacon Bits, and was more of an aftertaste. It’s sad when “bland white stuff” taste overwhelms “real bacon” taste. It even overwhelmed the bit of heat from the chips, somehow. I never knew bland could be so strong.

In hindsight, I’m glad I tried the dip before I read the ingredients. Some of the ingredients with sub-ingredients (have I used the word “ingredients” enough yet?) include “sour cream flavor”, “smoky bacon type flavor” and “butter type flavor”. I’ve never seen so many types. Especially without the grammatically appropriate hyphens.

Ruffles Ultimate Smokehouse Bacon Dip wasn’t gross, per se; it was just bland and disappointing. I wasn’t exactly expecting to be blown away with awesome bacon flavor, nor was I expecting to suddenly be wearing ridiculous bejeweled headphones. I was just expecting something beyond blah. I also was not expecting butter type flavor.

But Smokehouse Bacon Dip is joy in a jar compared to what was to come next…

Ruffles Ultimate Beef N’ Cheese Dip

And here we have the dip that started it all. There’s real beef inside, which I already knew from the Facebook post that told me it contained not just real beef, but real beef brisket.

No questions regarding meat content here; when I opened the lid, I was greeted with, well…that. Ominous lumps hiding just under the surface of a sea of processed cheese. I was already filled with trepidation.

The Ultimate chips fared better with this dip, as the cheese was less thick than the Smokehouse Bacon Dip.

However, the regular Ruffles fared just as well, so Ultimate still loses.

These were the first and last two bites of Beef N’ Cheese Dip I will ever experience. I wanted to stop at one, but I already had the second chip loaded up, and I thought the dip deserved at least two chances.

Let me explain further…

Ruffles Ultimate Beef N’ Cheese Dip is horrible. As the dip first entered my mouth, my taste buds were met with processed cheese flavor, which was not unexpected. However, it went beyond just processed, and ventured into, no, past the worst elementary-school-cafeteria nacho cheese you’ve ever tasted.

And then there was the beef. The chunks were visibly large, but also disturbingly soft. The more I chewed, the worse it got. It started out like a bad piece of meat from a can of Dinty Moore stew, but quickly turned into what I can only describe as “value” generic-brand dog food. I’ve never tasted dog food, but I’ve certainly smelled it, and the “beef brisket” chunks in this dip must be close to what you’d feed your dog if you hate it and want it to die. It is animal cruelty disguised as human chip dip.

Just when I thought it couldn’t be worse, the cheese goo from Hell and the dog food chunks somehow conspired to make the aftertaste even worse. Sometimes I go into food knowing that it’s going to be bad; I steel myself, but soldier on. This…this I was not expecting. The taste lingered in my mouth like a wretched food poisoning-induced vomit, which was appropriate, because I actually felt nauseous after eating it.

I was actually hungry before I had started this review; after the Beef N’ Cheese dip, I honestly had no desire to eat anything, instead dousing my mouth with a cold, bitter mug of coffee that had been hanging around for hours. I verbalized actual “ugh” and “bleeeeeh” sounds as I reeled around my house, which may sound overdramatic, but I was alone, and the sounds were genuine.

The taste refused to leave, like an animal had died inside the wall of my house, except the only exterminator that could eliminate this putrid flavor would be the cold, bony finger of Death himself.

Okay, that last part was a little overdramatic. But only a little.

Overall, my Ruffles Ultimate experience was far from ultimate. The flavor of the Kickin’ Jalapeño Ranch Chips was okay but nothing original or fantastic, and the deeper, wider ridges were actually less effective in preventing chip breakage when up against a thick dip.

The Smokehouse Bacon Dip was hardly a bacon party in my mouth, and the dip itself, chock full of “type” flavors, had hardly any flavor at all. I don’t expect a whole lot out of a jarred, shelf-stable dip, but I expected more than a vaguely sour cream/ranchy base with some chewy bits of fake-tasting bacon.

Last and most definitely least, the Beef N’ Cheese dip was a horrorshow that makes me wish I had a time machine so I that I could go back and tell myself to never read Facebook again just so I had never known it existed. I just realized I never bothered to read the ingredients on the jar of this dip, and you know what? I’m not going to. I’ve already been traumatized enough. I don’t need any further confirmation that this dip is made from the Devil’s jizz and boiled chunks of old horse meat.

Oh, right, I actually forgot about my hackles for some minutes, there. Here’s a parting quote from Frito Lay North America’s Vice President of Marketing: “Guys live for larger-than-life moments that fuel legendary stories they share for years. Male bonding is a rite of passage for guys, and what better way to bond than by attending one of the most exciting parties on the planet. The Ruffles Ultimate line was created to fuel epic moments. It’s in moments like these, often over a bag of chips, where recounting the tale is almost as fun as being there the first time.”

These are some of the dumbest words about any food product I’ve ever seen in print. I could rip it apart for another good 500 words, but I already never want to see the words “Ruffles” and “Ultimate” in the same sentence ever again.

The “party” he’s referring to is some Maxim tie-in contest that has since expired. Consider that a blessing, although nothing makes a for some male bonding and a legendary story with an epic moment quite like a circle puke of fake cheese and dog chow all over a group of Maxim models. Hardercore.

Ruffles Ultimate Kickin’ Jalapeño Ranch Chips

  • Score: 2.5 out of 5 hardercore chips more fragile than the bones of a post-menopausal woman with osteoporosis
  • Price: $4.29
  • Size: 8 oz. bag
  • Purchased at: Fry’s Foods
  • Nutritional Quirks: These are chips. Blessedly, they’re just chips.

Ruffles Ultimate Smokehouse Bacon Dip

  • Score: 1.5 out of 5 BA-ZIIIINGs
  • Price: $4.49
  • Size: 15 oz. jar
  • Purchased at: Fry’s Foods
  • Nutritional Quirks: Sour cream type flavor. Smoky bacon type flavor. Butter type flavor.

Ruffles Ultimate Beef N’ Cheese Dip

  • Score: 0 out of 5 circle vomits
  • Price: $4.49
  • Size: 15 oz. jar
  • Purchased at: Fry’s Foods
  • Nutritional Quirks: Since I refuse to read the actual ingredients – Devil’s jizz and old horse meat.

Other reviews of Ruffles Ultimate products: Brand Eating, The Impulsive Buy, Fatguyfoodblog

Jones Bacon Flavored Soda

Jones Soda went totally weaksauce with their holiday offerings this year. No Halloween soda, only Tofurky & Gravy for Thanksgiving, and this “Bacon Holiday Pack”. I have no idea what any of the items included in this pack (more of which you’ll be seeing later) have to do with any holiday whatsoever, but I have a sneaking suspicion that thousands of people wrote angry letters about this lack of holiday participation. I imagine they went something like this:

Dear Jones Soda,

I am absolutely outraged to see that you are not offering your usual amount of holiday-related soda flavors this year. Now what soda am I going to drink that will make me gag with its unholy flavor? I have been so delighted to vomit into my sink such wonderful offerings as Candy Corn, Mashed Potatoes & Butter and Green Bean Casserole. The idea that you are not offering me a new carbonated beverage that tastes like meat or vegetables is unacceptable. Have you run out of ideas? Because I have a few:

Crab Cake
Potatoes Au Gratin (extra cheese flavor, please!)
Roasted Garlic Hummus
Chicken Tikka Masala
Lobster Roll
Expired Milk
Leftovers of Indeterminate Origin
Rotting Flesh

Feel free to take any and all of these ideas and transform them into wonderful, pure cane sugar-sweetened soda, so that I can gross out my friends and voluntarily traumatize my own palate. If I don’t see some new flavors that make bile rise up into my throat at just the mere mention of the name, I am going to boycott Jones Soda forever, tell all of my friends to do the same, and start an Internet petition.

Sincerely yours,

Disappointed in Denver

I imagine Jones Soda R&D and Marketing Departments were in a tizzy. What were they to do? Frazzled, there was an emergency brainstorming meeting called. Amongst the chaos, someone in the room called out, “What about BACON?! Bacon is so in right now! It’s all over the Internet!” Perhaps another bright up-and-comer chimed in, “Hey, maybe we could team up with J&D’s!” Nobody knew what the fuck this guy was talking about, so he added, “They’re the ones that make Bacon Salt! The nerds love it!”

It was an instant success, of course, and the soda was developed and packaged immediately. In a strange attempt to make it holiday-relevant, they added some completely unrelated bacon-flavored shit to make it a “pack” and put it out there for all the Internet to see. The buzz was immediate, because when you combine bacon and Jones Soda, there’s gonna be press.

Of course, I’m a sucker, so I had to buy it. I paid a completely unreasonable amount of money for some soda. The shipping was actually more than the product itself. But it was all worth it when the UPS man showed up on my doorstep with the box that clearly showed that I was ordering soda off the Internet. At least it didn’t show the flavor on the box.

Wait a second…

Jones Bacon Flavored Soda Label Pig Girl

WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?! I signed up for bacon-flavored soda. I did not sign up for creepy-ass pig-nose girl. And she is on both bottles. Why couldn’t I get overly excited guy in a bacon suit, like on their website? Happy bacon suit guy makes me feel a little better about this soda. Creepy pig-nose girl is like an ominous foreshadowing of horrible things to come.

The front of the label is not the end of things, however. Jones tries to justify itself on the back: “Bacon flavored soda? Okay, pigs may not be able to fly, but that’s not stopping us from bottling a batch of this stuff for you anyway. Drawing inspiration from everyone’s favorite cured meat, we partnered with J&D’s Foods, the makes of Bacon Salt, and produced this refreshingly meaty creation. So, crack open a bottle and ‘ink-dray up-way’…because everything tastes better with bacon.”

Puns make everything better. Here we have a pigs flying reference, and, my favorite, the use of pig latin, which actually took me a second to get the joke. Kudos to Jones for correctly utilizing the rule for words in pig latin that begin with a vowel. I had to think back to third grade to confirm that was the correct way to do it.

I may have been a sucker for buying this soda, but I’m not enough of a sucker to think that Jones didn’t say “refreshingly meaty” without tongue firmly planted in cheek. They know there’s nothing refreshing about this soda. They know it’s gross and wrong. And, sadly, even though they just stated that “everything tastes better with bacon”, their own product is probably about to prove that statement wrong for the first time. Jesus wept.

Somehow, I doubt that.

The color of the soda is ominous. It looks dark brown in the bottle, like a piece of bacon that’s just a little bit burnt, which I enjoy. In bacon, not in soda. On the other hand, it also looks like maple syrup. Oh god, what if they went with maple-flavored bacon instead of just straight-up bacon? Things just got worse. I need to just do this before I prematurely vomit just from psyching myself out.

First of all, upon opening the bottle, foam exploded out of the top of the bottle, despite zero jostling on my part.

Bacon soda went everywhere, and apparently instantly stains everything. That is my countertop after having spilled soda on it for five seconds before being wiped up.

That is my special review towel, which already had some stains on it, but now appears to be ruined forever. (Update – washed the towel immediately with OxyClean Stain Gel and all the soda came out.  Yay!)

This is the soda in my kitchen sink, about three minutes after the bacon soda explosion. The foam refuses to go down. Also, what appeared to be dark brown soda is pink. What.

None of this means anything, however, because bacon soda is the worst thing in the world and I will now attempt to use mere mortal words to describe it.

First of all, I smelled it. It smells awful. It smells, literally, like poop. Shit. Feces. Excrement. An obese man’s bathroom after a night at Pancho’s all-you-can-eat Mexican buffet.

I stood with the bottle in my hand, leaning against the sink, for a good two minutes. I didn’t want to drink it, but I knew I had to. I finally took a swig out of the bottle. I couldn’t tell if it was remarkably tasteless and the feces smell was just drifting into my sinuses, or what, but I really was smelling more than I was tasting, and the smell continued to be awful.

I poured it in a glass and took a drink from that, wondering if perhaps the flavor would blossom in there, which I really didn’t want it to do, but had to know. I took my second drink.

I would say the taste is indescribable, but that is not true. It is very describable.

Anyone who has ever watched Mythbusters has probably seen the episode in which they place pig carcasses in a car, seal it airtight, and leave it for two months. When the car was opened, Adam Savage described the smell (I’m paraphrasing off of memory here) as one of the worst odors he’s ever experienced. I believe he also stated that the smell clung to him, refusing to leave. This is a man who has probably experienced more bad smells than 99% of the world’s population (along with Mike Rowe), so I take his claims seriously.

I have never been anywhere near a rotting, decomposed, maggot-filled pig carcass, but I can imagine exactly what it smells like. And that is exactly like what Jones Bacon Flavored Soda tastes like. After my second swallow, I reeled around the kitchen, holding my forearm to my nose and mouth like a rookie cop who just entered his first overripe crime scene. I’m sure it looked over-dramatic, but the reaction was completely real. Rotting pig corpse filled my mouth and my nostrils, clinging to me, refusing to dissipate.

Surprisingly, I didn’t throw up or even gag. I have to believe that the smell and taste was so bad that it overwhelmed my senses too much to even think about gagging. I dumped the glass down the sink and ran the hot water. I sealed the remaining soda in the bottle as tightly as I could and threw it in the trash. The smell lingered in my kitchen.

I had to go to the store shortly afterward. I felt like the stink covered me like a cloud. For the first time in my life, I bought a bottle of Listerine. When I brought it home, I didn’t take my shoes off or even walk all the way to the bathroom; I busted it out of the bag and swished my heart out at the kitchen sink. I have to say, Listerine is very refreshing! It also made me feel free of the dead pig cloud. 5 burgers to you, Listerine.

I don’t really feel like this review needs a wrap-up paragraph, but it’s a tradition, so. Jones Bacon Flavored Soda tastes absolutely nothing like bacon. Its only connection to that delicious food is “pig”. Instead of tasting like bacon, this soda tastes like they took the decomposing remains of a pig and combined it with carbonated water. The pure cane sugar wasn’t even necessary, as the sickly sweet smell of rotting meat was already taken care of. I wrote that little fake letter to Jones before I tasted the soda; I guess now I can cross “rotting flesh” off the list. Congratulations, Banquet, you no longer hold the gold medal for worst “edible” thing I’ve ever ingested. Jones Bacon Flavored Soda is the worst ever.

Note: The Impulsive Buy also hated…I mean, reviewed, this product.

  • Score: 0 out of 5, you guessed it, rotting, bloated, decomposed pig carcasses covered in maggots
  • Price: $9.99 for the holiday pack, my innocence forever in not knowing what a two-week-old crime scene smells and tastes like
  • Size: 1 bottle of 12 fluid ounces of pure evil
  • Purchased at: jonessoda.com
  • Nutritional Quirks: “Natural and artificial flavors” must mean “the liquefied insides of dead animals”.

Banquet Cheesy Smothered Meat Patty Meal

Banquet LogoI have always equated Banquet frozen dinners with times of depressing poverty, and for good reason. They are small, cheap, and made almost entirely of inorganic matter, but when you’re flat broke, it’s something you can put in your mouth and pretend it’s real food. You don’t like it, but at least it’s a break from the constant stream of mushy ramen.

All of Banquet’s selections seem equally unappealing, which is why I did a double take when I saw this at my local grocery store.

Banquet Cheesy Smothered Meat Patty Box

It’s like they’re not even trying to make this abomination seem in any way attractive to the human palate. First off, let’s deconstruct the name. “Cheesy” implies that there may be something cheese-like involved, but in no way makes any promises that there will be real cheese. I’m guessing that in this case, “cheesy” actually translates to “melted plastic dyed orange”.

“Smothered” would be a lovely descriptive word if you were sitting in a restaurant, perusing the menu and reading the description of their homemade chicken fried steak. Here, “smothered” brings forth nightmarish images of some Banquet executive silently creeping into my room at night, a pillow gripped tight in his sweaty palms, a rictus, maniacal grin on his face as he hovers over my slumbering, innocent form.

“Meat Patty” immediately sets off alarms. It’s not meatloaf, it’s not roast beef, it’s…”meat patty”. According to the USDA’s website, “The definition of “meat” was amended in December 1994 to include as “meat” product derived from advanced meat/bone separation machinery which is comparable in appearance, texture and composition to meat trimmings and similar meat products derived by hand. Product produced by advanced meat recovery (AMR) machinery can be labeled using terms associated with hand-deboned product, e.g., pork trimmings and ground pork.”

Strangely, the ingredients list on the box lists the components of the meat patty and the cheese sauce together, so it’s impossible to tell what’s in which. All I can suss out is that the meat patty contains beef, pork, and a mysterious mix of approximately 38 other ingredients, some of which are chemicals that would cause me to lose the state spelling bee. I guess I’ll pretend the meat patty is made of beef and pork, and the other 37 ingredients are in the cheese sauce. Wait, that’s not comforting at all.

You’d think the word “Meal” wouldn’t conjure any feelings of dread, but after the first four words, it somehow becomes an ominous caboose on this haunted word train of doom. I mean, truth in advertising is great and all, but couldn’t you have named it something a little more obscuring, like “Happy Funtime Meat-o-Rama with Awesome Sauce”? At least let the sad sacks who are buying this shit to delude themselves a little. There’s no reason to throw their poor life decisions back in their faces with the name of your frozen dinner alone.

Furthermore, as if the name of this meal didn’t tell you everything you never wanted to know about it, Banquet feels that further clarification is needed, and goes on to say, “Grilled Meat Patty Smothered with Cheddar Cheese Sauce with Mashed Potatoes and Bacon Bits.” My beef (probably the only beef you’ll actually find here) with their use of the same preposition twice aside, I noticed something curious: the phrasing leads you to believe that the mashed potatoes contain Bacon Bits, but in the picture, the mashed potatoes appear to contain no such thing, while the cheese sauce has little pieces of bacon in it. At least, they look sort of like pieces of bacon. God I hope that’s bacon.

So, what the fuck, Banquet? What world of madness is going on here? Who am I supposed to believe, the words or the picture?

Speaking of the picture, here we have yet more evidence that the Banquet marketing team was high off their asses when they created Cheesy Smothered Meat Patty Meal. I’ve seen pictures in 1960’s cookbooks of hot dogs and pickles encased in Jell-o that look more attractive than this abomination. It looks like the winner of Nathan’s hot dog-eating contest drank a gallon of Sunny D and vomited onto the bowel movement of an alcoholic hobo who just accidentally stepped in his own mess. The mashed potatoes look like mashed potatoes, but you aren’t noticing that, because you’re transfixed by the hideous apparition the foreground that Banquet is trying to convince you is safe for human consumption. For the first time in my life, I’m convinced that the food inside this box must look better than the “food” pictured on the front of the box. As much as I don’t want to, I guess it’s time to find out if that’s true or not.

Banquet Cheesy Smothered Meat Patty Frozen

To remain true to the cooking instructions, I can’t peel back the plastic just yet to see what’s underneath, but here’s a sneak peak. The neon orange color of the frozen cheese tells a forlorn tale of loss and destitution. The mashed potatoes look like recycled paper pulp.

Time to cook. I am instructed by the box, which I already hate and mistrust, to slit the cover over the potatoes and microwave on high for 2 ½ minutes. Then I have to open the cover and “Rotate patty a half turn. Spoon sauce over patty and stir potatoes”. I am afraid I will lose my morning coffee and add it to the cheese sauce upon peeling back the plastic and smelling this beast. I am afraid of Banquet Cheesy Smothered Meat Patty Meal in general.

You know what I’m more afraid of, though? I’m afraid I might actually like it. It would seem an impossible feat, but what if everything I know about the universe is wrong, and I find myself enjoying my meat patty? What kind of person does that make me? What maximum security mental institution would dare take on such a twisted, deranged mind?

Banquet Cheesy Smothered Meat Patty

On first glance, my fears of enjoyment will most likely be unfounded. It’s much less odoriferous than I anticipated – there’s a tangy, not-so-pleasant fake cheese smell, but you actually do get a bit of fake bacon smell underneath that. I did not vomit. Yet. I also did not add any salt or pepper. Usually, I add a shit-ton of both to any frozen dinner I eat, but for the sake of SCIENCE, I will experience Banquet Cheesy Smothered Meat Patty Meal in all of its naked glory.

Banquet Cheesy Smothered Meat Patty Close-Up

The cheese glistens sickeningly atop the meat patty, pools of grease already forming on the outer edges of the compartment. Tendrils of cheese cling to the sides, as if trying to escape and form into some sort of terrible fake-cheese golem that will come after me and attempt to assimilate my body into the hulking beast’s. It manages to be both greasy and clumpy, falling off my fork in misshapen blobs. It is in no way a sauce.

Banquet Cheesy Smothered Meat Patty Cut

Immediately, there are textural problems for me. It’s like a sponge with a thick coating of melted vinyl. When you bite down, there is no sensation that you are biting into a piece of meat. I imagine this is the sensation a komodo dragon feels as it rips into the bloated corpse of a long-dead wild boar. There is no resistance.

The cheese slides around my mouth like I just bit off a clump of Nickelodeon slime. I keep taking bites, hoping to be able to describe to you what it tastes like, but it is an eldritch horror not of this world, for which the English language has no words. It is not overpowering at first, as you might think, but instead is stealthy, slowly building. Each bite compounds an uneasy feeling that radiates down my throat and into my stomach. My esophagus is coated with a slime that I swear I can feel moving of its own volition. I feel like the color grey.

The bacon flavor floats in and out, like haunted souls trapped in a dark bog, submersing, then briefly breaking the surface to open their mouths in a soundless scream for help. The cheese soon swallows them up again.

As it cools, the cheese congeals into what I could only describe as a cheese gel. It’s the fakest fake cheese flavor I’ve ever tasted, and I voluntarily eat cheese-in-a-can. The meat adds nothing. It has long since been stripped of any flavor it might add, in some factory, as a robot tears apart, crushes, and recombines various unwanted scraps of meat until there are no remaining characteristics of the animal that was sacrificed.

I eat the whole meat patty, struggling until the very end to find the words to convey what I am experiencing. My body feels wrong, as though it is telling me that all systems are not go, sound the alarms, there has been a terrible accident in Sector 7G. There is a white streak in my hair now.

Banquet Cheesy Smothered Meat Patty Potatoes

I had figured the mashed potatoes would be a tasteless respite from the meat patty and cheese sauce, but instead, they honest-to-god really do taste like paper pulp. To the point where I really do wonder if that is what I am eating. Originally watery and runny, by the time I finish choking down the meat patty, they have formed into a thick paste that comes up from the bottom of the compartment with a sick slurping sound. Have you ever eaten paper? It tastes somewhat bitter and unpleasantly woody. I take two bites and can’t take any more. I dump the rest down the sink. The mashed potatoes have finished what the meat patty started.

Despite the small portions and not even finishing the mashed popapertoes, the whole thing sits like a stone at the pit of my belly. I honestly feel like I have ingested something wrong. I feel like I should go get a colon cleanse treatment or go on a three-day grapefruit-only diet or something. The list of ingredients is formidable, totalling over 50, but I’ve eaten foods that have had more ingredients than that before. But Banquet Cheesy Smothered Meat Patty Meal is possibly the most unnatural thing I’ve ever tasted. Every aspect of it, besides the doomed fake bacon, tastes like it’s been made from industrial processing plants. I’ve just ingested a child’s slime toy that stains walls and clothing, a sponge that had been used to clean a bathroom stall, and a recycled copy of The New York Times. Banquet Cheesy Smothered Meat Patty Meal goes beyond the realms of poverty and desperation and enters a dark, frightening place, where even monsters and demons fear to tread.  I should probably go get my stomach pumped now.

  • Score: 0 out of 5 suicide crime scenes
  • Price: $1.40, $1.00 on sale, my soul forever
  • Size: 7.1 oz. Pandora’s Box
  • Purchased at: Safeway
  • Nutritional Quirks: Not actually made of any edible material, anywhere, ever.