31 Days of Junk: Boo Berry Fruit Roll-Ups (#13)

Last October (2017), I made it a goal to drink 31 different beers—a new one each day—by the end of the month. Incredibly, I was successful in my attempt, which I dubbed #31FallBeers (look it up on any form of social media!) This year, I wanted to try something similar, but there were two important changes I needed to make. Firstly, I wanted to be able to expound more, so I decided against social media blurbs in favor of long-form posts on my site. Second: it needed to be much, much cheaper than drinking 31 different beers. The result? #31DaysOfJunk. Strap in and hold on tight, and please enjoy this month-long odyssey into the sugary, fatty belly of the autumnal beast.

I have this theory that all Fruit Roll-Ups taste the same.

I think our ability to discern the flavors is mostly visual; we see that they’re called “strawberry”, so we believe they taste like strawberry. And like candy corn (another snack which I believe plays tricks with our tastebuds) Fruit Roll-Ups are a package deal: flavor, smell, texture. You can close your eyes and realize you’re eating a Fruit Roll-Up because of the plastic wrap you must unfurl it from, and that slick, stippled, chewy texture that the Roll-Ups are known for. But can you close your eyes and tell what flavor you’re eating?

This is a long way to say that these Boo Berry Fruit Roll-Ups (“Razzle Boo Blitz” flavored) just taste like, well, Fruit Roll-Ups. Kinda like how all Oreos—no matter the limited time flavor—just taste like Oreos.

Don’t get me wrong: they’re yummy and tangy and blue, and they make me feel like I’m 8-years-old again, in the school cafeteria, eating my PB&J (where the J has sorta bled through the bread a bit). But it feels like they dropped the ball with the Boo Berry crossover. For a cereal that is supposedly the first blueberry-flavored cereal, you think they might’ve pulled out all the stops for this Roll-Up. Instead, they’ve just delivered the generic “tangy blue” flavor that so many fruit snacks already have in their arsenal.

But then, I’m a 30-something debating the flavor profiles of a fruit snack marketed for children, so who’s really won and who’s lost here? If you need me, I’ll be drowning my sorrows in a carton of Juicy Juice apple juice. Can someone help me with the straw?

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31 Days of Junk: Spooky Junior Mints (#12)

Last October (2017), I made it a goal to drink 31 different beers—a new one each day—by the end of the month. Incredibly, I was successful in my attempt, which I dubbed #31FallBeers (look it up on any form of social media!) This year, I wanted to try something similar, but there were two important changes I needed to make. Firstly, I wanted to be able to expound more, so I decided against social media blurbs in favor of long-form posts on my site. Second: it needed to be much, much cheaper than drinking 31 different beers. The result? #31DaysOfJunk. Strap in and hold on tight, and please enjoy this month-long odyssey into the sugary, fatty belly of the autumnal beast.

It’s taken me years to warm up to the alien combination of mint and chocolate. Mint and chocolate? Who came up with that, man? That’s like saying “lemon and chocolate”. It’s a forbidden dance. Such different flavor combinations were never meant to mingle. Chocolate is meant to be paired with other sweet flavors. (Okay, and occasionally ‘sea salt’, you snobs.) Sure, mint and lemon come in sweet variations in the candy world, but neither are, by their nature, sweet.

I think I first flirted with the odd couple when I tried mint chocolate chip ice cream for the first time. The mint was more of a muted background flavor; an afterthought. A brief cooling sensation that cleared the way for the main attraction: the chocolate flakes. Plus, I’m always down to eat green ice cream, no matter what the flavor it.

But I never got into York Peppermint Patties, though my dad swore by them. I did appreciate that they were enrobed in dark chocolate—that’s always a good thing. But let’s be honest: because of its gooey filling, it’s basically like eating chocolate-covered toothpaste.

This is the same reason I can’t get down with Junior Mints. The soft, paste-like center makes me think I’m eating Colgate, man! How can you not think you’re eating toothpaste when it’s the exact same flavor and consistency? Yuck.

However, these Spooky Junior Mints get major bonus points for switching up the color of the filling. Not only do we get orange, but we also get black! How cool is that! Sometimes that’s all you gotta do: switch up the color. The orange filling is noticeably oozier than the black filling. In fact, the black filling is downright solid. Maybe it’s just the batch I got. But if both fillings were equally as runny, it could make for a fun game of biting into one and blindly trying to guess which color you got.

Charming, yes. But you haven’t yet completely swayed me, “mint and chocolate”. Yuck.

31 Days of Junk: Pumpkin Patch Orange Pop Rocks (#11)

Last October (2017), I made it a goal to drink 31 different beers—a new one each day—by the end of the month. Incredibly, I was successful in my attempt, which I dubbed #31FallBeers (look it up on any form of social media!) This year, I wanted to try something similar, but there were two important changes I needed to make. Firstly, I wanted to be able to expound more, so I decided against social media blurbs in favor of long-form posts on my site. Second: it needed to be much, much cheaper than drinking 31 different beers. The result? #31DaysOfJunk. Strap in and hold on tight, and please enjoy this month-long odyssey into the sugary, fatty belly of the autumnal beast.

I was on my third glass of wine (2014 Syrah, Gainey Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley) when I remembered I hadn’t eaten my #31DaysOfJunk candy for the day. Suddenly, I was struck with a bit of a dilemma: what candy would pair well with a wine that features flavors like dark fruit, chocolate, and black pepper?

I would have gone with some Hershey’s Miniatures—they probably would’ve been pretty perfect, in fact—but I’ll be danged if I didn’t already review them earlier in the week. My other options included sour things, marshmallowy things, and a few candy corn/mellowcreme style treats—none of which really called out to me and my purple tongue.

I eventually decided on Pumpkin Patch Orange Pop Rocks. For whatever reason, I felt the zip and effervescence of the ‘rocks would pair nicely with the juicy, big flavor of this delicious goddamn wine I’m currently in the middle of drinking.

And pair well I think they did. Look, you can never really go wrong with Pop Rocks. Their packaging is great (gotta love bright colors on a black background) and the product itself is pure magic: it feels like you’re eating carbonated moon dust or something.

The flavor here isn’t anything out of the ordinary—straight-up orange. And the thing about Pop Rocks is the flavor is never overpowering. It’s present, but the main draw is the popping action. That’s what you come from, that’s what takes center stage. So the subtle flavoring made it a good choice to pair with this wine. Have I mentioned how delicious it is? Seriously, if you ever find yourself in Santa Barbara County along the 1, I highly recommend stopping by one of their many wineries. So many great wines out there!

31 Days of Junk: Skeleteens Black Lemonade (#10)

Last October (2017), I made it a goal to drink 31 different beers—a new one each day—by the end of the month. Incredibly, I was successful in my attempt, which I dubbed #31FallBeers (look it up on any form of social media!) This year, I wanted to try something similar, but there were two important changes I needed to make. Firstly, I wanted to be able to expound more, so I decided against social media blurbs in favor of long-form posts on my site. Second: it needed to be much, much cheaper than drinking 31 different beers. The result? #31DaysOfJunk. Strap in and hold on tight, and please enjoy this month-long odyssey into the sugary, fatty belly of the autumnal beast.

Sometime in my youth, I discovered The Skeleteens line of sodas. It was at our local Spencer’s Gifts (at the mall, of course) where I found their soft drinks; drinks with names like “Love Potion #69”, “Brainwash”, and “Black Lemonade”. With their jagged, hand-written lettering, and labels adorned with illustrated skeleton parts, I couldn’t pass them up. I was, after all, almost 13-years-old—the magic age for this type of shit.

There they sat, in my room, up on a shelf, displayed for all visitors to see, right alongside a Michael Myers mask, a lava lamp, a pair of drumsticks, and a few bowling pins I’d spraypainted silver. What can I say, I was a weird kid.

Years later (and I do mean years), I decided, for whatever reason, to finally crack them open and try them. Curiosity had gotten the best of me. I wanted to keep the bottles, but I didn’t want to waste the (possibly spoiled) soda, so I took a swig from each bottle. What can I say, I was a weird kid.

Flash forward literally 20 years. I am walking through The Farmers Market in Los Angeles when, to my utter astonishment, I see a bottle of The Skeleteens Black Lemonade through the window of a soda shop; up on a shelf, gathering dust, like the one I had all those years ago. Suddenly, I was 13 again, and the memories of these sodas I’d long forgotten came flooding back. I had to have them again.

I miraculously found all three of them—Love Potion #69, Brainwash, and Black Lemonade—at the liquor store BevMo, of all places. I couldn’t believe these things still existed, let alone were still being produced!

Here’s the craziest part: the first sip of Black Lemonade brought it all back. I totally remember how it tasted! Holy lord, do I remember. It’s like time stopped for two decades, and suddenly I was in my bedroom in Southern Illinois again, sipping the expired black swill.

It’s super lemony on the nose, almost like a bathroom air freshener. And super tart and tangy in the mouth; the kind that pinches you under the jawline. Plus it burns when you swallow it. Seriously, it burns, like you’re drinking jalapeno juice or something. But then, I don’t know what else you’d expect from a drink called Black Lemonade, featuring a skull and crossbones on its label.

Perhaps the thing that makes this line of sodas stand out is their ingredients. Black Lemonade features, “…an herbal blend consisting of Siberian, American and Korean Ginseng, African Capsicum, Brazilian Guarana, Ginkgo Biloba, Kola Nut, Echinacea, Clove, Sage, Skullcap (Mad Dog Weed), Kava Kava”. I distinctly remember being afraid of those ingredients when I drank from the bottles so many years ago, and to be honest, I’m a little leery now.

Here’s to your health!

31 Days of Junk: Trader Joe’s Candy Corn Popcorn (#9)

Last October (2017), I made it a goal to drink 31 different beers—a new one each day—by the end of the month. Incredibly, I was successful in my attempt, which I dubbed #31FallBeers (look it up on any form of social media!) This year, I wanted to try something similar, but there were two important changes I needed to make. Firstly, I wanted to be able to expound more, so I decided against social media blurbs in favor of long-form posts on my site. Second: it needed to be much, much cheaper than drinking 31 different beers. The result? #31DaysOfJunk. Strap in and hold on tight, and please enjoy this month-long odyssey into the sugary, fatty belly of the autumnal beast.

Quick: what does candy corn taste like? Tastes like…candy corn, right?

To me, candy corn isn’t a flavor but an experience. What candy corn is supposed to taste like is secondary to the actual act of eating the candy corn.

The semi-gloss surface giving way to a soft, waxy body with each tiny bite–starting with the white tip, or perhaps from the other end. Or by the palmful, letting the little triangular pieces sit in your mouth, your tongue examining the smoothness of each side, over and over.

Candy corn is seasonal, so just seeing them–before you even eat them–can illicit feelings of fall. Images of grey afternoons and wet sidewalks, red and yellow leaves, comfy sweaters and gathered family, all are conjured up just by looking at the little tri-colored candies.

Or how a freshly opened bag simply smells of confection, sweet and soft, unspecific–but somehow specific to candy corn.

So to say something is “candy corn-flavored” is to take away the aspects of what makes candy corn candy corn. Because really, candy corn doesn’t have a unique flavor. Jelly Belly has said that the flavor is “a blend of creamy fondant, rich marshmallow and warm vanilla notes”. So essentially, birthday cake. Candy corn tastes like birthday cake.

And it’s true: Trader Joe’s Candy Corn Popcorn tastes exactly like yummy, buttery birthday cake. The colored corn helps sell the idea, but ultimately, nothing can replicate the experience of eating actual candy corn.

Still, the popcorn is delicious, and this little bag didn’t stand a chance. If you like kettle corn, or caramel corn, or any sort of shellacked popped corn, you will love this.

31 Days of Junk: Jones Soda “Blood Orange” (#8)

Last October (2017), I made it a goal to drink 31 different beers—a new one each day—by the end of the month. Incredibly, I was successful in my attempt, which I dubbed #31FallBeers (look it up on any form of social media!) This year, I wanted to try something similar, but there were two important changes I needed to make. Firstly, I wanted to be able to expound more, so I decided against social media blurbs in favor of long-form posts on my site. Second: it needed to be much, much cheaper than drinking 31 different beers. The result? #31DaysOfJunk. Strap in and hold on tight, and please enjoy this month-long odyssey into the sugary, fatty belly of the autumnal beast.

I don’t remember how old I was when I and my friends discovered Jones Soda—14 or 15, probably—but I do remember what an impact it had on us as a group. At the time, our punk rock inklings were starting to mineralize; our obsession with art, and counter-culture, and whatever it was we thought was the meaning of life (skateboarding and watching movies), all coming together, coalescing to create who we were as young people and future adults. And suddenly, we had the perfect beverage which embodied all of that and more: Jones Soda.

Artsy photographs, a different one on each bottle, instead of a repetitive boring logo? Photos which could be submitted by anyone—even us? It was a game-changer. We’d had enough of Coca-Cola! We were through with Mug Root Beer. No more Surge! We wanted Jones Soda! And have Jones Soda, we did: we drank the stuff religiously, shelling out our allowances for over-priced 4-packs of the stuff.

It’s how I imagine Gen Xers felt when OK Soda came out.

I mention all of this because I probably haven’t had Jones Soda since then—so 20 years, give or take. (Good lord, where does the time go?) Wait, I take it back: last year, I did have a sip of some of their Thanksgiving-flavored sodas at a party. (Which were from the year 2005; we were drinking sodas that were 12-years-old.) All of this is to say: I haven’t had a proper, unexpired Jones Soda in a very long time.

I also haven’t had a blood orange in a very long time either, so I’m not sure if the flavor of this Halloweeny treat is spot-on. But it’s definitely orangey. Much like the soda I drank last week for #31DaysOfJunk, this one also tastes like a melted popsicle. That’s my biggest takeaway: Jones Soda Blood Orange tastes like a melted orange popsicle. So, y’know, good and sugary.

It has a brilliant, almost glowing, orange color to it. Downright iridescent! I will still take this over Surge any day of the week.

Horrorstuffs & humor / don't tell yer granny

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