Friday, October 17, 2014

I am Erik's fictional childhood nostalgia. . .

Remember the good old days?  Those days way back when, before the Internet; things were simpler.  A day that will live on in your mind forever.  That day when your father picked you up from school on a late summer day in September at noon with a surprise.
"Hey, Slugger!" He said, "What say you and I take the day to go see a ball game?"
So you went down to the local field and watch your heroes stride across the grass.  Your Dad drank a half dozen beers from frosted plastic cups and he bought you a bag of caramel covered popcorn, but only if you yelled at Tommy Lasorda that he was a "Fat Fuck!  Eat a Dick!"

Yeah, I don't remember that either.  Also, this is Nebraska, WTF is professional baseball?  Is that what they're playing on WGN all the time?  At least my imaginary popcorn snack was great...

It doesn't come in a box anymore, which is too bad.  I seem to remember them making for great foil-lined coffins for a variety of action figures.  Though this classic snack now comes in a bag that hangs with all the dead potatoes at your local quickie-shop, it at least still comes with a prize.  It says so, right on the bag, "FUN PRIZE inside".  In hindsight, perhaps the word fun isn't an adjective which describes what you will have when you get the prize, but that it is "fun" to get a prize regardless of what that may be.

I made quick work of the thermo-sealed top of the bag and was soon rewarded with that sugary crypt smell of industrial caramel product over popcorn. I can also actually smell the salt, but not so much the actual popcorn. Assailed with these olfactory conundrums I decide to dive in, lest I lose my edge and leave this bag by the wayside.  My first bite reminds me instantly why I haven't eaten Cracker Jack in, like, 10 or 15 years.  The popcorn is stale, the "caramel" sticks to your teeth and the overall texture is that of regret.  The combo of the amber sugar coating and the popcorn hulls creates a mouth sensation not unlike epoxy-bonding beetle carapaces to your dentition like a sick facsimile of armor.

Working my way maybe a handful through the bag has taken the nostalgic wind out of my sails.  Each mastication of my overworked jaws rendering these starchy sugar-coated packing peanuts into a swallowable paste...
"But wait!" I say out loud in front of a confused coworker, "There is always a prize!  I bet I'll get a cool metal airplane trinket or an awesome tiger tattoo for my face!"
So I go digging, and digging, and digging.  During my excavations I come across one, single, peanut, which is also coated in the caramel flavored epoxy.  What the hell?  If the package says "Caramel Coated Popcorn & Peanuts", does that not suggest that the quantity and/or volume of the ingredients should be nearly equal?  I need more than one miserable peanut to make this work.  Oh, never mind, now I'm distracted:

YES!  Prize!  It is definitely tattoo shaped!  Time to see the glory of my new face adornment!

A sticker. . . of a shitty, uh. . . sports team?
I suppose it is ironic that I started this post with a fictional visit to a ball game and I am presented with the sticker for a baseball team (seriously, I thought it was hockey or something until I looked it up). I was going to defend my slightly dinged up man-card by saying this must be one of those new bullshit teams they started, but then I saw it was founded the year I was born. . .   But, like I said, Nebraska = WTF professional Baseball?

I am not going to finish this bag.  I just can't.  It doesn't live up to my memory of the product, it isn't good as a snack, it hurts my mouth to eat it, and quite frankly I don't know what I was expecting but this wasn't it.  As I type this fully 2/3rds of it is in the garbage

I give it: 1.0 out of 5

Other people are also disappointed in Cracker Jack.  People I can relate to.  If you go to the Whole Foods for normal people known as Trader Joe's, you will find a product called Grand Slam.  Whoever invented the Grand Slam for TJ's obviously wanted it to taste like their memory of the Cracker Jack of their youth.
The popcorn is huge, not stale, and covered in a crunchy caramel coating.  It has peanuts!  But it also has almonds and cashews and pecans.  They're rare in the bag, but only rare enough to make their discovery a tasty surprise, not wondering if you've just found the last white rhino. Every time I go to get more sparkling lime water I end up with chocolate and a bag of this, which I immediately open and eat in the car.
(by comparison to CJ, Grand Slam gets 4.0 out of 5 for caramel popcorn snacks)