19 November, 2017

Prison Canteen Food Roundup

The Crossroads canteen sells prisoners a variety of products that would surprise the average citizen — light bulbs, ice cream, bathrobes. Of course, surprise isn't desirable if you're a consumer. The list of canteen items here leaves much to the imagination. It doesn't list products' sizes and only infrequently refers to brand names, so a guy doesn't know what he's going to get unless he asks around a little first. Even then, there's no guarantee. I've wished many times that someone made available a report, grading and reviewing every new item in inventory, saving me from wasting precious money on garbage — something like this:

Fresh Catch Fillets of Mackerel in Brine
Who wants to eat anything described with a synonym for eerie? Yet because all Fresh Catch products come in pouches instead of (potentially weaponizable) cans, their slogan, "Uncanny taste and convenience" (emphasis mine), comes off as just an ill-conceived pun.

Less than $1 buys 3.53 moist ounces of omega-3-licious fish — a great, low-calorie, high-protein food. I like putting a pouch of this stuff in some rice, with minced onion, chopped jalapeño peppers, and a dash of soy sauce, for a satisfying substitution for the dining halls' more odious meals.
Product rating:
4 stars


Market Square Bakery Vanilla Wafers
Not to be confused with Nabisco's artificially flavored delights, in that lemon-yellow box, these crumbly little discs come partly pulverized in a maroon plastic bag. Flavorwise, they're fine — a tad greasy, perhaps, but with a not-unpleasant melts-in-your-mouth butteriness that says, "This bag's got another fifteen servings in it; keep eating, Tubbo!"
Product rating:
3 stars


Paramount Dairy Farms Instant Nonfat Dry Milk
Fans of buttermilk and whole milk may balk, but compared to every other powdered milk that this tester has tasted, Paramount's product offers flavor and consistency remarkably similar to its liquid counterparts. In cereal (specifically, Golden Valley Bran Flakes), it offers a rich dairy taste and pleasing creaminess, both of which are also detectable when sipping it solo, chilled in a bottle, after a strenuous workout.
Product rating:
4.5 stars


Back Country Pepperoni
"READY TO EAT" is what the label on this clear bag of what at first glance looks like kimchi. When has pepperoni required preparation? No one would print "READY TO EAT" on a bag of roasted peanuts or a pouch of beef jerky, so this exhortation seems silly. Getting into the bag takes teeth, plus paper towels or toilet tissue to mop up the resultant grease spill. The product itself is, for the most part, shredded beyond recognition. As for flavor, well, there's pepper aplenty, but the pork and beef the label alleges are present seem in short supply. Wet cardboard, on the other hand….
Product rating:
2 stars


Clear Choice Pre-Cooked Long Grain Rice
Its logo is a check mark and its packaging bears no sign of trademark designator, but this bland filler material is halal, so eat hearty, my Islamic friends! Will you find better rice in virtually any other place? Yes, but in prison many foodstuffs must be packaged in see-through containers (hence the double meaning of Clear Choice's name), so good luck finding any.
Product rating:
3 stars


Brushy Creek Beef Stew
Chunky, salty, meaty — this stuff is on par with Dinty Moore or Campbell's, which, if what those brands offer is a perfect product (i.e., perfectly acceptable canned analog to homemade beef stew), makes Brushy Creek Beef Stew equally perfect.
Product rating:
5 stars


Van Holten's Kosher Pickle (Zesty Garlic Flavor)
It's a pickle. Besides those bread-and-butter atrocities, have you ever known a pickle to be bad?
Product rating:
4.5 stars


Cactus Annie's Jalapeño Squeeze Cheese
Who doesn't like nacho cheese? Nobody, that's who. The agreement that those who eat nacho cheese make with their bodies, not to heed the other's discomfort through the various parts of the shameful ingestion/digestion process, nullifies all efforts at qualitative assessment or criticism beyond solely addressing said cheese food product's flavor. In the case of Cactus Annie's, I can tell you that it's nacho cheese, ergo: yum.
Product rating:
4.5 stars


Panola Soy Sauce
Rice without sauce is nothing. Unfortunately, Panola's sauce overdoes it on water, resulting in what may be humanity's least salty, least flavorful soy sauce ever. Best only used in dire circumstances, along with copious other spices.
Product rating:
2 stars


Golden Harvest Cheese Snack Crackers
Imitation Cheez-Its are bound to disappoint, and these bland orange squares are no exception. Texturally, they're similar to everyone's favorite Sunshine Bakeries snack, but crunching down is, unfortunately, only the first step. Next comes chewing.

Saliva production kicks into overdrive when you eat these, not due to any explosion of cheesy flavor but, rather, abundant salt embedded atop every cracker. This may be deliberate, to trick undiscriminating consumers into believing that they're eating a food so delicious it makes their mouths water. But no. These things suck. Think about licking clean the sweaty fingers of some guy who's just eaten three or four Cheetos — they taste like that.
Product rating:
1.5 stars


Moon Lodge Sour Cream and Onion Chips
To be sour-cream-and-onion — what does it mean? Can mankind ever hope to understand? Is the interplay between the two principal components the sine qua non of sour-cream-and-onion — a Platonic ideal of sour cream balanced just so with an elemental onionness, thereby producing a serendipitous admixture greater than the sum of its parts? Or are all variations on the ratio equally valid, with a spectrum as infinite as it is toothsome, for determining what makes sour cream plus onion equal sour-cream-and-onion? A tertiary possibility undermines these questions, being: is this entire debate merely a rehash of Nagel's, vis-à-vis perception and difference? If so, it could be that "knowledge" (as it is commonly regarded) represents only preferences, fictions, suppositions, and reactive impulses. Consider here the rise of "fake news" and "alternative facts." Montaigne mutters his "Que sais-je?" from beyond the grave; Diderot thrashes in his. Irrespective of which stance we adopt, these chips are bland as fuck.
Product rating:
2 stars

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