Apocalypse Yum is a new review column from San Francisco artist and contributing author Bryson DeJong. Feel free to leave any questions or suggestions in the comments below!
Extreme Misconception Edition:
I went to the store to get the most easy to cook, meaty delicacies I could find for under $2. I came home with Hamburger Helper and a can of Sloppy Joe. Both promise lots of wholesome beefy flavor in some arcane trick of food packaging magic. Imagine a can full of succulent meat chunks slathered in a rich Sloppy Joe sauce. Or, better yet, a cheeseburger macaroni dish from a box that only uses one skillet! The problem here, and my main misunderstanding, is the can of Sloppy Joe is only Sloppy Joe sauce and the Hamburger Helper contains no actual hamburger. You have to add the meat yourself, something that should have been spelled out more clearly on the label.
Wanting to keep in the spirit of post end times eating, I decided to substitute pigeon for beef in these two preparations. Pigeons are, of course, full of deliciously nutty meat that’s super lean and the little bastards live almost everywhere. But not having any varmints at my immediate disposal I found a suitable analog in my supermarkets “discontinued meats” section. Ground turkey, $2.00/lb and just on the verge of spoiling offered just the right fat content and gameness to substitute for our little fluffy friends. That being said, here we go.
Hamburger Helper – Cheeseburger Macaroni:
Smell: This one is very heavy, the fried turkey smell is overpowered by the fake cheese powder. You can practically smell the gelatinous starch coating every noodle. This is going to be a chore, I just know it.
Taste: Somehow this is all mouthfeel. The cheese sauce seeps into every inch of your palate, overpowering the subtle meat notes. Never having had Hamburger Helper before I was at a loss on what flavor to get, so I grabbed the most generic cheese themed one. This may have been a mistake, as it is just boring. The major flavor components seem to be salt and fat with a little sweetness to make it all go down easy. I’m willing to bet this product is aimed at children, I don’t know any adult that would happily eat this drek. It is so salty, I actually had to stop eating it for fear of my health.
Del Monte Sloppy Joe Sauce – Original:
Smell: I have no idea what this should smell like. A rich ragu of herbs and spices? No, this smells like tomato ketchup with a splash of liquid smoke.
Taste: Before I decided to drive back to the store for meat, I entertained the idea of just drinking the whole can straight away. About a quarter of the way in I changed my mind, as it seemed a waste of 99 cents worth of perfectly good Sloppy Joe (sauce). As with the Hamburger Helper, this sauce completely overwhelms the flavor of the meat. Turkey isn’t my favorite ground meat, it’s not even in my top 3; but, like everything else, it is delicious fried with a little oil and served up hot. None of that crispy goodness makes its way to the plate, however. Prepared per the directions on the can, this tastes just like lumpy ketchup with a little BBQ sauce thrown in for color.
Overall Impression: Both of today’s items are widely available and easy to prepare with minimal tools or skill. They both promise to provide a zesty alternative to a straight meat dish for those who cant find the time to prepare these entrees properly themselves. I’m not counting these as “on the go” foods like the MRE’s or tins of beans. They are better reserved for when your hunkered down in a safe location, where you can start a fire and enjoy something hot. I’m sure if we changed the location from my kitchen table to a burned out shopping center, this can of Sloppy Joe would be the best thing ever.
In Closing: I’m not some gourmet here to tell you Hamburger Helper is lowbrow and gross (even though it totally is). Or some survival nut who’s going to insist that off the shelf convenience foods are the devil (they are). Because, ultimately, your going to be eating anything you can find to cram into your mouth. If that happens to be either of these two products, I’m sure you’ll be better for it.