March 22, 2006

From the prisoner aisle to the snack cakes

I can't believe I'm losing weight in the season of Easter candy.

It's actually the tail end of the six month Candy Corridor, when you can't enter a grocery store without being assaulted by chocolate.

The assault begins in early fall with the fun-sized Snickers bars and marshmallow pumpkins of Halloween, which give way to the festive candies of Christmas, which subside to romantic Valentine's Day chocolates, which melt into the chocolate bunnies and pastel eggs of Easter.

Incidentally, the grocery industry has a name for that display that blocks your way from the entrance to the rest of the store. It's called the "prisoner aisle," and it's where you'll find the highest margin, impulse buy items. I remember studying this in a marketing class. It made me feel slightly dirty.

The chocolate mafia haven't succesfully infiltrated the late spring and summer time frame, so soon the prisoner aisles at Safeway will be taken over by benign items like ice tea pitchers, lemonade glasses, and SPF 50 sunblock.

But right now, at this very moment, I have a very real demon to fight.

I'm talking about the Cadbury Cream Egg.

I know a lot of people who think that the Cadbury Cream Egg is a vile creation, a chocolate grenade filled with something worse than death. Sometimes I am inclined to agree with them. But even more so, I want to break one open and suck out the sickly sweet sugar until it makes my teeth hurt.

The Cream Egg exists in that complex realm of foods that are so excessively something that they simultaneously inspire repulsion and seduction. There is a whole world of these foods, and they are the gastronomical equivalent of "sexy ugly."

Monica's List of Sexy Ugly Foods

Cheese Curds. These greasy little staples of fairs and flea markets in the Upper Midwest are undeniably gross. Even the name is gross. Yet if you were to hand me a basket of those little batter-dipped, deep fried nuggets of cheddar, glistening with oil, I would eat every last one. I wouldn't even care that I'm not sure what a curd is, that my dairy-based meal was prepared in a hot tent in the Minnesota sun, or that the grease had eaten all the way through the paper basket. I'd be in heaven.

Velveeta. It's not cheese. It's a petrochemical. Velveeta is the Michael Jackson of food; it is so far removed from anything natural that you kind of feel bad just thinking about it. And yet, I still put Shells and Cheese at the top of my personal macaroni pantheon.

Ho Hos. Not to be confused with Hoo Hoos, which is an entirely different topic altogether. No, I'm talking about those nasty little cake rolls filled with non dairy imitation cream product. I'm a cake snob - I'll pay 3 times the price for a cake from Josef's Vienna Bakery rather than buying one from a grocery store - and yet, I find these overprocessed, excessively sweet little morsels strangely appealing.

Cadbury Cream Eggs. Did you know that in England, they're available year round?

I'm sure some of you would disagree with my list, and just consider these foods vile. I don't take it personally. I think they're kind of vile myself.

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