Al-Haloub Cow Luncheon Loaf

The بقرة says: مو

The بقرة says: مو

For many people in the United States, April 15th is a very significant date. It’s the deadline for doing something that they really don’t want to do. For us at Armenian Fungus Cake, the looming deadline was May 15th. That was the day when the Al-Haloub Cow Luncheon Loaf that had been sitting in the AFC laboratory for several years would finally expire. The amount of time that it had been waiting unopened clearly indicated that eating it was something we didn’t want to do.

Rather than allow this mysterious meat to go to waste, I decided that I would finally open it up and give it a try. As expected, the can was filled with a loaf of pink meat that required a bit of effort to extricate. After a bit of agitation, it finally emerged with a satisfying “plop”. The meaty monolith stood on the plate for some time as a pork-free monument to the worldwide appeal of rectangular prismatic luncheon loaves. After taking a few moments to ponder the significance of this quivering meat loaf, I sliced it up and cooked it, along with some polenta that came from a tube. This didn’t look nearly as appetizing as the picture on the can, but the Al-Haloub Cow Luncheon Loaf still proved to be just as tasty as virtually every other canned meat product (however tasty that happens to be).

It never looks as good as it does on the package.

It never looks as good as it does on the package.

With the consumption of this cow-derived concoction, we have finally cleared out the backlog of all products waiting to be evaluated in the food-tasting laboratory. But never fear, new things have a way of appearing there when we least expect them.

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Lick Milk Chocolate Pumpkin & Sweet Potato Fusion Bar

Cold fusion!

Cold fusion!

Everyone is under pressure to be environmentally friendly these days. I mean, it seems like as soon as someone finds out that you converted your 1971 Volkswagen bus to run on charcoal, you have fifty Prius-driving protesters outside your headquarters. Apparently charcoal isn’t the most environmentally friendly fuel these days. How was I supposed to know that? I still haven’t even learned the Mangoustani language yet. I can’t be expected to keep up on all of these new fads like, say, gasoline.

I tried to explain to the protesters that I was currently researching a source of energy involving a new type of fusion, but that only seemed to upset them more. They accused me of being ridiculous and proceeded to form a human chain around the Fungusmobile. With no option of escape, I retreated inside and continued my fusion research.

To be more precise, I was researching the Lick Milk Chocolate Pumpkin & Sweet Potato Fusion Bar. I found it to be an unusual combination of chocolate, squash, and tuber. In spite of its astonishing amalgamation of ingredients, it was actually quite tasty. Unfortunately it proved to be ineffective at powering a 1971 Volkswagen bus, so the protesters remain unappeased. Some of them even started going on and on about how vehicles can be powered with electricity nowadays. And these people say I am the crazy one? Come on.

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Lusshin Mangosteen Herbal Refreshing Soap

Mangosteen is everywhere now.

Mangosteen is everywhere now.

Do you remember the good old days when mangosteen was literally the forbidden fruit? Finding it in cans was hard enough. Finding it fresh required putting on an elaborate disguise and asking shady individuals for “Croatian polenta”. Even then, you never knew if you were going to actually get mangosteen, or if you’d wake up in a seedy hotel without one of your kidneys. Even worse, your contact might actually be an undercover agent of the fruit police. There is a lot of crime in the world, but at one time, there were few crimes worse than the ones involving mangosteen.

Now mangosteen is everywhere. They practically throw it at you when you go into the store. If they recognize you as one of those annoying snack food bloggers, they really do throw it at you when you go into the store. They make mangosteen candy and every kind of mangosteen drink. The fruit police are all out of a job. I think I saw one of them working security at an outlet mall the other day. Mangosteen is boring now that it’s legal.

In a last-ditch effort to reignite interest in this misshapen fruit with the husky hull, Lusshin has turned it into a soap. If you’re completely bored with eating mangosteen, you can wash yourself with it instead. Go on, cover yourself with the luscious mangosteen-scented lather. Try to remember the days when you’d travel for a week just based on rumors of mangosteen, and then when you got there it was really just a bunch of shaved rambutans or a big smelly durian that someone had painted red.  Try to remember when you had to go to a special store to get cappuccino-flavored potato chips. Did you know they sell those at Wal-mart now? Next thing you know, they’ll be selling Pepsi-flavored Cheetos right next to the regular Cheetos. What is this world coming to?

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Hwa Tai Luxury Vegetable Cracker with Chocolate

A likely story...

A likely story…

Oh boy. Here we go again. It’s yet another attempt to get me to eat my vegetables. This has been going on since I was three years old. I didn’t fall for it then, and I’m not falling for it now.

I don’t care if you put the vegetables in a pretty blue bag, or tell me that they’re high in vitamins, or juxtapose them with a smiling cartoon candy bar who says, “Eat your vegetables and then you can have chocolate!” How many times have we heard that before? And how many times did we actually get chocolate? Like maybe…five, tops? And even then, was it really chocolate, or was it that carob crab? Yeah, it was that carob crap, wasn’t it? That stuff isn’t chocolate. Nobody is being fooled by that. Do you hear me, carob?! You’re not fooling anyone!

I’m not about to be tricked by this bag of Hwa Tai Luxury Vegetable Cracker with Chocolate. I mean, luxury? Come on. Luxury is when you have a river of chocolate flowing through the middle of your house, or when you have a 500-gallon ranch dressing tank in your back yard. It’s not when you get tricked into eating vegetables and then get a dried out bit of carob afterwards.

Unfortunately, I’m contractually obligated to try a Luxury Vegetable Cracker with Chocolate, even though I know that little candy bar guy is lying to me. I’m just going to take the mandatory bite and…wait…this isn’t right. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be! Something is horribly wrong!

The savory vegetable cracker mixed with the sweet chocolate creme is…it’s…it’s perfect. This one cracker…this vegetable cracker with chocolate…it makes up for a lifetime of vegetable-related trauma.  I think I’ll celebrate by eating the entire bag. And I can do that, because it has vegetables.

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Tai Kae Crispy Seaweed

He's a laid-back seaweed dude.

He’s a laid-back seaweed dude.

It’s been a while since we brought you news of strange snacks and wacky weirdness, but this particular bulletin was too good to pass up. You’ve heard a lot about Tao Kae Noi Man and his delicious varieties of crispy seaweed, but we’ve recently discovered his long-lost cousin. That’s right, we’ve located the whereabouts of Tai Kae Man.

Obviously we’re not at liberty to disclose exactly where we found him, but rest assured that he was quite well hidden. Unlike his cousin Tao Kae Noi Man, Tai Kae Man doesn’t take life too seriously. While Tao Kae Noi Man often works himself into a tizzy, sometimes to the point that steam comes out of his ears, his laid-back cousin just sits around in shorts and an undershirt while consuming large quantities of a green, leafy substance. That’s not to say that these two things are necessarily related, but Tao Kae Noi Man does seem to be the more motivated member of this family.

Tao Kae Noi Man works seven days a week overseeing his vast seaweed kingdom while also inventing countless new seaweed flavors. Not only did he perfect Tom Yum Goong flavored seaweed, but he pioneered the process of coating healthy seaweed with tempura batter and deep frying it into a delicious wafer of morbid obesity. He even invented extra-crispy grilled seaweed, for when you feel guilty about eating too much tempura-coated fried seaweed.

Tai Kae Man makes soy sauce flavored seaweed. That’s all. If you want another flavor, you’re out of luck. He put the soy sauce on the seaweed, and he was wearing clothes when he did it. Can you really ask any more of him than that?

We hoped to speak with Tai Kae Man directly about his connection to the Asian seaweed dynasty, but he was unavailable for an interview. When our crew went to his one-bedroom apartment, no one would open the door. All they heard from inside was someone saying, “Tai Kae Man’s not here, man.”

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Where Does Pumpkin Spice Come From?

Pumpkination complete!

Pumpkination complete!

It seems that from about September until January, everything in the world mysteriously appears in a pumpkin spice variety. It wasn’t always this way. Just a few short years ago, the only thing you could get in pumpkin spice flavor was pumpkin pie. But then the slow pumpkination of the world began. First it was pumpkin spice coffee, then pumpkin spice donuts. The pumpkin spice muffins came next, followed shortly by pumpkin spice bacon. Everything is good when it’s baconated, but I fear that baconation in combination with pumpkination could produce a dangerously unstable compound.

That wasn’t the end, though. They also started making pumpkin spice shampoo, pumpkin spice deodorant, and pumpkin spice bath bombs. Not only could you eat pumpkin spice, but you could also bathe yourself in it and smell like it all day.  You could quite literally be a giant walking mess of pumpkin spice for at least five months out of the year.

This was all well and good, but then it happened. They went and pumpkinated the last thing that had, until recently, escaped the plodding progress of pumpkination: they started making Pumpkin Spice Oreos. I could ignore the pumpkin spice bread and the pumpkin spice butter, but once pumpkin spice founds its way into the beloved Oreo, I knew I had to investigate.

The first thing I had to do was trace the source of this pernicious piquancy. This would have been quite difficult for most people, but my previous experience with the Vast Soursop Conspiracy had given me a lot of practice in finding secret lairs and obscure hideouts. When I had completed my calculations, I was shocked to realize that this vast pumpkin-spice operation had been operating almost right under my nose the entire time. I’d always wondered why that one part of the local shopping mall had suddenly been walled off, removed from the map, and never spoken of again. As it happened, that was the very place where all of this pumpkin spice was being made.

I arrived at the mall and began looking around, while pretending to be an innocent shopper with no interest in pumpkin spice whatsoever. No one really seemed to notice until I began asking a few innocent questions about what happened to the rest of the mall. At that point, people started to get a little nervous. They told me that I must be confused, and that the area had been closed some time ago, and that in fact it had never existed at all. Clearly I wasn’t going to get a straight answer, so I was going to have to investigate on my own. I needed to find a way into this secret space that everyone said had never existed. I needed to create a diversion.

I thought about it for a moment, and then I came up with the perfect idea. As loudly as I could, I pointed toward a random store and shouted, “Oh my god! They just released pumpkin spice toothpaste!” In an instant, everyone began running toward the promise of yet another pumpkin spice product. This gave me the chance to slip through a door and into the terrifying world that lay behind it.

What I found was a vast, dimly lit factory filled with rumbling machines, bubbling vats, and enormous pipes. I moved stealthily at first, but I soon realized that no one was taking any notice of me. It was as if the idea that anyone could even locate this place, let alone actually get inside, was completely incomprehensible to whoever was running this operation.

As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I realized that the factory was staffed, not by humans, but by creatures that I can only describe as pumpkin spice elves. These weren’t the happy little elves that make toys for children at Christmas; these were the hideous, menacing elves that appear in your nightmares. They shuffled about, turning valves and stirring mixtures. They seemed almost completely oblivious to anything other than their role in the production of pumpkin spice.

After I’d observed them for a while, a gong sounded. The creatures who had been tending to the machines and working with the ingredients stopped what they were doing and began to shuffle away. Moments later, a new group of creatures took up their positions and continued the pumpkin spice production. I followed the group that had just stopped work to find out where they were going.

After taking a few turns and passing several unidentifiable spice-making machines, I found myself in a large, open room. In the center of the room was what appeared to be a throne, and seated there was a being that I don’t even have the words to describe.  All I know is that she (I’m assuming she was a she) was clearly the ruler of this little kingdom: she was the Queen of Pumpkin Spice. One by one, the elves, or whatever they were, approached her. She said something to them in a language that I couldn’t understand, then then gave each of them a small vial. Each elf immediately opened the vial and frantically drank the contents. Shortly thereafter, the elf appeared to enter a state of extreme euphoria, as if whatever were in the vial was the elixir of life itself.

At one point, the queen appeared to admonish one of the elves, and refused to give it a vial. The elf became panicked and distraught, and seemed to plead with the queen to change her mind. When it became obvious that the queen would not change her mind, this unfortunate elf collapsed to the floor, writhing and screaming. The rest of the creatures ignored it, and seemed focused only on obtaining their own share of whatever substance the queen was handing out.

Sensing an opportunity to make a significant discovery, I decided to take a risk and get in line with the rest of the creatures. Within a few minutes, I was standing in front of the Queen of Pumpkin Spice herself. Without so much as a second glance, she handed me a vial. I carefully opened it, and the smell was familiar. I carefully put the tiniest drop on the tip of my finger and touched it to my tongue. With the intensity of a bolt of lightning, all of my senses were overpowered with the essence of pumpkin spice: I tasted pumpkin spice, I smelled pumpkin spice, I felt pumpkin spice, I saw pumpkin spice, I heard pumpkin spice. For a brief moment, I think I actually was pumpkin spice.

I immediately realized what was going on. These creatures, whatever they were, were completely addicted to pumpkin spice. It seems likely that they are born that way. This gives the Queen of Pumpkin Spice a virtual army of laborers who will do her bidding without question in exchange for a concentrated sample of the very product they work to produce. Whatever she is, and whatever they are, they seem to have a relationship somewhere between symbiosis and slavery. The elves make the spice, she keeps them docile by giving them some of it, and then she sells the rest to the pumpkin-addled public. I never did figure out what she gets from this arrangement. Maybe she just thrives on the sense of power, or maybe there is some even more powerful spice that she is working to attain.

After all I’d witnessed, I felt it best to make a quiet retreat before I was noticed. I slipped out the same way I’d come in, and tried not to let anyone see the look of horror on my face. One thing is certain: this operation, as efficient as it was, could not possibly supply all of the world’s pumpkin spice. There have to be others like it, with their own nightmarish crews and their own nightmarish queens. So next time you see a store that’s been inexplicably boarded up, or part of a building that is suddenly and permanently closed, you can remind yourself that there is probably a perfectly reasonable explanation for it. It’s probably not filled with rumbling machines, bubbling vats, and enormous pipes. There probably aren’t any strange creatures shuffling around inside, desperately hoping to earn the approval of their hideous queen. Just tell yourself that it’s probably not a pumpkin spice factory. It’s probably not a pumpkin spice factory. It’s probably not a pumpkin spice factory…

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