The Rank: Christmas Confections

December 23, 2007

Holidays are a wonderful time of the year, and it’s not only because of the general feeling of peace, goodwill, and harmony that is always present with the holidays. It’s also because, just like your birthday and Fridays, Christmas is as good an excuse as any to gorge yourself with ridiculous foods you’d pretend to not want to be caught eating the remainder of the year.

Sometimes, though, you have to take the good with the bad, and that’s sometimes hard to figure out. So here’s a convenient ranking of the standard holiday desserts and candy that you may find presented to yourself this holiday season.

7. Figgy Pudding: Ick. Seriously, who eats this, besides the British, who, not having a world empire to oversee anymore, love to pass the time away thinking up disgusting things to do with otherwise perfectly serviceable secondary foods? I mean, OK, figs aren’t exactly bar food, but there’s nothing wrong that 6,000 years of Middle Eastern horticulture can’t sort out on its own. But boiling the things and thickening the soupy remains and throwing some green sprinkles on it doesn’t exactly evoke the spirit of Christmas. It mostly evokes milk of magnesia.

6. Gingerbread House: I’m not a real big fan of food you have to work to eat, and the real rip-off for the gingerbread house is usually its construction requires ample supplies of superglue and macramé, products that have been scientifically proven to be less than disagreeable to the digestion. So I say, what’s the point? If I wanted to stare at delicious-looking food that I would never dream of eating, I’d go to Denny’s.

5. Candy Canes: I hate candy canes. Well, that’s a lie. There’s nothing wrong with candy canes that giving them to someone else as a Christmas “present” can’t fix. I’m not sure why I dislike them so much, either. I don’t dislike peppermint. I guess it’s the fact that there’s SO much sugar and peppermint to get through that by the time I’m done I want to brush my teeth with roughage. Also, it’s one of the few candies that is designed better for hanging on coat racks or swinging around on your finger than actually placing in your mouth to eat. Occasionally some company will try to make them fruityish-flavored, which is kind of like reupholstering a Schwinn and selling it as a Chevy Impala.

4. Eggnog: I don’t get most dairy drinks beyond milk, which at this point appears to simply be a nice, cold refreshing glass of BGH. I guess I’m skittish about eggs, since my psyche has developed an unhealthy paranoia about them in that I assume all eggs are raw and contaminated with salmonella unless I personally carry the egg from the hen’s butt to the frying pan. So I simply have to assume I’m drinking pure bacteria when eggnog enters my mouth. That said, the real selling point of eggnog is yet another excuse for adults to get drunk and hit on third cousins, since drinking half a bottle of Blue Label by yourself makes you an alcoholic, but drinking a dozen mugs of cognac-laced eggnog makes you the embodiment of the Christmas season. Salut!

3. Ribbon Candy: I’m not positive this is strictly speaking a holiday candy, but I seem to see it with increasing frequency during Christmastime. Basically, the evolution of mankind has somehow figured out that the shape of the candy cane is inconvenient for easy consumption, so it’s best to chop it up in little pieces and serve it that way, so instead of being a ridiculously-shaped moderately-pleasing candy, it’s simply a moderately-pleasing candy.

2. Candy That Is Exactly The Same As Regular Candy Only In A Green And Red Wrapper: Got to give it to the marketers on this one. It’s not a Three Musketeers; it’s a Christmas Three Musketeers, because the wrapper has a bit of holly in the corner. Mark that puppy up about fifteen percent. Still one can’t complain too much, since after Christmas, the exact same candy bar is now worth about a quarter of the market price. You’re finally gonna get sold, Christmas Necco Wafers!

1. Christmas Cookies: You really can’t beat a standard rack of nice, warm Christmas cookies. Thankfully, this is a pretty broad category, and it covered everything from chocolate chip cookies to Oreo cookies dipped in fudge to sugar cookies with cleverly colored sugar cubes on it to a large assortment of ethically-originated cookies that is simply every culture’s way of shoving sugar and excess flour into our mouths. And I can’t think of a better representation of the harmonious Christmas spirit than that.

Knowing when to deny yourself some horrific snack no one really wants to eat but everyone does because it’s the “holidays” will discourage those destroyers of holiday cheer from making it next time, making Christmas more pleasant for everyone. If we’re successful with that, next year we’ll work on carolers and Christmas cards.

The Rank: Non-Carbonated Beverages

October 24, 2007

Anyone who has the misfortune of knowing me personally knows that if there is one thing in this world I can’t live without, it’s women who have no qualms about displaying cleavage. But if there’s anything else besides that, it’s pop, of which, I swear, I drink easily six hundred gallons of Diet Pepsi a day. Some day on the autopsy table they’ll crack me open and look at the inside of my stomach, and it’s going to look like the carcass from Alien before Sigourney Weaver tossed a mortar shell in there. That was Alien, right?

Anyway, I decided to take a long look at any drinks available for me that are not of the carbonated nature since some day when I actually go to a doctor and he tells me that I either give up soda pop or die, I will have an alternative than waking up one day with my insides hollowed out.

7. Sweet Tea
The cause celebre of the south—you know, besides Nascar and slavery—is sweet tea, a cheaply made beverage that overly defensive southerners will proclaim to the heavens above to be the single greatest drink ever concocted. The one and only time I ever drank sweet tea I immediately deduced its secret recipe: 1) one part non-fluoridated water (don’t want to be a communist, now); and 2) about six billion parts raw sugar. I’m not a big tea drinker myself—I still want to show those limeys a thing or two—so perhaps it’s an acquired taste that is lost on me. Though I doubt it; I just think most southerners need something strong to wash the taste of Vicksburg out of their mouth.

6. Off-Brand Energy Drink
I’ve already detailed my adventures with Red Bull elsewhere, so in the interest of product diversity (and not paying two bucks for sugar water with ginseng) I have sampled a rather large variety of different energy drinks, all with completely insane names that have little to do with the beverage industry, the ingredients, or, for that matter, anything about energy at all. I’m not a fan, since the stuff tastes like I’m drinking liquid aluminum and as I’m drinking it I can actually feel my prostate expanding to the size of a cantaloupe.

5. Pink Lemonade
This actually includes all those –ades that don’t actually, you know, exist. Things like limeade and orangeade (which I kind of assumed was, you know, orange juice, but I was wrong, so terribly, terribly wrong…) and other artificially created drinks. I also include the incredibly odd Gatorade, which for all its bravado of being the ultimate sports drink is able to replace electrolytes and whatever nonsense it is athletes think it is they need is actually just salt and table sugar and some five year old thinking up a variety of names that vaguely sound like activity-related concepts even though they all pretty much taste like watered-down Hawaiian Punch.

4. Vitamin Water
Seriously. Everything that Gatorade is, vitamin water is even less off. Unless the “less of” ingredient is “water,” which there’s a lot more of. I’m not sure if they just make Citrus Flash Gatorade then dump about a thousand gallons of water in the vat then sell it, or if they just get a thousand-gallon vat and dump one bottle of Citrus Flash Gatorade in there. Either way, they’re making a ton of money labeling tap water with a slight taste of whatever was in the cup last and a dissolvable Centrum AD to pass the FCC’s rigorous labeling regulations.

3. Little Hugs
I know different parts of the country call these things by different names, but their content is unmistakable. The recipe is as follows:
1) Get some sugar
2) Pour this sugar in a plastic jug shaped like a barrel
3) Throw some food coloring in there
4) Add varying amounts of water, so the consumer is either going to get colored water with no taste, or thick raw syrup that suspends dramatically in a nearly solid form as it slowly drips into their mouth
5) Slap labels on them with different “flavors.” This is for cosmetic purposes only.

Seriously, the variation on these things is crazy, and it’s like the world’s most diabetic lottery.

2. Sarsaparilla
For some unknown reason I always thought sarsaparilla was a product of our Southern neighbors. I’m not certain why; probably some long-forgotten association with mint juleps and cotillions. Imagine my surprise when I find that the glorious refreshment known as sarsaparilla was actually a thoroughly WASPish concoction, meandering from the historical blue-blood neighborhoods of the mid-Atlantic all the way to the western part of the mid-Atlantic area. Basically, it’s root beer for those who want to stand on street corners playing checkers in a barrel of horehound bulk candy with elderly men and feel it necessary to radiate a self-assured sense of pretension. Still, it’s good.

It’s also carbonated, which should disqualify it for this list, but I forgot, so it stays.

1. Coffee That Is Actually Candy
I’m looking at you, marble mocha macchiato with coconut shavings and low fat soy milk. Why low fat? Seriously, why bother? There are more calories in that “coffee” than the entire defined jurisdiction of Hershey, PA, and you’re suddenly worried about fourteen seconds into placing that order that maybe you shouldn’t be depriving some Zambian kid of an additional two months of survival just so you can drink something that is maybe 10% better than that packet of freeze dried Chase & Sanborn that fell behind your basement cupboard during your bicentennial celebrations. But at least you’re paying the average GDP per person for it, so that makes you feel oh so much better, no?

The Rank: The Seven Deadly Sins

August 24, 2007

As anyone who has watched Se7en, or perhaps went to church, knows, there are seven deadly sins that one must avoid if one is hoping to be invited into the everlasting celestial paradise: ten cent wing day at Matty McDrunk’s down on Seventh Street. But, hey, apparently sin is fun, and capitalized Sin is even more fun, especially when it’s been detailed for you in advance. It’s the functional equivalent of the Polar Bear Syndrome. The Polar Bear Syndrome is a condition discovered by child psychologists that I just made up in my head that states that if you tell a child to not do something, they will immediately put forth as much effort as possible to do exactly that. For instance, if you tell a child to not punch a polar bear in the face, you can bet the college fund you’ll no longer need that your child will go out of their way, regardless of what hemisphere you live in, to do everything possible to find a polar bear to punch in the face. It’s the same way with sin, only instead of a reprimand from the zookeeper you go to hell.

Anyway, here’s a ranking of the sins, in ascending order:

7. Envy
It’s a sin to want what other people have. But in America, that’s hardly a sin, because anything anyone else has is pretty much already available at any local department store. It’s hard to be jealous of a neighbor’s new Weber gas grill when Wal Mart has a new shipment steaming over from China only a few days away. Sure, you can envy non-material things, such as your neighbor’s wife, but she’s actually available at retail price as well. (I asked.) A pretty weak sin, as they go.

6. Pride
Some people enjoy flaunting their sins. They shouldn’t be. It’s great to be proud of your achievements, but it’s another to rub those achievements into the ground-up remains of your peer’s shattered self-esteem, especially after showing off your awesome beach volleyball skills. Most people take their killer salary, their dashing husband and/or tasty girlfriend, or their grandiosely expensive car and parade it about like your trophy wife’s cleavage, but most modest folks don’t care quite as much as you think. Me, my proudest, and calculably, my only, achievement in life is the time I sat through an entire episode of Gilmore Girls without vomiting in my mouth. But I don’t brag about it.

5. Gluttony
I don’t like this sin because it hits too close to home. I’m no glutton, mind you; my intake is reasonably mild unless there are chicken wings somehow involved. Or steak pizza. Or just steak. Or Strawberry Quik. Or grilled bratwursts. Or pork chops at the buffet. Or thresherman style turkey. Or garlic and parmesan pita chips. Or pistachio flavored ice cream. Or peanut butter pie. Or frozen chocolate covered bananas. Or ham and cheese Hot Pockets. Hey, is anyone running to Chik-Fil-A anytime soon?

4. Sloth
Sloth is the lazy man’s sin. It’s the only sin that you commit by not doing anything, and to me that’s just wrong. Sinfully wrong. And that’s just not right.

3. Wrath
Me, personally, I don’t get wrath. I like to keep my rage bottled up inside, along with all my other emotions, and take it out on appropriate object at the proper time, such as opening a bag of garlic parmesan pita chips or watching the Detroit Red Wings. But a lot of people engage in almost glorious amounts of wrath, during particularly interesting times, including but not limited to: driving, pickup basketball games, playing Final Fantasy VII, hooking the satellite dish up to both the VCR and the television and the stereo system so it actually works right, deciding supreme court cases, resolving martial difficulties, using the Microsoft Help Feature, paying protection money, and Fallujah. Some people manifest their anger into productive activities, but most people just hit stuff, and I just can’t not endorse hitting stuff. Who could it possibly hurt?

2. Lust
Lust is certainly one of the coolest sins. Well, rather, acting on lust is, but it’s a temporary benefit (like, fourty-five seconds, if you do it right) for a long-term detriment. If you succumb to the desires of your lustful thoughts, sure, it’s exhilarating, but then you also run the risk of any number of drawbacks. You may get some form of chronic disease that, depending on what war you fought in, will be a burden to your loved ones for the rest of your life or every time your prescription runs out. You may get someone/become pregnant, which introduces no end of moral issues into your life. Or, worst of all, you may find yourself in a relationship, a self-destructive, soul-draining endeavor that will no doubt be a terrifying experience for everyone involved when it comes time to end it. Still, it’s a fun forty-five seconds, isn’t it? Totally worth it, especially if they do that thing with their tongue.

1. Greed
C’mon, now. Greed is the best sin of all. And why not? Everybody wants everything, and there’s no harm in trying. Greed doesn’t imply theft, but, rather, a unrepentant desire to change your priorities from, say, caring for your child or remembering such mundane things as your wife’s birthday or your father’s insulin to acquiring real estate property in a timely and lucrative manner. Seriously, greed is the sin that makes the wheels of life progress without grinding down to an elaborately unprofitable stop. With the other deadly sins, you enjoy yourself for a bit but are left with an empty soul filled with self-doubt and regret. With greed, you’re still full of self-doubt and regret, but at least you also get stuff. And that’s a vice I can learn to convince myself is a virtue.