Due to popular demand and the fact that we love trying weird foods and candies, The A.V. Club will now regularly feature "Taste Tests." Feel free to suggest disgusting and/or delicious new edibles for future installments: E-mail us at email@example.com.
B&M; Bread In A Can, Red Feather Brand Processed Cheese In A Can, Pickled Sausage
I'm going to start this Taste Test off with a quote from one of our testers: "Canned bread? What is this, 1945?" I checked, just to be completely sure, and it isn't. And then I asked myself, "Did they can bread in 1945?" Answer: probably not. But it does seem like some sort of World War II food, or at least a Cold War remnant. But as far as I can tell, canned bread hasn't been around that long, and there's only one company (at least in America) that seems to make it: B&M.; (They also make baked beans.) I'd heard of it vaguely, but forgotten it existed until we got two e-mails, practically back-to-back, from readers—thanks, Spencer and Matt—who wanted us to order some. So we did, from a site called Mainegoodies.com. Apparently people from Maine like canned bread.
But is canned bread alone enough? Probably not. I already had a can of processed cheese on my desk from reader Rick, the same kind soul who sent us the horrible canned bacon we ate (or picked at) two weeks ago. And while browsing the Maine Goodies website, I happened across a disgusting-looking jar of pickled sausage and figured "There's a party tray. Bread, cheese, and sausage. Why not?"
In case the pictures don't represent well enough, I'll mention that the bread can was pretty small, like three stacked tuna cans. The cheese was essentially the same size as a tuna can, and has a pretty amazing looking vintage label. I'm guessing they haven't changed it in however long they've been making processed cheese in a can. But this isn't a history lesson, this is a motherfucking Taste Test.
The taste: In short: The bread was almost universally reviled, but tasted considerably better when heated, and the cheese met with halfway-decent shrugs when cold, and revulsion when heated. Before further tasting notes, though, let's talk a little more about the consistency. The bread is heavy. Very, very heavy. The net weight is a pound, and considering it's about a quarter the size of a standard loaf of bread, you can imagine the density. It slid out of the can complete with can marks on it, like when you remove refried beans from a can.
Opening the cheese can inspired audible gasps, because it was sort of wet-looking, and much more solid than any of us had predicted. And white. We were thinking yellow. That tiny can boasts eight ounces of cheese, so you can imagine the density there, too.
Finally, the sausage, which looked like a weird lab experiment, with chunky, fatty sausage (beef, pork, and chicken—in case you want to eat the entire animal kingdom in one bite) floating around with big chunks of garlic. I actually had medium-sized hopes for the sausage, because sausage is good, and pickling things—adding tons more salt—only makes them better. But it was pretty disappointing, particularly the consistency, which we should've figured would be mushy. Mushy, mushy, mushy. Like crappy hot dogs soaked in brine. The garlic and vinegar tastes were so strong that it didn't really matter if the meat was tasty. Who could tell?
The bread fared just slightly better, probably because—shock coming up—it's pretty natural. Ingredients: water, whole-wheat flour, molasses, dextrose, rye flour, whey, degerminated yellow corn meal, baking soda, buttermilk, salt. That said, it was very dark and bitter—especially considering each serving contains 15g of sugar. Nobody liked it straight out of the can very much, either the regular or raisin varieties. But once we heated it up a bit in the toaster oven, it got more palatable. Not as good as pretty much any kind of fresh or bagged bread you'll ever eat, but palatable. Is it good for camping trips? I dunno. I'd just get a loaf of Brownberry myself—that shit lasts for a week anyway. And preservatives taste awesome.
The cheese greeted heat the opposite way. Cold, straight out of the can, it wasn't bad—it pretty much tasted exactly like those little Handi-Snacks cheese-and-cracker packs you got when your mom still loved you. Funny thing about this stuff, too: It's actually cheese, not "cheese food." Funnier thing: It contains butter. Along with some chemicals and shit, too. But when we made the mistake of heating it up… Eww. Not good. You'd think queso, but you'd be wrong. It got ugly very quickly.
In Chang's absence, Genevieve had to play food rebel, so she concocted a sandwich featuring all of today's ingredients. It should come as no surprise that anyone who tried it thought it was just about the worst sandwich they'd ever eaten.
— "Is this more prison food?"
— "The bread smells like wicker."
— "Bran by itself is generally gross, but this tastes like the blandest, crappiest bran muffin ever, crammed into a can. It could be a lot worse, and if I continued after one bite, it would get a lot worse."
— "It tastes exactly like a wicker basket that once housed some raisins."
— "It's like moist, spoiled Raisin Bran."
— "Lots of molasses and lightly sweet. Slightly metallic taste from being cooked and kept in the can."
— "Tastes a little better when warm, but overall, it's like bad gingerbread."
— "Dense. Like slicing up a long hockey puck filled with raisins."
— "It was so dense and brick-like coming out of the can, and a lot more moist than I thought it would be. Not a good sign."
— "Once it's heated up, though, it's not bad at all. More like a really bland muffin than bread."
— "If a nuke went off and I had to live in a bomb shelter subsisting off of this, I could last a couple months, probably."
— "I'm gonna grout my tub with this."
— "As Americans, we can't be mortified by processed cheese, because we fucking invented it. American cheese? Velveeta? That 'cheese' that's in those cheese-and-crackers packs? This tastes like that last one. And because I'm American, I don't find the taste all that bad." [General Patton? Who let you in here?]
— "It tasted a lot like warm Gak if you were to spread Gak over crackers."
— "Not much different taste-wise than most processed cheesestuffs. But the texture isn't as smooth and creamy, it's more crumbly."
— "Not spreadable or sliceable. It will melt, but firms up very quickly. Rubbery texture."
— "Tastes like Velveeta or a very mild cheddar. Dull."
— "Imagine being invited over for cheese and crackers and they pull this out. You'd think you were being punk'd."
— "I can't really figure out what you would use this for: It's not the right consistency for spreading, it gets even worse when it's heated up, and it's not good enough to just eat on its own out of the can. I guess maybe you could cut it up and put it on toothpicks if you were having a white-trash cocktail party, but there's not much use beyond its novelty."
— "The cheese had the texture of an eraser when cold, and then of rubber or some kind of synthetic polymer when heated."
— "Everything about this looks gross, and it pretty much is gross. Chunks of sausage floating in vinegar and garlic? Maybe it'd be good heated, but out of the can, no thanks. And the consistency of the sausage is pretty gross too."
— "Ugh, not good. Very not good."
— "Tastes like an uncooked hot dog that's been sitting in vinegar. The texture is about the same as an uncooked hot dog too, kinda slimy yet firm. No, just bad. Bad."
— "It might be better warmed up, but then I'd have to eat more of it to find out, so I'll never know."
— "I've always been wary about eating cold meat from brine, and this confirms my suspicions."
— "If I didn't know this was sausage, I doubt I would have guessed it was a meat product. More like a sponge soaked in vinegar."
— "One bite and I wished I had never been born."
Where to find them: Where we did, at Mainegoodies.com. Though none of these things really count as "goodies."