Welcome to Top 5 Fun Friday, a regularly-occurring blog feature where I give you a list of extremely specific pointless shit from my life no one asked for. Why? Because the internet is STILL incredibly un-fun in 2021 and I enjoy blogging. It’s Friday and these will be fun! This week’s list…
Top 5 Regular Ass Mainstream Food Brands I Enjoy (or Outright Prefer!)
One underrated aspect of the craft beer revolution is that it has improved travel. Trust me, over the last decade-plus that I’ve been hunting around for new and interesting beers, I’ve realized that craft beer functions as a great travel hook. Breweries used to find downtrodden parts of town, set up shop, and then watch the neighborhood change around them like some sort of mutant X-Men power. Breweries begat better restaurants, interesting shops, and an entire neighborhood makeover. With respect to gentrification, one could argue that breweries do bear some responsibility for the displacement of legacy neighbors, but considering this is not the opinion page of your local birdcage liner, I’ll leave that be for now.
But there comes a point where you become numb to all that endless tinkering and just want something tried and true. While in Portland recently, I was at a renowned brewery and got a sample tray of their offerings. Most of them were West Coast IPAs, which is what Portland is largely known for. As I made my way through the lineup, I realized I couldn’t tell the difference between most of these beers. They all had a familiar-tasting, B+ sameness to them, much like the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If I can’t tell the fucking difference between these, why am I paying top dollar for them when I could just get a Dale’s Pale Ale and be happy?
And some things just don’t need any improvement. Some problems have been solved. Whether you agree with that or not is certainly up to you on a case-by-case basis, but when a giant corporation makes something that tastes great, is widely available, and is cheap as shit, that’s a victory, right? My dad’s favorite whiskey is Maker’s Mark, and in some ways I’m jealous of that. That part of his life is no longer wanting. He’s found what he likes, it’s available pretty much anywhere booze is sold, and he drinks the shit out of it. Good for him!
So, since Fall is generally Basic Bitch Season, let me take off my pretentious mask and reveal some regular ass stuff that I positively adore.
Since we’re talking beer, might as well go whole hog here. I fucking love Coors Light, and I have probably drank more of this by volume than any other beer, by far. Second place might still be Keystone Light considering the horrifying amount of that I drank in college, but whatever. First place is Coors Light, and it’s not close.
I’m from Golden, CO, so this is, and always will be, my #1. I’m a homer. Maybe yours is Bud Light. Maybe it’s PBR (hi hipster!). Maybe you’re from the Upper Midwest, so it’s Miller Lite. The point is, sometimes you just want a beer without any pretense. And if you’re reaching for this, chances are excellent 5-10 more are following it. I’ll drink a Bud Light if that’s what’s around, but from a purely objective standpoint, Bud Light sucks big, fat rhinoceros penis compared to Coors Light. #facts
Coors Light tastes like beer without being needy about it. Craft beers demand that you acknowledge them at all times by lingering on your palate for what feels like forever and making you feel like Augustus Gloop for how goddamn bloated you become. I can drink a 12 oz Coors Light in what feels like 45 seconds simply because it’s that smooth, that refreshing, and that cold.
Before the craft beer revolution was so far up its own ass with pastry stouts, wild yeasts, and goofy experimental hop nonsense – think back to when an “amber” was considered an exotic style – I heard Jim Koch of Samuel Adams sing the praises of light macro lagers. He said, the amount of QA/QC these breweries have to do is staggering and worthy of high esteem. A Coors Light ALWAYS tastes like a Coors Light no matter where you get it. That’s sometimes deeply reassuring.
I’ve quoted this before, but it’s especially pertinent here, so let’s throw it to Albert Burneko talking about ketchup one more time:
The problem with condiments is that even if they’re theoretically intended to enhance or complement the flavors of a given dish, too often they just swamp those other flavors instead. Take, for example, ketchup, the iconic condiment: It doesn’t taste bad (and anyone who tells you it does is more interested in claiming cultural high ground than in telling the truth), so much as it tastes a lot. Vinegar and sugar and salt and tomato, all in wild abundance: You add it to anything more complex and subtly flavored than a friggin’ French fry, and all you get is the taste of ketchup, and the horror of being set upon by 9,000 enraged, shrimp-fork-wielding foodie nitwits hell-bent upon achieving your grisly demise.
You’d think for something that, I dunno, noisy, you’d be able to fuck with it quite a bit and still have it be good. And most of the time it’s fine, but seriously, when it’s not Heinz, you notice, right? Heinz apparently has that vinegar/sugar/salt/tomato ratio exactly right and anyone else who attempts it seems to fall into that uncanny valley of flavor that’s not, like, bad, but distracting. And I don’t want to spend any time THINKING about my ketchup when all I want is that perfect glob to dunk my fuckin’ tots in.
I’d be remiss here if I didn’t give a shout to local company Elevation Ketchup that makes a Vindaloo Ketchup that’s exquisite. I didn’t know I needed a ketchup with an Indian flair to it until I bought bottle after bottle of this. I once met the creator of this wonderful product and asked him what he recommends this product be paired with. He said, “Look, if I’m being honest, if I’m at home I’m probably just eating this with tortilla chips.” I like this man. And I’d like to hang out with this man eating his vindaloo ketchup with tortilla chips. That sounds like a lovely, if a bit off-kilter, evening.
Jif peanut butter
I’m a peanut butter freak. It’s probably my favorite flavor on earth. If a dessert has peanut butter in it, I’m drawn to it and will probably order it (if I’m getting a dessert at all, which is rare). Peanut butter goes brilliantly with chocolate, on sandwiches, in cookies, on crackers, on or in pretzels. It spends too much time with banana, but that’s my problem not yours. It’s the rare treat that goes well with both salty and sweet because it is itself both salty and sweet. I’m like the reverse of that Green Eggs & Ham guy when it comes to peanut butter because I’ll eat it just about anywhere with just about anything.
So it may sound weird when I say this, but all artisan peanut butter is pure ass. It’s fucking terrible! I cannot tell you how disappointing it is when I’m at someone’s house and let’s say we’re making sandwiches for the kids. I ask where the peanut butter is, and they tell me it’s in the door of the fridge.
That means not only is the flavor ratio going to be all fucked up, but the peanut butter is going to be cold which makes it impossible to spread, and there’s going to be a disgusting layer of oil floating on top like I’m opening a pack of sardines or some shit. Then I’m going to have to stir it back into the cold, rock hard, gelatinous peanut cement underneath to try get this shit back to a workable texture. It’s all wildly unpleasant, and I don’t know why people put themselves through this when Jif is RIGHT THERE.
Skippy is fine. Peter Pan is also fine. Really, anything that doesn’t have a label that uses wimpy, rounded ass fonts and some bullshit pastel color palette is the way to go here. And Jif is the fucking king, man. The texture is always perfect, the flavor and aroma are both very peanut-forward (it feels weird to type that when I’m talking about PEANUT butter, but you get it) and pleasantly sweet. And you keep it in the pantry where it belongs, not next to the damn salad dressings, which, it bears mention, are the other condiments where the oil separates and floats to the top. Fire all artisan peanut butter into the sun.
Regular ass store-brand American cheese
Before you get ahead of me, I’m horny for all cheese. Cheese is amazing. Cheese and crackers can (and should!) be a perfectly acceptable dinner pretty much any night of the week. I will linger over flavor notes in cheese like some Paul Giamatti in Sideways pretentious asswipe clone any old time you like it. Give me all the cheese!
And that includes the American cheese singles you buy in packs of 24 at the grocery store for like $2.50. This stuff gets a bad rap and I don’t understand why. Sometimes I just fold these slices into fourths, and then put them on Club crackers for a nice little afternoon snack as if I’m still 7 years old. Hell, sometimes I’ll smear a little Jif on the cracker, then layer the cheese slice on top. That’s three ingredients and some assembly. Hell, that’s cookin’!
American cheese makes for the best homemade grilled cheese sandwiches and burgers. Sometimes in college I would cut them into strips and layer the pieces on top of hot dogs that I’d cook on my George Foreman grill, which was goddamn amazing and I’m now annoyed I haven’t done that since because I just thought of it. It’s cheese in its most accessible form, and I appreciate that lack of pretense.
Mainstream Halloween candy
With a month to go before my favorite holiday, consider this a public service announcement. No one is interested in either your off-brand, bargain basement garbage or your hoity-toity artisan confectioner bullshit. Halloween is the province of the conglomerates! It’s the time of year when I shovel Peanut M&M’s into my gaping maw. When Kit Kats, Twix, Snickers, Reese’s and those tiny, brittle, glorious Heath bars take center stage and delight. This is the time of year to indulge your inner 10 year-old and remember when eating candy was a treat, not a fucking black mark on your health.
Growing up I lived down the street from a guy who worked for Brach’s. Wait. Brach’s? Like the same war criminals who foist candy corn onto an unwitting public every single year? The very same! The company with that unmistakable alternating pink and purple squares logo is the one you associate with old people’s candy dishes in a house that smells weird. Anyway, I always knew to avoid that house while trick-or-treating because even though he and his wife were very nice, they’d always load up my bag with whatever anachronistically-flavored, oddly-textured monstrosity he’d bring home from the head office. And that’s not what you want. No one does!
I suspect of everything on this list, the Halloween candy argument is my easiest sell. Because who doesn’t enjoy a nice handful of Skittles from time to time? Would you rather have that, or whatever the fuck these were supposed to be? Shudder.
If you’re handing out anything other than mainstream candy, take whatever you bought, throw it in the fireplace, and start over. If you’re the house that hands out crayons, oral care products, or miniature copies of the New Testament, just turn off your lights and go away. No one needs your energy here. This is basic bitch season! And all these Han Solos agree with me.