The Christmas/holiday season never beats Halloween on the candy front, but you still get plenty of reasons to jump for junk food joy and gain forty pounds.
Judging by what I’ve seen so far, the 2016 season brings an unusually robust assortment, with all manner of chips and chocolates competing for my debit swipes. If you’re into this sort of thing, below are five foods to keep an eye out for!
Christmas Crunch Cereal!
Ahh, they finally updated the box! This is huge!
Christmas Crunch fans openly pleaded with Quaker to ditch the previous box design, not because it was bad, but because they’d used it for four straight years. Christmas Crunch is one of the season’s tastiest traditions, yes, but it was hard to act like buying the exact same cereal in the exact same box was just as exciting after the fourth consecutive year.
It’s why General Mills makes such a big deal about their annually-changing Monster Cereal box designs. Even if they do occasionally misfire (and I concede that this year’s “election” theme was in retrospect a big wah-wahh), those cereals would never maintain their online buzz without the yearly art swaps.
So thanks for takin’ care of business, Quaker. The new-for-2016 design has some detractors, but I friggin’ LOVE it. With Cap’n Crunch subtly evoking Clark Griswold, it’s a merry mess of snow and string lights. I like how it blends in-your-face Christmas imagery with that “nondenominationally icy” stuff. Mixing the two is a way cool look.
Cheetos White Cheddar Snowflakes!
I gotta give Frito-Lay credit. Holiday-themed Cheetos never sounds like an organic fit, but they’ve managed to do it half a bazillion times.
White Cheddar Snowflakes is just the latest in a long string of wintry Cheetos, mixing four shapes that are supposed to resemble snowflakes, but really look like:
Shape #1: Atom symbol, but drawn by someone who only half-remembered what it looked like.
Shape #2: Sudowoodo.
Shape #3: Okay, this one really does look like a snowflake.
Shape #4: Fried calamari, but I mean before it gets fried.
…and that may sound junky, but I’d rather have a bunch of body parts from Milton Bradley’s Operation than just snowflakes. I’m cool with this!
GRADE: B. I admit that in terms of taste and mouthfeel, these are hardly worth blowing your “Cheetos-Level Bad” food card on. Points for trying, and the concept alone is worth a “B,” but I can’t pretend that they do as much for my stomach as my Instagram feed.
Drake’s Yule Log Rolls!
I’ve never been clear on whether Drake’s is regional or not, so just in case, you can consider them the Burger King to Hostess’s McDonald’s.
This one is a home run, and possibly the biggest junk food surprise of the 2016 holiday season. I never would’ve predicted Drake’s Cakes to release one of Christmas’s edible all-stars, but here I am, hypnotized by the swirling creme and ready to write sleigh-themed sonnets.
These Yule Log Rolls are the Super Shredder versions of Yodels, layering chocolate on top of chocolate like bricks from some bizarre Candy Land adaptation of ancient Egypt. I don’t know.
Topped with Christmassy sprinkles and very peculiarly based on firewood, I’m just so completely impressed by these. They’re wacky yet wholesome, gaudy but restrained, and let’s assume at least two more things that contradict one another.
GRADE: A+. I appreciate Yule Log Rolls as screwball art, but I can also see them actually being on the table when we finish dinner on Christmas Eve. You just raised your street cred, Drake.
(Btw, are you a duck or a swan?)
Chocolate Candy Cane & Pretzel Goldfish!
Naaaah. These don’t work for me. For one thing, I’m not a big fan of mixing pretzels with chocolate. I don’t find it revolting, but I cannot imagine a scenario wherein I’d prefer to eat them both together as opposed to one at a time. Like let me finish this salty mess and then you’ll be my chaser, chocolate. On a different day, maybe I’ll switch things up and have breakfast for dinner. I need those options.
Even allowing that that’s more a personal preference than an admissible critique, I also don’t find this to be a particularly attractive snack. That counts for a lot, and of course it does, because why else would dog treats bait us by resembling dollhouse-scale steaks?
The dust from the chocolate pieces peppers the pretzel pieces, and please pay me props for presenting this amount of P’s in one puny paragraph. The ashy mess looks like a graveyard for Goldfish crackers, and I for one could not possibly perceive the potential for positives when I’m peepin’ a pile of Pepperidge Farm cat litter.
GRADE: B-. It’s aesthetically iffy, but the mix does taste good.
Utz Holiday-Shaped Pretzels!
It’s nothing new and nothing dramatically “special,” but I’m fine with that. I’ve come to count on holiday-shaped pretzels as the purest of all Christmas junk foods, and any time you can buy a ticket to innocence just by eating pretzels, you gotta get in on it.
I believe Utz is regional, but you can buy similar pretzels from many companies. If you want to go full retro, nuke a slab of cheddar cheese as a dipping sauce, but pretend it’s legit fondue. And then go to sleep vowing that the subsequent day will mark a new beginning, because you need to stop living like this. God!
GRADE: B+. Picture a healthy bee with two stingers.
PS: Last call for Dino Drac’s November Funpack! Thanks to all subscribers, old and new — you keep the site going!