So as a matter of full disclosure, I know that only 2% of you are at all interested in reading about a Kid Cuisine microwave dinner — even if is Halloween themed. Still, I do the Halloween Countdown as much for me as for you, and I cannot tell a lie: I’m super excited about this.
Even if I don’t eat Kid Cuisines, I’m such a fan of the concept. If I was the right age, and if my parents had loose rules on what I was allowed to swallow, I’d be all over them. They aren’t fundamentally different from what people imagine as a classic “TV dinner,” but with clever food shapes, colorful boxes and a long string of ties to kid-targeted movies and TV shows, Kid Cuisine lives up to its name.
I first noticed the Halloween editions back in 2003, and have been tracking them ever since. ConAgra doesn’t make them every year (the last time I saw them was in 2011), but whenever they do pop up, I can’t resist buying one. Maybe I wouldn’t if I didn’t have a dumb blog to showcase them on, but hey, that’s why I run Dinosaur Dracula. It’s my excuse to enjoy things that aren’t meant for me.
This year’s Halloween Kid Cuisine repeats many of the same elements from prior versions, but the box is brand new, and it’s a doozy. KC Penguin dressing like a monster is par for the course, but this time, he glows in the dark! Hold the box under a light for a minute or two, hit the switch, and bask in the faint glow of a vaguely identifiable penguin head!
Even if you’re not on board with Kid Cuisine, you have to admit that it wins tons of absurdity points. When the easiest way to describe something is “bat-shaped chicken in a box with a glow-in-the-dark penguin on it,” you know you’re dealing with the work of absolute madmen. If you formerly pictured ConAgra’s headquarters as a sterile, chalk white factory, now you have to picture it as haunted castle with an incongruously cute penguin flag on top.
Admittedly, the meals look pretty gloppy in the provided containers. Even untouched, they somehow look like they’ve already been eaten. Let us rid ourselves of this messiness.
There. That’s better. Now it at least looks like something you might get from the kid’s menu at a two-star hotel twelve miles from Disney World. It also looks a bit like a ladybug.
The food in a Kid Cuisine meal is… about what you’d expect it to be. Somewhere between prison food and a Hungry Man. It’s all perfectly edible, but I would totally understand ConAgra’s hesitance to quote me on that.
Bat-Shaped Chicken Nuggets: According to the box, I should’ve gotten two bats and one pumpkin. I don’t know if I should feel robbed or charmed.
I have enough vegetarian friends to feel a bit guilty whenever I write about meat, but those feelings really peak when I’m dealing with meat that’s been shaped to represent other animals. Still, viewing this through the lens of an seven-year-old, there are few Halloween thrills bigger than bat-shaped chicken nuggets.
Corn and Mac & Cheese: A small helping of macaroni and cheese is dwarfed by twice as much corn. This reduces things by a full letter grade, I’m afraid. I’m not a fan of corn in general, but it’s especially true when we’re dealing with corn that’s been cooked, frozen, thawed, refrozen and nuked. At that point, I’m not sure if it’s fair to still call it corn. “Once Corn” is more befitting.
For purposes of a Halloween-themed Kid Cuisine, I would also accept “Zombie Corn.”
“Creepies” Fruit Snacks: Even normal Kid Cuisines have fruit snacks shaped like bugs, so it’s no surprise that they went eerie for Halloween. I can’t make out every shape, but I definitely see lizards, rats, and what’s either a grasshopper or a troubled penis. Spiders, too!
The fruit snacks are where Kid Cuisines really shine. You’ll be surprised at how much better fruit snacks are when you eat them frozen. The flavors become more pronounced, and they’re more chewy than gooey.
The back of the box features this fun pumpkin game, where you’re supposed to find the three identical pumpkins. I solved it in two seconds flat. You can spell “genius” without a single letter from “Matt,” and that sucks.
Now I have to figure out who I’m pitching these to. I guess potential customers would fall under three categories:
1) People like me, who aren’t necessarily fans of weird microwave meals meant for children, but who respect the Halloween connection enough to say “fuck it.” I mean, if the appeal of Halloween partly lies in our ability to act like kids again, this is a pretty on-point way to do that.
2) People with appropriately-aged children. Even if you keep an eye on what they eat, I imagine that you let things slide a couple of times a month. I’d call a “Halloween TV dinner” a good reason to look the other way.
3) Hungry psychopaths.
Thanks for indulging me by reading about Halloween Kid Cuisine. This was one I just had to write.