Courtesy of Burger King
This is a publicity shot. Your mileage may vary.
As a food blogger, I try to avoid the trap of foodie-ism and food snobbery. So okay, I mostly drink craft beer (but it’s so good!), enjoy Instagramming a well-plated meal, and my heart skips a beat when I hear the words “micro greens” but my tastes are, in general, entirely democratic. I’ll never shy away from even the sketchiest food truck or street vendor. Crickets from a food cart? Bring it on. Pickled eggs from a gas station in the middle of nowhere? Why not? In fact, sometimes I wonder that I might enjoy food too much to be a food critic, because it's just all so good!
That being said, let's talk about Burger King’s
latest fast food gimmick, Mac n' Cheetos
. People simply aren't eating as much fast food these days, but the success (and notoriety) of menu items like Taco Bell's Doritos Locos taco
and the chicken-is-the-bun abomination KFC Double Down
have allowed the King, the Clown and the Colonel to continue to grab headlines. Hot dogs
apparently weren't edgy enough for BK; thus, Cheetos-branded fried stuff. I went in excited to sink my teeth into these cheesy food-chimeras, hoping perhaps discover a new, late-night guilty-pleasure snack, an indulgent mess of refined wheat and cheese-like substance.
Like I said, I don’t identify as a food snob, but I'm not a regular at the drive-thru window, either. As a vegetarian, these types of places typically don’t have a lot of options for me, and it can be a hassle to find anything, even salad, that’s not bacon-covered. This is one reason I was so excited to try the Mac N’ Cheetos. They’re vegetarian! They’re cheesy! They’re a combination of two of the world’s most perfect things.carbs and cheese! Odd flavor combinations are often the most delightful, like caviar and white chocolate. These were my caviar and white chocolate, how could something that sounded so strange and wonderful fail?
Upon first glance, I knew I was in for a disappointment. They were not the lurid, orange Cheeto-color that I was expecting, but were instead a dull, greasy brown. Instead of resembling the bright orange faux-cheese chip that we all know and love, they looked more like the droppings of a very, very sick owl. An owl who could stand to get more fiber in their diet, but instead subsists on a diet of overcooked Kraft Dinner and snack chips. They didn’t get any better from there.
There were five tubular servings in the electric orange box, each leaving a greasy stain where it came into contact with its cardboard cage. I bit one in half, expecting to reveal a neat cross-section of neatly packed cheese noodles, but instead uncovered an ungodly mess of molten stuff with the consistency of cheap rubber cement, and a color that I like to think Chester Cheetah would find insulting. The thing is, there was a time in my life where I really enjoyed eating rubber cement. These were different. I did not enjoy these.
Somehow, these things were simultaneously too moist (from the horrifying molten core of cheese-phlegm), yet all too dry from the Cheeto-crust. Food is known to evoke memories and emotions, and the Mac n' Cheetos coating put me in mind of something from last night’s casserole dish that resists the dishwasher’s attempt to purge it, and persists even through soaking and several hand washings.
The flavor and texture lingers in your mouth far longer than one would expect from the five-to-a-box serving size. The macaroni and cheese here tastes like cheap cheesy mac, lacking any hint of the good, comfort food feelings I'd hoped for. It was less "Thanksgiving dinner at grandmother's house" and more "pathetic college dinner infused with the smell of a microwave-melted plastic dinner tray." The aftertaste was exactly like having my mouth haunted by the flatulent ghost of a jar of off-brand Cheese Wiz.
The utter disappointment of this noble experiment reminded me of introducing two people you consider best friends and having them hate each other. I so wanted them to coexist as part of something special the three of us could share, just cheap pasta, artificial cheese dust and me. But alas, it was not meant to be.