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Doug vs. Japanese Snack Foods: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

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diaryland: entry for 2001-04-17 (14:20:00)
In which our plucky young hero sorts through crackers.

(I actually wrote this Sunday, but I'm only posting now. Slack is me.)

Part Three: Tasting and Judgment.

In previous installments of Japanese Snack Food Theater (read parts one and two), we examined the boxes and bags of nine different junk food products from the land of the rising sun. It is now time to open the bags and boxes, and partake of the delicious contents! (Don't hurt none, either, that loading up on snack foods will mean I don't need to food shop today.)

We shall begin with Morinaga Petit Mont-blanc, one of my favorite boxes. I tear open the perforations and note that the box now has a convenient lid, which once again demonstrates the superiority of Japanese snack-boxing technology. Inside are eleven individually-wrapped snacks, one of which I open to examine.

Ahem: In what I fear will be a recurring theme of this entry, "Damn, that's small!" The actual snack is barely half the size of its wrapper, the approximate shape and size of a flattened popcorn kernel. It smells faintly of, I think, caramel.

Well, here goes...

It's not caramel. It is some other sort of sweetness, not quite chocolate, not quite caramel, somewhere between the two... As I chew down, the white filling seems to taste somewhat like marshmallow. It melts in my mouth very quickly, and then is gone.

Petit Mont-blanc gets an 8 out of 10. Were it larger, an easy ten.

In the interests of journalistic integrity, I put aside the mont-blanc and move on to another box. This time, I shall sample the Glico Pretz Garlic. This box contains, as promised, two foil packages. Opening the first, I receive a definite scent of garlic.

Each pretz stick is about five inches long, and boxlike. No cylindrical pretzels for me today! It delivers exactly what it promises, once I bite into the succulent stick. Pretzel-like flavor soaked in garlic butter. It reminds me almost of the little squares from Bits'n'Bites, if that is any hint to you.

7 out of 10, plus or minus two points depending on mood. These things go well with moods where garlic is good. They go poorly with moods where garlic is not good. I almost wish I had some marinara sauce on hand to dip the things. And I must give great credit: one pack of Pretz is exactly the right size, just enough to sate an appetite for garlic without going overboard into the territory of garlic becoming too much.

I continue my theme of yellow by eating Meiji Pucca, the strange one-eyed deformed squid candy. Or perhaps they are fish after all; the foil package displays the Pucca in traditional fish swimmy profile silhouette, with traditional air bubbles issuing from near where their mouths would presumably be. Opening the package, I scent chocolate. The Pucca are not as shiny as the box would lead me to believe; they're more brown-yellow than yellow-brown. The shell tastes like crackers, and inside is rich, easily-liquidated milk chocolate. Yum!

6 out of 10. Points taken off for misleading me with the potential of squidness. Also, the chocolate isn't quite as good as the chocolate in M&Ms, which these treats definitely try to evoke.

And finally, in our cavalcade of boxes, comes Meiji Fran. You may recall that I was quite taken with the packaging of Fran, and time has done nothing to dim my affections. Yes, it is a cheap snack. Yes, it is (presumably) made of chocolate. But like a Ronex watch or a Saturn, it is not the luxury that charms me but the appearance of luxury.

The box contains three plastic wrappers, off-yellow, with gold Fran logos on them. No foil for you, Joe! I withdraw one package, and open it to see what bounty lies inside: five six-inch batons, coated in chocolate at one end, looking somewhat like anorexic cigars. (It is worth noting, now, that the entire Fran packaging experience reminds me incredibly of cigarettes. Let us hope the mind-melting wizards of Philip Morris never hire Japanese snack food designers to work on their demon weed.)

I take a tiny bite from the handle (a nice unstated cue!) and find that this brown material tastes like crackers, somewhat like the Pucca shells and, now that I consider it, disconcertingly like what lay underneath the garlic butter coating of the Pretz Garlic. But then we are a nation obsessed with the potato and who is to say who is right? I take a bite the way that it is meant to be taken, and am amazed at the thickness of the chocolate; enough to let your teeth sink into it before you find the cracker center. It's not bad chocolate, but not great, and definitely better than the stuff in Pucca. A little too bitter for my North American palate. But nonetheless I cannot help but finish the whole thing, and its four packbrothers.

I give Fran an unreserved 10. A class act in all capacities, from the moment you see it to the moment you eat it. In fact, after that much chocolate delicacy, I cannot in good conscience continue with the bags; I'd give them lower marks than they deserve, simply by comparison. Stay tuned for the fourth (and final) chapter of the snack food saga!

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