Friday, 26 July 2013

Hungry-Man Limited Edition Smokin' Backyard Barbeque Dinner

I love mechanically deboned meat. Not just the concept but the phrase itself. It rolls off the tongue like a boneless picnic pork shoulder off a slaughterhouse conveyor belt. I guess the proper term these days is mechanically separated but for me deboned has a nicer ring, like a Shakespearean soliloquy delivered to or from the balcony of a star-crossed love. And if the object of that love is a man (or woman for boneless meat knows no gender), hungry for all things worldly, whether they be of the flesh, blood, soul or a nice plate of pork brains in milk gravy, then we have the makings of a beautiful Romeo and Juliet story but with lots of meat to push the drama to the precipice of tragedy. Because if the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, but not with a scalpel and retractor as some would think, then the only other way for Juliet to land her man is with a Hungry-Man dinner. After she gets rid of her family of course, since they stand in the way of her true love so she has to kill them all and he has to kill off all his family also because they too block the path of the couple's pure boneless meat desires and then they have to kill off all their friends and the townsfolk as well because no one will sell them Hungry-Man dinners and, well, you catch my drift. It's a veritable bloodbath and that's before even any animals are slaughtered and then mechanically separated into a thick, aromatic slime to prepare it for prefabricated meat patty production. Are you following me because I'm not. I guess that's what happens when you mix NyQuil with a bowl of Sugar Pops. Anyway, what I mean to say is I'm a man and I'm hungry and what does a hungry man love more than a backyard barbeque. But the thought that I can have that backyard barbeque without having to barbeque anything or even have a backyard to not barbeque anything in in the first place (did I mention that along with not having a backyard I also don't own a barbeque so I'm really ahead of the game) is an amazing example of the forward progress of contemporary society and the leaps and bounds we have made in the food sciences. To put it more succinctly, as a hungry man with a boundless appetite I thoroughly embrace mechanically deboned meat since it eliminates the bones and fat and other debris that reduce the efficiency of my feeding, thus hampering my gorging abilities and the speed with which I can consume my proteins. And making these proteins into barbeque-styled offerings through the use of various esoteric additives and flavourings and presenting them in an attractive microwaveable tray makes me believe that I have finally joined the space age that was promised to me so long ago during an episode of My Favorite Martian.
So, getting to the deboned meat of the matter I was more than anxious to get this Hungry-Man dinner into the microwave. I put on George Jones singing The Cold Hard Truth because what goes better with a backyard barbeque than bitter regrets and flammable hairdos. Opening the Hungry-Man Dinner box my hands shook with anticipation more than that time when I was trying to unwrap an inflatable sex doll that I had ordered online. Directions were a bit more complicated than my usual microwavable material (or the sex doll for that matter), asking for partial heating, then removal of the brownie and then more reheating of the meat and mashed potatoes with various slits made in the film wrap or the film wrap to be folded back completely in some sections but I was up for the task and in seven minutes my barbeque dinner was ready, hot and steaming and wafting an aromatic if not a slightly acrid BBQ sauce vapour that burned the eyes like too much chlorine in a public pool.
There are two meat offerings in this dinner package that befit any backyard barbeque-a grilled chicken cutlette and a pork rib shaped cutlette. I like the word cutlette almost as much as I like the words mechanically deboned. It conjures up a sense of symmetry and tidiness, an effort to define and reflect shape in a world that seems mainly shapeless, messy and unpredictable at the best of times. With a cutlette you know where you stand and you can count on its uniformity to bring a sense of order to your chaotic life. That being said these cutlettes had a disturbing presence. Maybe it was the swamp of BBQ sauce that they were drowning in. The facsimile ribs had some appealing faux-grill marks but their boneless melding together had a conjoined twins quality that was a bit disturbing. Or, if you squinted your eyes it was almost like Jenga blocks made of meat placed side by side. Nevertheless I was willing to forgo these visual evocations  if only the taste and texture was in place. Unfortunately, like Jenga blocks, the interior had the taste and texture of wood. Actually particle board to be more exact, which means Jenga blocks would probably taste better. This rib-shaped pork slime cutlette was not so much boneless as spineless and though the BBQ sauce tried hard to cover the meat's shortcomings, the sauce itself was so sickly sweet it was if I was eating a funeral bouquet. Off the coffin itself.
As for the chicken cutlette, it was alarmingly white and blubbery, more like sea life than poultry. Which made it able to at least breathe in its BBQ sauce ocean. Alive, I would not be surprised to find gills on this creature along with a beak. Why did the chicken cross the road? To return to the ocean of course. Jacques Cousteau would've won the Nobel Prize in science if he'd discovered this monstrosity. But the meat beneath the pallid, bloated belly of this species that lay like a dead chicken/fish entity on a BBQ sauce shoreline was not entirely disgusting. There was a kind of tenderness to the meat, even if that tenderness was reminiscent of an abusive spouse stroking your hair after they've just informed you that you're no better than a worm and you're crying into the lap of their sweatpants stained with rum and Cokes, aerosol cheese and nosebleeds. There was definitely a chicken-like consistency to the cutlette although on the flavour front it was hard tell since, again, the BBQ sauce drowned out everything like white noise on the taste buds. I have to say, the corn held up nicely with crisp kernels and a sweet flavour as if you'd just microwaved Mother Nature and she lived to tell about it. I don't even know what the mashed potatoes were made out of but they're equally adaptable to caulking your bathtub or eating and I came to admire them for their duplicity and multi-purpose nature. I'm not sure they were mashed so much as whipped into dehydrated submission, which actually goes along with the whole sadomasochistic nature of this meal. Did I mention the brownie? It was actually not bad but so tiny that not even a mouse could get a cavity from this thing. Which makes me think that of mice and men, with the Hungry-Man dinner, it's a crap shoot whether either rodent or human could finish this meal. Maybe they should rename this thing the John Steinbeck Dust Bowl Barbeque and actually add some mice to the menu. It could only improve the flavour and as a marketing plan, you'd have the unions eating out of your hand and the plastic trays  too. This is a limited edition summer offering so get them while they're hot, to be enjoyed in your lawn chair amidst all the surrounding dead grass, the scent of a nearby Porta-Potty mixing with the magnolias and motor oil and the summer sun smoking off your bald spot.    
Anyone up for a tailgate party? It's as easy as 1-2-3 with no barbeque required, just a long extension cord to plug in the microwave, even if you have to run it through your neighbour's backyard since your own electricity was cut off.

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