My last report for Snackline Media culminated with the most miserable breakfast item I’ve ever had the displeasure of tasting: a Pop-Tart filled with coffee-flavored goop, perfectly engineered to spread its chemical taste across your whole mouth in seconds. I yelped and threw the remainder in the trash, certain that I was done with these unpalatable pastries for good. But just like John Wick, my clean break was a deception meant to put me at ease before the unwanted return.
It all started so innocently, too! Back in 2016, I was hunting for a cheaper breakfast and spotted a Buy One, Get One Free deal attached to a box of orange soda-flavored Pop-Tarts. Being a young fool, the sheer savings overrode my otherwise-cautious sense of taste, and I brought home a pair of boxes that would soon find their way into the nearest garbage can. After I followed them up with my exposé on the mocha flavor, I pigeonholed myself into the novelty Pop-Tart beat, and there was little I could do to change that. Whenever Colin spotted an off-beat pastry flavor, they knew I was the only woman suitable for the job.
I was asked to choose and critique one flavor of Jolly Rancher Pop-Tarts, but once I arrived at the grocery store, my ambition got the better of me. Convinced that I had discovered the only way to tackle this challenge, I grabbed Cherry, Green Apple and Watermelon, lined up each flavor on my plate, and attempted to eat three different pastries in one go. I’ve often made the mistake of biting off more than I could chew, even this felt like overkill: their combined colors and smells conjured an image of the poisoned vat that birthed the Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman. I wasn’t sure what I was in for, but I instinctively knew that it wouldn’t be pleasant.
When you came back from Halloween as a kid, did you gorge yourself on that evening’s spoils? I ate a chunk of my bag’s contents the night of, then metered out the rest of the candy throughout the week. Waking up after that first night was akin to a childhood hangover: even though I brushed my teeth before I went to bed, the menagerie of flavors stuck to the roof of my mouth and the pit of my stomach, shaming me for my gluttonous slip. The excess lingered, refusing to let me forget what I did.
Each Jolly Rancher Pop-Tart was like dumping a handful of the hard candies directly into my mouth. Cherry was all right, insofar as it made me think “I could probably finish eating this,” while Watermelon captured some facsimile of its target fruit (though its dry texture made me wish I had the real thing instead). It was Green Apple that truly broke the illusion: one bite of its sickly sweet gel dragged Little Jen’s holiday indulgence and regret into the present, kicking and screaming all the way. Here I was, treating candy like a valid meal as if the surrounding pastry was an acceptable excuse.
After Green Apple, my brain and mouth rebelled. I glanced at what remained of each Pop-Tart and knew that I could not do this to myself. I would not do this to myself. Each half-eaten pastry went in the garbage, and as I flopped on the bed, scrolling through nearby dining options, only one thought sailed through my mind: never again.
Next time on Snackline Media: Alfalfa-flavored Pop-Tarts!