More Reviews of New Food

Way back in April of 2007 I pointed you to McSweeney's Reviews of New Food. These reviews veer from hyperliterary nostalgia-laced foodpoems (The Laughing Cow Light Cheese Wedges: "If P.E. was the Crimean War of my middle-school life, then cheese was my Florence Nightingale.") to terse microstories that can only hint at the writer's painful inner life (Doritos X-13D: "The best thing about Doritos X-13D is the way your vegetarian girlfriend tries one before she looks at the package and sees that these chips contain beef tallow."). In all cases, the reviews are best when they're about everything but the food itself.

In the years since I first mentioned McSweeney's Reviews of New Food, many newer, stranger foods have been produced and subsequently reviewed, thus necessitating a recapitulation of my admonition: you must read these important reviews of new food. If you don't read these reviews, how are you going to know which new foods will make you happy or sad? And how are you going to find out about the suffering and tragedies inherent in being a food reviewer? Prithy go forth and read some food reviews. Here are a few favorites:

Mache (Lamb's Lettuce)
Submitted by Marco Kaye

For far too long, arugula held a bitter stranglehold over our salad bars. Then frisée entered and quickly exited our lives as the latest trend in roughage. Now there's a newcomer, with a name that rhymes with squash. It's mache, also called lamb's lettuce. Mache attempted a debut five years ago, on NPR, but the green hasn't caught on until now. The reasons for this are twofold. First, many of us were blindsided by the watercress takeover of '05 to '06 (which was met with a resounding "I guess just dump them into the microgreens" attitude). Second, mache-cultivation techniques have improved a lot.

As each successive movement in art is a reaction against the previous mode, mache represents a collective shift away from the tart greens that populate those mesclun mixes. It tastes sweet and just slightly nutty. The tiny green leaves are attached seven or eight on a stem. It looks like several children's mittens tied together. And it's just as delicate and airy. It plates beautifully as well, the way a discarded child's mitten creates a forlorn oasis of humanity in a city street. ...

My Son James's Favorite Snacks
From the Local Tienda, as Described
by My Son James

Submitted by Lisa Domby

"This place doesn't have a name. It's in the old Johnny's Sporting Goods, but they don't sell crickets here anymore."

Takis Fuego (rolled corn chips, fire flavor): "These things taste way crunchier and way spicier and way awesomer than Doritos. The guacamole ones smell good, but they don't taste good."

Paleton Patolin paleta de malvavisco (chocolate-covered marshmallow with gummy eyes and mouth): "This thing looks like a weird clown, but it tastes pretty good." ...

Babidinos Paletadinos sabor tamarindo enchilada (tamarind lollipop): "This is my favorite thing to get. This thing is really chewy and spicy. You can't eat the whole thing, because it's too spicy, but you can save it in the refrigerator for a really long time. If you don't put it in the refrigerator, ants will get on it."

Dwight Yoakam's Chicken Fries
Submitted by Jonathan Holley

A product of the Bakersfield Biscuits Brand, Dwight Yoakam's Chicken Lickin's Chicken Fries come approximately 12 to a box, which costs just a dollar. These are similar to the chicken fries available at Burger King, but of inferior quality. The bright red, orange, and yellow packaging of Dwight Yoakam's chicken purports that they are "inspected for wholesomeness" by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The packaging is evasive regarding the results of said inspection. Were these fries deemed wholesome? It seems impossible.

In my 1997 analysis of the chickenesque, I famously hypothesized that Nabisco's Chicken in a Biskit crackers would forever maintain position as lowest rung on the chicken continuum. Today, Dwight Yoakam offers irrefutable counterevidence and collapses my former worldview.

See also: Panic's New Product Reviews and

Do you have a favorite new food? Or one that has left you forlorn and regretful? Share your own reviews of new food in the comments!

10 Things We Know About The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2

Though Hulu has been producing original content for more than five years now, 2017 turned out to be a banner year for the streaming network with the debut of The Handmaid’s Tale on April 26, 2017. The dystopian drama, based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 book, imagines a future in which a theocratic regime known as Gilead has taken over the United States and enslaved fertile women so that the group’s most powerful couples can procreate.

If it all sounds rather bleak, that’s because it is—but it’s also one of the most impressive new series to arrive in years (as evidenced by the slew of awards it has won, including eight Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards). Fortunately, fans left wanting more don’t have that much longer to wait, as season two will premiere on Hulu in April. In the meantime, here’s everything we know about The Handmaid’s Tale’s second season.


When The Handmaid’s Tale returns on April 25, 2018, Hulu will release the first two of its 13 new episodes on premiere night, then drop another new episode every Wednesday.


Fans of Atwood’s novel who didn’t like that season one went beyond the original source material are in for some more disappointment in season two, as the narrative will again go beyond the scope of what Atwood covered. But creator/showrunner Bruce Miller doesn’t necessarily agree with the criticism they received in season one.

“People talk about how we're beyond the book, but we're not really," Miller told Newsweek. "The book starts, then jumps 200 years with an academic discussion at the end of it, about what's happened in those intervening 200 years. We're not going beyond the novel. We're just covering territory [Atwood] covered quickly, a bit more slowly.”

Even more importantly, Miller's got Atwood on his side. The author serves as a consulting producer on the show, and the title isn’t an honorary one. For Miller, Atwood’s input is essential to shaping the show, particularly as it veers off into new territories. And they were already thinking about season two while shooting season one. “Margaret and I had started to talk about the shape of season two halfway through the first [season],” he told Entertainment Weekly.

In fact, Miller said that when he first began working on the show, he sketched out a full 10 seasons worth of storylines. “That’s what you have to do when you’re taking on a project like this,” he said.


As with season one, motherhood is a key theme in the series. And June/Offred’s pregnancy will be one of the main plotlines. “So much of [Season 2] is about motherhood,” Elisabeth Moss said during the Television Critics Association press tour. “Bruce and I always talked about the impending birth of this child that’s growing inside her as a bit of a ticking time bomb, and the complications of that are really wonderful to explore. It’s a wonderful thing to have a baby, but she’s having it potentially in this world that she may not want to bring it into. And then, you know, if she does have the baby, the baby gets taken away from her and she can’t be its mother. So, obviously, it’s very complicated and makes for good drama. But, it’s a very big part of this season, and it gets bigger and bigger as the show goes on.”


Just because June is pregnant, don’t expect her to sit on the sidelines as the resistance to Gilead continues. “There is more than one way to resist," Moss said. “There is resistance within [June], and that is a big part of this season.”


A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'

Miller, understandably, isn’t eager to share too many details about the new season. “I’m not being cagey!” he swore to Entertainment Weekly. “I just want the viewers to experience it for themselves!” What he did confirm is that the new season will bring us to the colonies—reportedly in episode two—and show what life is like for those who have been sent there.

It will also delve further into what life is like for the refugees who managed to escape Gilead, like Luke and Moira.


Though she won’t be a regular cast member, Miller recently announced that Oscar winner Marisa Tomei will make a guest appearance in the new season’s second episode. Yes, the one that will show us the Colonies. In fact, that’s where we’ll meet her; Tomei is playing the wife of a Commander.


As a group shrouded in secrecy, we still don’t know much about how and where Gilead began. That will change a bit in season two. When discussing some of the questions viewers will have answered, executive producer Warren Littlefield promised that, "How did Gilead come about? How did this happen?” would be two of them. “We get to follow the historical creation of this world,” he said.


A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'

While Miller wouldn’t talk about who the handmaids are mourning in a teaser shot from season two that shows a handmaid’s funeral, he was excited to talk about creating the look for the scene. “Everything from the design of their costumes to the way they look is so chilling,” Miller told Entertainment Weekly. “These scenes that are so beautiful, while set in such a terrible place, provide the kind of contrast that makes me happy.”


Like season one, Miller says that The Handmaid’s Tale's second season will again balance its darker, dystopian themes with glimpses of hopefulness. “I think the first season had very difficult things, and very hopeful things, and I think this season is exactly the same way,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “There come some surprising moments of real hope and victory, and strength, that come from surprising places.”

Moss, however, has a different opinion. “It's a dark season,” she told reporters at TCA. “I would say arguably it's darker than Season 1—if that's possible.”


A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'

When pressed about how the teaser images for the new season seemed to feature a lot of blood, Miller conceded: “Oh gosh, yeah. There may be a little more blood this season.”

NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
Researchers in Singapore Deploy Robot Swans to Test Water Quality
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

There's something peculiar about the new swans floating around reservoirs in Singapore. They drift across the water like normal birds, but upon closer inspection, onlookers will find they're not birds at all: They're cleverly disguised robots designed to test the quality of the city's water.

As Dezeen reports, the high-tech waterfowl, dubbed NUSwan (New Smart Water Assessment Network), are the work of researchers at the National University of Singapore [PDF]. The team invented the devices as a way to tackle the challenges of maintaining an urban water source. "Water bodies are exposed to varying sources of pollutants from urban run-offs and industries," they write in a statement. "Several methods and protocols in monitoring pollutants are already in place. However, the boundaries of extensive assessment for the water bodies are limited by labor intensive and resource exhaustive methods."

By building water assessment technology into a plastic swan, they're able to analyze the quality of the reservoirs cheaply and discreetly. Sensors on the robots' undersides measure factors like dissolved oxygen and chlorophyll levels. The swans wirelessly transmit whatever data they collect to the command center on land, and based on what they send, human pilots can remotely tweak the robots' performance in real time. The hope is that the simple, adaptable technology will allow researchers to take smarter samples and better understand the impact of the reservoir's micro-ecosystem on water quality.

Man placing robotic swan in water.
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

This isn't the first time humans have used robots disguised as animals as tools for studying nature. Check out this clip from the BBC series Spy in the Wild for an idea of just how realistic these robots can get.

[h/t Dezeen]


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