Like a kitten bringing a dead rodent to the back door, our kind and thoughtful receptionist Martin brought me a small bag of cheese snacks last Friday. I should have known to decline them as I once declined a decapitated squirrel from Tiny Princess. But the bag was open and I'm always up for something new, so I said, “Don't tell me what it is. I want to be surprised.” Boy, was I surprised—when I found my self spitting every last half-masticated curd into the trash can under my desk. “Good God,” I said to Martin, “What was that thing?” He showed me the package and explained how he had spit one out of his car window on the way to work, much to the horror of the woman driving next to him. Thanks, Martin.
So, of course, I gave a nugget to Film Editor Devin D. O'Leary. He took one look and said, “Are you sure these aren't cat treats?” The Susan B. Anthony dollar-sized disks look like golden, miniature rice cakes—or, yeah, maybe cat treats. He managed to choke down a whole cheese coin, then said, “Kinda tastes like what you scrape off the bottom of the microwave.” I'm sure he meant what he imagined that stuff would taste like. Actually, I had a similar thought: If I microwaved a Hot Pocket, and the cheese melted all over the plate, and I lost that plate under the couch for three weeks, and if I then gnawed the cheese crust off the plate, well, I bet it would taste better than these crappy snacks.
Repeating the first lesson I learned in kindergarten, I then had to take out my revenge on these awful snacks by making everyone in the office try one. The results reveal that Lowell, Wisconsin-based Specialty Cheese Company must not have done any product testing before unleashing these yellow menaces on the shelves at Smith's.
Calendars Editor and former food intern Laura Marrich has a sense of adventure, and she trusts me (poor thing), so she eagerly accepted the golden turd in my outstretched hand. Then she spit it out into the trash can beneath her desk and gave me a look that encompassed shock, disgust, betrayal, and perhaps a splash of embarrassment about the chain of saliva linking her bottom lip and the top lip of the can. “I've never, ever spit anything out before! I swear!” she ... uh ... swore.
One member of our production team thought his cheese cake tasted like “a dirty rag.” Another said he thought it was OK ... until swallowing completely and exhaling. Then his face got all screwed up and he said, “It kinda gives you shit breath, huh?”
The systems administrator compared the flavor to the rind of a piece of cheese left uncovered and sitting in the fridge for weeks. He was more polite than our Web guy who gasped, “Oh God! That's horrible!” The closest he could come to describing the flavor was “mothballs”.
I did find a few people who thought Just the Cheese didn't taste like someone cut the cheese. Darrell, our distribution guy, and Tom, the art director, both thought the low-carb snacks were perfectly edible. In fact, Tom, who mostly does the low-carb thing, said he'd bought them before. But Editor Michael Henningsen, who reacted to my little taste test a little testily, blurted out a string of profanities too profane to publish. When I told him Darrell and Tom liked them fine, he shouted, “Darryl and Tom would eat the ass out of a rhino!” (For the record, let me say that I personally believe that Darryl and Tom would only eat the ass out of a rhino if that ass were grilled to medium-rare and lightly napped with demi-glace.)
Eventually I did find one tester who loved these cheese snacks and even begged for more; my dog Riblet finished the bag, hoovered the rug for crumbs, and licked his chops for hours. Then again, my dog's other favorite snack is cat shit.