5 Scary Things I Found At the Grocery Store

And then, bravely, ate...

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1. Louis Kemp Seafood Co. "Lobster Delights"

What: Imitation Lobster Meat: A blend of Steam-bakedTM North Pacific fish with artificial lobster flavor. Chunk Style.

Why it's suspect: Um, who wants fake lobster meat? Fully cooked, ready to serve? Aren't lobsters supposed to be (a) real, (b) fresh, and (c) served with bibs and pints of melted butter?

The verdict: Although the faux-lobster product was suspiciously covered in tiny bubbles, and smelled like some unidentifiable plastic from my childhood, the meat tasted, well, OK. I certainly wouldn't serve it, as the package suggests, over a bed of pasta, but if I were making some sort of white-trash "lobster dip" with mayonnaise and Thousand Island dressing, this would be a passable substitute for the real thing.

2. Homestyle Express Beef Steak With Green Peppers And White Rice

What: A generic frozen-food meal that isn't frozen … it just hangs out on the shelf.

Why it's suspect: See above. As HomeStyleExpress.com explains, their products are assembled and then cooked in the packages, where they will stay nice and fresh for about a year. Parent company Wornick supplies MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) to the military - this is their domestic, commercial product, which one assumes is made with the same technology. A quick tour of the MRE section of their website indicates that Homestyle Express is serving up the same flavors for consumers and our fighting boys and girls.

The verdict: Geez. I'm pleasantly surprised. It's definitely packaged, processed food, but it's kinda … tasty. The rice, which looked gluey when it came out of the microwave, is actually tender and pretty good. I just might eat this whole thing.

3. Lunchables Hot Dogs

What: Three pre-cooked Oscar Mayer® Wieners made with turkey and pork, Wonder® Buns and Heinz® Ketchup & Mustard.

Why it's suspect: Um, three little weenies that you don't have to cook to eat? How long are these shelf-stable? (The box tells me for about another month.)

The verdict: Aw, they're awfully cute. I tried the first one 'raw' - the bread was stiff and pretty nasty, but the hot dog/ketchup combo tasted pretty much like normal if you're into that sort of thing. Following box instructions, I microwaved the second for 15 seconds, which split the 'dog and made the bun less stiff for about 30 seconds. Honestly, if I were 10, I would be all over this: it also came with a Capri-Sun "Thunder Punch" and some chocolates. Yum.

4. Robert's American Gourmet Pirate's Booty

What: Puffed Rice and Corn, with Aged White Cheddar.

Why it's suspect: The bag says "Shiver Me Timbers" and "Yo Ho Ho," for crying out loud!

The verdict: The "booty" bits look like biodegradable styrofoam peanuts; they melt in your mouth and taste vaguely of cheddar, but nothing at all like rape or plunder. How disappointing. However, you can eat a whole bag for only 20 grams of fat - compare that to 91 grams of fat for an (admittedly bigger) bag of Doritos. They're kinda addictive.

5. Refresco Iberia Sangria Carbonated Beverage

What: Triple-filtered carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, natural and artificial flavors.

Why it's suspect: Sangria should have booze in it, stupid!

The verdict: This could actually make the foundation for a decent sangria - if, of course, you were following a recipe that called for carbonation. The soda tasted like fermented brandy-juice, which could blend well with a shitty Carlo Rossi jug o' wine, some actual brandy, some cinnamon sticks and some fruit. The artificial smell ("nose," in wine parlance) is a big turn-off, though. Negatory, good buddy.

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