Jordan's Page of Useless Babble

Swanson Hungry-Man Backyard Barbeque
Can you please just shoot me and get it over with?
Can you please just shoot me and get it over with?

Hi, it's Jordan again. I'm still locked in this horrible place. I still don't know where I am. I think it's summer now because the place has gotten awfully humid and it's sweltering in here. This place smells overwhelmingly of fish, and I think it's from these awful tacos that I've been fed off and on for the last few weeks. At least, I think it's been weeks. It's hard to gauge time in here.

The cooler next to me has been filled again while I was sleeping and it looks like my captor wants me to do another Horrors of the Ice Box. I can only guess from his choice, that he's a fan. Back in January I did a review for Swanson Hungry-Man's Beer Battered Chicken and Cheese Fries which I proclaimed to be one of the worst things I've ever reviewed, a record that stands. What I'm being forced to review today is Swanson Hungry-Man's Backyard Barbeque.

I've got to give Swanson some credit here. This has got to be one of the most varied frozen dinners I've ever seen. Where most meals usually have two or three different things in them, this has six, including two different meat products. As we all know, vegetables cause cancer, so more meat must equal more health, right?

So, because some people have the memory of a goldfish, here are the rules:

  • Rule #1:
    I must follow cooking procedures exactly as they're shown on the container. I will not deviate from those instructions in any way, and I must prepare food in the fastest manner presented to me.
  • Rule #2:
    I must consume everything that comes with the meal. No hiding of disgusting parts will be tolerated. (In the unlikely event of bones or other inedibles, allowances will be made).
  • Rule #3:
    To make sure my palate is completely free of obstructions, I may only be allowed either water or alcohol. Alcohol does not include fancy-pants fruity girly drinks.
  • Rule #4:
    All food will be graded by smell, taste and mouthfeel, with less offensive qualities receiving higher marks. At the end, each part is receives an average score. The full meal is graded by the average score of each component. Appearance of the food is not graded because, let's face it, they all look pretty bad.
That's a big ol' box of mediocrity.
That's a big ol' box of mediocrity.

Now, this meal contains: a grilled chicken cutlet, a rib-shaped pork cutlet, mashed potatoes, corn and a brownie. What's that? That's only five parts? Well, the box sees fit to mention barbeque sauce as a main component and not as a condiment, so I'll be eating that too. Lucky me.

So, let's talk nutrition for a minute. This stuff isn't good for you. By now, I'd hope that it would go without saying, but this bears reiteration. This stuff contains 42% of my fat and 38% of my sodium intake for the day. Compared with the Swanson Hungry-Man's Beer Battered Chicken and Cheese Fries though, this begins to look more like a trip to the salad bar where you forget to get dressing. So, it's still not good for you, but compared to it's close kin, you could do worse.

Grilled Chicken Cutlet

Very saucy.
Very saucy.
So, once this thing is brought to me, I'm hit with the smell of wet dog. It's the kind of delicate aroma that chefs the whole world over strive to obtain in all their meals, but here it has been perfected by Stouffer. The reek of it is actually pretty small and I gagged a couple of times just bringing it up for the camera. It's not a good start.

The texture is off for chicken. It's like a loosely packed meatloaf. Cutlet is one of those funny cooking words that can mean a few things. I took the meaning to be that the grilled chicken was a thin slice of meat from the ribs or leg, but instead, it uses the other meaning: that it's minced meat formed into a shape. That's not cool Stouffer, not cool.

The taste is...well, kind of minty on it's own. I have no idea why I keep finding mint flavor in foods in which mint has no place. Mint flavor in fruit-flavored soda and in apple crumble dessert product is bad enough. In chicken, it's just downright nasty. Luckily there isn't really any other taste to this so barbeque sauce masks most of it.

Smell: 3/10
Taste: 3/10
Mouthfeel: 3/10
Total Score: (3.0/10)

Man-sized bite.
Man-sized bite.
Rib-Shaped Pork Cutlet

This still smells like wet dog, but now in a refreshing pork variety. Again, the cutlet part means that it's minced meat, but thankfully it's more packed and the consistency is not unlike Salisbury steak. As for taste? It's very bland. For all the salt these things contain, I'm considerably amazed that these things don't have much of any taste.

Smell: 3/10
Taste: 2/10
Mouthfeel: 5/10
Total Score: (3.3/10)

Mashed Potatoes

Potato brownie...not nearly as good as it sounds.
Potato brownie...not nearly as good as it sounds.
Surprise surprise, the microwavable brownie of doom has splooged in my potatoes. So, I've got brownie in my potato. Don't call the Reeses people just yet, it's not a taste sensation.

So, while the potatoes don't feel like potatoes, they don't suffer from wallpaper paste syndrome. That's a good thing, because I don't think my captor here is going to give me a drink if I start to choke.

As for taste and smell? Well, the smell is inoffensive, but there's a definite chemical tinge there. I can certainly stand it. The big problem is that there is no taste at all. Take note prison wardens: prison loaf will eventually get banned. Switch to mashed potatoes from Stouffer. It's got the same lack of taste as prison loaf, but it's potatoes and potatoes are good and nutritious.

Disclaimer: Jordan's Page of Useless Babble makes no guarantee or claim that any food coming from a frozen dinner is either nutritious, delicious, edible or digestible. Do not try this at home. Jordan is not a professional but his fan e-mail gives him an inflated sense of ego, which is almost like being a professional if you think about it.

Smell: 4/10
Taste: 1/10
Mouthfeel: 6/10
Total Score: (3.4/10)

Gentlemen behold: corn!
Gentlemen behold: corn!

I know you can't see me right now, but pretend that I'm standing up with an ear of corn in one hand raising for the masses to see and announcing it's name to the world. Ok, now that we've gone through that pointless exercise, let's continue with our other one.

The smell of this stuff is not unlike what you'd find in canned corn niblets. I don't know why I'd say that, I usually buy my corn fresh, frozen or creamed. I don't even know if they can corn niblets, but if they did, they'd smell like this. It's unoffensive, but fairly present.

This stuff tastes like corn. I know, I know, I'm pretty amazed too. It's pretty hard to fuck up corn, and with what I've seen of Stouffer's food so far, I wouldn't put it past them, but this is a pretty solid effort. This has got to be the best tasting thing in the box, and it's the second-banana of the two side-dishes. Surprisingly there's little of the dryness that you often see with corn niblets in these things. All in all, I found myself enjoying this, and that scares the shit out of me.

Smell: 8/10
Taste: 9/10
Mouthfeel: 7/10
Total Score: (8.0/10)

Barbeque Sauce

Oh geeze, you people are going to make me eat this stuff aren't you? Hang your collective heads in shame! I suppose that I don't have much of a choice. The stuff smells spice-filled but not spicy and there's a definite hint of hickory in there. The taste though is surprisingly lack-luster. All I can taste is a little tomato sauce and some that hint of hickory. It's consistency isn't so much like sauce as it is like instant pudding.

You know, there's something I wouldn't mind seeing Bill Cosby become the spokesperson for. Jello Instant Barbeque Sauce flavored pudding. You know, first thing I'm going to do when I get out of here is write a letter.

Smell: 6/10
Taste: 4/10
Mouthfeel: 4/10
Total Score: (4.6/10)

Revenge of the "Brownie"
Fuck me with a rusty razorblade.  It's come back for revenge.
Fuck me with a rusty razorblade. It's come back for revenge.

This puts a fucking chill down my spine. I first encountered the "brownie" during my review of Swanson Stuffing Baked Turkey. Little has changed since then. This is still a gooey, unbaked, chemical nightmare. I still maintain that these are not brownies, but rather the results of a failed experiment to create a real life black slime.

Now when I say little has changed, I mean nothing has changed. It even kind of fell apart in the same way and in the same pattern as the first. I'm almost at the point of believing that the "brownie" is really behind my kidnapping and that the masked creep is his loyal henchman.

As for the review, it stuck half-way down my throat and I had to use barbeque sauce to dislodge it. It's got a powerful chemical smell and it tastes like cheap chocolate.

Smell: 7/10
Taste: 7/10
Mouthfeel: 1/10
Total Score: (5/10)

The Totals:

Smell: 5.2/10
Taste: 4.3/10
Mouthfeel: 4.3/10
Total Score: (4.6/10)

So, this stuff was better than the last foray into the world of Hungry-Man. It's still not high cuisine, but it's worlds better. This marks the first, but probably not the last time in Horrors of the Ice Box where mediocrity will actually be considered a substantial improvement.

Bottom line is this: The best part is the corn. If you want corn, go buy corn. If you want a mediocre, mass of flavorless food and sauce, buy this. You could do much worse.

Is it my imagination, or are these things actually getting better? Hey, chuckle-head! Give me a challenge! Give me your worst!

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