Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Product Undorsement

I had a disappointing dining experience tonight, and I just have to get it off my back. So I'm calling it an "undorsement"...let the reader understand.

Until now I have been pleased, all around, with the New Orleans-style rice dinner products sold under the brand name of Zatarain's. Just a couple days ago, for example, I experienced their black-eyed peas and rice: a spicy, savory dish I would not hesitate to recommend. Carried along by my enthusiasm, I bought two boneless, skinless chicken breasts today. Then, with malice aforethought, I cooked up my first box of Zatarain's "New Orleans Style Caribbean Rice Mix" - which called for a pound of browned chicken, cut into cubes.

How shall I describe the Caribbean Rice Mix? To begin with, let's discuss (disgust) getting it out of the package. Inside the box was a sealed envelope containing the rice, veggies, seasonings, and bits of pineapple. When I cut it open and tried to empty it into the pot of water, cooked chicken, and what have you, part of it refused to come out of the envelope. A very sticky clump of orange, grainy material remained at the bottom, and even turning the packet inside out and picking at it with my fingers yielded only partial success. I decided to go ahead with the recipe regardless.

By the time the water reached a boil, I had already perceived that something was cooking that I would probably not like to eat. It had a strange, strong odor which, combined with the sulfur-yellow color of the mixture, triggered unpleasant scenarios in my imagination. Scenarios like a school cafeteria being evacuated, due to a cleaning-solution spill that resulted in a cloud of toxic gas. I don't know if it was something in the dried pineapple, or the particular combination of spices. Perhaps something in the flavor of Caribbean chicken and rice, as interpreted by a Cajun-themed food processing plant, doesn't agree with my culinary aesthetics.

Perhaps it was a food preservative. Perhaps it was a bad batch. Whatever the reason, Zatarain's Caribbean Rice Mix had an odor I didn't like before I tasted it. It had a taste and mouthfeel I didn't much care for. It had an aftertaste that just won't quit. And in the end, even after I had dumped most of the rice mixture into the trash and repurposed the picked-over remains of the chicken, it didn't make a wholly satisfying chicken salad sandwich - in spite of the best efforts of whole-grain bread and Miracle Whip.

So it is my duty, as the voice of experience, to undorse Zatarain's Caribbean Rice Mix. Bachelors, cook up a batch at your own risk!

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