Long Shelf-Life Forever Foods

In 2010, Last Chance Foods talked to farmers, chefs, and food writers to learn more about seasonal produce—how it’s produced, where it comes from, and how to make the most of it. To kick off the new year, however, we’ve decided to have some fun with our food. So in the words of Monty Python: "and now for something completely different!" "Forever" foods.

James Norton writes for Chow.com, and his “Supertaster” column covers prepackaged, shelf-stable supermarket items and fast food. He has tasted everything from microwavable sushi to dragon-fruit peach flavored light beer. Norton recently spoke with All Things Considered host Amy Eddings about the best and worst of what he tried in 2010.

To Norton’s surprise, one of the best items he sampled was microwavable sushi made by the popular Asian packaged-food brand Annie Chun’s. “The thing about microwavable sushi is it’s such a low bar, and I was just afraid to even open the package,” Norton admits. “And as it turns out, the microwavable element is that you’re microwaving the rice. So you get a very warm and—I wouldn’t say traditional but certainly acceptable—passable sushi rice.” The key, he notes, is that there is no raw fish element to the shelf-stable package. Instead, the kit comes with the rice, nori wraps, and then the consumer is set free to fill with whatever is tasty. Norton used cucumbers and avocado.

Norton was also pleased with Smucker’s Snack’n Waffles, which he describes as a down-market Liege-style Belgian waffle. The waffles are presweetened, easily eaten out of hand, and make a decent breakfast item.

A number of other food products were far from decent or even passable, however. In particular, Hot Pockets Stuffed Crust Pizza disappointed even a mentally fortified Norton. “I thought well, you know, it’s going to be a trashy, good time, bad piece of pizza, and...it wasn’t,” he says. “I just found it profoundly sad.” He attributes the feeling of depression to the item’s cardboard-like extra crust and overly sweet, one-dimensional tomato sauce.

Read more about Norton's top picks and bottom-rung disappointments here.