Category: Meat Sticks

Magical Meat Stick?

Magical Meat Stick?

I bought this meat stick during halftime of the Boise State vs. Colorado State game. I had to leave the house before I threw something—and not just my Boise State hat—at the television. So I walked around the block, got into several verbal altercations with bushes that were smirking at me, and then ventured into the corner market. I was looking for something stiff, but instead I purchased a limp meat stick.

After returning home, and then returning to my depressed state upon noticing that Boise State had not scored any points during halftime, I took my first bite of the meat stick. It was spicy, perhaps spicier than any pepperoni stick I’ve tested yet to date. It also had a similar consistency and flavor to my go-to meat stick, the Tillamook Country Smoker pepperoni stick. I looked closer at the wrapper: Werner Gourmet Meat Snacks, Tillamook, Oregon. Meat certainly does have a regional flavor.

Shortly after finishing the stick, Boise State defied the odds (0.3% win probability according to ESPN; see chart below) and mounted an epic comeback against Colorado State—which elicited the reaction below and many other reactions that I’d be embarrassed to share on this blog. Was the comeback because of this magical meat stick? Likely. So you’ll know what I’ll be snacking on if Boise State falls behind Air Force tomorrow.

Snap into a Slim Jim!

Snap into a Slim Jim!

Last Friday night, I tested the limit of my (fading) youth and binged watch Stranger Things Season 2 with my sister-in-law. We started around 10pm. My limit was reached around 1:30am. To assist with this feat of folly, prior to starting, I trekked to the nearby Pappy’s Market — which is awesome, and I plan to write a review of here soon — to buy caffeine and snacks.

I’ve never met a register that wasn’t plastered with Slim Jims. Pappy’s was no exception. And Pappy’s selection was quite exceptional. They offered ten different varietals. I counted. I mulled over the varietals as I contemplated if I’d actually had a Slim Jim before. Seems like I should’ve. Seems like, since it’s the most ubiquitous snack food known to mankind, that the Gods of Industry would’ve coerced me into buying one at some point in my life. But I couldn’t remember. So I figured I’d start from the beginning: Original.

I waited until we were a couple episodes deep into Stranger Things before I indulged. I was pretty hopped up on Mountain Dew and Sour Patch Kids at that point, so I needed something to bring me down. And Slim Jims did not disappoint.

Slim Jims don’t snap. That was my first impression. Instead, they bend and then, sort of, tear. It initially made me question if the slogan was a branding misnomer — I mean, at least with Rice Krispies you do get a little Snap, Crackle, and Pop — but then I realized that it’s not what the ConAgra crew is getting at. They don’t want you to get a snap from a Slim Jim. They want you to snap into a Slim Jim. What into exactly, however, I’m not sure. For me, on that night, it was a simultaneous state of regret and early onset diarrhea. My second impression was that Slim Jims have the consistency of hair. With every bite, I felt the fibers pull through my teeth. I didn’t even need to floss that night. My third and final impression was that there wasn’t just beef in there. I flipped over the wrapper. And I was right! Mechanically Separated Chicken is the second ingredient. A beef/chicken meat stick. A first for me.

I ended up donating the second half of the Slim Jim to my sister-in-law. I had to save room for Sour Patch Kids and Mountain Dew. I needed my buzz back.

Hickory Smoked Elk Snack Stick

Hickory Smoked Elk Snack Stick

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I was sent on a simple mission: find beer and ice cream. After a couple days of relatively healthy eating — a recent record for us — we had to indulge. Just had to. The Hines family (Tim, Stephanie, Griffin, and Amelia), whom we’d met at our last explicitly unhealthy meal, McDonald’s, and whom we’d be traveling with since, agreed. So I departed the comforts of our campsite and hiked through the desert — well, a parking lot and road bisecting the desert — toward the general store of a nearby golf course (on that note, why does the most water-deprived place on Earth, a fact harped on by the visitor center, have a golf course?). The general store, which was replete with tees and gloves and polos and other golf necessities, did not sell our preferred junk. Nor did the adjacent diner. Nor nearby gas station. One of them did have, however, Premium Midwest Hickory Smoked Elk Snack Stick — a “Sportsman Favorite!”

In my Boise Fry Co. days, I had experimented with many exotic meat patties, including elk, which was, typically, dry, tough, and gamey, characteristics not suitable for a patty but what I figured would be excellent for a meat stick. Not this meat stick, however. It was moist (a weird description in relation to meat sticks), malleable, and beefy. It tasted more like salami or whatever that questionable meat is on the pre-Thanksgiving snack platter. I scratched my head, quite literally I think. Then I glanced at the wrapper. There it was, inconspicuously placed below the subtitle in not-so inconspicuous English: “Beef Added.” I felt deceived. Disappointed. And had I not been snacking on this stick furtively under Everett and my blanket before night-night time, I would’ve marched through the desert in the dark, likely hand-slapping coyotes and bats along the way, to the golf store and demanded a refund. Oh well. We left Death Valley the next morning. As they say, whoever they are, fool me once…. I suppose I’ll be more skeptical with my meat stick purchases going forward.

Hempler’s Family Classic Pepperoni

Hempler’s Family Classic Pepperoni

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These guys know how to market (see photo above)! I was searching for kale, but found these instead…. The Hemplers have been in the meat stick business since the 1800s in Germany and the 1920s in Washington. They know meat, as evidenced by their classic pepperoni stick. Thicker (3/4 to 7/8 of an inch) and spicier than your average stick, all wrapped tightly by a chestnut-colored collagen skin suit that looks like an elder redwood trunk. I could taste the meat, beef and pork, and the predominant spices, paprika and garlic, as opposed to the gelatinous meat goo of many sticks. The purest stick I’ve yet to taste. I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for them the next time I’m hunting for kale in the supermarket.

 

 

Tillamook Factory Outlet

Tillamook Factory Outlet

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My obsession with meat sticks is recent. I had been attempting to solve one of life’s greatest conundrums: how to consume and transport meat easily. Raw steak in my pocket wasn’t cutting it. Shortly thereafter, in a moment of serendipitous splendor, I bought a pepperoni stick out of the oft-handled and likely hepatitis-infected plastic bin below the register at a Jackson’s Food Store near our old house. I knew I had had a Slim Jims in the past, a distant and perhaps drunken memory at least a decade old, but my tastebuds and arteries couldn’t remember. Then I devoured two, perhaps five, Tillamook pepperoni sticks in rapid succession. I felt both alive and near to death at the same time. And it was a feeling that I wanted, nay needed, for the rest of my life. That’s where’s this category on this blog begins.

Over the last few months, I have familiarized myself with several meat stick varietals. While all have merits — merits I’m hoping to elucidate on this blog — I found myself continually craving Tillamook pepperoni sticks. And I purchased lots of them. By the dozen. Thus when I saw the sign below attached to the side of a trailer across the street from a trailer park, I knew I had found my meat Cloud Cuckoo Land.

The Tillamook Country Smoker Beef Jerky Factory Retail Outlet had been bragging for miles before we arrived about getting a two-foot stick for only one dollar. At first, I thought, if only. Then I thought, dang, that’s an excellent price per linear foot. I’d been getting pillaged at a buck and a quarter per foot in Boise.

Upon entering the outlet, I immediately focused on the open chest cooler stuffed with two-foot sticks. They were all labeled “fresh” and “must be consumed in five days”, which made me think of all the wonderful preservatives and chemicals I must’ve been consuming prior with the store-bought sticks. At first, after examining the sticks, I thought about going exotic, like jalapeno pepperjack, but I eventually decided to start my meat stick and blogging journey with the original: plain pepperoni.

The two-footers were noticeably fresher than their gas station siblings. They tasted like how I imagined real meat taste like. Their caramel-colored skin suit was also looser than I was accustomed to, occasionally popping in my mouth and reminding me that he who gets the freshy-fresh shall get the sweetest thing in the world (name that reference). I’d also noticed that the liquid fats inside the fresh skin suit had not fully mobilized — I was used to squeezing fat drops from the sticks — suggesting that, perhaps, the fresh sticks had not fully matured. I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing, but I fully intend to investigate further.

Later that night, I bragged to a hip couple we met in the campground about my meat stick excursion and about how I had consumed five two-foot sticks, so ten regular sticks, a certain record for me, in one van ride to the campground. Then they invited us to their campsite for fresh-caught oysters fire-roasted in butter and topped with cilantro, tomatoes, onions, and lemon juice. I had never felt so white trash, proud, and confused at the same time. But that’s what meat sticks do to you.

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