In Defense of Jolly Rancher Watermelon Pop-Tarts
A dissenting opinion to Food & Wine's exhaustive Pop-Tart ranking.
Here is what I ask you to think about when evaluating the Jolly Rancher Watermelon Pop-Tart, which, having been ranked 20th out of 21 flavors of Pop-Tart, are only liked in the Food & Wine office by me. When it comes to the kind of food that doubles as candy; the kind of food that comes tumbling out of a high school vending machine in the memories of adolescent digestive feats long past our ability to repeat; the kind of food you pull out of a foil packet with a hyphen in its name; there is a difficult relationship between what we think of as the "original" forms of foods, and the more impressionistic pieces of them that are implied by the appearance of their names following the word "FLAVOR:" on a box.
Stray too far with your imitation of the original, and that flavor, good or bad, is generally not worth much discussion. Get it close enough, and you'll generally reach something that—and this is what makes the classic blueberry, strawberry, and raspberry trinity of Pop-Tarts so enduring—tastes like the thing. But stray too far from either pole into the between space, and you're stuck in that strange, uncanny valley that fells so many of our less-favored flavored snacks.
But there is another place, where some brave snacksmiths, candy-crafters and yes, tart-poppers dare to go. The path that, if you abstract and twist and transmogrify that flavor through enough different forms, brings you somewhere new entirely. Which is to say, amidst the flavor uncanny valley, there lies a Fake Flavor Oasis (you know it well), and in that valley, what's that glittering light? Waiting to be unwrapped from its gleaming foil, it's the Jolly Rancher Watermelon Pop-Tart in all its green and pink squiggle-frosted glory.
Does it taste like watermelon? Eh. Does it taste like a watermelon Jolly Rancher? Not really. Does it taste like a watermelon slushie? Getting warmer. Okay, does it taste like a watermelon slushie if a slushie was a Pop-Tart? Yes. Only, milder. Which is good, somehow. Like a warm slushie symbiotically suspended within a crunchy, whatever-the-pastry-parts-of-Pop-Tarts-are-made-out-of form, Jolly Rancher Watermelon Pop-Tarts are good, somehow. Everyone else here is wrong.