It was a pretty good April Fools’ Day joke, though the bar is set low for those. Kraft Heinz announced on April 1 that it would be adding Brunchables, a brunch-themed convenience meal, to its already popular Lunchables line.
But the real gag arrived the next day, when the company announced that Brunchables were real. Coming soon to stores, there are three varieties, each built around a flatbread sandwich: bacon and cheese, breakfast ham and cheese, and breakfast sausage and cheese. They all come with a miniature blueberry muffin, too.
But the notion of Brunchables has been a long-running joke. College Humor did a sketch about it way back in 2012: a faux commercial starring kids who are eager to tuck into their plastic-partitioned packs of stereotypically upscale Brooklynite breakfasts like Dutch pancake with eggs Rothko, raisin fennel toast, grits, apple butter and fair trade coffee; or eggs Benedict with fresh radicchio, kale couscous and salsa verde and a mimosa juice box. The menus would have been a logistical challenge for a convenience meal, but to be honest, they do sound a lot better than the real thing.
Lunchables hold a special place in the hearts of ’90s kids. They were the cool kid lunch: Perfectly sized for children’s hands, fun to assemble and way less healthful than the sensible turkey sandwich and piece of fruit my dad packed for me. Thirty-something me is grateful for all the mornings my dad spent making those sandwiches, but I’m pretty sure 8-year-old me longed with all my heart that I could have a pizza Lunchable.
Pizza, at least in my elementary school, was the best of all Lunchables: You’d get some tiny crackerlike pizza crusts and cover them with the pizza sauce provided in a squeeze packet. Then you’d sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top and delicately arrange your mini pepperoni. They’re nowhere close to being as good as actual pizza, or even cold pizza, but in the eyes of a third-grader, they were heaven. Second best was the turkey and cheese Lunchables with Ritz crackers, like a kiddie charcuterie plate. The girls in my school would make theirs into perfectly proportioned tea sandwiches; the boys would stack the turkey and cheese four inches tall and try to bite through the whole thing at once.
They even have a celebrity endorsement: “Queer Eye’s” Karamo Brown.
There are other Lunchables: Pizza “treatzza,” which is a pizza made of candy; miniature hot dogs meant to be eaten cold, which disgusted me even as a child; chicken tacos, which appear to be a cold chicken nugget wrapped in a mini flour tortilla; and nachos, with salsa and queso. In 2015, the brand debuted Lunchables Breakfast, with cinnamon buns and icing, pancakes and bacon with syrup, and waffle sticks. And now we have Brunchables.
The problem is the flatbread. It’s simultaneously dry and gummy, wan and tasteless. The texture is, quite frankly, bad. It’s a real stretch to call this “bread.” Of the three meats — ham, bacon and sausage — the former is the only one typically eaten cold. But somehow it manages to be the worst — maybe because the ham doesn’t have enough flavor to compensate for the flatbread, and there’s not enough of it to make up for the dry bread. The bacon is fine, I guess. The sausage is the most visually unappealing — a gray hunk of meat with grill stripes on it — but because it has the most moisture, the whole thing turns out better than I could have expected. Which is another low-set bar. This is giving the sausage way too much credit, but it tastes like the world’s crummiest pâté.
Do not even get me started on the blueberry muffin.
Would I have liked this as a child? Hard to say. The appeal of Lunchables was never how they tasted, but how they were presented and assembled. But this foray into Brunchables ended as it started: a joke.
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