Breakfast in a can
Due to popular demand and the fact that we love trying weird foods and candies, The A.V. Club periodically features Taste Tests. Feel free to suggest disgusting and/or delicious new edibles for future installments: E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s been a long time since we’ve girded our guts and forced down weird, hideous food and drink for your entertainment here at The A.V. Club, and for that, we apologize. It seemed like the well of misbegotten foodstuffs had dried up: Meat Water turned out to be a hoax, Sandwich In A Can never materialized beyond its promotional materials, and the vodka companies appeared to have run out of ill-advised flavor combinations. So we retreated, awaiting the next gastronomic challenger worthy of battling our impervious tongues and steel stomachs.
But that isn’t the whole truth. You see, this whole time, there has been a product worthy of our attention, and it’s been sitting quietly on Josh’s desk for months, waiting to wreak havoc on our digestive tracts; we’ve simply chosen to ignore it. Something about the phrase “egg nuggets” just doesn’t inspire the same sort of fervor around the office as “alcoholic whipped cream.” But Taste Test’s history with canned foods is long and illustrious, and frankly, it was starting to get damn shameful that the crew that downed cheeseburger in a can, bacon in a can, and chicken in a can couldn’t face the All Day Breakfast. (Also, the cans were about to expire, so it was now or never.)
The Hunger Breaks All Day Breakfast has been around for years across the pond, but has remained a curious culinary anomaly to us Yanks. The so-called “breakfast in a can”—a traditional English mélange of baked beans, sausages, mushrooms, chopped pork, bacon, and those dreaded egg nuggets, combined with something generically dubbed “cereal”—is a hearty, convenient kick-off to a day of indigestion and remorse. It isn’t available here in the U.S., but faithful, sadistic reader Oisín O’Connell (who pointed out that he’s “from Ireland—but we don't make or eat this stuff, so please don't blame us”) sent us a can. He also got us a sample of Hunger Breaks’ other canned-meal option, The Full Monty, which swaps out egg nuggets (that never stops being gross/fun to say!) for potato chunks and “a mini chopped & shaped beef & cereal cutlet.” Individually, none of the components are that offensive—egg nuggets aside—but when combined and shoved into a can that bears a label portraying the shiniest, most glistening beans and meat you ever did see, it becomes increasingly harder to theoretically stomach.
There was only one person who could lead us in this charge into the bowels of English cuisine. And so we lit the Taste Test beacons high atop Mt. Onion and sounded the belching horns of gastrointestinal distress to summon the one and only Dave Chang from the cave into which he long ago retreated to contemplate in solitude the limitations of the human stomach. (It’s in Wisconsin, in case you’re wondering.) Under his leadership, we forged ahead into the eggy, nuggety depths of the All Day Breakfast.
Get the Flash Player to see this player.
The taste: Truth is, as nice as it was to see Chang, we probably could have handled this one without his prodigious skills. The All Day Breakfast and The Full Monty aren’t nearly as gag-inducing as their descriptions imply; mostly they’re just bland, bland, bland. Everything tastes like beans—the sausages, the mushrooms, and, perhaps least surprisingly, the beans. There’s a vague hint of flavor from the “tomato sauce,” somewhat akin to watered-down Spaghetti-Os, but it really just tastes like the vague notion of nourishment being jammed down your throat in chunks of protein, fiber, and carbs. It’s nearly impossible to discern what’s what: There’s a tube-y, sausage-y-looking thing; a flat sausage-y looking thing; and a meatball-like clump of what might be sausage. The dreaded egg nuggets were tough to identify by sight—one sauce-covered lump starts to look like another pretty quickly—and completely anonymous in terms of taste.
The really offensive thing about All Day Breakfast and The Full Monty (not counting their name, appearance, and general concept) is the texture of the so-called meat it contains. It’s mealy, mushy, and startlingly un-meatlike. Unsurprisingly, Chang was unfazed, comparing the spherical meat wad—accurately—to Chef Boyardee meatballs, which apparently constitutes a real treat when you’re normally fed whole canned chicken. The link sausage, which was so soft and insubstantial it practically fell apart when our forks touched it, was another matter. It was roundly hated by all our tasters, and the closest we’ve seen Chang come to spitting out food. Smelling blood in the water, we upped the ante by mushing the leftovers into a “breakfast shake” topped off with a spot of coffee from the pot that had been sitting on the burner for five hours. (Sure, tea would have been more traditional, but this is ’Merica, dammit, and we drink coffee!) It should surprise no one to find out that Chang deemed the unholy mixture “not bad.”
• ”I got some on my finger and every fiber of my being is telling me not to lick it off.”
• “It’s like Chef Boyardee.” “Is that good?” “YEAH!”
• “It looks like pork and it smells like pork, but it tastes like a giant wad of beans.”
• “The taste never changes on your palate.”
• “The price and nutritional value are still a mystery, so I’m wary of saying I’d voluntarily eat it, but I’ve definitely had worse from a can. Nothing was all that bad, just bland covered in bland sauce. Except for that sausage. It really shouldn’t fall apart like that.”
• “They smell like a combination of baked beans and Spaghetti-Os with Meatballs. The tomato-and-bean taste pretty much overwhelmed everything else, so overall, they weren’t that bad, really. I don’t think I’d ever eat them, but I don’t regret that I did. And canned button mushrooms just taste like nothing. I did almost vom, though, when it got liquefied and Chang downed it.”
• “I really had problems with the sausage, which had no chew or flavor to speak of. It just disintegrates into a mealy mush in your mouth.”
• “Reminds me of the Who Sell Out album cover with Roger Daltrey as the sausage.”
• “Overall, it’s similar to typical pork and beans. Kind of bland and pale, but otherwise innocuous. Remind you of any European island nation?”
Where to get it: England. They can keep it.