Market Watch

Leave Chef Boyardee Alone: Not Everything Needs to be Reviewed

No one should be surprised about what the flavors inside this can taste like.
No one should be surprised about what the flavors inside this can taste like. Photo by Cory Garcia
Despite much evidence to the contrary, I've been a long time believer that the democratization of the Internet has been, if not strictly a good thing, at least a net positive for civilization. Yes, I do think that anyone with access to social media and the ability to sort of string together sentences has probably had a bad effect on art and art criticism, but generally speaking, the ability for people to leave honest reviews on almost anything has been pretty helpful all told. People who take Yelp too seriously still weird me out, but they've saved me from what I presume were a few bad meals along the way.

But the weird side effect of “I have an opinion and I must share it” culture is that there are tons of websites out there that have “leave a review” options that really don't need them, and if you spend enough time online you'll eventually come across a website that makes you stop, scratch your chin, and then force you to log off for a while. I thought I was immune to surprises online anymore, but now I know I was wrong, about my ability to be surprised and online reviews being a good thing.

I only discovered my breaking point by accident. Did you know that Chef Boyardee sells canned pasta in butter sauce? I didn't, and once my wife told me about it I made a mental note to Google that because it sounds terrible; I genuinely love Chef Boyardee and eat an embarrassing amount of it for someone with a car payment, but the idea of them making a butter sauce makes my skin crawl. But it was a trip over to the good chef's website that I discovered something that broke my brain a little: people leaving reviews of Chef Boyardee products. More importantly, people leaving one-star reviews of Chef Boyardee products.

I'm not here to defend the good chef's honor, because that would be folly; Chef Boyardee products are fine enough. They'll never win any awards for flavor but that's not why they exist. They exist because parents can use a helping hand and office workers need a lunch that can be heated in under a minute without having to bring a bowl to work. It's a utilitarian product, and to be quite honest no one buying it should have an opinion on it, let alone an opinion that leads them to open up their web browser of choice, going to their website, and writing a non-zero number of words about what they make.

Listen, I get defending your love of brand name food. One day I will sit down and write that passionate 2,000-word essay on Hamburger Helper, but slagging name brand food just seems like such a waste of time and bandwidth, especially on their own website. I looked up the pasta with butter sauce because I wanted to see what it looked like, not because I needed someone to try and convince me yes or no on whether I should buy it.

So I'm here, asking you to really think about what you're doing with your life if things have gotten to the point where you need to review everything, where you have at least 50-word opinions on everything in your pantry. Review the weird flavors of Lays chips, keep your Kit-Kat variant blog up to date, try all the foreign Coke products, but let the basics be basic.

Everyone who grew up with a parent short on time or cooking abilities know that everything Chef Boyardee puts out tastes the same if you close your eyes, and that's just how we like it. And that somehow probably includes the pasta in butter sauce, as troubling as that sounds.
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Cory Garcia is a Contributing Editor for the Houston Press. He once won an award for his writing, but he doesn't like to brag about it. If you're reading this sentence, odds are good it's because he wrote a concert review you don't like or he wanted to talk pro wrestling.
Contact: Cory Garcia