Today, a two for one deal, as I start a new quest: to find a babyfood replacement for new Zealand's most popular purée, KFC's potato and gravy. The first challenger is Heinz Organic's sweet baby vegetables, one of the few stage one purées I have found with real potatoes in it, though given the nature of KFC's potato and gravy, I doubt having real potato in it need necessarily be a qualifier for these foods. But first: the original.
A week after starting this blog, I received a direct message on the the twitter machine from a Dr Andre from New Zealand (@keeweedoc):
Firstly, thanks Andre, glad to hear you are enjoying the blog (or were a while back, I do note readership has dropped a bit since then, come back!)
Secondly, great idea! I did refrain from using Emily as a test subject for this one, on account of not wanting to displease my wife. However, it was not an invitation I could pass up. So I acquired myself a small pot of the Colonel's finest, and tucked in.
Contains: Honestly, who knows. According to KFC, potato and gravy. Also, according to their Facebook account, it's not vegetarian, but no further details. Given Frank Bainimarama threatened to kick KFC out of Fiji unless they told him what the eleven secret herbs and spices were (clue: salt, pepper, and mine others you can't taste), he might be a good person to ask. I've tweeted him, no reply yet, but I'll keep you up to date.
First Impressions: Much the same as when I've eaten this before, I open the little plastic tub and marvel at a) how much this doesn't look like the picture on the menu, and b) how much this doesn't look like potato. A mess of white purée with a greasy brown gelatinous gloop oozing down the sides. The strong bouquet is mostly of chicken stock, strong and lingering on the nose.
Taste test: According to double-U double-U double-U dot KFC dotcom, this produce 'always hits the spot'. The potato should be 'soft and fluffy', and the gravy 'thick and rich'. Now, I'm not one for strong language, but I'm calling bullshit on this claim. As hinted upon, there a two elements at play here, so I shall review their gustatory merits separately.
Firstly, the potato, or what masquerades to be such. Soft it is, but rather than fluffy, I would draw up one another f-word, flakey. Given, the side serving was not at optimum temperature at the time of my dining, but I felt it more came apart in my mouth rather than ran back down the tongue and onwards in the manner a true cream should. Taste wise, there was very little, but to be fair, the potato is present more as a vehicle of delivery for the 'thick and rich' gravy.
Speaking of which, I was mildly surprised to find that the gelatinous appearance did not translate into such a texture once past the lips. The gravy was, indeed, thick and viscous, but certainly retained a pleasant fluidity within the mouth. Strong salty tones predominated, presumably from a chicken stock heavily influenced by some, but likely not all, of those eleven seasonings known only to Colonel Sanders and perhaps Commodore Bainimarama (still no reply though).
Overall: 5.5/10: whilst not perfect, the true beauty of the Colonel's potato and gravy is it can be used as a makeshift dip for your chips, or as a thick spread for your sweetened dinner roll. It's going to be quite a role to challenge!
Enjoy with: A KFC quarter pack, obvs.
And so, on to the first challenger, Heinz Organic's Sweet baby vegetables. On account of the word sweet in the name, I already had my doubts whether this could be enjoyed alongside two pieces of original recipe, a dinner roll, chips and a regular drink. On top of that, how could something advertised as being so purely organic possibly sit alongside dismembered hunks of presumably battery farmed chicken? Nevertheless, I had a job to do.
Contains: Vegetables(65%) (Sweet potato (21%), Carrots (15%), Potatoes (15%), Sweetcorn (14%)), Water, Vitamin C.
An ingredient list upon the packaging! Score one over imported American convenience food! Again, similar to pervious Heinz Organic foods, this comes with asterisks next to all ingredients except water, to put you at ease of mind that they are all organic. No mention as to whether the vegetables themselves are babies, or whether 'baby' in the food's title is just denoting who this product is for. If the latter, then up yours Heinz Organic, I ate some too!
As a side note, we are informed below the ingredients listing that 'water is added for cooking, and to ensure appropriate texture', just in case you were wondering what this non-organic non-vegetable was doing imposing upon your baby's food.
Initial Thoughts: A pale orange colour, with a slight granularity about it, this just looked so much more ALIVE than the mass-produced fast food mash. It wasn't, of course, the vegetables within had been harvested from the life-giving Mother Earth, processed, and mushed beyond all recognition. Bent there was some sort of vitality here which was lacking from the boy-tied military man's food (Sanders not Bainimarama).
Emily's reaction: We'd been back on fruit predominantly for the past few meals, so the shock of something masquerading as savoury was initially quite disconcerting. As an added distraction, Grandpa was visiting, and making funny noises across the room. Still, a solid enough attempt, and ate most of the packet without grizzling or gagging.
Bouquet: I may be smelling too much baby food these days, but honestly, pumpkin was the main hint I got off this one. Very little in the way of sweetcorn, potato or carrot on the nose, but a sweet and alluring scent nonetheless.
Taste test: texture wise, this wasn't a million miles away for the KFC potato and gravy at all, moist, a few firmer small particulars adding a coarseness on the tongue. Additionally, on first taste, I felt this quite bland. Moving towards the back of the tongue, however, got the party started, with strong kumara and sweetcorn hints reaching up and punching me in the uvula. An after taste of carrot lingered, then all was forgotten before the next spoonful. A sweet concoction that wouldn't be fully expected from a combination of four vegetables, had it not clearly stated 'sweet' on the front of the packaging.
Overall: 6/10: Probably not a viable substitute for the dipping of French fries, but not without its own charms.
Can you eat this with fried chicken?: You could, but I don't think it's the best match. Maybe as a puréed compote next to a medium-rare scotch fillet would be more fitting.