Shelf Life: Island of the Misfit Foods

By Wynter Holden

I've always wondered what happens to imperfect foods. You know, like the accidental square Cheerio. I mean, we live in such a perfectionist society. Studies show that attractive people get more attention and earn more than average-looking people. So it's only natural that better-looking foods end up on store shelves, while those square pegs in the round Cheerio hole get tossed or recycled. Or incinerated.

I like to think they go to a better place; an isle (or aisle, rather) of misshapen and forlorn, but oh-so-endearing foodstuffs. Kind of like the misfit toys in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Besides, this is food we're talking about. Candy, cookies, hot dogs, cereal...not luxury automobiles or designer dresses. Who cares if a cracker looks perfect, as long as it tastes good? Judging by the lack of mutant raisins in my bran cereal and the utter perfection of every sunny yellow Peep in last year's Easter basket, I'm guessing pretty much everyone in the food industry. I mean, imagine the lawsuit I could file if a marshmallow bunny had three ears. Gasp!

Still, why throw the accidental foods out? I'm sure the starving Chinese children my mama always shamed me into eating icky asparagus for would appreciate a mutant marshmallow animal or two.

That's why I could practically French kiss the marketing geniuses at Jelly Belly who came up with the idea of repackaging and selling their manufacturing goofs...

Called "Belly Flops," these adorable little bundles of lumpy, oversized, scrawny and just plain ugly beans are lovingly separated from their good looking cousins and sold at places like the 99-cent store I found them in.

Even the bag illustration of the giant Mr. Jelly Belly diving into a pool of colorful blobs tugged at my heartstrings. I'm not perfect (though admittedly my body's a little trimmer than 'ol Mr. Jelly) and someone loves me. So, it was only fitting that I bought a bag of the little guys, took them home and lined them up on my counter so I could see all their glorious imperfections in the light.

Never mind that I also write a blog column about eating healthy and sticking to your diet. These forgotten beans needed me, and it was my duty to see that they fulfilled their purpose by sliding down my gullet. They were soft and fresh and tasted exactly like the Jelly Bellies I remember. Just proves that when it comes to food, beauty is overrated. It's what's on the inside that counts.

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