Friday, December 4, 2009

Food Review: VAMPIRE'S SECRET ICE POPS (1993, United States)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Maker: Good Humor.
Home Country: United States.
Where procured: My 1993 Elementary School Olympics.

So I suppose that I have to face the fact that the Halloween season is really over, so I'll finish off the celebration with a little something special that manages to combine the flavor of Halloween with the icy chill of December: it's called... 'Vampire's Secret Ice Pops.' Now I remembered these things from back in the day, and had been searching for them fruitlessly for years. I couldn't even remember what they were called, exactly. Maybe it was "Drac Pops," "Transylvania Bars," or "Bloody Popsicles." [That latter internet search led to a fetish subculture (!) known for sucking on used, frozen tampons...] Regardless, I was finally able to discover hard evidence, courtesy of Retroist, where I discovered that there were scores of Midwesterners simultaneously searching for proof that these existed. It seems that they were circulated primarily in the Eastern Midwest (Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia) and were available in two varieties: a larger bar called "Vampire's DEADLY Secret" and the popsicles named "Vampire's Secret." [Now I do remember both quite vividly, yet I was unable to find photos online of the Vampire's DEADLY Secret, so just know that it was out there, too.]

Now, if you haven't already guessed what these sanguinary treats entail, let me spell it out for you: A jet black exterior (flavored 'Black' Cherry) enveloped the blood-red interior (so elegantly described on the box as "Cherry Sauce"). So you're basically drinking the popsicle's blood. And "Cherry Sauce" is right– the stuff is gooey and runny as all hell.

Now, I do have an anecdote to accompany this review, so allow me to describe the day that I first made the Vampire's Secret Ice Pops' acquaintance. I was in the Fourth Grade, and it was Field Day, or the Elementary School Olympics, or whatever you'd like to call it. I think that every school had them, or at least some approximation– a day, late in the school year, dedicated to kids running around and busting their balls in the hopes that they can win some shitty plastic medals purchased at the Dollar Store. The teachers are torn in their appreciation for the day: on the upside, they don't have to really do any work; but on the downside, they have stand outside all day as the sun beats down on their backs and there's only one little bit of shade, and fuck, you have to squint and shield your eyes all afternoon cause you left your goddamned sunglasses at home, what a stupid thing to do, dammit.

I wasn't exactly the biggest fan of Field Day, but there was a sort of primitive excitement in the possibility that a plastic medal or a generic ribbon of some kind could be yours at the end of the day. This was what kept you going. And the games ranged from legitimate to insane: there was a marathon-style run, a three-point basketball challenge, a relay race with batons, etc. But there was also some stupid shit where you had to lay down on your belly and wheel around on a makeshift scooter, the three legged race, and some 'tomfoolery involving little bean bags' that didn't make any sense then, and it doesn't make any sense now. There was even an egg challenge, where a team of two kids would toss a raw egg back and forth, taking a step back between each toss, until the egg finally smashed all over some unfortunate whippersnapper's face and shirt.

Anyway, the final event was the Marathon, and we'd all been hydrating (a local McDonald's donated a giant keg of that terrible orange-flavored sugar water punch), but perhaps a little too much, because we all started to double over with cramps during the final lap. All that orange sugar water sloshing around one's stomach was not exactly conducive to sprightly athleticism. We were overheated; our faces ruddy with exhaustion. Bits of grass and dirt were pasted to our sweat-drenched skin. We kind of wanted to die. Some kid finally dragged his sorry ass across the finish line, and it was over. Another successful kiddie Olympics. Now it was time for the treats. The big payoff. Usually it was your choice of any two kinds of Flav-Or-Ice. But this year, it was something special. A little something called Vampire's Secret Ice Pops.

It almost breaks my heart to think of what went into the decision. Probably there was some new, idealistic lunch lady or faculty member who said– "These kids are tired of the same old stuff. Let's mix it up! Kids like gross things- they'll love this!" Invariably, some crotchety old douche growled "Come on, Flav-Or-Ice has worked before, and it'll work again. Who cares what they like? Why would you mess with a good thing?" The newbie responds with a tearful argument about changing with the times, and giving kiddies variety, and being on the controversial, cutting edge of frozen confectionary. Then, most likely, the final decision maker harshly intoned, "All right. We'll do the blood pops. But if this backfires, I'm gonna have your ass for breakfast."
Maybe that scenario didn't even happen. Maybe they ordered a box of them last Halloween, had forgotten to distribute them in the school lunches, and the crate sat in the back of the freezer until the end of the school year when it was discovered and cracked open in time for Field Day. Any number of scenarios could have happened. But, regardless, the end result was the same:

We stumbled to the ice cream treat table and excitedly received our blood pops. Most of us didn't even bother to read the label. We ripped off the paper wrappings and dove in. How weird, I thought, as I licked the popsicle and noticed the children around me as their lips and mouths began to turn a repulsive, inky black. Damn, that's probably happening to my mouth, too. But who cares. It's fuckin' Field Day.

"AWWKKKKK!" The first kid had broken through. Some showboat who just wanted to eat his popsicle in five bites instead of laboriously licking it, like its makers had intended, was quickly punished for his impudence. Sticky, goopy blood sauce spewed forth from the popsicle, splattering on his face and shirt. "BLAECCHCHKKK!," another child screamed. The same had happened. Geysers of blood were spouting all around me. "AWWWWW NOOOOO!" "NUTS!!!" I looked out at a sea of children as they made the cruel discovery of what indeed resided inside these strange, black, frozen treats. It wasn't a solid filling at all. Even calling it 'gooey,' or 'goopy,' insinuates more rigidity than it deserves. As soon as you hit the center, it was like you were holding a wine bottle upside down, above your face, and pulled out the cork. If you weren't prepared, your face, hands, and shirt would be showered in sticky, viscous, bloody fluid. They might as well have handed us squirt guns full of maple syrup.

Now, perhaps I exaggerate in retrospect, but the end result resembled a massacre. Our mouths blackened and our bodies bloodied, we solemnly marched to the gymnasium for our awards and trinkets. In previous years, they had taken photographs of the children as they received their plastic prizes, but for some reason, they didn't that year. In fact, I think they kinda rushed the ceremony so that they wouldn't have to look at us, and I can't say that I blame them. I only hope that the young, theoretical lunch lady who dared to go against the grain didn't get shitcanned, cause I really like her a lot.

Four stars. Two for that lunch lady's doe-eyed idealism, and two for the Vampire Pops' ability to transform a grueling, mandatory school activity into a stunning vision of gory, apocalyptic chaos.

-Sean Gill


skeelo said...

Hahahahhaha! Fantastic

the end of the story with the vampire pops reminded me so much of the barf scene in stand by me. everyone was covered

as usual, well written Sean!

Sean Gill said...

Thank you, sir!

RichB said...

I love it man, very funny.

Ginty said...

Funny story! I'm liking your site a lot, JJ.