In contemporary snackology circles, no theory is as hotly contested as Descartes "Lizard King Postulate", which argues that any snack is exponentially more enjoyable when shaped like a dinosaur.
Time and time again the theory has come under scrutiny by top names in the snack business, with results inconclusive at best. Dinosaur-shaped cakes? Mostly better. Dinosaur gummies? It's too close to tell.
There is one snack avenue, however, where that borderline-insane postulate rings true every time. In the land of molded, breaded meat slurry the t-rex is king.
According to the National Association of Dramatic Imaginary Facts, the chicken nugget is the ultimate fate of nearly a billion farm-raised poultry per year. Ask any child in North America to draw you a picture of a chicken, and nine times out of ten the resulting picture will be of a tiny golden brown disc with large googly eyes and a mouth open in a never-ending agonized scream. Long before video games taught our children to kill, chicken nuggets taught them to want to kill.
These bite-sized treats are the purest form of evil available in your grocer's freezer. They're also incredibly tasty.
I may have overstated the whole evil bit.
The chicken nugget was created by Cornell University food science professor Robert C. Baker in 1950 as a way to stress the importance of patenting your brilliant ideas so you don't die without anyone knowing what you've done until Paul and Storm roll into town.
McDonald's put the chicken nugget on the map with its Chicken McNugget, the formula for which was developed under contract by Tyson Foods in 1979. That means that for the first seven years of my life there were no Chicken McNuggets, which is probably why I used to set things on fire.
Here's how the modern chicken nugget is created. First they remove any piece of the chicken that might house a soul. The leavings are ground into a paste and then fed into molds that look absolutely nothing at all like anything that's ever come out of a chicken. Then they bread it, cook it, and place it in colorful plastic bags at Wal-Mart.
Incidentally, the nuggets I am reviewing here are Tyson's fully-cooked Fun Nuggets. As it turns out, "Fun" is just a serving suggestion.
I must admit I was hoping for more shapes. I don't believe that was an unrealistic expectation.
Paleontologists have, as of this writing, identified more than 1,000 different species of dinosaur, and that's not counting the avian and aquatic varieties; it's not like I was looking for wings and flippers here. Would it have killed the Tyson folks to include more than two? We've got the tyrannosaurus rex, of course, and the stegosaurus. That's it. And really the t-rex is the default dinosaur configuration, so it barely counts.
One serving of Tyson's Fun Nuggets is five pieces. Triceratops, brontosaurus and velociraptor. Any five-year-old that's watched an episode of Dinosaur Train could have done that. I have a hypothesis, Tyson: you don't apply yourselves.
And what lies beneath that welcoming golden-brown crust?
When I was a child I used to have this nightmare where my teeth would break open and I'd find they were filled with a slightly-pink spongy coral.
As I said earlier, the "fun" in Fun Nuggets is a serving suggestion. Having dinosaur-shaped food is nothing if you just sit there sadly in the dark, chewing dejectedly them with your sponge-filled chompers. We spend the early portions of our life being told not to play with our food. This is because adults are horrible people that only want to see us cry.
In terms of gameplay, the unique form of Tyson's dinosaur-shaped Fun Nuggets opens up a world of possibilities. Attack your action figures. Set the Stegosaurus free in your side salad. Dip it in ketchup and let the t-rex lord over it triumphantly before tearing out its inner solidified chicken goop with its razor-sharp fans, tiny ineffectual arms pinwheeling in delight.
Silence those triumphant roars by removing the large, tiny-brained skull with your own mandibles, growling as you chew the strangely juicy snacks. Cooking them on a baking sheet retains the liquid that would have been replaced with grease during the deep-frying process. It's a very pleasant bite, as long as you don't think about the term "chicken juice". Don't worry, whatever it is you're eating ceased to be chicken long ago.
They do taste like chicken, in that same vague way almost everything else does.
The "Lizard King Postulate" puts forth that any snack is exponentially more enjoyable when shaped like a dinosaur. I repeat that theory in this final section not just because that's how my high school English teacher taught me to do it, but because in the case of Tyson's fully-cooked Fun Nuggets it holds quite true.
The problem with snackology, however, is that there are no exacts. My experience was more enjoyable, certainly; it's not often I get to mix LEGO products and food products. But I realize that not everyone has access to the LEGO Avengers.
Indeed, not everyone has access to the reserves of childish joy necessary to fully enjoy these tasty reminders that, at any moment, a giant meteor could wipe us off the face of the Earth, and one day whatever insectoid creatures that evolve to take our place will dine on human-shaped cat nuggets.
Luckily chicken nuggets come in all forms, from animal to metaphysical; If there isn't a bag of ennui-shaped processed poultry lumps at your local grocery store then surely it's only a matter of time.
Snacktaku is Kotaku's take on the wild and wonderful world of eating things, but not eating meals. Eating meals is for those with too much time on their hands. Past critiques can be found at the Snacktaku review archive.