They’re reliable staples despite having more in common with actual staples than any food group. Delectable options existing at the intersection of “This is tasty as hell” and “Wait ... why is my tongue that color?” Go-to foods for those either looking to save money or increase cholesterol. Together, Kool-Aid, Steak-umms and instant ramen make up the Holy Trinity of “foods” that were involved in 67 percent of the meals I made for myself in high school and college because that’s all I knew how to cook.
But let’s say an arbitrarily cruel alien warlord landed here, sampled Kool-Aid, Steak-umms and ramen and fell in love with each and declared, “People of Earth. Because I am a benevolent ruler, I will not deplete your entire supply of Kool-Aid, Steak-umms and ramen. Instead, I will allow you to choose, amongst yourselves, which one you can keep. ALL HAIL ZYGON THE ZITHED!”
Which one makes the cut?
Before I give you my answer, allow me to provide a solid case for each.
It’s the most versatile. You can drink it with steaks, you can drink it with gluten-free pancakes and you can use it to refinish upholstery. And there are enough flavors of it to create a batch to match your mood. If you’re feeling angry, go for some red. If you’re sad, purple. And if you’re racist, invisible watermelon kiwi.
Also, to be perfectly fair to Kool-Aid, although it gets a bad rap for being an orgy of sugar, fruit juices and sodas contain roughly the same amount. Which is why, if you really want to be safe, you should just drink deer urine.
Out of the three choices, it’s the one that provides the most pleasure. No one has ever eaten a Steak-umm sandwich—or perhaps scrambled eggs with Steak-umms mixed in—and been in a worse mood afterward. Steak-umms brighten your day and liven your diarrhea. And this dynamic exists despite the fact that no one has ever quite been sure if Steak-umms are actual meat (or if there are any long-term effects of eating the paper residue from the packaging they come in, since it’s not a true Steak-umm unless there’s a thin sheet of cellophane stuck to it).
Ramen has undergone a bit of a bougie renaissance recently, as you’ll be able to find, in every newly gentrified neighborhood, at least one restaurant that takes a 99-cent package of Oodles of Noodles, puts some cilantro and Old Bay in it, and charges you $14.99 for a bowl.
Also, if you’re desperate and resourceful, you can use dry packs of ramen to throw at home invaders. You can’t do that with Kool-Aid.
Anyway, I’d hate to have to make this choice. But if an alien warlord’s vaporizer was pointed to my head and I had to choose, I’m choosing Kool-Aid. Just because I have aspirations of being an old black man and sitting on my porch all day just to judge people, and the fantasy is incomplete without a glass of Kool-Aid beside me.