Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Magic Pop: Extreme Rice Cakes

I was strolling through the Murray’s cheese section at Kroger last night, looking for samples, when I noticed a small crowd gathered near the bakery. They had collected around a contraption about the size of a popcorn machine, with a plexi-glass partition keeping onlookers back.

Every ten seconds or so, the machine would make a loud popping sound and a cracker about the size of a pita was expelled at high speed, hitting the glass and falling into a basket. There was an attendant on hand, feeding the machine, or keeping it from turning loose and eating everyone in the store, I couldn’t tell what.

Getting closer I could see the words “Kim’s Magic Pop,” on a sign above the crowd. Next to it was a platter of cracker samples served alongside a half-eaten container of hummus. I walked a full circle around the Magic Pop, noting a pervasive fake strawberry smell not unlike the stuff they spray on landfills. It reminds you of strawberry but your nose tells you it’s not.

I reached in for a sample, ignoring the hummus. There were two varieties of magic crackers on hand for tasting, a plain looking kind and another with light pink splotches. I took a sliver of the pink stuff. It tasted just about how it smelled, and it lingered in my mouth for an uncomfortably long amount of time.

I did some research at home and read all about the Magic Pop Story. It seems there’s a couple in South Korea who got the idea in their heads to both terrify and delight the people of America by creating a machine that would pressure-cook rice cakes and fling them at high speeds. There’s also a wonderfully Photoshopped image of Magic Pop “HQ” in South Korea.

I also discovered that there are a variety of Magic Pop flavors, including shrimp – shrimp! Magic Pop’s website lists the benefits of its product and insists that the rice cakes are “especially good for little ones and the elderly.” Coincidentally, I can’t think of anyone who would be more frightened by the concept.

What's amazing to me is how the Magic Pop machine turns a bland food into a supermarket spectacle. Is there a less interesting, less enticing food than a rice cake? No. But if you show people how it's made and send that food flying through the air with the speed and ferocity of a hockey puck, people will eat it up. The small crowd watching at Kroger had already loaded their carts with pre-packaged sacks of Magic Pop crackers. Marketing genius.

The best part of my chance encounter with the Magic Pop was when the employee tending to the machine accidentally moved his hand into the line of fire. He saw me standing in front of the basket of samples, my eyes glazed over in awe, and he said “Good evening ma’am.” And then a cracker whizzed out of the machine and hit him in the arm.


Desi said...

Ha I saw that thing at the Newport Kroger the other day. The attendee was overly excited about the Magic Pops. I tasted one and it tasted like a plain rice cake. Not even such a spectacle could make me buy them! It's just a rice cake!

Allison Johnson said...

My thoughts exactly Desi. A rice cake is a rice cake.

labrys said...

I love Kim's Magic Pop and they are not like your usual rice cakes. I've only had the plain flavor, but they are very appealing and versatile. I've used them in place of tortilla chips with a taco salad. I've used them with a thin layer of flavored cream cheese spread on them. I've eaten many just plain. 15 calories per each.

Anonymous said...

I agree with labrys...these things are amazing! I was in Dallas over the weekend and happened upon them...delicious. Much better than your average rice cake. We bought a bag and brought them home and my friends kids were eating them up like crazy - and they're low in calories...great snack!

Unknown said...

I don't like the Magic Pop so much (and you're right, the "flavored" ones are weird) but Kim's DELI Pop is AWESOME. I'm a dieter and counting calories is a necessary evil in my life at present. Kim's Deli Pop is only 10 calories! And although it basically has zero nutritional value, it's an excellent snack when I feel munchy and don't want to exceed my calories. And unlike other (higher-calorie) snacky foods, I really feel full after eating one. Hooray for the super-mini rice cake!