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A lot of people make bad frozen food choices. I’m just trying to help prevent that.

Barber Foods

Barber Foods fascinates me. Really. As far as I can tell, Barber Foods does breaded chicken, and pretty much only breaded chicken. But they do it well, and inventively, somehow making an entire freezer section out of a niche market. Now, my mom warns me that their lean dishes are hit or miss, so I have avoided them. Specifically, she said they were okay but lackluster, with the exception of the Marco Polo, which is deadly. Their Chicken Kiev, however, is everything frozen food can hope to be. Dude: chicken, stuffed with butter. Like restaurant quality. Their cheese and broccoli stuffed chicken is almost as good, and has the added benefit of that sense of accomplishment that comes with being able to say “Why yes, I did eat vegetables today.”

I’ve been way too satisfied with these two to try any of the other stuffed chicken options, but you’re welcome to do so, and I give them better odds of being good than just about any other unknown in the frozen food realm. They’ve recently removed the microwave instructions from the package, however, I suppose having something to do with the fact that the chicken starts out not entirely cooked. There are three or four steps to microwaving these, but it’s definitely worth it, and I hereby record these steps for posterity: two minutes with the entrée upside down, one and a half minutes right side up, wait a minute, and then one minute again right side up. That’s right — it’s so good I have it memorized.

However, the masterminds at Barber foods don’t stop at chicken encased entrees. I remember I had something with a ridiculous name like “Potato Chip Breaded Chicken Sticks: Honey Flavored” my freshman year, and that was way better than it had any right to be, though not quite as good as some of their other products. It wasn’t even really a quality issue with the chicken sticks, but they didn’t always microwave evenly. I just tried their Four Cheese Stuffed Chicken Nuggets, and they are my new favorites. Something about them looking like little chicken volcanoes with molten cheese in the middle really appeals to me, so the added benefit of their actually tasting delicious is quite exciting.

Sundries

A few final notes that didn’t seem to fit into any other category:

•Breakfast foods tend to be one of the categories which are harder to come by in college. Every once in a while someone, maybe even you, will make pancakes, but generally that’s about it; even then, it’s a little bland. Jones’ Golden Brown precooked sausages work well as both an add-on to pancakes and as a breakfast on-the-go, and they’re a really good breakfast-food-craving fix.

• Most dumplings don’t work out quite right, because they’re really not meant to be microwaved. Plus the sauces tend to be pretty bad, as well as hard to heat up and not enough for the quantity in the box. However, the shumai you can get at Trader Joe’s tend to fare better.

• Quite a few of the good microwavable dishes are just meat, which is yummy, but not exactly balanced. I haven’t dabbled much in the vegetable arena, but Green Giant Nibblets Corn and Butter Sauce works pretty well as an add-on to a side dish. I would say a box probably can serve as a side dish for two people.

• Two things from Trader Joe’s that even I couldn’t finish: Trader Joe’s Chicken Drumettes and some sort of buffalo chicken pastry triangle. One thing from Trader Joe’s that was surprisingly good: Broccoli and Cheddar Quiche. Trader Joe’s frozen dishes tend to follow the same rules as the more experimental Lean Cuisine’s; they’re more inventive, so they have the potential to be so much better, but also the potential to be so much worse. I wouldn’t recommend doing your frozen food shopping there unless you’re going the way of the true scientist, and are willing to try a few things and fail at a good number of them.

• In the not-actually-frozen category: Spaghetti-O’s are just as good as you remember but Chef Boyardee is not.

We all have skills which go unused. Talents which lie fallow. Knowledge bases which we never find the venue to implement. Thank you for allowing me this forum to feel like my area of expertise just might have helped someone.