Taste Test: Doctor Scab’s Monster Lab

Halloween! Just the name conjures up visions of… repeats of US sitcoms in May, and… something about pumpkins… I think Charlie Brown‘s in there somewhere… no, I’ve got nothing.

Though there are unconfirmed reports of Australian children trick-or-treating in the outer suburbs, Halloween remains one of those strange American customs – like bright orange cheese, or trying to shoot the President. It’s never had any cultural traction in this country, which is a pity, because I can’t helping thinking the nation would be improved by adults wearing fancy dress with impunity. It doesn’t help that Halloween falls so close to Melbourne Cup – perhaps it would catch on if small children dressed as Phar Lap.

Our foreign correspondent Daniel Cardone recently returned from the US with Halloween candy in tow. In Outland Institute tradition we gathered a panel to test this spooky delicacy.

Doctor Scab’s Monster Lab is a bag of “creepy chocolaty flavored [sic] body parts”. It’s what the Easter Bunny would bring if the Easter Bunny had seen too many Saw movies. It’s a cavalcade of severed fingers, toes, ears and lips, plus “fudge filled eyes”, wrapped in gruesomely-detailed foil. Palmer, the manufacturer, has a Quality Pledge on the pack where they state “For over 50 years, Palmer has been a national brand making candy for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter and Halloween… If you are not satisfied please let us know and we will make it right.” Two things here to note here – Palmer makes special occasion candy, but nothing you’d eat everyday – for reasons that would soon become abundantly clear. Secondly, the phrase “we will make it right” sounds quite ominous when you’re looking at a bag of edible body parts.

It’s a surprisingly hefty bag, weighing in at 737 grams. You’d assume that’s a direct translation of a more rational imperial measurement, but neither 1 & 5/8ths of a pound or 26 ounces seem that logical either…

And so – to the tasting! Today’s panel consists of: gourmand Angela Costanzo, arts-writer Anne-Marie Peard; the Evil Doctor Chris; Destination Moon‘s Damaris Baker & David Ashton; lady writer Narrelle Harris, jetsetter/heiress Daniel Cardone; aspiring catamite Andrew Milnes; special statistical commentator Naomi Le Get; and myself.

While the panel were impressed by the packaging – the severed ears even had hair and blood stains on them! – expectations weren’t high for this product:

“It’s not going to be good, is it?”
“What do you expect from something called Doctor Scab’s?”
“There’s not enough parts to make a monster – you’d need an expansion pack.”
“That’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen, and I’m going to put it in my mouth.”

Most started with the eyes, although the peanut-butter filled lips were considered more successful:

“What’s in the ear?”
“Double crisp.”
“The lips are slightly better.”
“The toes are better than the eyes – don’t go for the eyes.”

It all came back to the chocolate, though:

“It’s not nice – it’s slightly gritty.”
“It’s like the bad Tim Tams.”
“It’s bad chocolate.”
“It’s like really bad chocolate crackles – there’s an aftertaste coming… oh, more tea! More tea! Oh, what the fuck is that? Did a rat die in the vat or something?”
“For the love of god, more tea!!!!”
“It could be worse – oh, it is, it’s worse now.”
“Exactly the flavour and texture of margarine.”
“Maybe it’s the partly hydrogenated vegetable oil.”

It was at this point we made the discovery that Doctor Scab’s Monster Lab isn’t actually chocolate – it’s “chocolaty flavoured”. Yes, this product doesn’t have enough cocoa butter to be legally called “chocolate”. At the end of the test there was still plenty left in the bag, so we’ll be keeping them near the doors of The Outland Institute to give to small children. They certainly won’t be coming back.

I asked the panel had they seen any evidence of Halloween being celebrated in Australia?

“Every second year a few kids show up…”
“We didn’t have any lollies so our house got egged – have we ever hidden from kids?”
“We got a catalogue in the mail that mentioned Halloween – it wasn’t a big store, it was somethink like Clint’s Crazy Bargains.”
“I had a Buffy party last year.”
“Did you all turn into what you dressed up as?”
“We didn’t dress up.”
“…Oh.”

In conclusion, would the panel recommend the product?

“The chocolate is an afterthought to the packaging.”
“They promised a horror-filled experience and they delivered on it.”
“I feel I should apologise for bringing that into the country.”

10 Responses to Taste Test: Doctor Scab’s Monster Lab

  1. Truly gross and disgusting – bravo!

  2. Sam says:

    How I miss Halloween – the best holiday the US has to offer. I think the reason it never works here is the time of year – hard to have Halloween when day light saving’s kicked in and it’s a humid 30…

  3. Narrelle says:

    I read that entry and wept. With laughter. Or possibly with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

  4. Louise says:

    It’s the most beautiful of holidays. One feels such hope for the future of humankind. *wipes a tear* If only we had it here.

  5. outlandinstitute says:

    In 2006 I was in Texas for Halloween. Boy, that’s a weird sentence… anyway, there’s usually a night where certain “party” streets get filled with adults in costume and I managed to attend both the Austin and Dallas nights. It was great – in Dallas the costumes were fantastic. My favourite was a gorgeously curvy black woman dressed as Marie Antoinette. I told her how much I loved her outfit and she said “I can’t breathe. If I collapse, tell them to cut the bitch out of the dress.” Words I live by to this very day.

    And remember kids – bad chocolate is worse than no chocolate at all.

  6. I CAN SEE A KILLING HERE IN TWO WAYS!!FORGET HALLOWEEN DAY & MELBOURNE CUP.IMAGINE DR SCAB,S TREATS ,SITTING ON A GP DESK OR THE ODD DENTIST OR TWO,S SHELF ,FOR ALL THE GOODIE TWO SHOES KIDDIES.MAYBE A RANGE COULD BE MADE FOR SPECIALISTS , WHO EVER, IAM SURE THE MUMIES BE WOULD BE VERY HAPPY!!! JUST A SUGGESTION,MAYBE A LAWYER WOULD BE HANDY IF YOU HAVE ONE, —–ALSO“A“KIDNEY`DISH..!!!“““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““`

  7. Anne-Marie says:

    John – please save Louise a body part – cos I think she needs to taste the true meaning of US Halloween. Unless you’ve scoffed all the toey goodness…

  8. Dave AA says:

    According to research by the National Retailers Association;

    Top Children’s Costumes 2008
    1. Princess (generic)
    2. Witch
    3. Hannah Montana

    How on earth does a girl dress up as Hannah Montana and not just look like, y’know, a girl?

    Source: http://www.snopes.com/holidays/halloween/topcostumes.asp

  9. outlandinstitute says:

    I like “Princess (generic)” – just a run-of-the-mill princess.

    I still have half-a-bag of Dr Scab’s left, if anyone out there would like to share the experience…

  10. Dave AA says:

    “Princess (Disney)” was ninth on the list. I guess number three could have been written as “Princess (Hannah Montana)”

    I’ll pass on the bag of scabs, thanks.

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