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Cold Shoulder: Marie Callender’s “Cheesy Bacon and Egg” Breakfast Pot Pie

Marie rolls out a breakfast option that is neither convenient nor delicious.

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a post in the “Cold Shoulder” series. I’ve devoted more than enough words to prepackaged Philly cheesesteaks, Buffalo wing-flavored chicken jerky, and “Lobster Bisque” flavored potato chips. Frankly, I just didn’t know if I had it in me anymore, didn’t know if there was anything left that I wanted to say about each new frozen food abomination to come winding through my supermarket’s frozen food aisle.

It used to be so easy to crank out a thousand words on the latest frozen food abomination. Now, though, I was beginning to feel as bored by both my own life and by the nacho cheese-blasted Jamaican Jerk burritos lining the freezers as everyone else. I wondered if any new product could help me muster the enthusiasm I once had for talking about, say, Macaroni and Cheese topped pizza or chicken from Canada that you cook in your toaster.

When I stumbled on this little unassuming box of Marie Callender’s “Cheesy Bacon & Egg” breakfast pot pie, though, I knew it was time for the old guy to come out of retirement, like a crinkly-eyed Kurt Russell trying to bring an uneasy peace to the mean dusty streets of Tombstone using only the combined powers of handlebar moustaches and devastating good looks. From the box:

“Get your day off to a delicious start with a steaming hot Marie Callender’s® breakfast pie filled with scrambled eggs, real bacon and creamy cheese in a golden, flaky crust.”

Since our microwave is currently out of commission, we had to settle for the “Conventional Oven” directions, which require a full 38 minutes of baking in a 375 degree oven. You may recognize that as the same amount of time needed to, I dunno, cook and eat a huge breakfast using normal ingredients that you already have on hand. In that amount of time, you could make yourself some eggs. You could have potatoes. You could float a whole godamned Denny’s-style sidecar of carrot cake flapjacks on the side, and still have time to make it out the door and to the soul-sucking confines of your desk, with plenty of time to spare. Maybe being forced to submit to the conventional oven directions is my fault, for my unwillingness to give up counterspace to one of those fancy new Radar Ranges, but it’s still an issue. Let’s press on.

From the moment you pull one of these rock-solid frozen pastries out of the box, something seems amiss. My particular pie looked like it had already suffered significant trauma, even though the box was unscuffed, with shards of broken, frozen pie crust shaking out all over my counter. Though there were enough breaks in the crust’s seal that I thought I could safely skip the box’s repeated pleas to cut an air vent in the top of the crust, I’m not one to scoff at the printed word, so I did as I was asked, plunging a dull knife through the frozen top of the pie.

While the pie cooked slowly in the oven, I showered, got dressed, made my wife a cup of coffee, knocked out a few emails, got my kids dressed, potty trained them, taught them to read, watched them graduate from college with philosophy degrees, saw the election of six new presidents, and received a gold watch as a retirement gift from my company.

Finally, the “ding” of the timer told me that it was breakfast time at last, and I inverted the paper plate full of breakfast pie onto a white dinner plate, because I know how to enjoy the finer things in life.

Though golden brown on top, the pie’s underside was white and soft, like a diseased captive orca’s belly. I cut the pie in half, which I thought would allow the warm insides to ooze pleasingly onto the plate, but instead the filling stayed perfectly intact, as though they had been spray-foamed into place, the way you deperately try to seal windows in a drafty house with cans of pressurized insulation.

But none of these details matter if the product tastes great, right? My wife predicted that the defining flavor characteristics of the inside of the breakfast pie would be “scaldingly hot” and “salty,” and unfortunately, she was wrong on both counts. Even after almost an hour in the oven, the insides of the pie were warm, at best, and even the taste of salt would have been an improvement over the flavorless mash that lay in front of me. Instead, the finished product tasted like…nothing at all. The little chewy nuggets of bacon tasted like the scrambled egg shards tasted like the potatoes tasted like the cheese sauce, with nothing to define one flavorless chew from the next.

If all you require from breakfast is that something have the depressing qualities of being strictly “kind of warm” and “exactly 510 calories,” the Marie Callender’s “Cheesy Bacon & Egg” breakfast pie makes a tempting choice for mornings when you have nothing but time to spare, and for some reason can’t get it together to crack an egg into a pan.

Or, I suppose if you are for some reason completely insistent on incorporating shitty factory-made ConAgra pie crust into as many meals as possible for no reason whatsoever, you may find a lot to love here. For every other self-respecting person on the planet, however, this one is a big, big pass, in terms of convenience, flavor, value, flotation, flammability, defense against poison +2, and any other metrics you can dream up. Yuck.

(Nutrition Facts — 1 piece — 510 calories, 290 calories from fat, 32 grams of total fat, 14 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 105 milligrams of cholesterol, 500 milligrams of sodium, 45 grams of total carbohydrates, 4 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugars, and 11 grams of protein.)


In our “Cold Shoulder” series, we review, at great personal peril, some of the things that are in the frozen food section of the supermarket that we just don’t remember being here before. Synthesized from non-ingredients, mass-produced and marketed with breathless excitement, most of these items are pretty disappointing. Some day, we will find a winner. Click here to read more from this series.

Written by Malcolm Bedell

Malcolm is the author of "Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road," as well as a frequent contributor to Serious Eats, Down East Magazine, The L.A. Weekly, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and more. When not poisoning his body with garbage and then posting sardonic commentary about it on the Internet, he also owns and operates the 'Wich, Please food truck, named Eater.com's "Hottest Restaurant in Maine" for 2015.

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