Inferno's self-heating "chicken booyah" is, simultaneously, the most impressive and most terrifying apocalypse food we've taste-tested.
1. It's called Inferno. (Unless it's lava cake or the onion volcano at Benihana, we try to avoid violently named foods.)
2. It's self-heating. (That's halfway between science and Satan.)
3. The "best if used by" date is 10.01.05. (As far as we can tell.)
4. It's called "chicken booyah." (What the hell is that?)
5. The warning on the side reads: "During the initial activation process you may notice a chemical odor. This odor is the result of the chemical reaction between the flameless exothermic heater and the inert activation solution (salt water). The odor will quickly dissipate, and poses no harmful effects whatsoever." (Who doesn't love a meal that's the result of a tasty exothermic reaction?)
The box promises that is works anytime, anywhere. Let's put it to the test. You pull a cardboard tab on the side and wait 15 minutes. We did. Nothing happened. We opened the box and found a black plastic tub the size of a small brick with a clear strip emerging from under its semi-opaque white plastic covering.
We pulled. We waited 15 more minutes. When we returned, the tub was eerily hot and wafting noxious chemical fumes. This must be the result of the flameless exothermic reaction. We're doubtful about the "poses no harmful effects whatsoever" (if you believe that, we've got some exploding watermelons to sell you), but, as promised, the odor dissipated quickly.
Peeling back the cover, we discover a dull chicken soup, the kind that makes hospital food seem palatable. The chunks of chicken are dry. The broth is bland. The noodles are somewhat gritty. Otherwise, there's nothing wrong with it. No putrid chemical tinge. No unpleasant flavor. There's nothing to boo, or to cheer, about this "booyah." The biggest hurdle is psychological. Something feels horribly askew. A nagging sense that dehydrated chunks of meat, revived after years of dormancy with salt water and alchemy, shouldn't exist at all. A metaphor for humanity after Judgment Day? Let's not get too poetic.