A Hamburger Today
Storebought Biscuit Sandwich Showdown: Jimmy Dean vs. Aunt Jemima
For decades we've been beaten over the head with the mantra "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day." I've never quite bought into this, because it works better in theory than in practice. I don't dispute the importance of eating something in between the end of sleep and the beginning of toil; I'm not a nutritionist, but the logic seems clear. The reason I worry about the breakfast-or-bust indoctrination is that the breakfast zealots often neglect to mention that it matters what you eat, not just that you eat.
Next time you're chatting up a friendly stranger in a bar or an elevator and the talk turns to breakfast, casually mention that some days you just don't feel like eating until lunch. Your new enemy's eyes will go wide and his throat will go hoarse as he excoriates you for neglecting our most universally agreed upon lifestyle truism. Tell the same guy you like to start the day with an elaborate feast of human entrails and he'll respond, "Sure, need your morning protein. Don't forget the appendix. Useless in a living body but essential in a stir-fry."
Don't get me wrong. I love breakfast, what with it being a meal and all, but I just think we should follow one simple ground rule before declaring dietary victory every morning that we remember to shovel some food in with the coffee. For your breakfast to live up to its true potential, it needs to be either substantially healthy for the body or exceedingly pleasing to the soul. Either carrot juice and a banana or a 4-egg, 3-meat, 2-beer omelet, for instance. I don't care which circle you fill in, just make sure it's one or the other. Don't half-ass it down the middle with a bodega bagel or a Special K bar.
My favorite breakfast on mornings when I opt to let my corporeal heart fend for itself while I feed its metaphorical counterpart is the sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich. I'll take my cholesterol on whatever bread's handy—English muffin, bagel, fistful of saltines—but I prefer biscuits. Fast food places and coffee shops have nearly perfected this art, but sometimes I need to soothe my soul before I can bear to wear my pants, so last week I headed for the frozen food section in search of a reasonable home-based version of the sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit.
There are fewer options than I'd expected. Jimmy Dean and Aunt Jemima were the only two major national brands I could find with the good sense to explore the frozen sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit market. OK then, it's a head-to-head battle to see who, if anyone, gets to stock my freezer full of good-bad-decision breakfast treats.
Both brands cost a bit more than a buck a biscuit: $4.99 gets you a 4-pack of Jimmy Dean, and $2.50 brings a pair of Aunt Jemima. Jimmy Deans offering is a smudge bigger—4.5 ounces each to Auntie J's 4.1 ounces—but they're basically different versions of the same food: cheap, greasy breakfast sandwiches consisting of a sausage patty, an egg disk, and a slice of cheese in the middle of a biscuit. They're both nutritional train wrecks, but that inconvenient fact aside, they sound pretty promising, no?
Aunt Jemima (shown at right) emerged from the microwave looking a little sharper than Jimmy Dean due to superior biscuit topography. Crags are supposed to taste good, aren't they? In fact, both top biscuits tasted the same, like plain white bread, with the Dean losing points for being a little too dense and also a little too little in relation to the ingredients entrusted into its care. But Aunt Jemima surrendered the biscuit lead with a tragically hard bottom biscuit, whereas the mediocre top layer of Jimmy Dean's at least didn't get any worse down below.
The cheese was basically the same, with both slices lacking style and the Aunt Jemima also lacking substance: Jemima mailed in the same half-size effort you find on a Filet-O-Fish. Jimmy Dean cheese won by default—it wasn't very good, but at least it bothered to put in a full biscuit's worth of work. Aunt Jemima delivered a better egg puck; Jimmy Dean's was ultraspongy and totally devoid of yolk character, whereas Aunt Jemima's had a similarly disconcerting texture but at least had the decency to taste like an egg.
The Jimmy Dean sandwich had far better sausage. The texture was on the squishy side of reasonable but it tasted better than fine, with a nice pepper kick accenting the porkiness. Aunt Jemima's sausage (also pork) tasted better than it looks, but everything tastes better than that sausage looks. It was the blander of the two patties, with no distinguishing pig characteristics, but the texture was the real crime. It felt like neoprene, a delightful material for a beer koozie but not for the headline ingredient in a solace-seeker's breakfast sandwich.
Although these breakfast biscuits weren't as good as I'd hoped, I recommend stashing a box of Jimmy Dean's in the back of the freezer for those mornings when a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit is the only way to fill the void in your stomach or your soul.