Well well, lookee here. One of X-E's old favorites, "Kid Cuisine," has been updated for the season with the "Haunted Halloween Meal," a tray full of chicken and chocolate. It's been a pretty spirited season at the supermarkets so far, with way more Halloween-themed upgrades that I can ever remember seeing in years past -- either every company in the world recently promoted holiday-obsessors to CEO positions, or I just wasn't paying much attention until this year. Regardless, an orange box of Kid Cuisine would've been enough of a spooky connection, but they went the extra mile by actually transforming their usual duck mascot into a Frankenstein Duck, complete with neck bolts and an exaggeratedly large green forehead. Like the best of the seasonal tie-ins, the Haunted Halloween Meal isn't limited in scope just to the packaging -- even the food itself was modified to look more creepy. Creepy chicken? It's a first.

Of the four compartments, the only offering that doesn't arrive with a level of offensiveness is the simple corn nibbles, still yellow after all these years. Everything else is at best an acquired taste, poison at worst. Microwave dinners are sold on the merits of their convenience, and consumers realize that they're giving up some flavor and general appeal for a meal that's on your lap and in front of the television in five minutes flat. Still, Kid Cuisine seems to cut more corners than most. It's not the portions or anything -- these are for kids, so of course, they're going to be smaller than the norm. It's kind of hard to put my finger on, really, but there's just something about this food the screams "no" in more languages than Gumby's dog. Perhaps it's the transformation each item goes through as its nuked, entering in its frozen stage and exiting looking more like shriveled up, freeze-dried novelty astronaut snacks. Or maybe it's the stench? The aroma surrounding a heat-zapped combination of fried chicken, corn and brownies is as assaulting as a dead hamster in a sweaty old shoe, only more depressing since you're supposed to eat the source instead of just throwing it outside.

Whatever, I'll forgive anything for a Halloween-themed TV dinner. How often do we get something like that?

There's the "Fun Nuggets," cooked. To tie things together, they've been shaped like bats and ghosts. Hmmm. You know, chickens absolutely have it worse than any other of the world's "eating animals," no doubt about it. I'm not really talking about the slaughtering process, but moreover all of the ridiculous things we do to them after cutting off their heads. We don't just eat chicken -- we mold it into little Halloween toys. I hope those things don't turn into unseen specters who watch over their murder cases in the afterlife, because God knows it's gotta suck to be the ghost of a chicken, helplessly looking on as some guy in a chef's hat shapes its lifeless corpse into a Halloween decoration before some kid finally eats two bites of it and throws the rest away. If we were ghosts, we'd be pissed if our families didn't spend the extra three-thousand for the royal pine casket. At least nobody's making wreaths or edible Tic-Tac-Toe games out of us. Poor chickens. Poor, dead, fried, Halloween-molded chickens. There's a reason the Frankenstein Duck on the box had that big smile. He wasn't a chicken.

All Kid Cuisine entrees have a tailored-for-children gimmick, but this time, it's in tune with the Halloween motif. For the apple sauce, you're given a packet of "color changing sugar." For the brownie, a small tube of orange frosting. They didn't give you any toys for the corn. It just sits there, doing nothing, being all corn-like. I'm assuming the going theory was that few kids actually eat the corn anyway, so why waste a fun food activity on it? Corn's just there so the nutritional label will have some shit to offset the hideous values of the other junk -- 25 grams of fat is considerable for people of any age, especially kids still awaiting their body's final decision on whether it's going to spend its teen years fit or fat. If you're gonna sway to the wrong side, you may as well go for some McDonald's instead.

And there's the finished product -- the blue sugar turns the apple sauce green, looking a lot like Regan's "Exorcist" vomit. You're supposed to create Halloween art on top of the brownies with the frosting packet, but unless you're willing to risk everything else getting cold and busted, it's just going to melt into a sugary cheese spread that, for whatever reason, also mimics the taste of a cheese spread. It's a trick and a treat. Look closely to the right, and you'll see some of that deprived corn. If you stare at it long enough, it looks like Abe Lincoln.

The back of the box features a cutout "Bat Mask," complete with a short tutorial from the Frankenstein Duck. He's not a chicken. The mask illustrates Kid Cuisine's young target demographic much better than the green sludge and funny nuggets, being sized for heads approximately seven inches in diameter.

All in all, I like what I see. It's easily one of the most involved of this season's spookified treats, and probably the most unexpected. It's easy to dye M&M's candy shells the appropriate colors, but to form chicken into little bats and ghosts is a more intricate and appreciable process. Thumbs up to Kid Cuisine for this one -- so long as you're not planning to eat the Haunted Halloween Meal, it's loads of fun for the whole family. Except the middle sister. They're too rebellious for fun.