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Southern Grove Sweet & Spicy Pecans (Aldi)

No one likes pecans. Well, let me take that back: I don’t like pecans. They’re boring in the same way that all nuts are: Dry and nearly tasteless, save for an unpleasant bitterness that seems to linger in the mouth for quite a while. But the former is probably the main problem I have, as they seem to suck all the moisture out of my mouth. Then again, they’re healthy, so I guess it’s a requirement that the experience of eating them must be droll and unwanted.

But there are always unhealthy ways to “dress up” boring, healthy things. And, as I’ve made clear on a number of previous occasions, us Americans are usually at the forefront of turning healthy foods into artery-clogging exercises in terror. We’ll deep fry anything. We toss vegetables onto greasy meats as a mere afterthought.  And we will take something like pecans, coat them in brown sugar, and completely eliminate the original point of eating them.

Then, inevitably, someone at some corporation somewhere will decide the existing additions aren’t enough. Marketing studies will show that candied pecans are too boring and stale for modern tastes. There needs to be something more “edgy” and unique to appeal to millennials. Then they toss in some other ingredient(s) to “revolutionize” the product, often ruining it in the process. With that in mind, let’s turn our attention to Southern Grove Sweet & Spicy Pecans, a special buy from Aldi.

Opening the bag…holy Lord Jesus almighty: This is not good. There’s an overwhelming smell of hot sauce. I mean, overwhelming as in it smells like a bottle of hot sauce. There’s not a single hint of sweetness at all. I would say my stomach dropped, but that’s a little hyperbolic: It would not be hyperbolic to say that I was instantly regretting the purchase. It’s like when you have a single bad experience with a longtime friend that completely sours the friendship. All you can focus on are the bad times. I was afraid these were going to ruin the very idea of candied pecans.

I popped one in my mouth, and was immediately met with the reason for the scent: the “hot seasoning”. I don’t like hot sauce one bit, and that’s what the initial blast of flavor tastes like. I was expecting the spicy; it’s printed right there on the label. But there are a lot of different flavors that can be associated with heat. I wasn’t expecting “hot sauce” to be the one they chose to coat a sweet nut with. It took me about one full second to realize these weren’t going to be compatible with my tastebuds; I winced, and very nearly spit it out.

But then, something miraculous happened: The hot sauce flavor morphs – quite literally – into that familiar, addicting candied pecan flavor. There’s a slight-to-medium finish of heat on the tongue, even as the flavor shifts to the sweet side. This switch causes a light “pins and needles” hot sensation, but to call it outright “hot” would be irresponsible. If you’ve had the name brand hot sauce named after a guy named “Frank”, you’ll pretty much know what to expect here. The transition is truly astonishing: It’s one of the most seamless flavor transitions I’ve ever experienced…and that’s not hyperbole. The experience of eating these is akin to those viral videos of vicious predators befriending docile animals that would normally be their prey. They shouldn’t even remotely go well together, and yet there they are, prancing around with each other like the best of friends. The idea of sweet and spicy is far from unique, but it’s rarely been done this well.

Each 5.5 oz. bag retails for $4.99, or somewhere around there, which at first glance might seem expensive. But nuts have always been expensive, and with prices quickly rising everywhere, the price is more than reasonable. I could see a similar “name brand” product going for upwards of $8.

As often as those corporate douchebags get things wrong, sometimes they are right. This is one of those instances. If you like candied pecans and aren’t averse to a little bit of heat, grab these. Don’t even think twice. It’s one of those things that might not fix the problems in your life, but it will make you forget them for a few glorious seconds.

Overall: 8.5/10. These are fantastic. I would still rather stick to the sweet flavor of candied pecans, but these strike an absolutely mind-blowing balance of heat and sweet. The initial blast of “hot seasoning” gives rise to the familiar candied pecan sweetness we all know and love. It’s a seamless transition between the two: A synchronous harmony of two disparate flavor profiles. Many products have tried it – after all, sweet and savory is always a popular combo – but very few hit it this well. There’s even some low-to-medium heat that dances on the tongue and lingers afterwards. And yet, it isn’t so strong that most people – even those typically against “heat” – will be turned off. If you see these, grab a bag immediately. It just might change your life.

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