I went in to Dollar Tree just before Thanksgiving hoping to find some cheap holiday-themed paper dessert plates - and struck out; the Thanksgiving stuff was gone, already replaced by Christmas cultch. The trip wasn't a total washout, though, since they had a freezer case full of Murry's Pick-Up Stix. How could I resist seven ounces of mechanically separated chicken, extruded into long thin strings and breaded with delicious crispiness? I'm only human you know.
On Thanksgiving Day, wanting a relatively quick finger-food breakfast to nosh while cooking, I heated up a bit of lard left over from making pie crusts and pan fried the Pick-Up Stix.
They're kind of salty with a kind of cheap chicken flavor in the background. Not incredibly meaty. In cross-section, they show a core of spongily-textured and bubbly mechanically separated chicken which gradually gives way to the breaded coating. Strangely, there doesn't seem to be a clear dividing line between the inside and the coating. Pan-frying them in the lard gave them a marvelous crunchy texture which helped make up for the rather uninspired taste.
They remind me of something a school cafeteria would serve while trying to convince the kids that they were getting a special treat. In fact, when I offered some to Lynnafred she looked at me horrified: "No. Those look like the same shitty 'chicken fries' they used to give us in Fourth Grade. There's a reason I used to bring my own lunch to school every day, dad, and crap like that is a big part of it." I guess she's not far enough removed from the trauma of school lunches to feel nostalgic for them.
Despite Lynnafred's disparaging comments, however, the Stix did not disappoint. They tasted okay in that sort of salty potato-chip way. They were easy to munch as I worked in the kitchen. They were filling - my seven-ounce portion killed my hunger and kept me going right up until I got the feast on the table much later that day. And they were cheap, so there's a bonus point. I'm not going to make a regular habit of them, but the Stix are okay for an occasional cheap salty snack. Like popcorn, only with meat.
I've heard tell of folks who buy products like this and eat them as is, still frozen, right out of the bag like some sort of sodium-spiked meatsicle treat. These would be folks of the non-me persuasion, for although I eat, and even sometimes enjoy, industrially-produced food, I don't trust any of it until it's been heat-sterilized. If anyone reading this decides that eating Pick-Up Stix out of the bag is a good idea, keep in mind that it says on the label that they are uncooked.