Name: Trader Joe's Dry-Roasted Sweet Apricot Kernels
Scored at: Trader Joe's, 555 Ninth St. (at Brannan)
Cost: $1.99 for 8 ounces
Ingredients: Apricot kernels, sulfur dioxide
Calories per serving: Not listed
The lowdown: The package calls them "poor man's almonds." We're a sucker for foods that identify temselves as the poor man's this or that (like avocados, the butter of the poor in Mexico, or leeks, the asparagus of the poor in France).
Tasting notes: We first tasted these when a friend smuggled them into a film noir double bill at the Roxie. The verdict: toasty, nutty, faintly sweet, faintly almond-y.
The story behind the taste: Not to get all Nero Wolfe, but peach and apricot kernels contain cyanide. Wikipedia says they contain amygdalin, a toxic cyanogenic glycoside. Apparently there have been no deaths in the U.S. from ingesting apricot kernels, and only one serious toxicity reported between 1979 and 1998. In Turkey, however, at least nine deaths have been recorded since 1957. Last December on groups.google.com, one Bob T. replied to a Mark T. (who'd just enjoyed his first bag, declaring them "slightly sweet with a subtle apricot finish"): "I'd be a bit too afraid of their cyanide content to down them by the handful." Talk about an appropriately sinister snack for a noir fest!
Buy them again?: Sure. Since fugu is out, this may be the most dangerous food we'll ever take our chances with. Plus, as the package asserts, they're a good source of fiber. Who could resist that?