Tucked away in the cloistered "Boudoir" department of Ricky’s, a self-consciously edgy mini-chain of beauty supply shops based in New York, lurks a certain item that just about everyone has heard of, but not many have actually ventured to buy, let alone utilize in the privacy of their bedroom. It’s wearable, but isn’t meant to be worn for very long. It’s edible, but really shouldn’t be eaten. It’s that "marital aid" of questionable virtue: edible underwear. We bought every variety sold at our local Ricky’s in Brooklyn, tasted them all in as scientific a way possible (or at least attempted to), and now, shame be damned, we can report our results.
Going into this, none us really had any idea what edible underwear was, even though we’d all heard of it. Our best guess was that it was possibly made from licorice or something similar to it, and our only real exposure to it was in a classic episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, when Larry David, trapped on a ski lift, had nothing else to eat as evening approached. Unfortunately, licorice it is not.
Edible underwear appears to be exclusively produced by Kingman Industries, a company that also makes edible body powders, "Kissable Treats" like edible body paint and massage oil and flavored, um, personal lubricant, and a host of inedible sexy-time stuff like glow-in-the-dark finger paints. Ingredients aren't listed on the website, but thankfully they are on the packaging. These must exist in some sort of gray area when it comes to the FDA: ingredients are listed, but nutrition info isn’t. Maybe the feds are too embarrassed to get involved.[slideshow:
Anyway, let’s have a look and see what these things are actually made of. The first two ingredients are hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose, a water-soluble semisynthetic polymer traditionally used in tile adhesives, and glyceryl acetate esther, commonly used to make biodiesel more viscous. These two ingredients (compounds?) were followed by artificial flavors and colors, potassium stearate, saccharin, propylene glycol monostearate, titanium dioxide, and finally, something called butylated hydroxyanisole. We had no idea edible underwear was invented by NASA engineers in their spare time.
Fearlessly moving ahead in the name of science, we opened the boxes and removed the surprisingly thin and flimsy undies, which looked more like thin sheets of plastic than any food we’d seen. They also smelled like plastic, and if you hadn’t told us that they were edible, we would have just assumed they were… some sort of underwear that wasn’t edible. The fact that they sold for seven bucks a pop was hard to believe, as these things were so cheap-looking.
Going against everything our brains were telling us, we managed to sample all the flavors we found at Ricky’s: passion fruit briefs and thong, strawberry champagne thong, cotton candy briefs, chocolate thong, cherry briefs, and strawberry chocolate briefs (briefs were slightly more substantial in the crotch region than the thongs). The results were what you might call an unpleasant surprise. The texture was like a thicker, super-sticky Listerine breath strip that decomposed in our mouths into a plastic goop, and the flavor more closely resembled that of a rubber balloon than food, and it seemed to stick to every corner of our mouths. The package states that "the more you lick your Edible Underwear the better it will taste," but that bit of pseudoscience unfortunately didn’t help the flavor much. Our relief at finishing the test was tempered by the embarrassing shock of discovering that our teeth had been dyed red.
Between the hefty price tag, the chemical smell and flavor, the plasticky, gloopy texture, and the fact that it adheres to the inside of your mouth before you can swallow it and dyes your teeth red in the process, eating edible underwear is like being put through a culinary gauntlet, taking you to a corner of the fake food world you'll wish you never knew existed. In fact, we can’t imagine that anyone would be interested in doing anything remotely kinky after choking down even a bite of one of these.