Welcome to Top 5 Fun Friday, a regularly-occurring blog feature where I give you a list of extremely specific pointless shit from my life no one asked for. Why? Because the internet is incredibly un-fun in 2020 and I miss blogging. It’s Friday and these will be fun! This week’s list…
Top 5 Pieces of Unusual Personal Food-Related Trivia
Well, here we are: The last Top 5 Fun Friday of 2020. Next Friday is Christmas, and the Friday after that is New Year’s Day, and then we can kiss this wretched year goodbye. With the holidays upon us, that also means a lot of stressful food-related PTSD starts flooding back into my synapses from years past.
I used to be a picky eater when I was a kid. I ate an exceedingly small variety of foods until I was 10, branched out ever so slightly then, opened up a little further when I went to Spain, finally got my shit together when I had to become a professional after college, and then blew my palate right the fuck open once I turned 30 or so. It was a long and extremely un-fun road filled with conversations with adults I never wanted to have, awkward moments around friends’ dinner tables, and a near-suffocating dread of holiday meals.
Holidays are the province of stuff you never eat at any other time of year, or in the case of my childhood, stuff you never eat ever. I’d sit there with one or two sad little bread rolls on my plate counting the seconds until we could leave the table. No turkey, no mashed potatoes, no stuffing, no veggies, no ham, no nothing. Just a deep sense of shame and embarrassment and a desire to curl up in a ball and disappear. Fun, right?!
Now that I eat basically everything, I still don’t love holiday food and don’t fully understand how people get all geeked up for cramming their maws this bland, Midwestern shit. That’s why this Christmas we’re cooking Mexican food. Fuck yeah! Who doesn’t get excited for all-day Mexican food?!
I don’t think many people know about my past as a picky eater (and frankly, it’s not something I enjoy sharing all that much since it reminds me of a lot of very unpleasant feelings), why the hell not bust open the vault and share some other odd and/or amusing food-related trivia from my life? In the spirit of the holidays, let’s all share stuff that perhaps makes us uncomfortable.
So here we go, let’s get weird!
I didn’t know you could store bread outside of a freezer until college
For the first 20 or so years of my life, if I wanted to make a sandwich, I’d haul the bread out of the freezer, and depending on the sandwich, stick it in the toaster oven so it could thaw. If it was a grilled cheese or other hot sandwich, I got to skip this step and just butter that sumbitch right up and toss it in the pan. One advantage to frozen bread is that buttering the pieces was extremely easy. If I was making a peanut butter & jelly, the bread thawing step was deeply annoying. I figured everyone had to do this.
Then I went to college, got my first off-campus apartment with my friend Jamie, and learned that, no, my parents were in fact the weird ones for keeping ALL bread in the freezer. To be clear, I likely have a loaf in my freezer right now, but it’s because I want to have bread for when I run out in like, two weeks. But just your everyday, run-of-the-mill, bread-eating for the week rate of consumption means you can keep it somewhere that doesn’t require that extra step of thawing it. I learned this when I was 20!
And you know what else I found out that will blow your mind? Bread tastes better when you don’t have to shock it out of its cryo-freeze! I know! It’s much softer, more supple, and tastier! Learning this simultaneously blew my mind and angered me because I’d wasted all those many years eating bread stored in an inferior manner. You’re likely asking yourself a question that I’ll answer: Yes, my parents still store their bread this way. And yes, when we make sandwiches there, I find it mildly annoying.
I hate cereal with milk in it
Look, I know I’m the weird one here, but I don’t care. I’m willing to die on this hill. Cereal with milk in it is fucking disgusting. You take your delightfully crispy, crunchy foodstuff and ruin it by turning it into cold glop. Gross. If I think too long about shoving that chilly, lumpy mass of sugary wood pulp in my mouth, I’ll gag. For real, just writing that sentence has me on the brink.
The thing that’s so mystifying to me about this way of consuming a beverage and crunchy carbohydrates is that it exists literally nowhere else on the food spectrum. I’ve got this beer in one hand, a bowl of pretzels in the other. Why am I consuming them separately like some half-witted plebian? I’ll just pour my beer into my bowl and eat the decaying concoction with a spoon like a right-thinking adult! If you did this, you’d be jailed, and rightfully so. Can you imagine some psychopath just draining her margarita over a bowl of tortilla chips and eating that with a spoon? Or how about some high school kid dribbling Mountain Dew into a bag of Doritos and then pulling out a utensil to eat it? Those are horrifying things to think about, no? Why does cereal and milk get a pass?
I know I’m not convincing anyone here that I’m right (I’ve had this argument too many times to understand my futility), but I still don’t care. Back in the halcyon days of the internet arguing about whether a hot dog was a sandwich (it is), a similar construction arose: Is cereal soup? I couldn’t possibly care less which side you fall on for that question. But if it is, it’s yet another reminder that cold soup is also disgusting. You show me a person who looks forward to eating cold soup, I’ll show you a person who is frighteningly unbalanced.
I like to dip pretzels into ketchup
As we go further down the personal humiliation rabbit hole, here’s one that if someone sees you doing it, get prepared for some hilariously horrified faces and weird questions, chief among them: “What the fuck are you doing over there?” This one actually has an origin story attached to it, so let’s do that.
You ever hear stories from NFL or NBA players who grew up poor talk about having to put water on their cereal instead of milk (And yes, I recognize the irony of using such an example, thank you), and they grew so accustomed to it, they still do it today? Related, but without the sad economic conditions, I spent a year of high school in Texas where they had these bitchin’ soft pretzels for sale for 50 cents. I’d get that and a soda to accompany my lunch I brought from home. Problem was that they rarely had cups of cheese to go with the pretzels, so I had to do my best to improvise some sort of sauce.
You’re likely wondering why I didn’t just use mustard. Well, see my intro to this piece and mustard was among those things I didn’t really get into until my 30s. So, with few other options, I reached for the ketchup. Reader, I’ll tell you those first few times were not great. It’s an odd collision of flavors – like, all at once too sweet with an inappropriate amount of acid from the vinegar, and a bready texture that you typically don’t associate with ketchup. Why I kept coming back to it, I’ll never know, but I did, and over time, actually grew to enjoy it. I even got to the point I started dipping hard pretzels in ketchup, too.
Now that you’re done gagging, I’ll clarify one point in that I would never recommend this to anyone. In fact, I’ll go the opposite direction and recommend you never try it in the first place, especially considering the versatility of pretzels for all manner of great dips – queso, fancy mustard, hummus, even cream cheese. But if you do, be by yourself. Just trust me. Something about this combination really freaks out the norms.
I had never seen anyone eat mac & cheese with a fork until my wife
I fancy myself a smart guy. I run my own business. I have an advanced degree from a respected Research I University. I was a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Lambda Pi Eta (the honorary speech fraternity at CSU). Yet, something as trivial as seeing someone eat a dish with the wrong utensil can blow me away and make me go HURRRRRRRRRR.
I had eaten mac and cheese with a spoon my entire life until my wife came along and busted out a fork. What sorcery is this? Stabbing the noodles with pointy tines? Why I never! In many ways, her method makes more sense. I don’t eat other pasta with a spoon – I’m not a toddler. It’s just bizarre how the world will reveal to you personal blind spots you never knew you had.
And for the record, if it’s fancy mac and cheese like from Noodle & Company, I go fork. If I’m digging into my kids’ leftover Kraft, I’m go spoon. I’ve played forky-spoony before.
I hate fruit
And we arrive at the capstone of my bizarre relationship to food. I hate fruit. I’m also annoyed that I hate fruit. Upon learning this fact about me, my friend Jen said, “I didn’t even know that was an available opinion to have.” I wish it weren’t! My life would be about 22% easier if I liked fruit.
Seven years ago, I wrote a series of blog posts about how I lost 40 lbs. using Weight Watchers. In the final one of the week, I wrote this:
I don’t like apples, grapes feel fucking strange in my mouth, oranges are okay (I guess), and bananas are probably the most horrid tasting thing on the planet to me. I have no idea why, but I fucking hate bananas. Peaches, pears, cantaloupe (God, vile cantaloupe…), honeydew, nectarines… name a fruit and I probably don’t like it. I tolerate berries, but would rather eat just about anything else.
This is all still tragically true. Fruit just never, ever tastes right to me. It’s either too sweet, or not sweet enough. For whatever reason, I’m very aware of how it feels in my mouth, and no, it doesn’t matter which fruit I’m talking about. They all just feel wrong in there. And cooked fruit is WAY worse than raw fruit, so I’ll pass on the pie. The only possible exception is blueberries which rule in muffins, pancakes, and cobbler if you get the cobbler nice and crispy and buttery.
But otherwise, sorry sweetheart, no fruit for me. Fruit is gross. This is a terrible opinion to have! Much like the rest of the 1800+ words I’ve dedicated to debasing myself for your enjoyment. But if there’s any altruism in my intent with this piece, it’s that food is incredibly personal and can serve as the source of anxiety for many. I know it did for me for a very long time. But you’re not alone.
Unless you’re dipping pretzels into ketchup. Then you should definitely be alone, at least while you’re doing it.
Have a happy holiday season, and I’ll see you in 2021!