A few years ago, when I was editing a food magazine, I did a feature on bacon, in which there were several dessert options, including chocolate-dipped bacon, bacon cupcakes and maple bacon fried sandwiches. The reaction was swift and intense: some people loved the idea, others asked me what on earth I thought I was doing. But one thing I know – a lot of people tried bacon as a sweet as a result. Several came back to me thanking me for giving them something new to think about.
This morning, I went for a very unremarkable breakfast: two slices of toast, one with (British) Marmite, one with honey, prepared exactly as I like: the honey piece eaten hot and quickly; the Marmite piece 5 minutes later, when the toast was cold and I could mix the butter and spread exactly the way I like it. My entire family think it’s revolting.
All this got me thinking about odd food habits. When I was a child, I remember my sister being quite keen on the odd nibble of raw potato as we were preparing them for dinner. I tried it once. It was revolting. I wouldn’t try this one now, but I also had a friend who loved taking the rind off the bacon, then eating a little piece of the raw fat before cooking it.
Talking to other people, I realise these odd food fads aren’t unusual at all: everyone has them, it seems. A little nibble of the end of a piece of raw dried spaghetti before it goes into the pan; spoonfuls of jam straight from the jar as a pick-me-up, butter spread onto cheese, rolled up and eaten as a snack. One friend recently told me she loves a dollop of peanut butter on one of those large savoury gherkins as a between-meals snack. I’ve also heard of dipping pizza crusts into Coca Cola, peanut butter and olive (why so many weird peanut butter oddities?), and mustard and mayo sandwiches. (Apparently tomato sauce sandwiches isn’t strange or unusual, I’m told. Whatever you say.)
All a bit weird? Well, maybe. I remember visiting Germany in the late 80s and being utterly revolted when I was given mayonnaise with my fries. Now – well, not getting a pot of aioli with your chips is some sort of sign you’ve gone to the wrong restaurant. And while a peanut butter and jelly sandwich isn’t for everyone, one reputable American news source says that the average American will eat 2,984 of them in their lifetime.
Melted chocolate and cheese pizza, salt and pepper-seasoned apples, pickles with icing sugar – all these food combinations have been tried and tested by people who swear by them. What does it say about our taste buds that what some of us find utterly delightful, makes others dry-retch in disgust.
Do a quick search on the Net, and you’ll find all kinds of combinations that you’d never considered before – and loads of them work so well, they are making it onto restaurant and cafe menus. The very clever Giapo Grazioli and his wife Annarosa, owners of Auckland ice cream palace Giapo, are artisans of edible Stranger Things, and their salted chips with ice cream in a wafer certainly ranks up there for me as one of those dishes you can’t quite picture or taste until you try it – then you want to try it again. The same applies at top-notch Japanese restaurant Cocoro, who are famous for their Chawanmushi, a very odd-sounding whitebait egg custard which seems to break every rule in the book but is absolutely extraordinary, in a good way.
So, I’m curious. What do you munch on when there’s no-one else around? Do you have a guilty secret you’re prepared to tell me? Go on – I really want to know!