Thursday, July 03, 2008

Day Three: Gag Me with a Spoon

Thanks to everyone who contributed awesome ideas for future food posts--I will be thanking you individually as I use them, and I WILL use them.

Also, the new wave in blogging seems to be "Guest Bloggers," so is anyone interested in submitting a guest column on food to Little Dragon Fruit this month? C'mon, delight the crowd and make my life easier at the same time!

Today's theme comes from my friend Lix in Basel, Switzerland (that's not her real name, but she'll have to guest blog to set the record straight): Yuckiest Thing I've Ever Eaten. Who could resist that?

To start, I have a Texture Problem. For instance, the award for Worst Use of a Cow Product goes to Cottage Cheese, in all its variants and sneaky disguises (I once had a friend serve me homemade and mac and cheese and tell me, after two bites, that "It's low-fat because I used cottage cheese!" I blanched and pushed it away, rudeness be damned.) I can't even sit at the same table as someone eating cottage cheese. I feel a gag reflex coming on just seeing it on the supermarket shelf.

Generally, though, a gross bite of something is mind over matter--the mind always wins, but a quick swig of any available beverage (or a huge bite of bread) takes care of it. Which is probably why I can't remember too many gross bites.

But there are certain foods that can't be banished with bread or water, and seem determined to tickle (more like bitch-slap) my taste buds for a long, long time. Here are three that are still emblazoned on my memory.

1. Wheat Grass. The type that's pureed by the Jamba Juice dudes and served in a Dixie cup, as a shot. And trust me, it's not something I'd imbibe of my own free will, "Oh, you know what sounds refreshing? Let's get a wheat grass shot on the way home, we'll be so energized!" No, Readers, that would not be me. But there were some urban legends circulating in the days when I was trying to get pregnant that the stuff was magic, practically embryo glue. Considering it did not cost $15,000, I figured it was worth a try. Later, I learned that the sympathetic employees of Jamba Juice usually hand you an orange juice chaser for free, but I guess I went to Evil Jamba Juice because all I got was two inches of bilious green liquid with the consistency of turkey gravy. I tossed it back right there in the store and waited--hmmm, not too bad. A little sharp, but nothing I couldn't deal with. But within the hour, and about 18 times after that before sundown on that day, that wheat grass shot paid me another visit. How to describe this gift that kept on giving? The best I can do is that it was like belching a newly-mowed lawn.

2. The "Snow Cap." When David and I honeymooned in Kauai, our favorite time of the day was Shave Ice Time, which was any time. Shave Ice is a delicious Hawaiian version of the snow cone, in which the ice is ground so fine that it's literally the texture of snow. And snow--unlike those rocky glaciers in a traditional snow cone--is an excellent medium for soaking up flavor. Most Shave Ice places have at least 20 or 30 flavors; some have upwards of 50. And while you can get your cherry and your lime, you can also get lillikoi and guava and lychee and mango and coconut. Mmmm. On our first day, we were intrigued by the myriad options, including a scoop of ice cream on the bottom of the cone (tasty, but overkill) or whipped cream on the top (ditto) or something called a "snow cap." We noticed a lot of people ordering that. A few days later, David cracked, and ordered shave ice with snow cap at a new place in Hanalei. We watched as the Shave Ice lady picked up a container like a fast-food ketchup dispenser (only beige) and began pouring it in ribbons over the top of the shave ice. It congealed on contact with the cold. David took a bite and handed it to me. I took a bite. We looked at each other. Almost simultaneously, our faces crumpled and he threw it away.

Turns out the snow cap is comprised of sweetened condensed milk from the can, which, when it hits your tongue, effectively encases it in what feels like three or four pieces of cling wrap, with peanut butter between the layers. A thick, cloying, sickly-sweet sensation coats the entire tongue, top and bottom, and remains there, quite effectively, for several hours. You may try to scrape at it with a popsicle stick or douse it in various liquids, but all for nought. You will be wearing the snow cap like a mountain does, until the spring thaw.

Swedish Pancakes with Lingonberries. This one is a little misleading, because the aforementioned dish is actually scrumptious and I've since ordered it many times. The pancakes are huge and as fine and thin as crepes, and the lingonberry sauce (a Swedish delicacy, available at Ikea in jars) is sweet and tart and lovely. On this particular occasion, round about 1995, I was breakfasting with some girlfriends at the Original Pancake House, and had prepared my pancake as usual, with a big swatch of lingonberry at the bottom before rolling it into a cylinder. I was eating and talking and generally having a splendid time, when something hit my tongue like an earthquake, in the sense that I got very shaken and did a fair amount of screaming. I reached into my mouth and extracted the offending morsel: a single lingonberry of an immature dark-green hue, small and hard and partially chewed.

The effect on my entire mouth was immediate. When asked to describe the taste, I likened it to stripping an entire forest of birch saplings of their bark with just my top teeth. Not only was the taste nauseatingly green and plant-like, but my entire head seemed to be on Threat Level Orange alert, with a ringing in my ears and an alarming rictus paralyzing my jaw. I made quite a spectacle of myself swabbing at my tongue with all the napkins I could reach and rocking back and forth emitting a series of moans. My friends were quite disgusted with me, and were not shy about saying so. I didn't care--I felt certain my mucus membranes would never be the same. I avoided lingonberries for about five years, and it was three days before I could get that excruciating taste completely out of my mouth.


Melanie said...

If it doesn't look, smell or taste good I'm not goin' near it. I'm the same way with texture.

People say, "try it, you'll like it!" but I'm sorry, there's too much stuff I KNOW I'll like to take a chance that something will scar me for life,like avocados.

Anonymous said...

I'm so pleased you picked one of my suggestions and what a fun, funny post! :) I do like me some cottage cheese, but I am so with you on the wheatgrass. I tried that just the once and it was horrific. Just like chewing on grass. Icky! Lix

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

Texture is huge! I second that. Well, third that.

Love your work, Sam! This will be a fun month.

Jen said...

This, plus your post about the fair, reminded me of something that everyone seems to love out here but that sounds just too gross for me to try:

fried dough.

Not that I'm not sure it's tasty, but it sounds just so incredibly BAD for you that I am not sure I could eat it (and I have a high tolerance for bad-for-you foods.

Your descriptions of your reactions to the gross foods were hilarious!

Miss J

Sam said...

@Melanie: I am so with you on the avocados! Which makes me totally anti-social in San Diego. ;)

@Miss J: I have had fried dough, and I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. It mostly tastes like oil, but with sugar on top. I'd rather have something else with sugar on top. And yes, I'm sure it's a heart surgeon's dream. ;)

Mary and Paul said...

It took me a long time to like avocados, but now I love them!

But, I will never ever like eggs. They are probably the most unpleasant thing I have ever eaten.



Sambo said...

Most bizzare thing I've eaten - probably bardi grub or grass tree roots for the grass tree

and for the bardi grub - similar to wichitie grubs.

Grass tree was quite sweet actually but the bardi grub tasted bad.
I guess being australian and trying the native foods gives lots of scope for weirdness. I think Pumkin Pie comes a close third however.