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Weird Food

Sort 288 provides a menu from the midwest's 'normal' people.

by Dear Jon
December 7, 2004

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Dear Jon,

As a young child, one of my favorite sandwiches was grilled cheese with grape jelly on top. My mother would make this for me and my brothers, and when we got older, we would make them ourselves. Since then, I have come to realize that not everyone shares the vision that grape jelly on a grilled cheese sandwich is a good thing (even my wife finds it odd). My question is should I pass on such a delicacy to my children, let them know the delicious taste of such a sandwich, or should I shield them from the ridicule they will endure when their friends say, "You put jelly on your grilled cheese? Eww!"?

Sandwich Man
Dear Sandwich,
Dear Readers,
“Sandwich Man” has given me an idea. Perhaps it is time for another Partial Observer “Reader’s Invitational.” This would be either your Top Five Favorite Foods, or, your Top Five Weirdest Foods. Your “weird food” selections might overlap with your favorites. Or, it might be weird foods you discovered in other families.
We should not pick on ethnic food. For example, I might find the idea of eating a dog to be very weird. It is, however, standard in Korea. The same goes for raw fish in Japan, squid in the Pacific islands, vegemite in Australia and peanut butter in North America. Sushi would not count as weird. What would count as “weird” would be sushi with a peanut-butter dip. Do you get the idea?
I will lead the way.
Dear Jon’s Top Five Favorite Foods,
1. Roast turkey with mashed potatoes and creamed corn. (I LOVE this time of year!)
2. Seasoned New York strip, medium to medium well; potato, corn on the cob (salt and butter), soft and warm dinner roll.
3. Bacon, crisp.
4. Kraft® Macaroni and Cheese, with firm noodles.
5. Peanut butter on a white-bread heel, untoasted; Frito Lay Cheetos.®
Dear Jon’s Top Five Weird Foods,
1. Growing up, I thought it was completely normal to have an enormous Sunday dinner prepared by Mom, and then, Sunday evening, have Dad make hot-oil popcorn. We were served nothing else, just popcorn with salt. Because of the oil, adding butter was considered excessive. If we wanted to, we could make our own sandwiches. Did anyone else do this? Is this a Midwest thing? A Nebraska thing? A bizaare family tradition? Anytime I smell fresh oil-popped corn I feel all the warmth and contentment of a happy childhood. We were married about a week when my wife wanted to know if I planned on making anything for dinner. I had just set before her a bowl of popcorn.
Of course, dinner in Nebraska is lunch in Chicago, and dinner in Chicago is supper in Nebraska. In Nebraska we might have had lunch and then supper, or dinner and then supper, but we NEVER had lunch and then dinner.
2. Everyone else in my family thinks it is disgusting, but I love to take left-over roast turkey and add it to my peanut butter sandwich, sometimes with lettuce. I just substitute the mayonnaise with peanut butter. What is so weird about that?
3. Is mine the only family in the world that thought that Kraft® Macaroni and Cheese was its own meal, and that we didn’t need anything else to eat with it?
4. This might not strike you as weird, but I want you to think about the francheezie: A hot dog, wrapped in bacon, spread over with melted cheese. I love it, but I would rather not think about it, and neither would you. Is the francheezie found beyond Chicago?
5. For all that I add peanut butter to my turkey sandwiches, my stomach cannot get around the weird food of some friends of mine, who sliced bananas into their peanut-butter sandwiches. I like bananas, I like peanut butter, I like white bread. Putting the three together turns my stomach.
Christmas brings out its own weird food traditions. Here are some that come to mind, just as a bonus for this article, since the Webmaster sends flaming e-mail to writers who come in under the space requirement:
1. Lutefisk: I know we’re not supposed to pick on ethnic food, but consider its history. Lutefisk is cod soaked in lye, a staple for impoverished Swedes and Norwegians, who brought their poverty with them to the United States, worked industriously, and passed that work ethic on to later generations who prospered well beyond the point of needing to eat lye-preserved fish. Yet they do, at Christmas, thinking it a cherished tradition. I think most native Scandinavians think of lutefisk and say “ewvuh!”
2. Eggnog: I don’t care what your recipe includes; anything with the name “eggnog” is, by definition, a weird food.
3. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire: Impoverished American frontier woods folk staving off starvation began this tradition. The fire, of course, kept these same Christmas celebrants from freezing to death. Nuts and yule logs are a big part of Christmas, probably because staving off starvation and staying warm was a big part of family tradition throughout the world. Nutcrackers in the shape of soldiers figure in to the Christmas mythologies that are celebrated to this day.
4. Gingerbread houses: They’re weird. Cool, but weird. I think of the witch in Grimm’s story of Hansel and Gretel, which is not normally associated with Christmas as far as I know. Today there are short-cuts, of course, so people who want to can keep the tradition alive with none of the investment in time and care that made the tradition unique and special to its former adherents. Personally, I am intrigued by the variation on the theme with “graham cracker” houses. I never cared for ginger, not even on "Gilligan’s Island"®.
5. Fruit-flavored candy canes: Candy canes are supposed to be peppermint. Even cinnamon is a stretch. Fruit-flavors are an outright betrayal of tradition and my tongue.

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