My sister made a sandwich of mustard and sugar on Wonder Bread.
I ate it.
The food delivery system during my formative years was primarily at home (or homes of others) or at school with occasional visits to Vivian’s Cafe, Minske’s (another cafe) and the root beer stand to enjoy a member of the Burger Family — Papa, Mama or Baby Burger.
It was my duty to eat what I was given with minimal whimpering. I liked school lunches. I loved beanie weenies and mashed potatoes covered in hamburger gravy. If I had a least favorite, because one must be the least favorite, it’d be the soggy chow mein with limp celery draped over it. Foods in the slime family led to the dissolution of The Clean Plate Club, which encouraged elementary school students to clean their plates. Kids no longer pretended to enjoy food they didn’t like.
My palate is more foolish than adventurous. I’ve had philosophical discussions with myself as to how hungry the first guy who ate an oyster had been and wondered if it was because he’d run out of cinnamon-sugar toast. As a boy, I covered disagreeable things in ketchup or gravy (they cover a multitude of sins), so my credentials as a food critic are questionable.
I’ve warmed a sandwich with an iron and eaten it in the glow of a lava lamp. I’m far from being an esteemed epicure, gourmet, gourmand or gastronome, but I’m an omnivore and have eaten the following: Rocky Mountain oysters, scrapple, ants, dandelions, durian (the smell knocked a vulture off a manure spreader), raccoon, skyline chili, grasshoppers, lutefisk, grubs, Spam, snake, Limburger cheese, crawdad, tongue, okra, blood sausage, woodchuck, nettles, calamari, two-burner peppers (they burn going in and coming out), muskrat, head cheese, bear and various UFOs (unidentified fried objects). I’ve eaten a ton of mosquitoes while yawning as I mowed the lawn. I’ve eaten all those things voluntarily and not because I was being tortured as a suspected spy. The only secret I divulged was that I liked some a lot and others, not so much.
I’ve never eaten escargot or kimchee. I’d procured kimchee and looked forward to sampling it, but it disappeared. My wife called it a mystery.
I’ve never dined on bird’s nest soup and I never will. It’s made of bird saliva. It sounds like it’d be an open sore of a dish. Our saliva is 99.5% water. Swiftlet spit is only 10% water with 85% being mucous. Edible bird’s nests are built by swiftlets, small birds found in Southeast Asia. Swiftlets live in dark caves and, similar to bats, use echolocation for navigation. The swiftlet makes its nest from strands of gummy saliva produced by the glands under its tongue. People in Malaysia and Thailand farm the swiftlets by using empty houses for swiftlet nesting. They make more money than renting the buildings to humans. It’s swiftlet ranching, which allows the ranchers to wear cowboy hats. Bird’s nest soup is incredibly expensive, but I wonder how hungry the first guy was who said, “I’m going to eat a bird nest of spit.”
I spoke at things in southern Louisiana and needed nourishment. I ate alligator, crawfish, gumbo and jambalaya. Both gumbo and jambalaya included some combination of sausage, chicken, shrimp, rice, onions, bell peppers, okra and celery. I concluded that gumbo is a thick stew served over rice and jambalaya is a stew cooked with rice, but don’t take that as gospel. What do I know? A fellow there told me I’d eaten nutria. I hope I did so I won’t have to eat it again. A nutria is a large rodent who has never run for Congress. I’m no Thomas Jefferson, but I made a Louisiana Purchase. I brought home boudin (boo-dan), a highly seasoned pork and rice dressing stuffed into a sausage casing. It’s sold in nearly every grocery store and gas station. I bit into one end and squeezed the filling into my mouth because boudin has squeezability like a tube of toothpaste.
After a lifetime of eating, what’s the worst food I’ve eaten?
I reckon I haven’t eaten it yet.
But my cooking has taught me that not everything is meant to be eaten.