I was reminded of some more gross foods I’ve come in contact with over the years. They range from mildly disgusting to I-almost-threw-up. I thought I would record them for posterity.
Jello Pretzel Salad
When I was working my first job, my department had a pot luck lunch. The woman who was my manager at the time brought in something that may have had another name, but which I and a friend who worked in the same department have referred to over the years as “Jello Pretzel Salad.” I’ve since learned that this is not as uncommon a recipe as one might think (or hope) after reading it.
Mr. Salty Pretzel Sticks are crushed to a crumb consistency, then mixed with melted butter and sugar, and pressed into a 9” x 13” casserole. Poured over this is strawberry (I guess) Jello that has had a couple of cups of sliced strawberries stirred into it. The whole nasty mess is allowed to gel, then Cool Whip is spread over the top of it, for a final insult to the taste buds.
The woman who brought this couldn’t figure out why no one wanted to eat it.
Actually, only one person did eat it, and to this day my friend and I maintain the guy was just sucking up, because he also worked for her. He ranted on about how wonderful it was, and ate two or three helpings. No one else would touch it.
All the Food at My Husband’s Cousin’s Wedding
In August of 1997, my husband and I drove to Hickory, NC for the wedding of one of his cousins. This wedding was catered (I use the term loosely) but was also a pot luck of sorts. I don’t know what kind of lax standards the Catawba County Department of Health has, but they must be nearly nonexistent, or not well enforced, if this particular caterer was allowed to stay in business.
In the first place, most of the food came from Costco and was just kind of assembled. Mercifully, I don’t remember everything that was served, but the abomination that stands out most prominently is a pan of L’il Smokies that were in some kind of commercially made barbeque sauce. What I do recall about the food was that I refused to eat much of anything because every single thing was swarming with flies. Big fat black flies. Nothing was under any kind of cover, and it was all kept minimally warm at best with a couple of halfhearted cans of Sterno.
On the potluck side, someone had felt the need to contribute wedding symbol-shaped chocolates. Thus it was that there were chocolate bells, doves, and garters or something like that. My sister-in-law and I both passed these by on the buffet table as being nothing we had any interest in. The flies, as I recall, weren’t terribly interested in these either. However, half way through the “meal” our mother-in-law came up to us and declared us to be “neglectful daughters-in-law.” Puzzled, we asked what she was talking about. From behind her back she produced a paper plate with half a dozen of these chocolates on it.
“Because there was chocolate, and you girls didn’t tell me!” she declared.
There was, we knew, no way around it. We were going to have to eat one of these things. We knew just what they were going to be like, and they were.
There is available at stores like Michael’s and Total Crafts a product that is intended for candy making. They sell bags of little “chocolate” disks in varying colors that are then melted down and poured into molds and allowed to harden. However, next to these bags are jars of various extracts that are intended to be used to give these disks their flavor. Somehow people who make candy always overlook the bottles of extracts. This was not my first experience with these melted, re-formed bits of plastic nothing. For reasons that escape me completely, people who make this sort of candy cannot be convinced that the little disks have no flavor on their own, and require the addition of an extract of one kind or another. If you tactfully point out to them that their “candy” tastes like melted plastic, they will insist that you have no taste buds, and that anyone with half a tongue can tell that the brown ones taste like chocolate, the pink ones like strawberry (or peppermint, depending on the individual to whom you are speaking), and so on. They simply cannot be swayed on this point. I have tried.
So my sister-in-law and I each unwillingly ate a tasteless piece of brown resin. To this day we laugh about the experience.
And to heap insult on injury, it was a BYOB wedding. Actually, I stand corrected. They provided a keg of Icehouse beer. Wow, thanks.
P.S. the cousin and the woman he married got divorced two years later.
Canned White Potatoes
In about the same era as the Jello Pretzel Salad Pot Luck Lunch, I was invited along with my then-boyfriend (whom I did not marry), to dinner at a coworker’s house. She and her husband lived in what was actually a very cute row house on Capitol Hill. The dinner, while more edible than most of the gross food I’ve described, included some kind of meat (I no longer recall what), asparagus (which I put in my mouth and chewed up just to be polite, but did not enjoy), and canned white potatoes.
I found this both disgusting and curious. For one thing, I would never serve canned anything to a guest. For another thing, they went and bought the asparagus fresh, so why could they not have found some fresh potatoes to go along with the meal? I have never been able to figure this out, but I have always considered those canned white potatoes to be among the most disgusting foods I’ve ever eaten.
Almost All the Food Ever Served at Parties Thrown by College Friends
Really this pertains to the period of time right after we got out of college. Many of those friends are now fairly accomplished cooks and can provide pretty decent food, when called on. On the other hand, some are not.
In the early 90s, they were often found serving such delicacies as frozen meatballs cooked in grape jelly and chili sauce. Or appetizers that they bought at Costco and defrosted. Or cheese platters from Giant Food. Or sausage balls made with Bisquick (OK, I admit it—I actually love these).
In fact, the only party food that stands out as memorable and good is what was served every year by a friend who threw an annual Chinese New Year party. She actually made real Chinese food, like dumplings and noodles, and had everyone over for an authentic Chinese New Year meal, complete with fortune cookies (which she bought). The year she finally stopped having these parties, we were all extremely sad. However, I understand why she stopped—she spent days, possibly even weeks, prior to that party making all the food from scratch. It was hard work, and she did a fantastic job. But I can’t blame her for stopping.
The Very Worst Thing I Have Ever “Eaten”
I put eaten in quotes here, because I didn’t actually get this into my stomach. Many years ago I was forced to spend the night in the hospital for observation. (I’m fine now, thanks for asking.) It also happened that this was the Sunday to Monday of Memorial Day weekend. Hospitals are not known for their quality food under the best of circumstances. The food gets even worse on the weekends, when the regular staff is off. It deteriorates even further on the third day of a holiday weekend (or so I’m told). I can only believe this, based on my experience.
I was served for breakfast that Monday morning a product known as a French Toast Stick. I believe at one time Burger King sold these. But, as I recall, the ones at Burger King were edible. I hesitated, but being hungry, I went ahead and tried to eat one of these things. I think I might have chewed it five times before insisting that my husband (who had thankfully arrived a few minutes earlier) hand me the wastebasket, because I was going to be very sick. Well, I wasn’t actually sick, but I certainly didn’t let that French toast stick linger in my mouth for any length of time.
Since then I have eaten hospital food that was edible, but I have never eaten French toast, and I don’t believe I ever will be able to again.
I’m sure there are other gross things I’ve eaten over the years, and doubtless there will be more. The parade of gross food never ends, although mercifully, it seems to have slowed somewhat.