Gambling with Favorites
It was just recently that I once again sunk back into my memory. This is something I do a lot, especially as I still can’t believe I’m 21 and a senior. Usually when I do this, it’s thinking about a video game I still remember playing my first time, a particularly funny moment from one of my favorite shows, or a memorable field trip from school. This time, though, it was about food, and boy what a random time it was to be thinking about this one. Though my experiences with cooking and prepping food have been somewhat limited, the same can’t be said for eating it!
Specifically, I was thinking about one of my favorite parts of school lunch, back in the latter years of elementary school and I think middle school as well: the chicken nuggets. I love chicken nuggets very much and will pretty much eat those at any place that has them. But I didn’t eat these chicken nuggets plain. Instead of going for my favorite condiment, barbecue sauce, I would squeeze some honey onto my lunch tray and dip the nuggets right in. Not sure what made me want to try that out; probably just because the honey was there, even though that kind of logic wouldn’t fly with me nowadays. Chicken nuggets and honey went surprisingly great together, yet if my kid self were to tell me that now, had I never tried it, I would’ve never considered it. I guess that sweet and salty combination just worked very well. Over time, I’ve learned that even when you don’t give much thought to your routine favorite foods, they can come with surprises, whether you like them or not, and they can teach you new things.
When it comes to food, I’m a bit of an odd case. I’m not picky in the sense that I need to have my food made in just the right way, but I much prefer to stick to my favorites and only try out crazier things when I feel I have a decent chance of enjoying it. This is the direct drive for my food eating habits here at KU I can easily eat the same thing for lunch or dinner every other day if I really wanted, but I don’t because that wouldn’t be the best game plan for my health. My nose is like a radar: When the smell of a food just makes me cringe, chances are, I won’t like it. There are exceptions of course, but my nose is usually right. I feel like my food preferences define me just a bit: I’m not the most eclectic or spontaneous person and I prefer to stick with what I know best, and this applies perhaps to food more than almost anything else. I’ve been addicted to cereal for breakfast since elementary school, and I can and will very frequently eat it during the afternoon or even late night. It’s gotten to the point where if I wake up in the morning and go to my first class without having eaten something, I’ll often go to the upper floor of the dining hall, and the first thing I’ll take will be cereal. Even when they’re already serving the hot food. Alas, not every food is as sweet and reliable as cereal; some of my favorite foods have ended up being total flops or enhanced in ways that I didn’t expect them to be.
It was just one of many days of summer break, me and my brother alone while our parents were at work. Having a craving for one of my favorite convenient foods, Ramen noodles, I couldn’t wait to get a nice hot bowl of those delicious noodles that afternoon. However, I had been thinking of a way to spice up my noodles for a while now, so I gave into my curiosity; it was time to make a slightly different bowl of that Ramen, without anyone to screw it up. I opened the spice cabinet and searched for something that could make my noodles a little spicier. It wasn’t easy because my parents keep more spices in there than we have satellites flying around the Earth (1100+), so I just made a quick decision and put in some curry powder. It made the noodles just spicy enough that I could notice it, but not too spicy that I needed a drink to cool my throat. Complete with crackers like I usually put in them, it was a very satisfying lunch and I can’t wait to use it more.
Lesson #1: Don’t be afraid to add little things to your favorite foods to make them even better. Especially if you’re mixing things up and you need a substitute. The results just may surprise you.
Related to the incident above, there was also a time when my dad decided to interfere with my Ramen-cooking years ago; I was in 8th or 9th grade at the time if I remember right. Every now and then, he’ll me to try something new, and more often than not, these are a mixture of things that I will find outlandish. My dad and I definitely don’t share many tastes, and that time he decided to put a slice of cheese in my noodles while they were cooking. I just knew that I wouldn’t like them, but he didn’t even give me a choice. I hoped that maybe they wouldn’t taste so weird, but in the back of my mind, I knew couldn’t stomach them; Ramen and cheese are two great tastes that sound horrible together, and they taste like it too. If someone offers to put something in a favorite of yours, don’t let them unless you are fully comfortable with it and are ready for the outcome.
Lesson #2: Don’t let people tinker with your favorite foods without your permission. Even if they mean well, you know what you like most.
In a separate noodle incident, one time here at KU, I bought a pack of Cup Noodles from the Marketplace, as I do so frequently. But this one was a stinker; for some reason, it tasted like formaldehyde (you know, that chemical commonly used as a disinfectant and such). Not that I know what it tastes like directly, but that familiar smell was present in the taste. Simply recalling this story almost makes me cringe, so just to make sure I didn’t go crazy, I did do a quick search, and I found that it probably came from “wax coating” that noodles have which prevent them from sticking to each other when cooking. It could also have come from the Styrofoam inside the cup. While you’d think this crazy fact and incident would turn me off of Ramen, I simply can’t just turn myself of Ramen for good! I just need to be much more careful; it’s not like I was poisoned, but all it takes is just one bad egg to make someone wary.
This is something you don’t want your noodles to taste like.
Lesson #3: Be wary of one of your favorite foods being a bad apple every now and then. Even your favorites can go bad, but don’t let such instances turn you off.
On that note, Ramen noodles weren’t the only longtime favorite of mine that were ruined at one point. My top favorite food is pizza, and unfortunately, the pizza we have here at the South Dining Hall is not very good. Well, Bène on the bottom floor, anyway, as the upper floor of the SDH’s pizza tends to be better. I usually don’t complain about the food and can enjoy it for the most part, but the pizza was always the one thing that was really lacking for me. It’s incredibly hit-or-miss, with the majority of the time, being a wide miss. This recent miss was where I really drew the line. After waiting a little over 10 minutes for a couple slices of pizza, I thought I would have gotten something at least tolerable. But as soon as it came out of the oven, I was shocked. I’ve seen burnt, unappealing pizza before, but this took the cake. It wasn’t like when I first saw the taco pizza they occasionally have; while that variety didn’t look very appealing, I actually enjoyed it a lot once I gave it a try! This disaster, on the other hand, was a total disgrace; very lumpy cheese (which I could hardly see because it was covered in brownish spots), incredibly crispy crust that made me feel like I was biting into a rock, and burns scattered about, all of which made me not want to eat it at all. It takes a lot to make me not want to eat any pizza, let alone pepperoni pizza, and I was so appalled that I took a picture and showed it to my mother and a friend. Both of them didn’t think it looks as bad as I made it out to be. I’ll let you be the judge. Now, I’m paying careful attention; if the pizza looks bad, I won’t go anywhere near it. So far, I haven’t eaten pizza from the Dining Hall since this occurrence, and I’d much rather eat the pizza we always get at home.
Lesson #4: Don’t settle for sub-par quality with one of your favorite foods. Eating a bad meal can be worse than not eating at all.
These are just some of the many lessons that some of my favorite foods have taught me. Whether or not you’re actively thinking about how much of these foods you eat, you know they’ve already influenced your food eating habits just by how much you eat them. However, things can start to get a little boring if you do the same exact thing over and over too long. Mixing things up yourself, or involuntarily having your food altered, can give you fresh new food experiences! Or, if things don’t go your way, at least you’ll have funny stories to tell your friends!