We play a game from time to time with the youth group at church, where each person is given a handful of candies, and then we all sit in a circle and take turns sharing something unique about ourselves. There is a cup in the middle, and if anyone else has done the same thing or visited the same place or is scared of the same thing, they have to put one of their candies in the middle. If someone shares something unique and it really is unique within the group, they get to take all of the candies from the cup. There is some policing involved to make sure no one shares a detail that is too specific (i.e. you can say you chipped your brother’s tooth when you were a kid, but you can’t say his name was Darren and you chipped his tooth by slamming a door in his face when he was relentlessly chasing you through the house, and that you feel bad about it now but at the time you kind of enjoyed it) but all in all, it’s a fun game and it’s always entertaining learning new facts about people you see every week.
The second time I ever played the game, my friend Pam was visiting for the evening, and I was excited for her turn, because she has had an interesting life and I was aware of at least one detail that was generic enough to pass that sniff test but unique enough she’d get all the candies in the cup. I ended up being surprised when she shared something other than what I was expecting, and gleeful when it turned out we had something strange in common – I too had eaten Cheez Whiz and peanut butter sandwiches when I was a kid.
I know, it’s disgusting. I see that now, but as a child I think I loved them. It’s remarkable how your tastes evolve as you get older. Some stay the same (such as my deep and abiding love for Fun Dip) and others, like the sandwiches mentioned above, work their way out of your lunchtime rotation because you just can’t stomach the idea of ingesting that combination anymore. They say that the reason kids fight you on the broccoli or brussel sprouts issue is because their taste buds are extra sensitive to bitter and sweet, making the bitter extra gross and the sweet extra wonderful. Supposedly that all evens out as our bodies mature, which is why we can discover as an adult that we really do like liver after all.
The food thing that I struggle with most as I enjoy my late 20’s is not really taste or texture, but more that I can’t stomach eating anything that looks like something. I could never ever eat anything octopus-based, and chicken wings ook me out. I love tuna, but I can’t eat salmon because there is often skin in the can that reminds me that yeah, what I’m eating was a fish that once enjoyed the little things in life, like meeting a she-salmon and swimming upstream to spawn.
I accidentally encountered this on the internet the other day, and while it doesn’t look like anything specific, it looks like something that could potentially exist and would be really gross to encounter in a dark alley or in the wild. Go on, click the link. I’ll wait.
Horrifying, right? Apparently it is a treat that is much-loved by kids the world over, especially in Hawaii (a food culture that’s frankly already a bit weird – they invented the pina colada and macadamia nut ice cream, but they also eat a lot of Spam) and even though the photos made me gag a little, the comments on the article more than made up for it. (A sample of the suggested names for this delicacy: pork calamari, pighetti, hot doodles, and weineroni.) Discussions of food always have a way of inspiring and developing a sense of community in an otherwise unrelated population. Even if you have nothing else in common, a discovery that someone else doesn’t like nuts in their cookies or enjoys putting ketchup on mac & cheese or dipping their french fries into ice cream can make them your next best friend.
So tell me, friends: what’s the grossest thing you ate as a kid?