Barbara Dennis grew up eating peanut butter sandwiches garnished with a layer of crisp, sweet pickles. That’s a culinary combination not everyone can appreciate, as Dennis discovered.
“Early in my marriage when I packed lunches for my husband, I made the above sandwich,” the Chapel Hill woman wrote in an email. “Husband came home with a strong admonition: ‘Don’t ever do that again.’ When I asked him why, he answered, ‘Everybody laughed at me.’ (Footnote: Marriage didn’t last.)”
Dennis was among dozens of readers who shared their stories after I wrote about the foods I love but my husband can’t imagine eating. (Casing hot dogs for breakfast and egg noodles sauteed in butter and then added to scrambled eggs.)
I heard from lovers of crumbled cornbread in buttermilk, brains and eggs and braunschweiger. I heard from people whose eyes widen in disbelief at their loved ones chowing down on pigs’ feet, hog jowl or some other part of the pig. And as one reader suggested, there is probably an entire subset of eyebrow-raising sandwiches beyond Dennis’ peanut butter and pickle – banana and mayonnaise, peanut butter and bologna, peanut butter and olive.
Did you say ‘raw’ lamb?
My grandfather came to the United States from Lebanon when he was a young man. He married a Virginia girl and taught her how to make the Lebanese dishes that he grew up with. My mom cooked these dishes when I was a kid in the 1950s, way before anyone had ever heard of the Mediterranean diet.
When we went to my grandparents’ house to visit, we always had a Lebanese feast on at least one night. My grandfather had his own meat grinder, attached to the kitchen counter, and would grind the meat and onions for Kibbe Naya. This dish is delicious and consists of lamb, onions, bulgur and salt and pepper. It’s served raw with whole green onions and pita, which was homemade back then. My siblings and I had to trick many a friend into eating it because we found that if we outright told them what it was, they would most likely leave the room.
Brains – not just for zombies
When I was about 12-years-old, we were eating lunch at home of calves’ brains and eggs, scrambled together. I never really thought about what I was eating until one day, my cousin, Annette, came by and casually asked, “What are you eating?” To which I replied, “Brains and eggs.” She responded: “Brains! How could you eat brains?” I put down my fork and almost barfed, never to eat that stuff again.
… on a shingle
Growing up, one of our favorite breakfasts, and an economical way to feed five, hungry children on an Army officer’s salary, was creamed hamburger on toast. Of course, the soldiers in the mess hall had a more colorful name for it: “SOS”. (My mother, a genuine Southern belle, told us “SOS” stood for Same Old Stuff.)The way my mother made it, and the way I have fixed it for my kids and grandchildren, is simplicity itself. Brown a pound of ground beef, pour off excess fat, then stir in a couple of spoonfuls of flour. Once the flour is incorporated, add a cup or two of milk, stirring constantly, until you get the right consistency. Add salt and Worcestershire sauce and you’re ready to feast. When I was in fifth grade, we rented a place at the beach with some friends. The two moms traded off meal preparation and the very first morning, my mother rolled out the “SOS.” My siblings and I were delighted but the other family’s two young daughters stared in horror and reacted with an emphatic “Yuck. Gross.”
of Chapel Hill
Even Elvis wouldn’t eat this
I grew up eating banana and mayonnaise sandwiches on soft white bread in the summer time. Mmmm mmmm! Nothing’s better than that and some barbecue chips on a hot day. You can imagine the looks of disgust I got (and still get) when I mention it to anyone other than my dad’s family.
Robbie Lane Jackson
Franks ’n‘ Eggs, getchyer Franks ’n‘ Eggs
My mother used to make “chicken swimming in gravy,” for breakfast, when we had any leftover fried chicken. She would get up early, start new gravy or usually heat the leftover gravy, cut up the chicken into the gravy and let it simmer. Then she would serve it over split toasted, leftover biscuits. If no biscuits were left, then over toast the chicken would go. It was a truly fabulous breakfast.
The other wonderful breakfast I saw my grandfather preparing one evening, for supper, was scrambled eggs with a grilled hot dog sliced into tiny rounds. He, of course, made me a plate. It was delicious. This was great when you had no sausage or bacon, and I suspect he made this up during the Depression, when he had two young girls to feed, and my grandmother had died. I sneak and prepare this guilty pleasure about once a year, in homage to Grandpa.
When I was in elementary school, “Yuck!” was the least emphatic comment from classmates when my mother packed a braunschweiger sandwich in my brown bag lunch. I called it “liver sausage.” I suspect at least a few of them have since eaten foie gras or a similar pâté and then raved about how good it was, never realizing that it is just a somewhat creamy version of what was in my sandwiches those many years ago. (Yum! Two thick slices of braunschweiger covering slices of homemade white bread with a generous slather of spicy brown mustard, and maybe a thick slice of sweet onion is the common man or woman’s gourmet food!)Another “Yuck!” food I’ve eaten and enjoyed is haggis, a Scottish sausage made by stuffing a sheep’s stomach lining with the animal’s organ meats, onion, oatmeal and seasonings. As an adult, I became interested in Scottish country dancing. Every year, the dance group to which I belonged hosts an annual “Bobby Burns” dinner. Haggis was always served. When told about the event and the food, my ex-husband said, “Oh, gross! How can you eat that stuff!
Face-to-face with supper
My dad considered hog jowl a necessity for New Year’s Day, alongside the obligatory collard greens and black-eyed peas. As a kid, I was totally grossed out; but had to admit the meat was delicious – as long as daddy trimmed it out for me and I didn’t have to look at the grinning mess in the stew pot!
You thought your brains were scrambled
The mention of pigs’ feet stirred a memory of something my father liked. My mom never cooked it, but my grandmother did, and all of us kids were disgusted by it: pork brains and scrambled eggs. She also cooked poke salad as a vegetable or with scrambled eggs. I have fond memories of walking through the woods with Grandma, gathering the young poke weed leaves while they were tender. I also remember head cheese, but it was one of the foods that the grown-ups ate, and us kids avoided. Fortunately, we weren’t forced to eat things we didn’t like.
Michael Rakouskas Sr.
Boston beans for breakfast
My mother’s family background is French-Canadian and we lived in Massachusetts. Most Saturday evenings, she would make a pot of Boston baked beans and serve them for breakfast with toast on Sunday morning. Many of our extended family – uncles, aunts and cousins – would stop by for breakfast and our home became a traditional gathering place after church. I remember the unusual breakfast with fondness!
of Chocowinity, N.C.
Popeye is not impressed
My mother made a dinner dish that I loved. She calls it “fried spinach.” It’s really good! You brown a pound of hamburger with lots of garlic. Drain the fat and add in a box of thawed chopped spinach. Cover the pan for a few minutes to let it warm up. Then add four eggs that have been beaten with some black pepper. Stir until the eggs cook. Top with Parmesan cheese. It’s not really fried, and has a similar taste to Italian wedding soup.
I will not eat pink eggs from a pan
One (dish) that I grew up with in Ohio was a summertime lunch for us. My mother would fry up about two to four pieces of bacon very crisp. Then in the bacon fat she would slice a tomato or two from the garden and cook until soft. Next she would scramble together four to six eggs in the bacon fat and tomato, as well as crumble the bacon into pieces in the pan. The result was pinkish scrambled eggs served on a white bread or toast. Yummy!
Not everything is better with gravy
I’ve eaten pickled pigs feet, hog jowl, frog legs, rattlesnake, alligator, eel, insects, shark, barracuda. Chitterlings were surprisingly tasty but knowing what it was didn’t make it easy. (Chitterlings are pig intestines.) Buffalo, goat and elk are good, as is ostrich. I love crayfish and octopus.
Living in Asia some years ago, I tried 100-year-old eggs (not bad with soy sauce), kimchi (buried, fermented, spicy cabbage), sea urchin, eel, jellyfish, seaweed, whale steaks.
My dad had a few favorites: scrambled eggs with pork brains or shad roe, which a lot of folks like but I didn’t even want to try. But his strangest, to me, was gravy on chocolate cake. What a waste of two of my favorite foods!
Our family had a long tradition at family gatherings of breakfast of salt mullet or mackerel, fried really crispy, hot biscuits and black coffee. We’ve gotten away from that since my grandmother passed away at 92 and none can fix the fish as well as she did – although my two sisters come close. But where can you get fish packed in brine any more?