The Buffet of Despair: Inspired by Are You Gonna Eat That?!
Think your food predilections are a little weird? Local author Steve Wiley has your penchant for peanut butter and banana sandwiches beat with his new book, Are You Gonna Eat That?!: A Collection of Crazy Culinary Concoctions.
According to Wiley, the book was a long time coming:
The idea and title for this book took root in my five-year-old head while repeatedly watching my uncle smear Dijon mustard on his quartered orange slices and then slurp them down. It stuck with me from that point on like a bad food dream, yet almost everyone in the diverse cross section of people that I interviewed for this book had some creative food combo to share that showcased their own wonderfully wacky uniqueness. To you, some of these concoctions may look and sound strange and hardly edible; to their originators they are sublime and delicious. I'll bet you have one you could share too!
Wiley's right. I do have my own disgusting food combination to share: I love twisting the top off of Oreo cookies, putting a dill pickle slice on the cream center, replacing the top of the cookie and eating the whole salty-sour-sweet concoction with glee. But if I thought my own food peccadillo was odd, it was nothing compared to what's contained in the pages of Wiley's book.
Our editorial assistant, Blake Whitaker, sat down and picked a few of those combinations at random. (I personally think he chose the most disgusting ones he could find.) And so, this afternoon, I set about constructing a buffet of those items so that we could experience other peoples' food preferences firsthand. How bad could they be?
The lineup quickly became known as the Buffet of Despair.
The items that Whitaker chose for the buffet are below:
Web editor Brittanie Shey bites into toast spread with mayonnaise and decorated with colored sprinkles.
Photo by Chasen Marshall
Sloppy Joe mix on glazed donuts. Or, as they came to be known, sloppy Joe-nuts.
Peanut butter and guacamole sandwiches on white bread.
Nilla wafer sandwiches with mayonnaise filling.
Raw eggplant slices with chocolate sauce.
The group consensus according to people who were brave enough to partake of the buffet -- including associate editor Cathy Matusow, fellow Chasen Marshall, staff writer Craig Malisow and arts & culture editor Troy Schulze -- was that the sloppy Joe-nut was by far the least offensive of the quartet.
Schulze stood over the trash can as he ate, in case he was tempted to spit anything out or throw up (as assistant music editor Craig Hlavaty threatened to do upon simply walking into the conference room, the air thick with the scent of fatty mayonnaise and sauteed meat). But he declared the sloppy Joe-nut a success: "I can actually see people serving this in restaurants." Could the sloppy Joe-nut be the next Juicy Lucy?
Less successful were the PB & guac sandwiches and the Nilla wafers. Malisow liked the "juxtaposition of the fluffy guacamole with the thick peanut butter," although Schulze found the texture too sticky and chewy overall. Matusow actually enjoyed her Nilla wafer sandwich, saying that "the lemon of the mayo adds a nice tang and some moisture to the wafer." She declared it the "least frightening" of the entire spread.
Photo by Chasen Marshall Right before the sprinkle 'n' mayo abomination was spit out.
But the eggplant and toast stopped everyone dead in their tracks. These were the two items that I personally couldn't even swallow. I can eat anything -- it's like my superpower -- but these two tripped my gag reflex so quickly that I had to spit them out after only a few seconds. Marshall agreed with me that the raw eggplant's overpowering bitter, earthy, dirty flavor was only temporarily masked by the chocolate, which somehow made it all worse once you could really taste the eggplant itself. The toast with sprinkles and mayo was so wretch-inducing that only one other person would try it: Shey, who bravely sampled all five items without spitting one thing out. She deemed the sprinkles "too waxy" -- as if that was the only problem with the mayo-saturated toast.
After everyone had their fill, the Buffet of Despair was quickly cleaned up as the scent of Kroger-brand mayonnaise was starting to permeate the rest of the building. Hlavaty, who had chugged three cans of Four Loko the day before and was still feeling the effects, was still threatening to vomit. We'd had enough of walking in others' disgusting food shoes for the day.
Wiley's book retails for $16.95 and is compact enough to make an excellent stocking stuffer come Christmastime. I recommend packaging it with a jar of mayonnaise for full effect.