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My Day of Eating Nothing But ‘Cancelable Food’

After cooking four of the truly strange meals Twitter told me about last week, I can tell you which ones are actually deserving of their time in the limelight

Last week, the Twitter prompt du jour was “we’re posting cancelable takes about [topic]” — the idea being that it’s fun to read thousands of people’s worst opinions on any given subject. (Actually, that’s the idea behind Twitter to begin with.) Prompt tweets are great because everybody recognizes them as naked engagement grabs and yet grudgingly participates in them anyway. In the latest flood of prompts, the thread on “cancelable food takes” clearly stood above the rest.

I generally find it intolerable when people post their hot takes about food, notwithstanding my periodic digs at the British about beans on toast. Initially, this thread appeared no different. Every other response was either “ketchup is gross” (agreed!) or “mac and cheese isn’t that good” (apostasy!). A few people suggested recipes that were obviously jokes or retweet-bait. But after panning for gold in the fuck-beans-on-toast mud of replies, I came away with four meals that I found intriguingly weird. With that, I decided to eat a full day of Cancelable Food Takes meals.

Breakfast: Edward Ongweso Jr.’s Oatmeal with Cinnamon, Scrambled Eggs and Jam

This initially sounded like slop-on-slop-on-slop to me. But if you sit with the idea for a minute, it doesn’t sound like bad slop, even if you burn the oatmeal like I did. The dish is easy and economical to make (with hearty oatmeal as the base, I only had to scramble two eggs). I did toast up some potato bread in case I needed to sop up some of my gruels.

I suspected this would be secretly delicious, and wouldn’t you know, it was. Ed replied to his own tweet with “try it or your money back,” and after trying it, I did not ask for my money back. I usually prefer soft-scrambled eggs, but I scrambled these up diner style, wanting some fatter curds to soak up my sludges. Ed didn’t explicitly say I couldn’t top the eggs with Old Bay or scallions, so I did. Everything else, I did by the book. Cinnamon: check (but no additional sugar). IKEA-brand lingonberry jam: check. Clean plate: check.

Verdict: 8/10 because someone burnt her oatmeal like a dumbass

Lunch: @EALouder’s Peanut Butter and Pickle Sandwich on Potato Bread

While I must congratulate this replier on her innovative use of potato bread, which is easily the best mass market sliced bread available, I should acknowledge that the peanut butter and pickle sandwich is not her creation. It’s been endorsed by no less an authority than the New York Times (by a book critic). The sandwich is a cult classic: Most people don’t know it exists, many of the ones who do are repelled by it, and those who are fans are utterly devoted to it.

Get over your initial revulsion, because once you’re past it, you can consider this sandwich as a triumph of Samin Nosrat’s maxim that good food must be bolstered by salt, fat, acid or heat. Peanut butter: salt and fat. Pickles: salt and acid. Mayo, as some variants on the recipe call for: fat and acid. Toasted bread: heat. Okay, okay, this replier didn’t explicitly call for toasted bread, but I thought it would be an unbearably wet sandwich otherwise.

This was pretty good! But it would’ve been better if I’d used sweet gherkins as the replier’s image indicates to do — I didn’t think it would make a huge difference, and I don’t usually love sweet pickles, but my super-sour dill spears may have been a little too unforgivingly acidic. Regardless, this was a heartier and more satisfying pantry sandwich than I anticipated. It’s one of the cheapest sandwiches you can make, it fills you up and it grosses out your friends. What more do you need?

Verdict: 6/10, could’ve gone higher with the right pickles

Dinner: @OculusWriter’s Cheeseburger on a Glazed Donut

This was the only dish that Shug wanted to try.

This burger isn’t this replier’s original creation, either — in fact, if you believe the apocrypha, the glazed donut cheeseburger was a favorite of Luther Vandross, and appears on a few more adventurous restaurants’ menus as the Luther Burger. I offer this preamble not as a fun historical tidbit, but to clarify that I do not blame this Twitter user for how goddamn fucking gross this cheeseburger was. Instead, I blame this soulless social media machine that rewards photos of ludicrous food, or Luther Vandross.

A funny thing happens when you start eating something that looks a lot like a food you like (in this case, a cheeseburger), but tastes different (in this case, like absolute ratshit). I managed to swallow two bites without realizing how horrid it tasted. On the third bite, it occurred to me as a passing thought: Huh, this sure does taste bad. And then the flavors assaulted me all at once. I suspect a similar thing happens to people who eat cakes that are designed to closely resemble other foods. Your brain expects the food’s taste to be roughly commensurate with its appearance, and why shouldn’t it expect that? You’ve never deliberately tortured it until now.

You can do a lot to a burger before it becomes officially inedible. It’s a pretty forgiving format, and I’ve tolerated perversions ranging from the mundane (bacon, which adds nothing) to the ostentatiously obnoxious (a ramen burger, seriously?). This was the first burger I’ve had in years that I couldn’t finish. I can see the logic behind its creation well enough — who doesn’t like a hint of sweetness to counter something as salt-forward as a burger? The problem is, I just said “a hint of sweetness,” not “a bun of pure sugar.” One can’t construct a recipe using logic alone as one typically requires additional devices, like taste buds, or close friends who will tell you to put down the ground beef and learn a trade.

I always toast burger buns, but the donut halves didn’t toast up properly, as you can see in the photo. Maybe it’s the large quantities of butter and sugar in each donut, or maybe God was just trying to stop me any way He could think of. Putting these halves face down in a hot skillet simultaneously burns them and, I don’t know, melts them — that’s the only explanation I can think of for why the donut came out of the skillet so wet. Holding this burger was almost as unpleasant a project as eating it.

The worst part is that my pan is covered with gray sludge that melted off the donut and won’t come off no matter how much effort I put into scrubbing it, which is admittedly not much effort.

Verdict: 3/10, need I explain further

Dessert: The OP’s Vanilla Ice Cream with Balsamic Vinegar

The OP specifies that this dessert is best with in-season peaches, but I don’t have the power to make it summer this week, so I had to skip them.

I was shaken after that unexpectedly foul burger, but vanilla ice cream with balsamic vinegar is firmly in the realm of the “weird but logical” rather than the “devised by the criminally insane.” When I worked at a frozen yogurt shop in 2008 (but you probably knew that when I said “frozen yogurt shop”), enough of our customers asked for balsamic vinegar as a topping that we began keeping some on hand for their weirdo palates. It was never our most popular topping, but customers insisted that this was how they did it in Italy, where they definitely do not eat shitty nonfat frozen yogurt with or without balsamic. They do eat gelato, though, and sometimes drizzle balsamic vinegar on it.

I intended to drizzle my balsamic vinegar over my ice cream, too, but the vinegar bottle had other ideas and upended about a quarter cup of the stuff into my bowl. It immediately got to work breaking down my vanilla ice cream into floaty particles while I slopped another scoop of ice cream on top to soak up some of that vinegar.

Clumsiness notwithstanding, this was pretty good! I said the exact same sentence, exclamation point included, about the peanut butter and pickle sandwich — that’s how you know it wasn’t that good and that I wanted it to be. With peaches or other fruit, it really would be good. The balsamic blew out my palate without something more substantive than ice cream to stand up to it. It was hard to get a bite that wasn’t mostly balsamic. I tried another serving later with a much more parsimonious drizzle and the problem didn’t go away. The subtlety of the flavor in my vanilla ice cream was no match for the high level of acidity in the balsamic vinegar. A punchier ice cream might stand a chance, or else a more delicate vinegar than those available in my supermarket might have tasted less aggressive.

Verdict: 6/10, will try with peaches when the time is right

What Have We Learned Here?

My day of cancelable foods was mostly okay, though I’ll be haunted by that burger for a long time. I’ll have Ed’s oatmeal again for breakfast sometime soon, and I might even buy some sweet pickles in case I ever crave a peanut butter and pickle sandwich again. The balsamic ice cream I’ll leave to the professionals — those who know enough about vinegar to modulate this unusual sundae. The most important lesson I learned was that when the good Lord designed the supermarket, he put the donuts and the ground beef on opposite ends for a reason.