Serious Eating Misadventures

Late Thursday night I posted a photo on Facebook of something that hit my barf trigger. My sister was surprised and admitted that she was beginning to wonder if I had experienced any food misadventures and if I was withholding information. Kiley also confessed that she was less than sympathetic in my near-barfing incident and cited a childhood emotional scar that involved me feeding her soft cat food. Attention readers: Please note, yes, I did feed her cat food on the sly, several times, but, the moment she was referring to was a Hostess potato chip with anchovy paste on the underside. Not cat food as per usual. What big sister doesn’t take such liberties?

Of course, I’ve eaten a lot of terrible things. However, I like to think that I’ve educated my palate to be open to radical experiences and surprises. I do have texture issues and I know my instant barf triggers by heart:

1. Peanut butter more than 1mm in height. Slathered on like cake icing and I am gagging. As much as I love it, scooping a hoggy spoonful straight out of the jar is something I could never do. Not even for $100.

2. Havarti cheese. I love this cheese too (dill and jalapeno most of all), but if the cube is more than 2cm x 2cm, I am also gagging.

3. Fettucine Alfredo. Swallowing hard now as I type the words. It’s like eating cellulite. Cellulite Alfredo.

4. Sushi. Ten years ago I was sushi’s biggest fan. It was my “if you lived on a desert island and could only eat one thing, what would it be?” choice, hands down. It was Easter, 2001. Spicy salmon rolls. Near death experience. I was vomitose (a word I coined that is similar in nature to comatose, but, instead of being in a coma, being in the state of vomit). I have tried valiantly (three times so far) to rectify this disappointment, but, each time the flashback is crystalline. Even the poster advertising sexy sushi at Benihana in the elevator at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel makes me uneasy. Sticky rice, soya sauce, wasabi, ginger, salmon—all of these elements have been ruined for me. But, I will try again.

And therein lies the problem. I try and try again. Thursday’s photo was part of my recent research for a feature with the Matador Network on cheap eats in Toronto. Chinatown is always the perfect resource for this. Poke into any place around Spadina and Dundas and you can find complete meals for three bucks.

I had selected a tamale-type item for $2.25 at the Golden Butterfly Bakery. The description was promising: rice, pork and peanuts. Wrapped in a corn husk and bound with twine like a lovely present it seemed like the perfect dinner.

Except, it tasted like cold cat puke. It was like a leftover food snowball. The rice was so sticky it stayed more on the fork than in my mouth. The peanuts were soft and bloated. The pork(?) was more like jerky and of a strange shade. The snowball tasted vaguely like chicken soup powder, but together, the texture did me in. Even with a gallon of beer to slide it down, I was still heaving. I ate more than half, not wanting to waste a good $2.25.

What I ate as a chaser will follow in the Matador article, so, no spoilers! However, I have discovered out-of-season pseudo mini candy apples. Stay tuned.

When you attempt snacking under $5 (as is the guise of my latest article), you are prone to some misadventures. After tossing the remains of the cat puke corn husk feature, I remembered a similar experience in Chinatown last year.

After a shiatsu treatment at the Oriental Health and Beauty Centre, I was ravenous. I popped into a bakery near Huron street and found a steamed bun as big as a bocce ball. Size does matter! I needed serious carb uploading. I paid less than $2 for a massive bun that was described as a “steamed bun with meat.”It was distinctly dusk as I walked past the Art Gallery of Ontario and came to a dead stop. Initially alarmed, and far from the glow of a streetlamp, I realized after super-close inspection that the rubbery mouthful was part of a hard-boiled egg, not a condom. A few steps further I bit into a surprise wiener. And then? Wait for it…a chicken wing! With bone-in! I couldn’t believe the value in my $2 find. Not only did I get bocce ball-sized bun, but it included a wiener, whole egg and chicken wing. Which gave rise to the inevitable question: What came first? The chicken, the egg or the steamed bun with the chicken, egg and wiener?

It was actually not the greatest thing I’ve ever eaten for $2.

In Koreatown last year, I was seen plodding along Bloor, scarfing back a sticky and very sloppy (not first date material) Korean pancake filled with brown sugar syrup and crushed nuts. Seeking out an unusual accompaniment, I bought a generic brown rice beverage in a can. There was no translation on the can but the cashier made a “shake-it-up” motion with her hand. I shook it, fearing a geyser as soon as I snapped back the tab.

No geyser. I had no idea what to expect either. I took a gigantic slug as the Korean pancake seemed to be sitting precariously in my throat like a wine cork. Imagine my surprise when my mouth was suddenly full of worms. Hundreds. I stepped into a side alley and did a big splat and cough. Turns out the worms were not worms at all, but brown rice. It was a brown rice beverage, but, I was anticipating the likes of soya milk—clearly sold with no soya beans rolling around in the bottom of the carton.

That wormy surprise was high on the gross meter. But, I took a few more tentative sips, just to make sure. Yup. The idea of swallowing liquid and rice grains is not desirable.

Also not desirable would be the roasted lima beans I had in Quito, Ecuador. When in Rome…they were being sold everywhere, and after scaling a South American Everest knock-off to see La Virgen de Quito up close and personal, a Biela lager and roasted lima beans seemed to be appropriate. That is until I popped six beans in my mouth at once. Charred black, swallowing the beans felt like I was getting my stomach pumped with the charcoal content. Worse? I felt like I was eating my own teeth. The lima beans were harder than my molars and tasted like nothing more than charcoal briquettes and a root canal. The Biela beer was satiating and a welcome chug after a mountain climb in soupy heat though.

I could go on. Ask my brother about the goat cheese we had at Toronto’s Wine & Cheese show. I swear it was pissed-on sweat socks formed into a cheese slice. The stench was nearly toxic and we wondered if we were being poisoned. The taste? It was like an old man had farted in our mouths. To ward off the fart breath we drank a dozen more wine samples and opted for a touch of alcohol poisoning instead.

There were lots of questionable items in Africa too—but, I actually genuinely loved the tilapia fish that was always served whole, looking very much like a fossil exhibit from a museum.

So, yes, I have eaten many dodgy things that don’t make my glossy online mostly bacon-themed photo albums or blog posts.

What will it be next? I promise to share next time.

Categories: Eat This, Sip That | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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