In many of the richer countries of the world, there is an immense variety of food available. Modern supply chains ensure that all products are available year-round. The inventive cook now has a plethora of ingredients available and can make dishes from any part of the planet with produce from their local market.
Virtually unlimited options have led to opportunities to make mistakes. And there are a lot of food combinations out there that really should never have seen the light of day. Here are ten of my favorite, not-so-favorite food combinations that shouldn’t exist.
10 Snails with Garlic Butter
Snails have been around for about 500 million years. Being very slow, they evolved two defense mechanisms. First, a shell for protection and then, having no taste whatsoever. Snails must have gone around feeling pretty smug for much of their existence and happy when man started farming, which provided them with endless food. What could possibly go wrong in the snail universe?
Well, unfortunately for the snails, the French turned up. The French have always been an inventive people. They saw the shell not as a protection but as a handy bowl to hold while they were eating the unlucky gastropods. The French have designed special implements for wriggling the reluctant snail out of its shell. So far, so good. One problem remained—the complete lack of flavor. Why not, thought a chef, pour garlic butter over them?
Garlic butter is rich and adds much to many dishes. But it adds nothing to snails. All you can taste is garlic butter with a rubbery lump of slimy something. Definitely not one of France’s many contributions to human culture.
9 Marmite and Marmalade
When the United States kicked out the British, Americans discovered many advantages to cutting loose from the Crown. Not least amongst them was the fact that they were spared the introduction of Marmite. In fact, this staple of many British kitchens was invented by Justus von Liebig, a German who found that brewer’s yeast could be concentrated into a sticky, savory paste and squirted into a jar. The British brewing town of Burton-on-Trent became the site of the first Marmite factory, and the company has made a virtue of the fact that it is not everyone’s cup of tea. It is marketed under the slogan “Love it or hate it.”
Marmite is rich in vitamin B and makes a tasty spread for toast for those who enjoy it. As for me, I think I will steer clear.
8 Fool’s Gold Loaf
Elvis Presley’s waistline expanded as he grew older. Not surprising when you consider that he was eating concoctions such as Fool’s Gold Loaf.
This “sandwich” was a production of a restaurant in Denver, Colorado, called the Colorado Mine Company. To make a Fool’s Gold Loaf, you take a French loaf, smother it in margarine and bake it. You take it out of the oven, cut it lengthwise, and hollow it out. You could stop here and throw it away, but you don’t. Now, you fill it with a whole jar of creamy peanut butter, another jar of grape jelly, and bacon!
So, what has Elvis got to do with this? One night, Elvis was with two friends in Memphis when he got a craving for a Fool’s Gold Loaf. As you do, he called up his pilot and flew to Denver. The restaurant rushed sandwiches and champagne to the airport, and Elvis and friends sat in the hanger happily munching away. In 1976, the sandwich then cost a whopping $49.95—around $230 today!
7 Fabada Asturiana
The Mediterranean coast is the area of sun and sand that most people think of when they think of Spain. But Spain is a country of great variety. The northern coast, for example, is rugged and beautiful. Here the mountains tumble toward the Atlantic. This is a green land where the weather can be harsh. To combat the cold, damp winters in Asturias, the locals have come up with a dish that fights back—Fabada Asturiana. Unfortunately, this powerful combination is hastening the end of life as we know it.
The influence of this dangerous dish has spread all over Spain and now beyond. The explosive combination of white beans, fatty pork, chorizo, and blood pudding has almost immediate repercussions. Methane—an inevitable by-product of fabada—is 25 times more efficient than carbon dioxide in trapping heat.
In 2011, Spain banned smoking in bars and restaurants. The Spanish government justified this on health grounds, but the real reason behind this legislation was, quite possibly, the risk of explosions in places serving fabada.
6 Blue Cheese Ice Cream
After a good dinner, you are faced with a difficult decision. Whether to have a sweet or something from the cheese plate. Some people always opt for one or the other. But a sizeable minority can’t make up their minds. Someone, obviously hoping to save their fellow citizens from the difficulty of deciding, came up with the brilliant idea of combining the two. I give you…blue cheese ice cream.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. I don’t mean to suggest that the inventor of this travesty is doomed, but we should never have allowed the brainchild into the public space. Ice cream and blue cheese do not mix. It doesn’t matter if you use the best of each—they do not belong together.
5 Beetroot Brownies
Most of us have a weakness for brownies. With a spoonful of ice cream, they are delicious. With a dollop of cream, they are wonderful. But with beetroot? I came across this combination on a website for vegans; I imagine that vegan brownie-lovers were searching for a substitute for dairy products. Now, I have complete respect for vegans, but I can’t condone using beetroot instead of ice cream or cream for a brownie topping.
On a practical level, you have to boil the beetroot for 45 minutes to render them edible. You then combine icing sugar with the beetroot puree (puree is the polite term) and make a beetroot icing topping. After making brownies, you then have to make the topping? Ain’t nobody got time for that!
We’ve all been there—unexpected guests for dinner and no time to get to the store. If a quick look in your kitchen reveals that all you have on hand is some mixed sheep offal, a turnip, an onion, and a few potatoes, don’t worry, the Scots came up with the perfect answer long ago.
You mince the heart, liver, and lungs of your dead sheep, add onion, diced turnip, and potatoes. After various twists and turns, you shovel the resulting mess into the sheep’s stomach and serve it to your appreciative and admiring guests. Don’t despair if you only have a dead cow or pig; Scottish cuisine allows you to substitute their innards if sheep are not around.
I would hesitate before serving this remarkable dish to anyone you are fond of—you can always order a pizza. But if you do place it before your guests, you can have lots of fun describing how you made it and watch their trusting faces change expression.
3 McChoco Potato
McDonald’s is undoubtedly the most successful international franchise on the planet. It has hit upon a winning formula that generally means that you can go into a McDonald’s in Miami or Minsk and find familiar food. However, the chain is not averse to trying new products to cater to different markets.
In Japan, the company decided to give McChoco Potato a whirl. This imaginative yet straightforward side dish was a plate of fries with milk and white chocolate ladled over the top. It was an inexpensive addition to the menu and seemed reasonably popular. However, McDonald’s only introduced it for a limited time and only in Japan.
Why anyone would want to put chocolate on fries is beyond me. As it’s not illegal to do so, you are free to do this at home but don’t order it in a restaurant, please.
2 Peshwari Naan
I can only imagine a glut of desiccated coconut, nuts, and raisins in Peshawar, Pakistan, when a local decided that it would be a good idea to stuff naan bread with the mixture.
Naan bread is simple and cheap to make and is an ideal side dish with Indian and Pakistani food. Naan bread’s soft and fluffy texture makes it ideal for dips or to chase the last drop of sauce around your plate. But not if it’s sweet!
Some dishes mix sweet and savory with some success. Peshwari naan does not. Fellow diners who order it are likely to spend much of their time picking out the filling rather than eating it. Definitely not a happy combination.
1 Fries (Chips) and Curry Sauce
As a Brit, I find many things about British culture that make me proud. Foreigners tend to laugh about our cooking, but it’s actually not that bad. Indeed, there are some wonderful British dishes. Unfortunately, chips and curry sauce are not one of them.
Always popular, fish and chip shops seem to have introduced this very wrong combination. These popular takeaway places do a lot of business after the pubs close. It’s not hard to imagine that people who had had one too many bought the first rations of chips with curry sauce. But, what’s challenging to grasp is why this terrible combination became so popular. It is a sickly mess that is guaranteed to cause massive indigestion—especially when dumped on top of eight pints of beer.