There has always been a kind of universal stereotype about the eating habits of Americans. We are often characterized as gluttons and gourmands by the other cultures of the world, but not without reason. The epitome of our love of food can be found in the popularity of the self serve buffet and its prevalence in our country. Although the buffet may be commercially popular, it is still an excellent place to find vernacular creativity outside of common cultural practices.
On one occasion, I was eating at a buffet restaurant with my friends, and one of them urged me to try a new dish she had invented: baked potato topped with vanilla ice cream. . I was reluctant to eat it at first because this strange combination defied any conventional use for both ingredients I’d ever heard of, but after awhile I gave in and found the dish surprisingly good. The fluffy texture of the potato and the creamy flavor of the ice cream eaten together had an agreeable, subtly sweet taste. The hot and cold contrast between the baked potato and the ice cream also added an interesting element. As a terrible cook myself, I was relieved to learn there was relatively no technique or skill to making this dish. We simply cut the potato open, dug out the inside with a spoon and mashed it around while still in the potato skin. The final step was adding a massive scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of the still steaming potato.
After that day, I promised myself I would try strange and innovative combinations of food. After all, there are only so many dishes you can eat within the limitations of traditional cuisine.
I have to say, this past summer has probably been my favorite one. Why? Because for the first time in ages I was not burdened by the cruel load of high school summer homework. I was really excited about the fact that I was able to enjoy summer anyway I wanted without having to worry about due dates. To top things off, my favorite cousin spent the entire summer with me. Aside from lazy days and late night 7-11 runs, we experimented with the food we found in my mother’s kitchen. One meal we made in particular stands out in my mind the most.
As usual, my mother had boiled some pasta for us before she left for work. By the time we made it downstairs, it had become cold. However, instead of microwaving it, my cousin and I decided to change things up a bit. “Why not have a cold pasta salad?” we asked each other. So then it was settled. We did include the traditional ingredients, like cherry tomatoes, sliced mozzarella, freshly grated parmesan, and a honey vinegar dressing; however, we also mixed in some unconventional items, such as crushed kettle cooked potato chips. But that was not the best part–to add a finishing touch, we diced onions and put them into the bowl. The newly formed pasta salad looked absolutely delicious, but would it taste as good as it looked? We were about to find out. That first bite was absolutely amazing. We ate the entire pasta salad so quickly and ferociously that it seemed as if we had not eaten for weeks. It was not until about an hour later that we came up with a name for our new dish. The salad itself was good, but the aftertaste was enough to kill anyone. Hence, we named the pasta salad “Dragon’s Breath.” Despite the foul odor in our mouths after, Dragon’s Breath was perhaps one of the best things we have ever eaten.
Experimenting with our main course simply wasn’t enough for us. After our delicious lunch, we decided to make our own dessert. I was really craving fried ice cream at the moment, but the nearest restaurant that served it was about 20 miles away. Then I remembered that one of my best friends taught me how to make fried ice cream from scratch. It’s quite simple really. Take a piece of bread and put a scoop of your favorite flavor of ice cream on top of it. Then, form a bread ball around the ice cream–the bread should completely cover the scoop of ice scream. Lastly, deep fry the ice cream ball on a pan, and after the bread turns a golden brown, turn off the stove. You don’t want to keep it frying for too long because then all the ice cream will melt. That ice cream ball was probably better than any fried ice cream dessert at an expensive restaurant. However, since it is probably 5000 calories, you can have one about every year or so if you don’t want to die of heart disease.
Experimenting this summer was definitely a blast. Now that I am on my own and am not blessed with my mother’s cooking skills, I have a feeling that I will be using vernacular creativity a lot. Parkside Restaurant, here I come.