Some people just haven't got any sense.
Like the guy who tried to market licorice Crackerjack.
Now, everyone knows that certain foods go together and have always gone together and probably were invented for each other. Do you think they had pancakes before they had maple syrup? Is it possible to imagine fried eggs without also imagining bacon? Did you ever go to a birthday party where there wasn't icecreamandcake? It was always said as one word when I was a kid.
Yet it is the glory and despair of the human creature never to be satisfied with what is. Ever since Charles Lamb's ancient peasant discovered that if you put a pig in a hut and burned down the hut, the pig tasted better, people have experimented with food.
The centuries have seen some amazing things, quantum leaps in tasting. The Mexicans poured bitter chocolate sauce on turkey and came up with dynamite turkey. The Japanese found that if you slice raw cold fish into silvers and sprinkle it with cinnamon, it is sensational. The Russians dumped some over-the-hill cream in beet soup and created a way of life. And there was that thumb-handed American soda jerk who accidentally dropped a scoop of ice cream into a tall glass of flavored soda water. . . .
Well, we all know the success stories. They are multitude. But progress has its price, triumph takes its toll, and as great-aunt Alberta used to say, into each life some rain must fall. Which brings us, and none too soon, to our subject.
A short parade of culinary also-rans:
How about some snails with cinnamon and raisins? One knowledgable sources swears she was offered this delicacy at restaurant school. It tasted, she said, like spaghetti sauce mixed with rice pudding.
The British love a dish called Scotch eggs, consisting of a hardboiled egg embedded in sausage, rolled in crumbs and deep fried. And served cold. When you press it with your fork, the purest clear grease runs out.
A variation of this is called Sausage Toad. The British are so good with names.
In Vermont I once was served baked whitefish covered with cranberry sauce. It tasted rather good, in fact, but our point here is the concept, not the execution.
Jamaicans swear by codfish-and-ackee, a kind of stew made with the beanlike tropical fruit, ackee.
From a California Chinese restaurant comes bean sprouts and avocado, with tiger's milk sprinkled over all.
From northern New York, a great native drink: bourbon and maple syrup. From western Tennessee, a great native entree: chitterlings and marshmallow casserole.
(To be sure, the Rube Goldbergs of food have always favored marshmallows, from the women's magazine kitchens that gave us sweet potatoes topped by baked marshmallows to those recipes you find on the sides if cereal boxes. Do people actually make cookies out of Rice Krispies and marshmallows?)
The English comedy team of Peter Cooke and Dudley Moore used to have a skit about a restaurant called the Frog and Peach that served only frogs on peach sauce and peaches garnished with frogs.
But really, we are wasting our time with foreigners. It is America, the home of Tom Edison and Alec Bell and Chuck Goodyear (another inspired klutz who managed to drop some sulphur into some rubber he happened to be boiling and discovered vulcanization), that pioneered the outer limits of cuisine. Who else, I ask you, could have invented:
Bubblegum ice cream?
Mashed potato sandwiches?
Meatless chile con carne?
That's just a skim off the surface. There is more, much more, and perhaps we shouldn't despise these Daniel Boones of the kitchen just because we suspect their eyes are bigger than their brains. Look at Copernicus. I think they deserve our respect and possibly awe as visionaries leading us into a new world, beyond space food.
After all, no one is making us eat the stuff.