Taste buds are weird. Sometimes they defy everything we know about food and what should taste good together.
Food combinations can be reasoned out. Chocolate on pretzels? Sweet and salty combos are no stranger to our palate. But sometimes our taste buds find a combo, usually by accident, and it becomes what I call a “food quirk,” or eating foods together that would prompt funny looks from other people. Included in this is the way some people eat certain foods, like eating one item completely before moving to the next one on the plate.
I’ve always considered my quirks to be pretty low-key. When I was younger I was at a baby shower with my mom with a plate of finger foods. Not wanting to be rude and toss away a plate that still had food on it, I quickly stuffed a cucumber slice and Frito in my mouth and discovered that my taste buds like the vegetable-chip combo.
I also love putting pepper in my ketchup. My dad did it, so I just started doing it one day. I like how the pepper dilutes the sweetness of the ketchup.
But the one people always ask me about is when they see the way I eat Chick-fil-A nuggets: I wrap the nugget in a waffle fry. I’ve done this for years and now I can’t eat the nuggets from there without the fries. There’s just something about the added potato that I enjoy alongside the meat, which isn’t too far off what my brother and I did as kids — put fries on our hamburgers.
A lot of the quirks I’ve heard about from other people involve adding ketchup to a dish that doesn’t traditionally use ketchup, like mac ‘n’ cheese, eggs, Fritos and bacon. Another involves dill pickles, from adding popcorn or peanuts in the middle of the pickle to shoving a peppermint stick in the middle of one. The last one I would have never believed if it hadn’t been my co-worker’s own quirk.
I wanted to know more, and how weird some people’s quirks could get, so I asked residents in community Facebook groups to share their odd eating habits.
With almost 200 comments to sift through, I came to the conclusion that our taste buds have the ability to find the strangest combinations and that our minds make us eat a certain way and we just don’t know why. So maybe I should add that not only are taste buds weird, our brains are weird, too.
A good example of the mind making us do things came from resident Georgia Lister, who said she always puts two cherry tomatoes on her plate at a salad bar, but never eats them.
Another resident, Samantha Buck, said she cuts her meat proteins into perfectly proportionate bite-sized squares and that none of her foods can touch, meaning no sauce can go on her plate.
“No idea when it developed … definitely a later in life thing,” Buck wrote, “just started getting grossed out by mushy foods and liquids on plates.”
Lucas Strom said he tries to be the last person to order while dining out because he doesn’t want to order something someone else has. He keeps his top three choices in mind while the ordering plays out.
“Everyone thinks I’m weird. And oftentimes I don’t get to eat what I really wanted. It’s a bizarre thing,” Strom said.
Lots of people add chocolate candies on fresh, hot popcorn, but the one addition that surprised me came from Robb Webb, who puts olives on his popcorn.
“I accidentally discovered that I love the flavor of cold, leftover cooked salmon with hot scrambled eggs,” resident Deborah Seghers wrote. “It makes no sense, but I love it.”
I think that’s the general idea for most people’s food quirks: They make no sense. And even though we know we have our own, we still look at other people funny when we see them eat their combos.
“My husband and I have been married for almost one year, and I recently discovered that he puts cinnamon on his scrambled eggs,” wrote Shelby Bloom. “He’s a good man, but I will never understand this.”
Mustard or ketchup on green beans, apple sauce on Cheez-Its, Lay’s BBQ chips with syrup, beef jerky dipped in yogurt, chocolate cake and pickles and vanilla ice cream with orange juice are more combos people wrote about that I will never understand. Except for maybe that last one, which was said to taste like a Dreamsicle.
For Elizabeth Sanchez, her quirk steamed from an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood in which host Fred Rogers wraps a slice of American cheese around a banana. She’s enjoyed the snack ever since.
Lene Baggett eats peanut butter sandwiches with a bowl of chili because that’s how her high school served it, though she’s not sure why they served it that way. Anjali Olligschlaeger’s mom served her peanut butter and onion sandwiches and now her kids enjoy them as well. Fresh out of college, Quad Heinicken started dipping chicken nuggets in apple sauce, but can’t remember why the habit started.
Although other people’s food quirks will probably never appeal to me, I think it’s interesting to discover that we’re all a little weird.