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June 30, 2009

My most embarrassing food preference


John McIntyre sent me this as a possible topic of discussion, and I was so taken with it I thought I would post his whole e-mail. Unfortunately, I can't think of any new embarrassing food preferences to tell you about because if you read this blog regularly you already know about all of mine. The one that probably caused the most consternation was my liking bagels toasted and buttered -- and not too dense. Here's John. EL

John McIntyre's entry: I order steak well done.
This is rank heresy, shameful, disrespectful of meat and of the chefs who prepare it. Kathleen (who tells my son, "Put your father's on the grill ten minutes ahead of ours") attributes this to unfortunate formative experiences in my youth in Kentucky, where people are suspicious if the meat is a different color on the inside. I am still a rube. ...

I sometimes mention feebly that this was also General Grant's preference. Yes, the commander who sent tens of thousands of soliders to slaughter was so squeamish about the sight of blood that he ordered his beef cooked to a cinder. I am not the first to reflect on the irony. I also understand the sentiments of the people in Willa Cather's "Death Comes to the Archbishop" who, when Father Vaillant orders his lamb lightly roasted, gaze in horror at "the delicate stream of pink juice that followed the knife." But no quantity of historical or literary anecdote will cancel the look I get when I say that I want my meat served well-done.
That is why I don't dare go to steakhouses (that and stinginess). I tremble at the thought of an irate chef, blood in his eye, sweeping down on me with a cleaver in his hand. In ordinary restaurants, I lower my head and mumble apologetically, "Make it as well done as your conscience permits." Then I order a second martini.

(Elizabeth Malby/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 3:36 PM | | Comments (71)


I used to order steak "extra extra well done with 2 Xs. Tell the chef that when he thinks that it is done to leave it on the grill for a few more minutes, because I have never sent a steak back because it was overcooked." I have since mellowed to "well done".

(Who dares to write a comment on the professor's post? OK, I'll go first into the breach. Check my grammar, Bucky.)

Coming as you do from a place known as The Dark and Bloody, your revulsion of rare steak is quite understandable.

EL - I was fixin' to defend your preference for bagels with butter...then I got to the grape jelly part.

Prof. McIntyre - there's nothing wrong with steak, well-done. And I say this with the confidence of someone who has actually eaten steaks carved from a steer that he raised from birth (pulled it myself, as a mater of fact, and named him "T-Bone".) Don't let them city-slickers make you feel inferior.

You might say that when it comes to beef, I'm a moderate prescriptivist.

EL, what's wrong with toasted and buttered bagels? I prefer them that way over un-toasted with cream cheese. The consistency of the dough and cream cheese together is not as satisfying to me. Oh, and you have to use lots of butter! I actually make little knife indentations so the butter seeps through and does not drip of the edges.

Cereal mixed into my ice cream. There I said it. It makes my husband squirm and my co-workers grimace but I like crunchy bits in my smooth, creamy and cold ice cream. My favorite combos are vanilla ice cream with Cinnamon Toast Crunch, chocolate ice cream with Cap'n Crunch Peanut Butter, and Grape Nuts (or granola, whatever is on hand) and Coffee ice cream.

Raising a steer from birth and then eating it goes a long way to making up for never having eaten yogurt.

(pulled it myself, as a mater of fact, and named him "T-Bone".)

and I cried, "Baaaambi!"

Laura Lee - you beat me to it (commenting on Prof. McIntyre's post).

Confession: I could eat ol' T-Bone, but I couldn't have slaughtered him myself. Luckily that was always done at the packing plant.

Eve - there's a reason we're at the top of the food chain. Most of the time, anyway.

I have many embarassing food preferences. I'll begin with my stict time regimen. Breakfast - 7 a.m. chicken, fish, or egg with dry cereal.
Snack - 10:00 a.m.
Lunch - 12:15 p.m.
Dinner - 6 p.m. chicken with broth, which I eat together with a spoon.
snack 9 p.m.
I eat my meals standing up at the kitchen counter. too much information - I know.

Bucky I can appreciate that!
3 Yorkshire/Landrace hogs raised from piglets making the best whole hog BBQ till this day I have ever eaten. My "Barnies" (I, II, & III) were all bought by the Lake County Bankers Association, at the county fair. Two steers also raised from birth made their way into the family freezer. Never had a problem eating any of them, however first time I went crabbing after moving to MD...I couldn't bring myself to eat any of my catch. Watching them squirm in the basket while we caught more and more of their brethren was simply to off-putting!

Oh, Professor! Oh!

But to your benefit, it suggests that you must have some good strong teeth and jaws to chew up that shoe leather.

I'll have to think a bit and decide which of my food preferences is equally embarrassing to confess to, if I'm going to give you a hard time about yours. As many things as I eat out of a box or the freezer, I'm sure I can find a doozy.

Oh, I missed the jelly part...Straight up butter for me!

Dr. McIntyre, I have a friend who eats his steak well done. I asked him why he bothers with the expense of steak if it's only going to be cooked to the consistency of overdone pot roast. His answer -- "it tastes good" -- satisfied me till I saw him wash the thing in A1.

Good subject.
My most embarassing (some might say caveman-like)food preference involves bone-in pork chops. My mom made them at least once a week when I was a kid. We had a "family tradition" of eating the chops sans utensils. Yep, just pick them up and chomp away. The best part was gnawing at the little fleshy pieces that stuck to the bone. I thought this was perfectly normal!
Needless to say, I have never ordered pork chops in a restaurant in my life (even though I love them) because I am still somewhat afraid my GEICO genes may kick in.
Guess that's why one of my favorite movie scenes to this day is from "Splash" when Darryl Hannah is served lobster in a restaurant and Tom Hanks looks on in horror.

Professor, I think it was Anthony Bourdain who revealed that restaurants reserve the worst cuts of beef for anyone with the temerity to order well done--on the theory that the meat will be ruined anyway. What about ordering your steak "medium rare"--then sending it back for more time on the fire--after taking a bite or two, to make sure you get the same piece of meat back again? Just a thought ...


I have a strange aversion to ketchup and mustard -- at least the kind you most commonly find. A nice stone-ground mustard, I'll do.

It makes eating fast-food burgers a little bit of a hassle, but then at least plenty of places are easy enough to skip ketchup and mustard (and mayo, for that matter), and top with all kinds of other goodies.

But it makes eating hot dogs a bit of a trial. I see plenty of people recoil in horror and revulsion to my tendency to eat hot dogs naked. I have the opposite reaction -- even a whiff of ketchup will diminish my appetite.

Yes, I'm a freak of nature -- discuss.

I like my bagels toasted twice. I like them to crunch when I bite into them. When not in the mood for lox and cream cheese, I will use butter and a bit of honey poured over it (just to make sure it's really fattening and not good for me).

El Generalissimo, your aversion to condiments is no worse than my son who will not get anything on his cheese steak sub besides cheese and steak. I mean, not even fried onions? No hots? The humanity!

Joyce, I don't think your son is quite so weird (at least in this matter). I don't have an aversion to other things on a steak and cheese sub, but I also like them plain. Well, maybe with a bit of mayo.

Maggi wrote: Cereal mixed into my ice cream.

OK, I don't know that it really qualifies as comment of the week, but it is, IMHO, Tip Of The Week: I stopped on my way home, got some coffee ice cream, took it home and mixed some granola into it. mmmm...

Great idea, Maggi.

Professor, I don't think it is fair to blame your misguided culinary practice on the fine commonwealth of Kentucky.

I like Kraft Dinner, and must eat it occasionally. It has no nutritional value, no cultural value and is over-processed by evil corporations who do not have my health at heart.

Heck, it is radiation orange.

Yet, I must occasionally have a box. It is never as good as the Kraft Dinner of my youth, no matter which brand I buy, but I must try again, despite my continuous disappointment.

I have an inordinate fondness for apricot nectar.

I always look forward to eating the last Kosher dill pickle out of the jar... so I can drink the juice.

For me, there's no such thing as too much garlic.

I despise mac n cheese made with real cheese, I only do Kraft.

My father requires cranberry sauce with turkey and apple sauce with pork. Many times he's had to run to the market cause we were out of one or the other instead of sitting down to a hot meal.

Lone Lady, there's nothing wrong with eating chops right off the bone in my book.

I confess a zeal for the marrow in the marrow bone of a slice of ham. Even though I've given up meat it could probably still tempt me.

oh, lab rat, your father is so right! And the cranberry sauce has to be the canned kind with no cranberries in it!

Oh, Bo, your comment reminded me that when I was a teenager I used to salt my dill pickles for a favorite snack. But that was back in the days when my blood pressure was very low!

I am not sure that any of these are necessarily embarrassing. However I'll give it a go:

I love garlic, I use garlic A LOT.
I do not use ketchup except on home fries. I shudder when people put it on burgers or hot dogs.
I love mustard and have a large variety at home.
I like scrapple (Rapa only), fried thin and crispy.
I like Spam with cheese melted on top.
I defend my use of Coffeemate because I am slightly lactose intolerant, in truth I prefer it.
I too was raised at a table where it was encouraged to pick up your pork chop and eat it like a caveman. However I will order chops at restaurants but will use a knife and fork.
Absolutely no mayo type product on hot food (hamburger, any type of hot sandwich); mayo like this will cause me to gag and flinch like I was stuck with an electrical current.

I think that is it. Weird? Maybe.

I'll have a corned beef on whitebread with lettuce, tomato, and mayo.

jl - the guy with the shoe lether and A1 - was he an old guy from NJ? Probably my dad!

Dahlink, I'm guessing that if McI could eat that "bite or two" at medium rare, he wouldn't be going with well done.

Bucky: I hope you enjoyed it. ;)

Ketchup on my steak. (hangs head in shame) I'm not proud of it which is why I almost never order steak in public.

Spicy mustard on my omlettes...

...accompanied by a toasted bagel with butter. (The second half of my bagel also gets jelly as a sort of sweet with my last cup of coffee.)

Joyce, you're right on the money! I didn't even know 'real' cranberry sauce existed until I went away to college.

I know someone who puts American Cheese on corned beef sandwhiches. Absolute treason if you ask me.

Oh, and ketchup on Kosher hot dogs. There should be severe penealties for doing that.

But my BIGGEST pet peeve when it comes to people's wierd food preferences is when people wash off the crab seasoning on a steamed crab. In this town, that should result in jail time, yet I still know some people (adults, not little kids) who do it !!!

I LOVE Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.
The $0.99 a box type.....

For breakfast, I put ketchup on my eggs: fried, scrambled or omelette (The eggs, not the ketchup).

For lunch/dinner: IF I cannot find stewed tomatoes, I'll happily put standard Heinz ketchup on my baked macaroni & cheese. Strangely, though, I won't put it on Kraft cheese & macaroni.

For dessert: if presented with a slice of cake, I'll ask for a bowl and a glass of milk.

Step 1: Put cake in bowl
Step 2: Pour milk over cake in bowl.
Step 3: Eat...with a spoon.

I know, I know. My mother taught me better. But my father taught me this!

Why does "ketchup" occur so often when discussing "most embarassing"?

I made "salad sandwiches" at home during dinner. My dad hoped I would grow out of the habit. Sometimes I will sneak and stuff a bit of my salad into a buttered roll or folded over slice of bread or the end of a baguette -- even in a restaurant if I think no one is looking. Sorry, Dad.

I also eat all the crust from all the bread in the bread basket and leave the doughy part. (This works out well because my current dining companion likes the doughy part.)

1/2 head iceberg lettuce in left hand
Bottle of ranch dressing in right hand
Eat over kitchen sink.

RayRay, I get the feeling you would have been a great college roommate.

I wonder that too, Bucky. Why is everyone so embarassed by/angry about ketchup?

My Dad loves Kraft dinner and requested it (along with meat cakes) for his Father's Day dinner.

I like crunchy peanut butter on pumpernickel with grape jelly and bacon bits (Baco Bits preferably).

Ketchup on eggs is great any style, except maybe hard-boiled. Then I go for the hot sauce.

I thought this post was supposed to be where we reveal our own most embarrassing food preference, not express pet peeves about other people's weird food preferences.

Personally, I always wash the seasoning off steamed crabs before eating; all that Old Bay just gets in the way of the crab flavor.

YumPo, that isn't weird. I mean, I do that. If I do it, it can't be weird, right? Good bread, good salad, a nice dressing, delicious.

I also do it with the weird, vaguely Asian cole slawish thing I make.

Another vote for toasted bagels, butter and jelly.

Gibble's potato chips.

No sushi...ever.

Potato chips and ice cream sandwiches, salty/sweet/smooth/crunchy/chocolate. I haven't done this since high school, but I remember it well.

I also like to put potato salad into my green salad and pour on Italian dressing (not too much) the olive oil Italian.

Doritos and PBJ!

Mary Jane - Did you actually put the ice cream and potato chips on bread? If so, didn't that make the bread soggy? I used to put potato chips in my ice cream, getting that salty/sweet combo.

Ah, Lissa, you are a kindred spirit! Of course it can't be wrong if you do it, too. I wish I could tell my Dad (I can just see him laughing and saying that we're STILL weird!).

By the way, I like Kraft Cheez and Mac too, and you're right-- it doesn't taste as good as I remembered.

"OldPhil" says No sushi...ever.

That's okay, OP--more for the rest of us!


A guy I worked with always ate potato chip sandwiches for lunch. Every single day. He left the company and went to work for a large, prestigious Washington law firm and still eats potato chip sandwiches every day for lunch.

Ohhh, ice cream sandwiches!! Duh...

I make sandwiches out of most anything. Including salad. Take some homemade Afgan naan bread and wrap it around fresh greens dressed with feta cheese, black olives, olive oil and lemon juice. I have been known to pile pasta with meat sauce on garlic bread.

I will give another vote to Kraft Mac & Cheese especially when served along side Bush's baked beans and a hamburger.

I prefer the "deluxe" versions of Kraft or Velveeta Dinners, which come with cheese sauce in a foil pouch. You just boil the pasta, drain, and add the sauce -- no need to add butter or milk, and the taste is less gritty, too! (It also avoids having to mix the cheese powder with olive oil and water when the butter and milk run out at home, as I and Owl Meat have both confessed to doing on occasion.)

In my late teens and early 20's - tuna fish salad mixed with lots of extra gloppy mayo (Hellman's of course) and dipped with potato chips (Utz!) was the snack of all snacks.

I don't think olive oil works well in Kraft Dinner, although the time I used sour cream instead of milk and butter wasn't a complete loss.

A "hookup"
Ramen noodles, 1 hard boiled egg, 1 can tuna.

I like to dip potato chips in vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is best, but plain old white vinegar will do. MMMmmmm....crunchy salty sour...

Joyce W., I ate that too, except without the extra gloppy part (I was too poor to use extra mayo). It was still really good. Tuna salad spread on potato chips in lieu of bread = great little sandwiches.

(tiny voice)

I like Franco American spaghetti with meatballs.

Also, fried egg sammiches on white bread with ketchup.

Speak up, Amy--you're among friends here!

Absolutely, Amy. What Dahlink said.

Amy, fried egg "sangwiches" (my grandma's word) on white bread with ketchup sound fine to me. (But it really has to be Heinz ketchup-- right, Joyce W.?)

YP, you probably saved yourself a few thousand calories by not doing the gloppy part - still good match though chips and tuna.

Second the fried egg sammiches, Amy, but, right your are, YP! It must be Heinz!

Amy, I grew up eating fried egg samwiches on buttered white bread, with ketchup. Mom has been gone for MANY years, so I'd forgotten all about them ... might have to make one for breakfast tomorrow.

YumPo, many years ago, when I was in a small theater company, a group of us would go to someone's house after rehearsals for snacks and to unwind. Two of our faves were jazzed-up tuna salad and jazzed-up egg salad, served with crackers. Yummy!

I made "salad sandwiches" at home during dinner. Sometimes I will sneak and stuff a bit of my salad into a buttered roll or folded over slice of bread

When I was in Long Island recently, we got dinner from a local pizza place. They have salad pizza, which is exactly what it sounds. Salad on pizza crust. It was different, but I wouldn't bother to order it again: too messy.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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