Taste buds are strange. Whenever you take a bite out of something, you’re not just tasting one flavor at a time-- you’re taking in a mosaic of hundreds (if not thousands) of little chemical compounds, all jostling for your tongue’s attention. This doesn’t even account for smell, texture and a million other factors that all account for you perceive a food’s taste.
Professional chefs use this to their advantage, combining flavors and textures to take ingredients in a dish farther than they could go alone. Of course, this means that there are some rather… weird food combinations that, despite their odd juxtaposition, are surprisingly tasty. I like to refer to these as tongue-hacks, because they basically hack our sense of taste to make seemingly disgusting combos yummy. Here are a few of my favorites.
French Fries dripped in a Wendy’s Frosty
The classic combination of our childhoods. This combo crosses over several different factors in both the fry and the Frosty: The heat of the fry with the cold of the Frosty, the salt mixed with the sweet, the crunch and the dairy softness-- makes for a fantastic cheap combination.
Grilled Cheese and Maple Syrup
I discovered this by accident, due to a case of mistaken identity. When I was four, I thought that a grilled cheese sandwich was some french toast and I, in all of my childhood wisdom, proceeded to dump the sugary lifeblood of all New Englanders and Canadians on it. It’s weirdly tasty. A few tips: Use sharp cheddar. Never the gross square cheeses. Also, make sure that it’s REAL maple syrup. Keep the sandwich as hot as possible, and the syrup as cold as possible.
I will probably get several angry letters about this, but I’m gonna say it: Hawaiian pizza isn’t that bad. I prefer it with bacon, because the extra crunch with the chewiness of the pineapple makes for a nice mouthfeel. The acidity of the fruit, along with the saltiness of the cheese and bacon and the slight sharpness of the tomato sauce, are a major appeal for many-- and a major turnoff for others.
Chocolate-Covered Potato Chips
I love potato chips. They’re a great way to add texture to any boring dish-- stick them on a sandwich, use them as a crust for baked macaroni. When you dip them in chocolate they get even better. They add a crunch somewhat reminiscent of a Thin Mint when eaten, and the salt on them help bring out the more subtle flavors in the chocolate.
Chicken and Waffles
You can have two versions of this: The Soul Food version, with the waffle covered in syrup, butter and an (un)healthy serving of fried chicken on the side, or the Pennsylvania version, which is stewed chicken on top of a waffle, garnished with gravy. Whatever your choice, it takes a traditionally sweet breakfast food and makes it into a much heartier, sweet-and-savory meal. The crispiness of the fried chicken juxtaposes nicely with a fresh, crusty waffle. And if you’re a fan of gravy, all those little waffle squares can carry a pretty good volume.
Mac & Cheese and Ketchup/BBQ Sauce
Like pineapple pizza, this is the source of much controversy and debate within the food world. Before you start getting angry, hear me out-- mac & cheese can, unfortunately, end up kind of bland if you don’t do it right. While I love cheese just as much as anything else, flavorless pasta swimming in a tasteless cheese sauce is a huge turnoff. Ketchup, barbeque sauce, Sriracha and other condiments can give mac & cheese the kick in the pants it needs to become truly great. And, chemically, it’s pretty much the same as pizza.
Marlese Lessing is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She tweets @marlese_lessing.