Back in high school, I was once politely asked to step away from the Pancake Club’s cook-your-own-pancake table because I was scaring away other customers with my love of raw pancakes. And when I say raw pancakes, I mean raw: dripping with batter, and nowhere close to what most people would consider fully cooked.
To me, that kind of pancake is delicious, no matter how gooey the paper plate is when I’m done. To anyone else, it’s just a request for salmonella; not only does it look weird, but it’s also about as socially acceptable as chowing down on uncooked pasta.
This taste preference of mine is what I call a food quirk. A food quirk can be a bizarre habit, an extreme aversion, or even a kind of worship. What matters most is that it involves food and it’s unique to you, or to your roommate, or to that extra-strange kid in your group of friends. Here at Wesleyan, food quirks are one of the more under-appreciated ways that the class of 2017 adds to the diversity of the student body, although it may be less recognizable outside of the cafeteria line.
One of the first freshmen I spoke with on the subject of food quirks was Cheryl Hagan ’17, for whom the phrase had an immediate association.
“My best friend sniffs everything, which I always think is weird,” Hagan said. “She sniffs people’s drinks. She sniffs food, obviously, and apparently that helps her decide if she wants to eat it or drink it.”
However, Hagan was unafraid of admitting to her own oddities.
“I love mangoes,” she noted. “I ate a mango every day for two years when I lived in Gambia. So from [ages] four to six, I ate a mango pretty much every day, and I still love them. I haven’t gotten sick of them.”
Freshman Sonya Levine’s foods of choice are apples and avocados.
“Apples are my favorite food, so I usually eat at least two or three every day in any way,” Levine said. “But the weirdest thing I do is eat avocados whole, just scoop them out and eat them….Or I also put mashed avocado on toast, and eat that….I eat guacamole plain. I just like avocados. I could subsist solely off of avocados and apples.”
Unfortunately, not all such food fixations end as happily. One such case is that of Luke Schissler ’17, who still has residual trauma from a past experience with Velveeta.
“One time I ate so much Velveeta that I threw up, and now I can never eat Velveeta again,” he said. “I don’t know if that was a blessing or a curse, but don’t give me Velveeta, okay? That’s mean. If you show me Velveeta, I’ll get sick.”
Schissler is also sensitive to certain everyday items, such as ketchup and mayonnaise. Even a whiff of either of these condiments is enough to send him over the edge.
Maia Nelles-Sager ’17, meanwhile, has trouble convincing herself of the merits of soup, even Nutella soup.
“I do like Nutella on anything, and when I say anything, I mean anything,” Nelles-Sager said. “Like literally anything. I don’t think I’d like Nutella on soup, though, because I don’t like soup.”
In fact, a passion for dessert is a common theme among food-quirky students such as Amy Hood ’17, who confessed to having a major sweet tooth. For Nate Gardner ’17, dessert is especially important because it’s an opportunity to blend different but equally delicious types of food.
“I’m really big on dessert combos,” Gardner said. “I’m a big fan of throwing [things] together—so if [I’ve] got a cookie, or a brownie, or whatever, [I] grab that, grab some ice cream, grab some sauces and whatnot. Most people go for the single dessert; I’m a fan of mixing it together.”
When it comes to coffee, Ella Israeli ’17 takes a similar approach, though with a more practical bent.
“One thing I like to do: I take a scoop of ice cream and put it into a coffee mug, then put coffee into it also because then you don’t have to put milk and sugar in because you already have milk and sugar in it from the ice cream,” Israeli said.
Israeli has taken this system a step further with her version of breakfast cereal: yogurt and Cheerios. Although pragmatic in nature, it perhaps only approximates her intended taste. Jacob Sussman ’17, who enjoys a still stranger breakfast mix, cites fellow freshman Fred Ayres as his inspiration.
“I mix peanut butter and chia seeds and hemp seeds in a bowl, in the style of Fred Ayres,” Sussman said. “It’s delicious, and he says it’s nutritious, so I’m going along with it.”
In contrast to this wholesome snack of choice, however, Sussman’s regular Usdan routine is a little more greasy.
“Whenever I go to Usdan, while I walk around and get other food, I always eat a slice of pizza,” Sussman said.
Nonetheless, Sussman’s mode of pizza consumption is distinctly harmless when compared to other, more dangerous feasts, such as those attempted by Schissler. Schissler recalled with some chagrin the confusion of food that resulted from his middle school-era games of what he calls “food Jenga.”
“When we were in middle school, me and my group of friends played food Jenga,” Schissler said. “So we’d try and stack all of the components of our lunches as high as we could, until something spilled on someone or it came crumbling down and destroyed all of our lunches. And we continued to do it, even though it was destructive to our meals.”
Still, few food quirks came close to matching that of Gardner, whose attitude toward eating can only be labeled as “adventurous.”
“When I travel, I like to try a lot of stuff,” he said. “One of my favorite things I had recently, honestly, was a broiled cow-tongue taco. That was actually really tasty; I wouldn’t have expected that.”