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Food Oddities

Don't Look, Just Eat: The Grocery Store Edition

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Tue, Mar 23, 2010 at 10:57 AM

Tuesday seems like a fine day to release a new miniseries, so Squid Ink is offering up the first in its limited run "Don't Look, Just Eat (or Drink)" series. This dramedy's main characters are those edibles that taste so much better than they look (yes, heaping bowl of stewed tripe, we're talking about you). Some look so unappetizing, in fact, we can only wonder what the producers-- in some cases a manufacturer or restaurant, in others, Mother Nature-- of these products were thinking.

For the first edition, we've hit the grocery store aisles. Some are old favorites, others are new finds, but with each we've included suggestions on how to best enjoy the foodstuffs while simultaneously avoiding their visual unpleasantries. As these are grocery store commonalities, you won't find chocolate covered crickets or their ilk, but you might be surprised at what fabulously unappetizing-yet-tasty delights await at your neighborhood Ralph's.

click to enlarge Canned Sardines: A Really Fancy Feast - JENN GARBEE
  • Jenn Garbee
  • Canned Sardines: A Really Fancy Feast

Canned Sardines

Canned sardines (actually kippers and herring) have an unmistakable cat food quality to them, all shiny and scaly and looking more like the bits and pieces rather than the choicest parts. If like us, you tend to pick up the cheaper, non-imported version (at $1.25 it's hard to complain about the occasional fin), they'll also likely have very clear remnants of their recent demise by decapitation. Nor does their stench help matters. But rinsed and carefully patted dry, then piled beneath (so as not to see them, of course) a lightly dressed green salad or tucked under a few slices of avocado on mayo-smeared grainy bread, they're really quite fantastic. Available at most grocery stores. Reader Update: Thanks to the reader who wrote in tell Squid Ink about Trader Joe's canned sardines, which are reportedly actual European imports and still quite a bargain.

click to enlarge Marmite Beef Jerky? - WWW.HOMEMADEJERKY.CO.UK
  • www.homemadejerky.co.uk
  • Marmite Beef Jerky?
Marmite

Marmite is perhaps the archetypal disgusting-yet-oddly-tasty food, with a pedigree that dates to 1902, and a foul smell, off-putting dark brown color and odd texture for which all other "Don't Look, Just Eat" foods strive. An acquired taste, much like coffee and wine, the gooey, gloppy mess benefits from the simplest of presentations, such as spread on toast (no triple foam, low-fat marmite cappuccinos, please). Though we're not sure how we feel about marmite beef jerky, do give the recipe a try and let us know how it goes. Available at well-stocked grocery stores and British specialty stores.

click to enlarge Never Leave Your Cart Unattended - FLICKR USER SA-STEVE
  • Flickr user sa-steve
  • Never Leave Your Cart Unattended
Buddha's Hand

It's the freeze frame writhing mass of Medusa-like fingers that gets us every time. It is a rather unsettling image for an entire fruit, as we've all likely found a worm in an organic apple once or twice. But Buddha's Hand is an interesting genetic mutation of the citron, with a floral note quite unlike anything else. Use the zest as you would lemon, or try it candied in this recipe from Melissa's, the Vernon-based produce company. Available at many grocery stores and Whole Foods.

click to enlarge Squeeze, And It Doesn't Look So Grand - JENN GARBEE
  • Jenn Garbee
  • Squeeze, And It Doesn't Look So Grand
Maison Le Grand Pesto

If you don't have time to make pesto (we'll try to forgive you, but there's really no excuse for not being able to toss four ingredients into a blender), Maison Le Grand's classic basil and sun dried tomato pestos are a good substitute. They're sold in refrigerator packs that are touted as eco-friendly and promise to take up less space in your fridge. Great, great, but the problem is when you squeeze out the pesto it looks like little piles of... well, see for yourself. To avoid such unpleasant pre-dinner associations, we suggest squeezing all the pesto into a Tupperware container immediately after purchase. Available at most Whole Foods.

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