Ever wondered who was the first person to dip their pizza crust into ranch dressing? Or who first had the epiphany to put bananas on a peanut butter sandwich? For that matter, who was the first to put together a s’more?
Think of all the ways we can tailor our purchases to our own taste. We customize our cars, computers, cellular plans, even sneakers. Food is no different. I prefer restaurants that allow you to add and subtract things you like and dislike from their menus to create something that best suits you. Yet not every place is like this. My solution? Makeshifts.
Maybe it began in my kitchen growing up, when my brother and I would melt down chocolate bars and kisses, dunk pretzels, then tediously hang them on a stick in the fridge (what can I say, I’m from the town of Hershey.)
It definitely blossomed at my university’s cafeteria, where I found the selections generic and redundant. My teammates and I experimented to no end, earning us a reputation as inventive non-conforming diners. We would extract things from different sections of the dining hall and manufacture our own rice krispie treats, pizza bagels, root beer floats, etc. After four years of this, I learned never to accept food at face value.
One of my favorite re-mixes involves taking a delicious organic cranberry granola (bought bulk-style at the grocery store) and adding it to a vanilla sundae off McDonald’s notorious dollar-menu. Thus I transformed a cheap, fleeting product into a scrumptious healthy snack.
A few other accessories I like to keep handy are craisins (dried cranberries) and sundried tomatoes. You can give an already good salad a makeover by adding these tasty sensations. One time I even became obsessed with candied almonds and didn’t leave home without them. They complement salads, cottage cheese, pretzels, pretty much anything but bubble gum. The sesame chicken salad at BJs Chicago Pizza only gets better when you add all three of these goodies.
Jam, especially homemade peach or mango jam, is a fabulous agent for enriching taste. I subsisted on mini-PBJ graham cracker sandwiches one summer. Hummus can be used in the same fashion. One time camping, our supplies had dwindled down to just garlic hummus, rice, pita and a stick of meat. The hummus actually collaborated with everything and I realized that mashed chickpeas are pretty universal. I prefer dipping Pizza Hut breadsticks into one of these options, rather than the ultra-fatty cheese sauce.
I have an aunt who carries fire-Tabasco in her purse at all times and uses it everyday. Sounds masochistic to me but it works for her. My best friend is a cinnamon sugar fiend. She takes her crucible of spice to work every day to employ during her lunch break. She’ll mix it with butter on bread, sprinkle it on yogurt, even use it to spice up corn on the cob. She drew the line after dashing it on a hot dog one day, which caused more of a downgrade than an upgrade.
There’s no crime in incorporating things you love into everything. You probably don’t want to walk into a restaurant carrying a skillet of fish to add to a dinner salad, but little bags of your favorites are fine. Oh, and if you come up with a new idea, feel free to pass it along. MTW