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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Tomatoes

This is an updated reprint of an article I posted here four years ago.  Happy Mother’s Day – Jim




Have you ever been in a long-term relationship, marriage or otherwise, where you know your partner as well as you know yourself?

You know everything about them; their likes, dislikes, childhood friends, what makes them happy, what makes them sad, what pisses them off. You know how they'll react to anything. You've heard their stories a hundred times, but you still listen to them even if they bore you to tears. You know what kind of toothpaste they prefer and how much sugar to put in their coffee.

Yeah, like that.

And then, out of the blue, you learn something entirely new about them?

Like first date new. Like, Wow! Me too! new.

My wife and I are just about as good a fit as two people can be. We were a blind date, and by the end of that date we both had mutually decided that the two of us were going to get married- but, it was, oh, about a week or so before either of us mentioned it to the other. And by then we barely had to, because it was just so obvious that's where we were going. We've been married twenty years now, and I'd say we know each other pretty well indeed - if for no other reason than we've traveled literally tens of thousands of miles, thousands of hours, cooped up in in a car together. A lot of it through places like the Yukon and the Northwest Territories where there are no radio stations - as such, you'd think just about every possible subject of conversation would have come up by now.

Apparently not.

We grew up widely separated. I was born and raised in the western part of Michigan's lower peninsula, where people eat oatmeal with margarine and brown sugar for breakfast and speak proper American English. My wife was born in New York, but raised in the panhandle of Florida, where people eat grits with butter and salt for breakfast and speak in an incomprehensible dialect centered around variations of the all-purpose contraction "y’all." Where I grew up, there are two types of regular daily gravy, Brown and Chicken, and two types of holiday gravy, Turkey and Ham. Where my wife grew up, there is only one kind of gravy, White, and you eat it on everything. Where I grew up, about the only fried food was chicken, which came in a cardboard bucket when mom was too tired to cook, and the occasional pan-fried bluegill or perch. In my wife's household, everything was breaded and fried - and covered in white gravy. In the North we didn't barbeque, we "grilled out" in the backyard. In the South, BBQ is a complex art-form utilizing arcane and highly secret methodology involving smoke, pork, liquor, and several pickup trucks full of drunken rednecks. In the South they eat "greens." In the North, we know grass clippings when we see them and we feed that shit to the livestock.

So, food-wise you wouldn't think we have a lot in common.

Not so.

We both purely detest tomatoes. Loath is not nearly a strong enough word. We can't stand 'em, neither one of us. This hatred is the bond, the glue, that holds us together and gives us strength against a hostile and tomato loving world. It has kept us together for twenty something years and I suspect that we will be buried together at some indeterminate future date far removed from the tomato cultivating regions of the world.

Strangely, I do like ketchup, only the good kind, but my wife won't touch it. And both of us will eat tomato sauce on certain things such as pizza and lasagna, but only if there's not too much of it and it's not too tomatoey (that’s a totally real word, look it up) and under no circumstance can there be any stinking chunks of tomato in the sauce. Ugh.

I know that you will find this distaste strange and incomprehensible. My wife and I do realize that it is entirely possible that we are the only two people on the planet who hate tomatoes, and we're good with that. Hell, even my own mother simply can't believe that I find tomatoes revolting, and I'm sure that both of my parents wonder if the hospital screwed up and gave them the wrong baby.

See, my folks love tomatoes. Absolutely love the goddamned things. They eat tomatoes all of the time, stewed, canned, sliced, diced, pickled, juiced, on a chair with a bear and in a house with a mouse.

Now my mom often made things that I loved - but, at least once a week we'd have something with tomatoes in it and I could barely stand the smell, let alone choke down dinner. God forbid there would be stewed tomatoes - which my dad relishes with great gusto. Retch. The smell alone made me want to vomit. (Dad also loves lima beans. Seriously, who the hell likes lima beans? Maybe the hospital did screw up)

However, the good news is that if the tomatoes were a side dish, like the stewed variety, I was allowed to take a pass.

The bad news, of course, was that if tomatoes were part of the main course, well I was required to eat them. Usually, I could pick around them, or push them to the side, but there was one dish that I feared and hated above all else. One dish that my mother made at least once a month that I dreaded and feared and despised. One dish that I could not avoid or work around. One dish that the mere thought of, forty years later, makes me shudder. I haven't thought about it in years, you might even call it one of those 'repressed memories' shrinks are so fond of. Childhood trauma, long repressed - and, I thought, unique to me because I've never seen or heard of it in any other household. I would, of course, take as little as possible of it. And I would push it around the plate and spread it out as much possible to make it look like I was actually eating it - all the while contemplating thoughts of running away to join the circus where I would eat nothing but corn dogs and cotton candy. My mother, of course, was not fooled by these diversionary tactics. A child of The Great Depression and of frugal Dutch extraction - she'd make damned sure you cleaned your plate no matter how painfully long it took - and it often took forever. Which led, inevitably, to the stern matronly lecture of starving children in Africa and the fact that I should be grateful that I had anything to eat at all. But try as I might, I could never be grateful for that particular meal. Ever.

All of which which brings me to this: The other day I was in the kitchen cooking dinner. As usual, my wife was sitting on a stool behind the island, and we were talking about our day. And for some reason, the subject of our mutual tomato hatred came up. And my wife casually mentioned a certain dish her mother used to make, which my wife hated and despised and was traumatized by and contemplated running away to join the circus to avoid.

It was none other than my own childhood nemesis!

Have you figured it out yet?

Yes, it's that revolting 1960's, lower middle class, blue-collar staple: American Hamburger Goulash.

For those of you not familiar with this dish, it is a horrifying abomination of hamburger, onions, green peppers, elbow macaroni, and stewed tomatoes. I would cheerfully burn Betty Cocker's checkered apron in effigy for perpetuating this putrescent sin against culinary nature. If there is any 'American Comfort Food' more disturbing and less comforting than this repugnant atrocity I don't know what it is, unless it is the 1970's school lunch version commonly called 'schoolash' - a salmonella seasoned mix of grade-B leftover burger patties, macaroni, and tomato soup warmed to the temperature of an hour-dead corpse by a bank of heat lamps and dehydrated to the consistency of old toenails by the hair-netted expertise of sadistic lunch ladies. Often served with 'garlic toast' made from yesterday's hamburger buns and some kind of industrial urinal disinfectant.

I haven't thought about goulash in years and, yeah, it's a small thing. But, more than two decades my wife and I have been married, and I just now discovered that she had almost exactly the same childhood experience as I - and nearly identical comments regarding it. Something new in conversation. Something that tells me she'll always surprise me. And it's just one more thing that tells us how good of a match we are. Her hatred of American Hamburger Goulash is just one more thing that I love about her. One more thing that makes me wonder what else is left to discover about the woman I can't imagine life without.

So, yeah, after all these years I guess I finally am grateful for the damned goulash.

So thanks, Mom, for giving me just one more reason to love your daughter in law.

92 comments:

  1. I didn't read the original, since I only found your blog a few months ago, but I wanted to let you know you're not alone. My tomato aversion is milder than yours; I like ketchup and creamy tomato soup (with lots of cheese and croutons or crackers), but I can not ABIDE raw tomato in any form, or chunks of the stuff in any quantity. Yuck. (I also don't like chunks of onion or pepper; that goulash dish sounds AWFUL to me) There's an old George Carlin routine in which he discusses how wrong tomatoes are; the line I remember is "something has gone afoul inside of a tomato" :) A ha; found it (about 4:55): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gk-BR-EBMU4

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  2. OK, I literally laughed out loud at this, and hereby nominate it for the Hilarious Screed Hall of Fame:

    If there is any 'American Comfort Food' more disturbing and less comforting than this repugnant atrocity I don't know what it is, unless it is the 1970's school lunch version commonly called 'schoolash' - a salmonella seasoned mix of grade-B leftover burger patties, macaroni, and tomato soup warmed to the temperature of an hour-dead corpse by a bank of heat lamps and dehydrated to the consistency of old toenails by the hair-netted expertise of sadistic lunch ladies.

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    1. Who says Jim can't write well? Love this.

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  3. My childhood (and adult) nemesis was peas-I was threatened one night with the "belt" if I didn't finish the extra helping my dad had generously given me. I was force fed them by my siblings and have had a pathological hatred of them since. It didn't help having a roommate in college who ate the damned things from a can in front of me. My husband loves them, and I do like snow peas, but regular peas are a tool of the Devil and I consider them to be WMD.

    My brother in law shares your hatred of tomatoes, he figures anything a a pig won't eat is a thing worth avoiding.

    Happy Mother's Day to all the mums out there. I miss you, Mom.

    knittingbull

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    1. I hate green peas so much that I literally developed an allergy to them. Just one pea will make me break out in an itchy, scaly rash.

      Of course as a kid I had to eat the damn things all the time, even though there were plenty of vegetables that I actually liked. But no -- green peas at least twice a week.

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  4. I can take or leave (mostly leave) tomatoes unless they are in lasagna. However, I cannot stand Brussels sprouts. I can't even stand the smell of them growing in the fields. It is enough to gag a maggot and gives me the urge to regurge every time. They, along with liver, are banned from my house.

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    1. I used to hate Brussels Sprouts, and my wife only tolerated them, until my wife found a simple recipe that made them more than merely palatable, but quite tasty. These are not mushy or slimy. These can be made from frozen sprouts, which will require a little more cooking time, but they are much better when made with fresh.

      Trim off stem and peel off a couple of the outer leaves. Slice in half. Toss with lemon juice, coarse salt, ground pepper, and then olive oil. Bake on an aluminum foil-covered cookie sheet at 400-450F for 10-15 minutes, turn over, and bake another 10-15 minutes until they start to brown. Serve warm.

      regards,
      Jerry

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    2. I hated them, too, until my brother made them for me. He chops bacon and renders it until it's crispy and browned into little bits. Halfway through the cooking process, he adds thinly sliced onions so they caramelize. Then he adds thinly sliced brussels sprouts and stirs them around for less than a minute so they're still crisp. When it is extremely hot, he adds a cup or so of dark, tasty beer and it steams up and makes a nice sauce.

      Come to think of it, I'd probably like this better without the brussels sprouts. Can't taste them anyway...

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    3. I like most veggies, but I've always absolutely detested brussels sprouts because of the bitter taste. Someone told me recently that if you don't overcook them, they don't get bitter, and I found a website that says salt helps counteract bitter, too. I'm now anxious to try the recipes provided here, as well as see what happens when they are steamed just a little and served with salt. Thanks for sharing.

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    4. They are MUCH nicer when you don't cook them to death, they're like bite-sized cabbages, but sweeter. I hated them until I cooked them for myself. ;)

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    5. "Trim off stem and peel off a couple of the outer leaves. Slice in half. Toss with lemon juice, coarse salt, ground pepper, and then olive oil. Bake on an aluminum foil-covered cookie sheet at 400-450F for 10-15 minutes, turn over, and bake another 10-15 minutes until they start to brown. Serve warm-to the neighbors." Order pizza.

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    6. I've always liked Brussels Sprouts but my wife, children and grandchildren wouldn't touch them with a barge pole.
      A few months before my wife passed away I tried a different method of cooking them.
      Fried in hot oil until the outer leaves are charred. Discard the outer leaves and the rest is surprisingly sweet

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    7. My husband had that gag reflex to Brussels sprouts. I like them, at least if they haven't gone bitter. He loved artichoke. I abhor those. I cooked Brussels sprouts for myself on those days he insisted on an artichoke. I figured one bad odor cancelled another.

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    8. I'm reading this next morning, over my second cuppa.
      And I've got one question, Jim.

      How the hell did this comment thread turn into an orgy of Brussels Sprouts recipes? "No, no. You're REALLY gonna like 'em this way! Have an open mind."

      Frigging Brussels Sprouts?!? ["No, no. Just TRY these. You're really gonna like 'em!"]

      I don't care HOW much garlic, or lemon juice or, yes, even bacon you mix with these bastards. They're still gonna taste like sweat sox.

      And I live not far from where they grow 'em. I've had 'em fresh off the stalk, just hours away from the field. I've had 'em smothered under the most wonderful cheese sauce a french chef could imagine. I've even had 'em stir fried with tomatoes. ["No, no. Just TRY these. You're really gonna like 'em!"]

      Hell, I don't HAVE to taste 'em. The smell of them cooking already drove me out of the house. By all that is holy and American, who the hell declared this a food?

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    9. They've been breeding a much sweeter Brussel Sprout, as I found out listening to Radio 4, (kind of The British equivalent of PBS) the ones I remember from my youth were very peppery when eaten raw. My brother hated them but my parents used to cook them for every Sunday Lunch, from the first frost (my Mother said they tasted better then), to the last frost of Spring. My brother hated them and still does. Myself and my brother were served first so we'd have our dinners placed in front of us and I'd eat my bother's serving, leaving my own until later. then my parents would come through from the kitchen and always believed that my brother loved them so much he couldn't wait for them to sit down. This persisted right up until shortly before my Father died when we finally owned up to what we'd been up to for over 50 years. He took it quiet well considering.

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  5. What could be more appropriate than Mr. and Mrs. (W)Right?

    Mama and I celebrate our 26th this year, and she still (rather frighteningly often) surprises me.

    A happy Mother's day to your Mrs. today from both of us.

    Lucy

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  6. I still have some aversion to raw tomato. I can tolerate them if they are disguised well enough, such as in good Mexican food, and in certain rare instances - a really good tomato in a BLT with really good bacon for instance - even enjoy them a little. When I was a wee child though, there was no getting them down.

    I think it was in 2nd grade that we did a few weeks of tasting different foods that kids generally don't like. When it came to tomato, I just knew I couldn't eat it. I protested that I'd throw up if I was forced to taste it, and the teacher said something like, "Nonesense, try it". Sure enough, as soon as it hit the back of my throat, my stomach emptied itself.

    We almost always took cold lunches to school in my family - I think the hot lunches were a bit too much of a budget stretcher - and sometimes I envied what the other kids were eating. When they served the ghoulash (misspelling intentional) though, I was never so happy my PB&J.

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    1. I had a teacher do the same to me with rhubarb!

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  7. You are definitely not the only one! I can deal with non-chunky tomato sauce and tomato paste, and tomato ketchup (Heinz 57, not that organic non-sweetened stuff), but real tomatoes? UGH. VILE. I even get grossed out if I have to remove a tomato slice from a sandwich, especially when it leaves those little seed-blobs behind.

    Luckily, my mother never, ever, ever made that ghoulish goulash stuff. -shudder- I'm more a child of the 80's (born in 1973) so it's possible I just missed that particular fad. But I think I love my mom even more for it now...

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  8. So many parallels - Hubby from Michigan/Indiana, me from Fla/Ga. I say y'all a lot too - but he's much more of a redneck that I am.

    Hubby can't stand tomatoes - was severely traumatized by a lunch lady who made him eat a whole stewed tomato. Of course, he threw it back up in protest. And to this day will not eat them unless pulverized into unrecognizability or in salsa - but not the chunky kind.

    I LOVE tomatoes in all their forms - except for hamburger goulash. God I remember those leftover casseroles and being forced to sit at the table until I eat it all - or your gonna get it for breakfast! I refuse to do that to my kid, but I do use the "be glad you got what you got - starving children crying for your plate" guilt trip often.

    As a sign of love for me, hubby grows tomatoes in his greenhouse for me. (And for his homemade salsa). And I finally found a type of tomato he actually likes - Fried Green Tomatoes.

    Oh, and for me, the smell that makes me gag is turnips. I love turnip greens, but can't stand the root vegetable. Hubby loves turnips and I refuse to cook them. How's that for a Southern Girl?

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  9. My school cafeteria served a similar dish, but for some reason they called it John Marzetti. So there was a suggestion of cannibalism in addition to the general grossness.

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  10. My mother cannot cook. Can not cook. She burned broccoli. Goulash was her favorite recipe - dump 4 to 5 cans together and call it dinner. With the addition of more kidney beans, rice, and about 3 grains of chili pepper she would call it chili.
    The Gallery of Regrettable Food would have been my mom's bible.
    And yes, she's from Marquette.

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  11. philof the northMay 13, 2012 at 2:05 PM

    My mother could not cook, either, and I was a picky eater as a child. It's a wonder I grew to be the athlete I was. I am now a gourmand, and the only thing I really hate is canned beets. Yuck, how does anyone eat that?

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  12. I adore tomatoes. It's cauliflower I can't stand.

    I wrote a poem on my hatred of cauliflower in a creative writing class in high school. One of the lines described how it looked like marble statuary, and another described that it tasted about the same as marble and plaster too.

    I can only eat peas frozen right out of a bag, and only then if they're still frozen.

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  13. Jim -- laughed my ass off, then got a little dust in my eye. How sweet that you and Mrs. Stonekettle continue to surprise and delight each other after 20 years. Mazel Tov!

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  14. PS -- tomatoes (any kind), beets, peas, lima beans, Brussells sprouts -- bring em! Kalmata olives -- not so much.

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  15. Heh! I guess then that stewed tomatoes and lima beans together as a vegetable side dish don't appear on your table these days. (Some people do serve that y'know.)

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  16. Finally! I am not the only one in the world! The only good tomato is mashed up in a sauce on a pizza. Wait, are there tomatoes in BBQ sauce? Never mind, I don't want to know. Nothing makes me sadder than a veggie soup contaminated with tomatoes. Everyone I know thinks I'm crazy--which, to be honest, is true, but not because of tomatoes. I'm so glad that two other people realize ow awful tomatoes are.

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    1. If you're ever in KC, check out Arthur Bryants original BBQ sauce. Nary a tomato in sight. It's made from pimentos. It is a love it or hate kind of thing though.

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    2. I'm a Kansas girl, actually, and get to KC on a fairly regular basis. I didn't know that about Arthur Bryant sauce, though. I'm not a huge fan, but it didn't repulse me. I may have to give it another try.

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    3. Here in Alaska, we use something called sourdough sauce, BBQ sauce/marinade based on cranberries. One of my favorite things ever.

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  17. Finally! I am not the only one in the world! The only good tomato is mashed up in a sauce on a pizza. Wait, are there tomatoes in BBQ sauce? Never mind, I don't want to know. Nothing makes me sadder than a veggie soup contaminated with tomatoes. Everyone I know thinks I'm crazy--which, to be honest, is true, but not because of tomatoes. I'm so glad that two other people realize ow awful tomatoes are.

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  18. I've always wondered why that hamburger concoction is called goulash. It has nothing whatsoever to do with Hungarian goulash, which is delicious.

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  19. Ok, I love tomatoes. What I can't stand is okra. The only way I have ever been able to ingest it was in Gumbo where you can hardly tell that it is present. Tell someone this and they say, oh, you've never had it like I cook it. Oh, bullshit. Usually it is dipped in corn meal and fried. Yeah, just what I want, crusty little morsels of disgusting snot (I like raw oysters; go figure. Maybe because there's no crust).

    Having been raised by parents with a standing rule that one didn't have to eat something one didn't like but you at least had to have one bite, I carry this masochistic behavior into adulthood. So, the other day we were at some friends and I mentioned my okra aversion. The hostess said, well it just has to be prepared right. Deja vu much? Anyway, she had a jar of pickled okra and being true to my sadistic ritual I tried one. Hey it was crunchy and sans snot. Pretty doggone good and I even had a second one. This has so disrupted my self image that I'm considering seeing a therapist to start the long path back to being able to re-self-identify.

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    1. Only your second paragraph redeems you from a ritual okra flogging. Did you have okra as a kid, or first encounter as an adult? Just curious -- I don't proselytize.

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    2. My parents loved it and it was served in my childhood. I'm pretty sure the love of okra skipped a generation. My brother doesn't care for it either.

      Things I hated as a child that I learned to like or love through repeated tastings: peas, yogurt, peppermint, (I can tolerate buttermilk), and chicken liver. I'm sure there are others but memory fails at present.

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  20. Long time lurker, first time poster. This made my whole day. I absolutely HATE tomatoes with a passion that made my mother kind of nervous. Her favorite dish was tomatoes covered in good old sausage gravy. Her second favorite was stewed tomatoes in any form...cold, warm, soup, whatever. She never met a tomato she couldn't love.

    My father, on the other hand, said the only tomato he would ever eat would be a blue one. He refused to eat them and yet he and my mother were very happy together. Go figure.

    Becky

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  21. OK, another reader whose mother was a terrible cook. Once someone gave her a grocery bag of fresh rhubarb from their garden. My mother cooked it into a mushy mess like applesauce but added no sugar. And we three teenagers were forced to sit at the table for over a week and eat that crap, because my mother, a child of the Depression, did not waste food. It did not go unnoticed that it was never on our father's plate!

    To this day, my siblings and I retch at the thought of rhubarb....

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    1. I'm from the Texas Gulf Coast and I had never seen rhubarb until as an adult I visited a British friend in Boston. First rattle out of the box he served me this grayish-pink stringy mess upon which he dumped about half of the sugar bowl. Stewed rhubarb. I remember thinking, quite clearly, is this a JOKE? Do people actually EAT this slop? The next morning for breakfast, when I was dreamily longing for a nice bowl of cornflakes and milk, I was served kippers: little bony, salty fish! I had to be polite but generally speaking one of the best things about being a grownup is that no one can make you eat anything which grosses you out.

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    2. Wow, Sara-your story could be mine except substitute low bush cranberries for rhubarb. My mom made a pie, told us it was cherry and we found out she didn't add nearly enough sugar. I loathe cranberries to this day, and I ain't really wild for cherry pie, neither.

      The sad thing is, my mother was a FANTASTIC cook. This was one of her few failures, but it was a doozy.

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  22. Even if you like tomatoes, even if you love tomatoes, hamburger goulash is revolting.

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    1. So true. Where I'm from, the ingredients for goulash were venison (beef would do in a pinch), wild mushrooms, red wine, and cream, served with potato dumplings or homemade pasta. Imagine my disappointment when a friend invited me for goulash and served the elbow macaroni kind.

      Maike

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    2. I'd agree with that. I don't think anyone ever liked the stuff. Indeed, it may have been invented to unite us all --Southerners, Yankees, Westerners -- I've never met anyone who liked the stuff. In my school it was considered as nasty as Thursday's mystery meat.

      Jim's reference to "hair netted lunch ladies" reminded my of the time one of my lunch mates found a fragment of hairnet in that awful macaroni mix.That's a memory I wish I didn't have.

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    3. Agreed. I love tomatoes (and lima beans), but not goulash, or schoolash, or the Hamburger Helper version of same. Thankfully, my mother was a great cook, so I never had to eat them at home. Thanks, Mom.

      For Mr. and Mrs. Wright, I'm glad that you are so well-matched, happy together, that you will never again have to eat that stuff, and that you have (presumably) never committed child abuse by making your children eat it, either. Do they know how lucky they are?

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  23. Sigh..most of the good ones are taken..your wife is a very lucky woman indeed.

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  24. Mr.&Mrs. Cee-whoa Congrats on keeping it fresh for 20 years, and a wish of another 20 at least.
    As a soldier Ive eaten snakes Bear Grylls style, and was glad to. I will not eat a raw tomato.
    It seems from all the anti-tomato comments, we should have enough people to wage a war on the red menace. I'm sure if we band together no person will ever have to slap a burger king employee for putting such a vile thing on myer...our sandwiches again!

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  25. Well, more tomatoes for me, then. However, I do agree on hamburger goulash and all the other forms of Hamburger Helper- what were we thinking during the 70's?

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  26. Congrats on the 20 years. Have you calculated when you will reach 20 years of time actually spent together?

    I also detest tomatoes including ketchup!!! If my husband wants ketchup on his french fries, he has to eat at another table.

    I don't remember this goulash, but my mother could only serve what my father would eat, and he would not have eaten this! My mother's favorite was over-cooked meatloaf made with tomato paste and bread crumbs.

    PLee

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  27. I like raw tomatoes or tomato sauce. Cooked tomatoes are gross. My wife puts big chunks in her spaghetti sauce so I can just pick them out.

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  28. My hatred for tomatoes is only slightly less than my complete and unnatural hatred for pickles or any goddamn pickled food. Why anyone would take anything and soak it in vinegar to improve the taste is beyond me. Sitting on every corner bar in the State of Wisconsin is a big-ass glass jar filled with pickled, hard boiled eggs... WHY THE HELL WOULD ANYONE WANT TO EAT A PICKLED EGG?

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    1. Well, if you're somewhat sophomoric and want to win a fart war...

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    2. Seriously, who doesn't want to win a fart war?

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    3. Truly, in flatulence combat, failure is not an option.

      My teenage sons understand this, and have since the cradle, yet it continues to elude my wife. Imagine that.

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    4. I was a welder at a Navy shipyard, and each morning in the winter before the beginning of our shift we would congregate in the rod shack and take advantage of the heat from the rod ovens. I had been out drinking the night before and had some gawd awful flatulence. I was standing next to a co-worker and let off an SBD. He was just starting to bite down on a donut but never made it as he about gagged to death. He almost threw up. I'm not sure that I've ever been prouder of myself!

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    5. Another time at the same SY, I worked in an office that was actually an old broom closet about 11' x 16' and we had 5 guys working in there. There were 2 small fans in the wall near the ceiling that you could turn on to run either direction. At the beginning of dayshift one of the guys who had been partying the night before let go with the most disgusting fart I have ever experienced,bar none. We cleared the room and turned on the fans. There were desks in the office outside of ours and I people in about a 15' radius also cleared out. The turd had the biggest shit eating grin on his face as we threatened him, in no uncertain terms, with dire consequences (not sure what they were, but to a man we wanted to beat the shit out of him which probably would have killed us). Guess what he had been eating at the bars the night before. If you guessed those pickled hard-boiled eggs, you would be spot on. Nasty, nasty, nasty!!! I'm betting he remembers the incident with pride.

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    6. My brother in law fed his golden Lab jalepenos and triscuits. Her farts peeled paint, polished steel, and blew the ozone hole another couple hundred miles in diameter. Truly a artist.

      I think she'd beat all of ya paws down. Pikers.

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    7. When eldest nephew (my age) graduated from Navy Basic at Great Lakes, I helped drive up for the graduation, along with his younger brother, mom, dad, and grandma. We camped out for a couple of days to visit, then finally left him his van (which he'd left at home at first) and set out for home all shoehorned into grandma's 2-door Dodge Dart, which we'd towed up behind the van, for the trip home. Before setting out, we all had a special breakfast of scrambled eggs and chorizo sausage. Tasty. First time any of us had had it. Younger nephew and I were in the back seat of the car, being buffeted by the 2-60 A/C on the highway when we discovered that younger nephew's gut was NOT happy about the chorizo. Even with both windows open, that kid just about drove us all out of the car, and came close to peeling the paint off the OUTside of the car. The drive up was 16 hours. The ride home was infinitely longer.

      Gretchen in KS

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  29. I guess I'm the exception, I like goulash. And tomatoes. My late husband and I shared that for 28 years. Congrats on your compatibility, Jim. May you and your wife have many more years of happiness.

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  30. Your description of The Dish That Must Not Be Named had me laughing so hard I had to stop reading several times cause I could not breathe, literaly.

    Fortunately I love tomatoes. I am also from Puerto Rico and so was never subjected to this abomination, which in my mom's hands would have turned up divine. She was such a great cook!

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  31. Now THAT is a love story. Nicholas Sparks (gag), eat your heart out.

    But now you've ruined day-old hamburger buns with urine disinfectant for me.

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  32. South Jersey DocMay 14, 2012 at 5:38 PM

    I'll eat anything that won't eat me first but I draw the line at two items: onions and lima beans. I'd sooner have a .45 between the eyes than eat a single lima bean.

    And why do almost all food establishments insist on putting onions on everything?

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  33. Balsamic vinegar does wonders for lawn clippings.

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  34. It's okay. My husband hates cheese. It's freakish, but it's there. And I accept it.

    I don't like tomatoes either. Hate ketchup and tomato sauce, and I'd rather chug bacon fat than eat any stewed tomatoes in my soup. Oddly, I love tomatoes on sandwiches. I cannot tell you why they're different on sandwiches.

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  35. What a wonderful thing it is when two souls find their matching mate- congrats, Mr. and Mrs. W.

    As for tomatoes, love them. Other than cauliflower, there is almost nothing I wouldn't eat, or at least try. But you reminded me of the only thing my mom (who was a wonderful cook) made that put me into a gagging fit- Baked Stuffed Tomato. Stuffed with something as lovely as your detested hamburger goulash, minus the noodles.

    Even the dogs that lived under the table during every meal wouldn't touch those, and left the evidence sitting there, under my chair for mom to find.

    bd

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  36. You are not alone in the tomato thing--while well-pulverized cooked tomato is fine, raw? Ugh. Onions? Ewwwwwwwww...

    In my case it's a texture thing, not the taste, and as South Jersey Doc observed, EVERYTHING has onions on it, which makes it really tough to eat at a restaurant.

    Oddly enough, scallions are fine because they don't have the ribs in them that a mature onion does.

    My mom made goulash, or, as it was more commonly known in our area, American Chop Suey.

    I've asked my mom for a lot of family recipes, but that was NOT one of them. Haven't had it since I was a kid and I'm keeping it that way. ;)

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  37. Love tomatoes grown in my own garden-won't eat the cardboard ones. Absolutely detest oatmeal as I was made to eat it as a child by someone who couldn't cook!

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  38. Whenever my grandma was mad at my grandpa, she would make tomato aspic for dinner. He'd choke down a serving, then insist we all did. Vile, slimy, nasty. I'm gonna hurl just thinking of it.

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  39. Between two slices of fresh home mede made bread, honey-turkey, slivered sweet onion, and fresh from the garden sun-warmed tomatoes, salted and with a touch of cracked pepper.

    Now come on, tell me that doesn't sound scrumptious??

    bd : )

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  40. Goulash? We never called it that. It was plain ole beefaroni. And it was goo-ood! I'm glad Zola said it, because in the Boston hospital caf they call it American Chop Suey, too. Huh?

    I also don't understand this dislike for some of the ingredients of pico de gallo. Tomatos, onions, bell peppers and jalapenos, all chopped up and crunchy, with some cilantro, YUM! It just ain't the same without the tomatos and onions.

    I used to take leftover beefaroni, pour more catsup over it, and heat it up with grated cheddar! Beefaroni and cheese! Take that, you tomato infidels!

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  41. I hate you so much.
    You punctured a pretty balloon of mine.
    Here I thought grown son made such an excellent choice in his partner because he recognized multiple wonderful attributes in DIL. The good stuff like smart, ethical- that kinda stuff. stuff I worked so hard as a parent to help him try to see and understand.
    Now I'm worrying it's all about the burnt chicken and endless broccoli I made him eat that he yabbed on about as a kid.
    I spent all that time trying to help him build a toolbox of strategies and practices to take up his own life and it might come down to shared antipathy to broccoli and chicken ?! yeesh.
    I suppose, as a mother, looking at the success of their almost 15 year partnership, I should just accept parenting success really does lie in a strange landscape but I did so love my pretty balloon. Darn
    Alaska Pi

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  42. My food story has to do with my dad, a child of the depression, which meant we were a clean plate household. This lead to some unpleasantness, but it was manageable, until this one night. My father was a workaholic and a single parent, so he liked easy-to-prepare dishes and these included Tuna Helper. He was actually a decent cook and did a pretty good job when it came to improvising, until this one night. He started out with Tuna Helper and I am not sure if he was adding something extra or was making up for something that was lacking. I just don't know because he never spoke of this night again.
    Anyways, I come to the table and SOMETHING was wrong. First there was my dad, he was really not happy, second the Tuna Helper was purple. Not tinged with purple. No, this was bright, sear-your-eyes, purple. I thought uh-oh, this does not look (or smell) like Tuna Helper, but there's the box. I took a tentative taste and my heart sank like a stone as my bile rose. I thought "Clean my plate?!? You have got to be kidding!". I was wondering how I was going to approach this problem, when my dad, who, I think had been watching my reaction out of the corner of his eye, mumbled something that sounded like "sorry".
    Sorry? My dad NEVER said sorry about food. We had food on our plates and he had sometimes not had that luxury as a child and he was ALWAYS thankful for food on his plate. Sorry? Now this had gone from bad into weird. I ate a couple more truly awful bites as I tried to take this all in. "I don't know what went wrong" he said. Weirder still. As I was choking down my fourth or fifth bite, my dad said, in a defeated voice, "You don't have to finish it". I actually ate a few more bites, just because I didn't want my dad to feel so bad. Eventually, the pure awfulness of purple Tuna Helper triumphed and I took the remains on my plate to the garbage disposal, followed soon thereafter by my father. We never spoke of that night again.

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  43. Wow - I thought I was alone in detesting goulash. What a bear to pick out all the stewed tomatoes. Sat in front of the pile for a full afternoon before they gave up on me ever learning to like them. Yep...Dutch parents and West Michigan upbringing here, too.

    Kris

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  44. I hated tomatoes my whole life until I tasted a homegrown one. Made all the difference to me; now I quite like homegrown tomatoes. My oldest daughter (aged 42!) HATES green/red/orange/purple peppers. She insists that if one so much as TOUCHES something, that something is ruined. But you are dead ON about the goulash. I can't imagine anyone actually liking that shit...

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  45. Well, I'm one of those obnoxious people who love every kind of food - Onions, tomatoes, lima beans, brussels sprouts - and in any combination. HOWEVER if you put a pork steak on my plate, I will cut you out of my life forever. They are the most disgusting, greasy, tasteless, part of that otherwise magical beast, the pig, the texture of which will immediately trigger a gag reflex that is nearly impossible to hide. These slabs of gristle invoked directly from Satan's never ending buffet are forever linked to the depression-era-clean-your-plate-syndrome of my father who would put two(!) on my plate to teach me a lesson about polite behavior in the Midwest. After choking it down he would usually jab me in my ribs and say, "if you're not careful, you're gonna get fat."

    He's otherwise a pretty decent guy. He occasionally threatens to cook them but now I just arrive late with a gallon of potluck schoolash that only he will eat because of his leave-no-leftovers-behind affliction.

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  46. I'm the one who selected "I hate you so much" on behalf of my beloved tomatoes. I don't eat ketchup (catsup?) because I have too much respect and love for tomatoes, and that vile sauce is just sugary red vinegar sauce, IMHO. And yes, I also love goulash, which was referred to here in Connecticut as American Chop Suey.

    But, hey, we can't agree on EVERYTHING, amirite?

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    Replies
    1. we can't agree on EVERYTHING, amirite?

      Absolutely. It's perfectly OK if you're wrong.

      Delete
    2. I love tomatoes too, I also love Tomato Ketchup though. My favourite is my home made recipe, take half a pound of red onions and garlic to taste. Chop fine and slowly fry in a good olive oil with mixed fresh herbs, whichever ones you like, until they are just beginning to turn and stick. Take a pound and a half of skinned tomatoes, the best you can afford,chopped and very ripe, and add to the onions with all the juice from the cutting board. Add Worcestershire Sauce and allow to stew slowly after about 20 minutes add half a cup of the best white balsamic vinegar you can afford. Add honey to taste, you can leave it out if the balsamic is sweet enough for you. Slowly reduce until the mixture starts sticking. Push through a sieve, return to the heat until it just boils. Bottle in sterilised glass jars. You can play around with the basic recipe. I like to use crushed pepper and roasted celery seed, and when Chillies are in season I'll put some in. Play with the basic recipe until you come up with one that suits your taste. You can freeze it if you make a lot. It stays good in the fridge for three to four weeks. Sorry for making you read this gag inducing comment Jim.

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  47. I like tomatoes, but my father's side of the family made this Pennsylvania Dutch (Deutsch) abomination called "Stutz". Go ahead, do a recipe search on Stutz. Nothing except recipe links to people with the last name of "Stutz". This was the ultimate in poor people food. My father and his many brother's would go into rapture at the mention of "Stutz" I, as a child, could NOT choke it down.
    Recipe follows - take whatever bread, stale or otherwise, you have laying around and cube it, then fry it (only a little, mind you, wouldn't want to do anything that might add flavor) in whatever grease you have on hand. Lard is preferred, but not required. Put it on a platter. Now take COLD stewed tomatoes and pour it over the top, thus insuring the whole mass congeals. Voila! Stutz! Now serve as the main course of a meal. I thank whatever powers that be that my mother absolutely refused to try to recreate this at home. My mother did make goulash - real goulash, and veal paprikash (on special occasions when we could afford it) to die for.

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  48. I am from the everything-fried-with-white-gravy-on-it part of the country. Our family goulash recipe had all the above mentioned items, plus canned corn. It would be hard to imagine an actual food item that looked or smelled more like vomit. But I would eat that revolting stuff any day, if my other option was the "salmon patties" made with canned salmon, mayo and cornmeal. Cat food covered in sand.

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  49. One of the great joys of being an adult is not having to eat stuffed cabbage or stuffed peppers. We had them at least once a week (and sometimes twice), cooked in an insipid, watery tomato sauce. Proper tomato sauce is opaque, sticks to a spoon and has no discernible seeds. And worse still, these overcooked stuffed vegetables were served with mashed potatoes with tasteless tomato water spooned over them, staining them a pale pink, just enough to destroy the tolerably bland flavor of the potatoes. Mashed potatoes are only edible when thoroughly covered in a meaty gravy. Give me a lake of gravy and I will eat and even enjoy mashed potatoes. But nothing can redeem the stuffed cabbage or pepper.

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  50. My mom was normally a pretty good cook, but her spaghetti was suspiciously like your Hamburger Goulash. (And she was from Maine!) Just swap out the elbows for spaghetti. It was those damnable green peppers; she chopped them up into teeny tiny little bits too small to pick out. Nasty. To this day I won't eat anything with green peppers in it. She, also of the Depression survivor persuasion, would make us sit at the table until the stuff was eaten; if we didn't eat it we got it for breakfast - AND, the piece de resistance - if we didn't eat it for breakfast she sent it to school with us for lunch! As we got older we started to rebel. My brother simply refused one night and she was so offended she upended the plate on his head. But you know what, she never made that spaghetti again.

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  51. That kind of reaction could mean you are both allergic to tomatoes. Nice column. My husband and I met through a newspaper ad, got married 8 months later and have been married 23 years.

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  52. As a kid in Maine during the 60s, we ate the elbow macaroni, hamburger cooked w/onions and canned stewed tomatoes and they called it American Chop Suey. This was one of the better dishes served. The one that turned my stomach was a little gem called Tuna Casserole...absolutely disgusting. Still looking for the man who would reject said "dish" ! Great post !

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  53. I happen to love tomatoes, but that goulash stuff would turn my stomach, too!

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  54. Count me among the no-raw-tomatoes crowd. I do, however, like ketchup on some things, and pizza with moderate, non-chunky sauce on it. Spaghetti, ehhh, gotta have plenty of parmesan cheese. But to be fair, the awful dish that my mother made that I could not choke down had hamburger, and cabbage, and sour cream, and I'm not sure what-all else, but it was just nasty. Granted, mom isn't any sort of great cook, but that one was just wrong.

    Gretchen in KS

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  55. Brussel sprouts that tasted like turpentine. The goulash was a blessing by comparison.

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  56. What a wonderful love story! I wish you and your wife many years of tomato-free bliss.

    My food of loathing? Pickled beets. I have learned to tolerate the smell because my husband loves them. But a small taste will immediately trigger my gag reflex. Other foods that he likes are broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower. When the situation requires it, I can choke these down while hiding my distaste, but otherwise I avoid them. Luckily, my husband and I can bond over other things.

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  57. I suppose being well traveled, you are aware that there is a soup called Hungarian Goulash, which is actually quite good. But I think it has only an extremely limited amount of tomato.

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  58. One for you and your wife Jim a tomato free recipe for Goulash, courtesy of The Guardian UK's Felicity Cloake.

    Felicity Cloake's perfect goulash
    (serves 4)
    600g shin of beef (or chuck steak if unavailable)
    3 tbsp sweet Hungarian paprika
    1 tbsp flour
    1 tsp salt
    1 tsp caraway seeds
    2 tbsp lard
    2 onions, thinly sliced
    1 green pepper, cut into rounds
    Juice of 1 lemon
    150ml sour cream (optional)
    Chives (optional)

    Cut the beef into large chunks. Mix the paprika, flour, salt and caraway seeds together in a bowl then add the beef and toss to coat. Heat the oven to 140C/gas mark 1.

    Melt the lard in a heavy-based casserole dish over a medium-high heat, and then brown the meat in batches, being very careful not to crowd the pan. Remove when golden and crusted, and set aside.

    Scrape the bottom of the pan and add the onions and pepper, adding a little more fat if necessary. Cook until soft and starting to brown, then pick out the peppers and set aside. Stir the remaining flour and spice mixture into the onions and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring. Return the beef to the pan and add water just to cover. Scrape the bottom of the pan again, then put in the oven for 2.5 hours.

    Stir the peppers and lemon juice into the goulash and cook for another half hour, or until the meat is very tender - you can remove the lid to let the sauce reduce if you like. Check the seasoning, then dollop the sour cream, if using, on top of the goulash and snip the chives over it all before serving with crushed boiled potatoes or egg noodles.

    Enjoy! This is to make up for you having to read my Ketchup recipe.

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  59. I'm going to chime in here, see.. Tomatoes... are NIGHTSHADES.. you know - Beware the deadly nightshade ? They are TOXINS... at least to some folks. Currently I'm deadly allergic to those toxic red balls of cheer. Worse is that the plant family includes : potatoes, peppers of the type listed above, eggplant and tobacco. It's a challenge to avoid these things most of the time but I now have worked around the evilness which is tomato. I have recipes for many "tomato" based dishes that do not include the deadly things. So next time someone trys to force you into eating them... point out that they really are the deadly nightshade. :-)

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  60. As i understand it, Hamburger, in The US, means Minced Beef to us Brits. Over here Hamburger is the finished Patty. We really didn't get into 'Burgers over here until 1954, when Wimpys(tm) opened. (http://www.wimpy.uk.com/) Named after The Popeye character Wimpy I believe. They bear absolutely no relation to The US version. I know we Brits have a reputation for taking food and sucking all the flavour out and then boiling it to death! This is what a Wimpy 'Burger is, unbelievably they are still going strong.
    My Father was an excellent cook, who had served as a liaison officer with The US 7th Air Force in Italy during WW2, where he had got a great recipe for home made 'Burger Pattys, from his tent mate a native Iowan of German descent . So I had a very good idea what a decent burger should taste like.
    Now this preamble is building up to our State Schools version. They came in cans, huge cans with no labels just a printed legend, in a Tomato Gravy (sorry Jim). I'm sure they where left over war surplus, I can smell and taste them as I write. They were one of the most vile things that our local schools served up, tainted with a tinny flavour, and the most revolting gravy in Christendom, in shades of grey. I've got to stop as I'm beginning to dry heave.


    My Dads Home-made Hamburger Mix

    1lb Lean beef mince or 8oz/8oz pork and beef mince
    1 Egg
    2 Medium Sweet red onions (Optional for those of you that hate them or a good handful of Chives, also optional)
    4oz Fine grated Extra Mature Cheddar (Monterey Jack or Parmesan are good substitutes)
    2/3 Grated Garlic Cloves (Optional)
    1 Small Mild Chilli (Optional)
    1 Tablespoon Tomato or Mushroom Ketchup
    2/3 Tablespoons of Fresh Breadcrumbs
    1 Teaspoon of Fresh or Dried Mixed Herbs
    Salt ,Pepper and Worcestershire Sauce To your Taste
    Miix the mince in a large bowl, with the egg, cheese, herbs, salt and pepper, if you like a nice brown crispy 'Burger don't use the salt.Fine chop the onions and chilli then fry the onions and chilli in some good oil, any cold pressed oil will do, until they are translucent. Add to bowl and mix well with the ketchup and herbs. (If you are using chives, add these now). Last of all add the breadcrumbs, sufficient for it to be easy to form the pattys. You should be able to get 6 to 8 pattys from this amount. They are good, grilled, shallow fried, barbecued, griddled or hot smoked. I've used all 5 cooking methods, there are all equally good. This is a good basic recipe, I've left things out when I've realised I didn't have all the ingredients and added things, the limit is your imagination. My partner Carole uses the same recipe but substitutes Turkey Mince. I some times add Mustard or Horseradish instead of The Chilli.

    Courtesy of My Late Father, Ernest "Bill" Hockley.

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  61. My dad grew up in the depression and was forced to eat stuff. Consequently, he didn't want his children to have the same experience, so if we didn't like it we didn't have to eat it. You did however, have to find and fix your own substitute meal. Anything he didn't like was strictly forbidden. No boxed or instant stuff, and especially no spam or canned fruit cocktail, the air base supply lines in Vietnam got cut off and that's all they had to eat for months.

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