Though my husband (like myself) was raised in Brooklyn, ethnically, he is from the Midwest. In New York City, there is nothing foreign about immigrants, there is nothing unusual about your friends’ parents who can’t speak English, there is nothing “exotic” about shawarma or mofongo or Chongqing chicken. But when I met my husband and his family in my early 20s, I was shocked and, frankly, repulsed by the foods of his heritage. I will never consider chopped-up hot dogs to be a respectable protein upon which to build a dinner. I will not acknowledge green beans from a can as a cromulent vegetable, nor shall I ever be convinced that Lemon Jell-O is a fruit. I still haven’t tasted Miracle Whip.
This summer we’re moving to Chicago, and though I know it currently holds the crown of Best Food City in America, I also know that whenever I venture outside the city limits, I will be in my husband’s ancestral homeland and will need to face my “coastal elite” biases. I might need to accept foods that contain mini marshmallows. I will force my heart to open up to Cream of Something Something soups. I have been teaching myself not just to tolerate, but also to embrace a life where it’s appropriate to eat pizza with ranch dressing. But then this weekend as I drifted off to sleep, Saturday Night Live broadcast this fever dream and reminded me once again of the terror that has always rippled through my body whenever I’ve heard a Midwesterner utter the word “salad.” And just like that, my coastal elite brain reverted to its default setting, and I find myself living in fear.
Did any of you grow up with overnight salads, or other healthy dishes that involved cheese cubes, mayonnaise, and corn chips? What’s the most appalling (or delicious) thing you’ve ever been served at a humdinger of a hoedown or seen in the pages of a church cookbook? Let me know in the comments. It is finally time for me to face my fears.