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We’ve noticed here at The Takeout that practically everyone has their own weird food peculiarities. Staffer Gwen Ihnat’s husband won’t eat fruit, for example. Editor Kevin Pang can’t stand the sight of cottage cheese. We’ve had friends who can’t do hot beverages or hate the texture of melted cheese. And we know someone who just straight-up hates pizza. Pizza!

So we looked around the office and wondered about ourselves as well as our A.V. Club colleagues: What is everybody’s weird food pet peeve? From canned fish to water chestnuts to berries, staffers eagerly went off on the perfectly normal foods they hate the most.

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Cake

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I have a sweet tooth, but not that sweet, which is to say I love sweet foods up to a point, and across that line they become unbearable. This mostly manifests itself in my dislike of cake. It’s true that cake in particular may be a product of conditioning as much as the sweetness factor, as my family has always baked a banana bread “cake” for birthdays since I was a child, pasted together with a semi-sweet chocolate frosting. And I’ve had a few other cakes I’ve enjoyed; there was one with a mild sponge base and a cream cheese-type frosting with lots of tart berries to cut even that sweetness. But any of the cakes that come out of a box, or from a grocery store bakery? They’re cloyingly sweet. Same goes for cupcakes. Those are mostly a sugar cake and a sugar frosting, and all that sweetness sets off my gag reflex. I don’t even like those sugary gummy candies. Easter peeps are okay if they’re “aged,” or left out to harden, which makes them less sweet. Give me dark chocolate and fruit pies, and keep that saccharine garbage away from me. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]


Water chestnut

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The water chestnut isn’t a nut at all, which is the first clue that it’s bullshit. Instead, it’s some kind of hideous swamp-tuber that you find hanging off the end of grass clumps sticking out of marshes; it is literally the ass end of a pond weed. You probably know these little moss-stumps from their day job of fucking up Chinese food, where chefs often slice them into little discs to hide them under actual food the way UPS might use styrofoam peanuts. Sometimes their round shape even gives them the appearance of scallops, luring in unsuspecting eaters under the guise of being delicious, and at least once per year I fall for it, crunching into what tastes like the corpse of a raw potato dredged out of a lake. More often, though, I just spend the first 10 minutes of getting Chinese takeout separating this crap out and scraping it directly into the garbage where it belongs. [Sean O’Neal]


Pork chop

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This is completely a result of how they were prepared for me during my childhood, but I will never order or cook a pork chop. My mom—who was an otherwise great cook—served us pork chops that were texturally similar to (I imagine) a leather wallet. I found out decades later that she knew they were overcooked, but that my dad insisted on super well-done pork. Weird. As a result of these bland, desiccated chops, I find nothing at all appealing about pork chops, and would never in a million years choose them for dinner. “But Kate,” you’re screaming at the screen, “why don’t you just try to find a better version?” I could, I guess, but there are a lot of other, tastier meats out there. [Kate Bernot]


Raw tomatoes

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I really only have one food rule, but it’s ironclad: If a raw tomato slice ends up anywhere near anything I’m supposed to put in my mouth, it absolutely and unequivocally has got to go. Once, this rule was far more expansive; tomato chunks, and even especially hearty sauces, were equally suspect, which cut me off from a lot of great omelettes and some tasty pico de gallo. But I’m an adult now, and I can stomach—even enjoy!—the hated death fruit, at least when it’s properly prepared. Bring me a sandwich with a limp, watery, stomach-churningly acidic tomato slice buried inside it, though, and we’re both going to have to suffer through the sight of me gently disassembling it, extracting the offending nightshade, and leaving it pointedly on the side of the plate. I said no tomato, friend; you’re lucky I’m no longer (technically) a child, or we’d be in “Bring me a new one, untainted by the hideous juice” territory, as well. [William Hughes]


Ranch dressing

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Unlike William, I have a lot of food rules, but the biggest one is that I have an aversion to any sort of beige or white viscous dressing, sauce, or goopy topping. In other words, ranch dressing—almost all salad dressing, really—makes me want to barf, tzatziki is my worst enemy, and coleslaw gives me the willies. There is no circumstance in which I would ever eat any of those items, and for the most part, I can’t even be around them. If my husband wants to dip his wings in blue cheese, that is his god-given right, but it’s also my right to look away the whole time we’re eating together. I don’t know where the rule came from, but I’m not budging. I’m 37 years old, and I’ve decided that I like what I like—and I don’t like ranch dressing. [Marah Eakin]


Berries

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This is where I come clean to the world: I hate berries. Yes, all berries. Yes, I know they all taste different. No, it’s not a texture thing. Yes, since always. Family lore holds that when I was 18 months old, my mom gave me a strawberry fresh from the garden, and I tasted it and spat it out. (Adding insult to her injury, my mom loves strawberries, but breaks out into hives if she eats too many.) My mom thought maybe I was too young, but nope, berries are not a thing I grew into, because berries are disgusting. And I do try them every once in a great while, to make sure my tastebuds haven’t suddenly reversed course, but it’s no use. I can taste them if somebody throws a strawberry into a smoothie or if a smidge of raspberry sauce touches the white chocolate cheesecake. I’m not a super taster, but berries taint everything they touch, which makes even a simple fruit salad unbearable if the bananas have, god forbid, gotten too close to a big juicy blackberry. I don’t know what wild berry LaCroix tastes like because even the thought sets off my gag reflex. Apple cranberry pies, which I can sort of appreciate in theory—sweet and tart seems like it would work—are a hard pass. I have no idea why berries figure so prominently into so many desserts, even though I am told, incorrectly, that they are regarded as “nature’s candy.” Why would nature create strawberries in the image of a bulbous drunken nose, covered in blackheads? [Laura M. Browning]


Fruit and meat

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Fruit and meat should never be eaten together. Applesauce and porkchops? No! Cranberry sauce on turkey? Still no! Pineapple in your al pastor! Absolutely fucking not! I am a big fan of both fruit and meat in their proper settings, and those settings are “as a snack” and “at a cookout,” respectively. Any other application, or attempt to render my big, wonderful, savory meals into something sugary and fruit-filled, and I will rebel wildly. I will actively separate the fruit from the meat, if possible. I will make disgusted faces about it. You probably already know what I think about pineapple pizza, but I will still tell you: It is bad, and if you combine fruit—the best snack—with pizza—the best meal—and expect me to eat it, you will be sorely disappointed. I will not put that to my lips under any circumstances. [Clayton Purdom]


Runny egg

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I can not handle runny eggs. I’m the philistine who orders my eggs “scrambled hard” at the diner. It’s too bad, because it means that a lot of things are off limits, like a fried egg on top of a burger, or Eggs Benedict. But I just want my white and yolk mixed together please, none of this squishy, unappetizing white outside of a watery yellow middle. My husband thinks I’m crazy, that the yolk is the best part, so he’ll break it and talk about mixing in the richness and sopping it up with toast until I practically have to leave the table and go lie down. It’s a textural thing that I should probably make an attempt to get over sometime soon. I mean, Eggs Benedict looks pretty great. [Gwen Ihnat]


Seafood

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I find a lot of seafood disgusting, and the exceptions are admittedly quirky. I’m fine with the raw fish in sushi. I like roe and caviar. Heck, I even like a nice spicy jellyfish salad every now and then. But canned tuna makes me think of cat food. Crab, shrimp, or oysters? Forget about it. With fish, it’s the smell that gets me; with crustaceans or calamari, it’s the prospect of eating something with an exoskeleton or tentacles. It’s childish, but it actually started late for a picky eating habit; as a small post-Soviet child, I gobbled up pickled herring, but by surly early teens, wouldn’t as much as touch something that had been in contact with the sea. Also, turkey bologna tastes awful. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]


Bloody Marys

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As far as I’m concerned, there are only two acceptable tastes for beverages: Sweet, like fruit juice or bourbon, or bitter, like black coffee or a hoppy beer. Any drink with a flavor profile even approaching spicy and/or savory is an automatic hard pass, which makes the popular obsession with Bloody Marys completely inexplicable (and a little bit gross) in my mind. I’ve politely taken a couple of sips before passing mine off to a friend at parties thrown by well-meaning hosts, but I’d much rather sleep in than hit a bottomless Bloody Mary brunch on a Sunday morning. And if beef bouillon or hot sauce get involved? I shudder to even contemplate it. I will eat the garnish off of a dining companion’s Bloody Mary if offered, though—particularly if we’re at Sobelman’s in Milwaukee, where the garnishes are meals unto themselves—because cheeses and cured meats and all the other little savory bites on top of your drink are solids, as things that taste that way should be. [Katie Rife]


Pith

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Here’s a question for the world: Why don’t the rest of you properly peel your oranges? Which is to say, why don’t you do what I must do—namely, patiently and painstakingly strip off every little lingering piece of the pith, a.k.a. the nasty white membranes that criss-cross the outer layer of the actual fruit? I don’t care if you’re eating a big ol’ blood orange behemoth or a tiny clementine; in either case, the white stuff is gross and should be removed. It doesn’t matter how long it takes: I’ve been told by loved ones that watching me methodically peel off every little strip of a clementine is a very obnoxious and stressful experience. To that, I say, “Why are you trying to make me consume something that actively makes this delicious fruit taste worse?” There’s nothing good about it, not the texture, not the flavor, nothing, and yet I am apparently expected to just give up and let the pith win. The pith does not win. I win, even if that means it takes me the better part of a half-hour to get through a single clementine. Much like season two of Buffy means slogging through season one, it’s worth slowly getting past the bad stuff to get to the magic. [Alex McLevy]