As eating aficionados, we have built up a reputation of sorts for being purists, people who cringe at ketchup on steak and fake cheese spread. Don’t get us wrong – we definitely draw the line at ketchup on steak, but there are plenty of widely accepted food guilty pleasures that we heartily embrace. While many of our favorite indulgences are American in nature (we have yet to see Velveeta in the UK), we have also appreciated learning about the dirty food secrets of other cultures.
1. Deep dish pan pizza, preferably from Pizza Hut. These days, it seems widely accepted that thin-crust pizza is the best. Purists refer to Naples-style pizza as the top of the pizza food chain. I have to disagree. Squishy crust is delicious, especially if buttery from the oven. And if it’s a Personal Pan size from the ole’ Hut, even better.
2. Pasta sauce as a food group. I know that sauce is supposed to be a light dressing for pasta, enhancing and not obscuring the flavor of the noodles. But sometimes, pasta sauce is the whole point of a meal, and the pasta is just there so it doesn’t look like I’m eating the sauce like soup.
3. Crab rangoons. No, they don’t exist in China. I’m pretty sure the Chinese would fall over if they knew that we were deep frying cream cheese and fake crab meat in wonton wrappers and passing it off as authentic. But there is something so tempting about deep fried cream cheese, right (see: jalapeño poppers)? I will always encourage fried cheese of all kinds, no matter how inauthentic it is.
4. Store bought fruit pies, preferably from a convenience store. These take me way back to the 1980s, when my dad would periodically treat me and my sisters to these wax paper-wrapped wonders. The filling is fake, the shelf life is incredibly long and the price hasn’t changed in 30 years. Three flavors are classic: Apple, Cherry and Blueberry. I never saw another flavor and I only like Apple. But I appreciate fruit pies as an object of food science and indulgence.
5. Get your protein! Another throw back to my childhood, my mom was obsessed with us kids getting enough protein in our diet. As such, we were required to add protein to dishes and meals that didn’t have a lot to begin with. This included peanut butter slathered onto pancakes and French toast, and cottage cheese as a topping for baked potatoes. These combination gross out lots of food purists, but to this day, I add peanut butter to most things and I won’t eat a baked potato without cottage cheese.
1. Green bean casserole. This classic Thanksgiving dish must be made with canned ingredients. That means canned, mushy green beans, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup and French’s fried onions in a can. You could use local haricot vert cooked al dente, whip up a homemade mushroom sauce and freshly fry some onion strings, but frankly, why put yourself through that? Fresh is not best in this case.
2. McDonald’s chicken nuggets (or c-nugs as I call them) are one of my ultimate guilty pleasures. Yes, I know they can barely be considered chicken and that they are loaded with chemicals. But boy, are they delicious! C-nugs were always my go-to order when I was a kid, so I think they hold a sense of nostalgia place that has carried through as an adult. Wendy’s does c-nugs better and homemade ones are amazing, but there is something about the smell of a McDonald’s order that sets them apart. And barbecue is the only acceptable sauce. No other sauce need apply.
3. Sticky, sweet orange chicken from Chinese take-aways. I am aware that orange chicken, with its deep amber color, the cloying sweetness and super crunchy texture is in no way a traditional Chinese dish. It was adapted for Western palates, which was genius, because it’s so good. It is loaded with sugar and fat, heavily battered and terrible for your health. Perfect.
4. Breaking all of the sushi rules. Sushi purists will say that you never mix wasabi with your soy sauce, pickled ginger is to be eaten after the sushi only, and nigiri should be dipped fish side only into soy. I say, I can do whatever I want with my sushi! I load pickled ginger on top of nigiri and maki rolls and I drown the rice in soy sauce, mixed with a copious amount of wasabi. I also love volcano rolls, topped with fried shrimp, eel sauce, spicy tuna sauce, a boat load of tobiko and whole host of things that would make a Japanese person cringe.
5. Ice cream from fast food restaurants. I love the simple sundae, with vanilla soft serve, warm hot fudge and nuts from McDonalds. Milk shakes from Sonic are ridiculous, with a large weighing in at 789g (27oz). It’s an obscene amount of ice cream, but it screams America, which is why I love it. Of course, I can’t forget about Dairy Queen, with vanilla soft serve in a cone, dipped in sprinkles or chocolate sauce. I love local, homemade ice cream, and Julie and I frequent our local spot, Udderlicious, at least once a week. But sometimes, if you are in the midst of a long car ride or had a rough day and want something sweet, nothing hits the spot like fast food ice cream.