Student concocts bizarre food combinations in newfound time

April 23, 2020 — by Oliver Ye

Cooking prompts a deeper dive into flavor combinations, sparking the development of some recipes that would make Gordon Ramsay drool.


As students have finally begun to settle into a rhythm of life amidst all the chaos and uncertainty of the coronavirus, many students have been able to explore their hobbies and revisit activities they may not have had time to prior to the pandemic.

For me, I’ve finally been able to delve into cooking. Where I used to only have time to whip up a quick 30- or 40-minute meal for dinner, I have now found the time to delve into recipe books and attempt (and I put an emphasis on attempt) more interesting dishes, like soufflé, paella and beef Wellington. While modifying a couple recipes because I didn’t have the ingredients in my pantry, my mind wandered and I began to think of interesting flavor combinations that might go well together. 

Obviously, there was the tried and true combination of sweet and salty, so I thought about all the things in my house that fit the criteria. After many cycles of testing (and failing) new combinations and concoctions, I developed various dishes.

My first dish was a tomato jam, which developed a potent flavor after I forgot to turn the heat down; not surprisingly, it tasted a bit burnt. Flavor despair.

 Next, I decided to cook a miso and pumpkin soup, because I thought the tones of sweetness and saltiness from the miso would blend well with the richness of the pumpkin — I ended up with a delicious and filling soup. Flavor pair!

But at that point, I was unsatisfied with the dishes that I had been coming up with— they were too normal. I decided to push my creative boundaries to their limit; my third combination was pickles and peanut butter. I know, it sounds weird, but I had hope that the creamy, crunchy, sweet and salty textures and flavors would blend well. I took inspiration from a traditional Chinese dish, Dan Dan Mian, which combines sesame and cucumbers, and slathered peanut butter onto a raw pickle. Unexpectedly, it was a wonderful combination — everything was perfectly balanced. Another flavor pair!

For anybody bored and at home with nothing to do, I urge you to try the pickle and peanut butter flavor combination. It will open you to a whole new world of possibilities. 

Motivated by my newfound success, I decided to have my friends and teachers try it out. I approached junior Jessie Zhou, who responded deliberately and firmly with a “No!” I felt terrible, but I did not give up. Slowly but surely, I convinced her to try it (after all, what could go wrong), and hesitantly, she tasted my cool concoction. I expected her just to be surprised that the two could go together, but she was so profoundly shocked (in a good way) that she wrote a poem about it for her English assignment that was due the next day! An absolute success, if I do say so myself.

Next, I approached my English teacher Natasha Ritchie and chemistry teacher Janny Cahatol. They were much more open minded. Ritchie even proposed her own reasoning as to why the flavor pair might work and Cahatol accepted it right away.

A couple days later, I got a response.

“I like the texture of the crisp pickle with the soft peanut butter and I didn't dislike the taste,” Ritchie said. “My first thought was ‘huh, not bad, but I'd rather have peanut butter and bananas!’”

That sparked another thought: bananas! For some reason, my mind connected bananas to pesto. Perhaps the creaminess and sweetness of the banana would mix well with the salty and nutty flavor of the pesto. Although I don’t have pesto at home, I plead for anybody with the two to try the combination and let me know how it goes. As for anybody wondering how it should be eaten, dippy dip, yo.


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