I love cooking shows, especially the contest shows like “Chopped.” I thought I knew a lot about food, but these shows have opened my eyes to many different cuisines as well as foods I had never heard of.

They usually mention “pairings,” as in “things that go well with other things,” like coffee and doughnuts. Which got me thinking about “pairings” I’ve enjoyed over the years, such as some of my own favorites:

  • Macaroni and cheese with a side of sliced raw red peppers
  • Egg salad with crackers
  • Tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich
  • Apple pie with sharp cheese
  • Wheat toast with smushed fresh avocado, topped with salt and pepper
  • Wheat toast with cream cheese and apple jelly
  • *String cheese with red grapes
  • Cut-up Pink Lady apples spread with Teddie peanut butter
  • Spinach salad with toasted garlic naans

…and so on.

For me the whole idea of “pairings” is to enjoy sweet with salty, hot with cold, spicy with mild, etc.

Then there are the frankly bizarre ingredients used in some of the Chopped episodes. For those who don’t follow the show, the basic premise to the competition is this: you get a basket of four ingredients to be used for an appetizer, another basket for an entree, and one more basket for a dessert. Generally, there are 30 minutes allotted to make each dish.

Some of the strangest things/pairings I’ve seen on the show to date are:

  • chocolate-covered crickets
  • goat brains
  • durian (surely the world’s stinkiest fruit)
  • emu eggs
  • squid ink
  • pickled pig lips
  • sheep tongue
  • eel
  • haggis (look up the ingredients—just don’t eat anything first!)

So there you are; pairings from the sublime (for me, anyway) to the ridiculous. By all means, watch some of the shows; they are nothing if not entertaining! And do try out some of my pairings, too; they are pretty good. Feel free to tell me some of yours, too!

*When I say “string cheese,” I don’t mean those gloopy processed faux mozzerella sticks, I mean real Armenian string cheese, made from sheep’s milk. It comes in a salty thick braid, bristling with tiny black mahleb and nigella seeds.

Half the fun of eating it is pulling it apart into chewy strings, and enjoying the light crunch of the seeds.


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