When I was in my teens, my cousin Stello from Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia) came to live with us for a year. He worked in NYC making triple – maybe quadruple what he did back in his homeland, and saved every dime to send back home to his wife and kids. Stello had some peculiar eating habits that are still cringe-worthy to me.

Living in a Slovak household, there were always jars and bowls of odd things in the fridge. When my mom made a chicken, she would save the fat in a pyrex ramekin and store it in the fridge for some unknown future use. When Stello came to live with use I learned one of the uses. He would take the congealed, yellow chicken fat and spread it on rye bread in the morning. As if this weren’t enough to get you to gagging, he would top that with a generous dollop of strawberry jam.

Yes, chicken fat and strawberry jam on rye bread. Mm-mm good!

One time we went to an Italian restaurant. Stello ordered manicotti – I think because it was reminiscent of a dish he ate back in Slovakia called palacinke. While there are savory versions of palacinke, ours was always sweet – a crepe filled with jelly or sprinkled with cinnamon & sugar and rolled up.  When his manicotti arrived he took one bite, thought a bit and got up from his seat. He went over the salad bar, got a bowl full of golden raisins, and proceeded to dump the entire bowl of fruit over his manicotti. He then took another taste, rolled his eyes to the ceiling and said “DOBRE!” (which means good).

But this was not my first introduction to wrong food combinations. I have a sister who marches to her own drummer. She has always eaten foods in a way which has totally grossed me out.

For one, she puts ketchup on her hot dog. Now, I hope I am not offending anyone out there, but this is just plain disgusting. There is something about the mixing of sweet ketchup on a hot dog that does not sit well on my palate. Hot dogs were MADE for mustard. I suspect that the dude who invented the hot dog set out to invent mustard seconds after taking his first bite. The next day he invented sauerkraut.

I can still see her at the dinner table, holding her hot dog in her hand and dipping it in a big pool of Heinz…blech! I tried to block my view with the jumbo jar of Guldens.

Secondly, she puts mayo on ham. Ok, I think we can surmise at this point that my sister does not care for mustard, but mayo on ham? That’s gross! Ham needs that vinegary twang that only a dab of mustard, or a douse of vinegar and oil if it’s a hero you’re eating, can give it. Slathering it with mayo makes it slippery and slimy and akin to meat covered in pus.

She also used to stir her mashed potatoes and gravy with a chicken bone. While this was gross, it was so humorous and caveman like, that I have to give her a pass on that one.

I don’t put ketchup on my eggs, I don’t eat banana sandwiches, and I don’t think tuna should EVER be served hot. EVER….

But if you like these things, more power to ya…just don’t sit at a table with me while you’re eating them.

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