– Hidden badness

Yesterday I made a turkey tortilla soup for lunch. It was to be the vehicle for a delicious, surprising chili accessory that I ate recently at my friend Brandi’s home: a dollop of sour cream, into which was mixed lime zest and juice. It was just the thing that turned her good chili into one of those meals that makes you feel loved and delighted.

The limed sour cream was just as delicious at my house.  I did wonder out loud to my fellow diners, however, if the combination constituted what my brother Brian recently called a hidden badness: a food that contains ingredients that you can’t see or identify. (An example of hidden badness, apparently, is fruited yogurt. And American chop suey.)

Lydia, at the lunch table, said, “Yeah, that’s a hidden badness.” She avoided the sour cream with lime.

Eli, the food adventurer, disagreed.  “I would call this, and other things like this, the hidden goodness.” He dropped more sour cream into his soup and ate the whole bowl.

And so did Jimmy.  And so did I.

Grace, at a friend’s house, escaped the moment.

5 thoughts on “– Hidden badness

  1. The best example of hidden badness is soup!

    I have a feeling this is lingering phobia from youth – when mom told us to not eat the bay leaves in the stew – they’re poison!

    (Maybe the poison part was just a trick from you older siblings, but the phobia stuck and I became afraid of the hidden badness.)

  2. I, too, for a long time — actually until 5 minutes ago — held the same belief, that bay leaves are poisonous. I even have said the same to Lydia and Grace, when they are cooking with me and I remind them to remove the bay leaf at the end. They keep asking, “Why would you cook with it if it’s poisonous?” and I shrug and say, “I’m not sure.”

    So, I just Googled this: bay leaves poisonous. And, guess what. They’re not. They’re simply hard to swallow and the edges are sharp and can cut the larynx, which is why they should be removed.

    I don’t think, however, that this will assuage your worries about soup or stew, Brian. I mean, you probably would like to avoid anything hidden in food with sharp edges that could lacerate you. Like razor blades in apples. And broken glass in Halloween candy.


  3. I made some hidden goodness/badness last week. I cooked a spicy dish with various vegetables. To serve with it, I threw together something much like the sour cream dollop. It was yogurt, paprika, and mint flakes–to cut the spiciness.

    I’ve made the vegetable dish before, but Doug paused before taking the yogurt. I told him the ingredients; he tried it; he seemed to like it. But maybe the goodness/badness should remain hidden, and served on the side.

  4. I am so surprised that Sally has not glommed (sp??) on to this post – it is she that has perpetrated the hidden badness in every food group. Brian, you were just her unknowing pupil. I for some reason am impervious to hidden badness, I think, because Sally and I were roommates and I rebelled against all of the hidden badness–oh and there is so much hidden badness. Now, I crave for the HB – sweatbreads, bring em on – mystery red meat – love it-if only to taste and savor – and dream that I am eating it in front of Sally…to taunt and sicken her.

    I think there is an essay on HB in David Sedaris new book….if there isn’t…there should be./


  5. We all have our hidden badness threshold, I suspect.

    I can’t stand, for example, when restaurants sneak truffle oil onto some dish I’ve ordered. I’ll eat it, but I won’t like it.

    I think I need to do a hidden badness survey and dig deep into this topic.

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