Season's eatings! The weather may be getting colder, but Dining Month on OnMilwaukee is just cooking up, dishing out your winning picks in this year's Best of Dining poll. Dining Month is brought to you by Fein Brothers, your premier food service equipment and supply dealer in Wisconsin since 1929. Congratulations to all of the winners, and happy eating for all those who voted! See all the winners for the month so far here.
Most people like to eat. Some prefer their nourishment healthy, handsome and high-class; others enjoy a diet less discriminating. This series is a celebration of the gastronomically grotesque, a repudiation of culinary conceit. It is a space to commune and connect for those perhaps poor in taste, poor in pocketbook and poor in cooking proficiency, but rich in spirit and self-reliance. Simply put, it’s a place to write about gross food.
When in the course of cooking events it becomes necessary for one person to connect the gastronomic bands that have kept different foods separated from one another and to assume among the powers of the kitchen, a decent respect to the opinions of In Poor Taste readers requires that he declare the causes which impel him to culinary combination.
That’s the beginning of the Declaration of Independence, paraphrased and adapted for this gross food series. I think it adequately conveys the momentousness of today’s installment. That first paragraph was basically Thomas Jefferson’s verbose way of announcing to the world that the United States was breaking away from Britain and previewing what the rest of the Declaration was going to say and why. My first paragraph serves the same explanatory purpose here; so if you don’t want to know the gratuitously detailed origin story and preparation process of protein-packed, kind-of healthy, super savory mush, then just stop reading now.
In an admirable effort to prop up the print journalism industry, I subscribe to several magazines – Sports Illustrated, Men’s Health, GQ, The Atlantic, Wired, even Ranger Rick, which is absolutely true and I have no idea how it happened, maybe it was a joke or a mistake, but what the hell, it’s an easy read and has cute animal pictures. My roommate gets Men’s Fitness. As anyone knows who’s ever picked up a men’s lifestyle magazine – and likewise for women’s lifestyle mags – a lot of the regular departmental stuff in these periodicals is more or less the same every issue (seasonal fashion, dating/sex tips, new workouts that blast fat and tone muscle by doing nothing).
This is especially true with food; Men’s Health/Men’s Fitness/GQ, spurred on by the societal super-food craze, are obsessed with writing about how to maximize eating – presumably for the purpose of fueling your body for further fat-blasting, muscle-bulking gym sessions – with a nutritious and diverse diet full of foods that are hard to find, pronounce, prepare and don’t really taste good. But ancient grains, kohlrabi-kale salad and seared scallops aside, most of these meal tips can be boiled down to a few core elements: high protein, high fiber, low carbs, low fat. Earth-shattering, right?
Anyway, I’m a lazy, gullible sucker currently trying to eat healthier and work out more, and I’m also not a very nuanced (or skilled) chef. I had recently bought approximately 400 items at Aldi – related: here’s why Aldi is incontrovertibly better than Trader Joe’s – and the race against the expiration clock had started. So, my idea was – and high-fives if you read about Jimmy’s Famous Banana Mush and totally saw this conclusion coming – to take a bunch of stuff that’s supposed to be healthy and beneficial and good and combine it all together to make another classic Jimmy food smashup. As always when it comes to eating, if some is good, more – the most, all of it! – is better.
Let’s start where any good recipe starts: the beans. I had read – not only in a magazine, but also on the side of the can – that beans were a great source of fiber and protein, as well as iron, potassium, magnesium and more. I cooked a can of kidney beans on the stove, and pretty much nailed it.
Next, I thought, eggs! Everyone always says eggs are healthy (except everyone else who insists they’re very unhealthy, and the two sides have been arguing constantly for about 60 years), so I fried up a couple of protein-packed eggs.
At this point, I decided that beans and eggs, while undoubtedly a delicious treat for a hobo on a railcar in 1947, probably wouldn’t suffice on their own. But what to add? Well, being an avid sandwich lover – but loath to use bread, because carbs! – I cut up some deli turkey and cheddar cheese slices, and threw those into the drained pot of beans. If you adhere to the Taco Bell ingredient quadrangle – cheesy, melty, beefy and crunchy – you know that adding melted cheese to any dish improves it significantly.
So now I had a cheesy melty turkey bean thing for my tasty, fibrous, nutrient-rich base, and a couple protein-y eggs to put on top. Still, though, it needed more.
I opened the refrigerator and there, in the back, humble but hoping I’d notice them, were two (surprisingly) ripe avocados. Perfect, I told the one being caressed by my left hand, you’ll be perfect, heart-healthy and full of potassium. I peeled and promptly mushed up in a bowl the modest green object of millennial affection.
To properly make Jimmy’s Famous Guacamole, you need to add garlic salt and pepper, diced tomatoes (unless you don’t have any, and I didn’t) and, of course, a hearty glob of mayonnaise. I mixed all that up, creating a lime green mélange that’s hard to look directly at, and was nearly satisfied.
But, wait. Seasoning! The thing that separates the great chefs from the measly wannabes is a colorful bit of spice; you know, presentation. So I sprinkled some turmeric powder on top of the beans for a nice hint of anti-inflammatory yellowness, dusted the eggs with black pepper and shook some cumin on the guacamole. Finally, my three distinct food portions were ready to come together coherently as one.
Eagerly, I shoveled everything into one large bowl – an aesthetically unappetizing meal mound overflowing with nutrients and disparate ingredients being forced to mingle with each other. The bowl was heavy. I stuck a spoon in, and the viscous, sedimentary mixture made languid, sodden noises. But I tried it, and it tasted really, really good, a whole big mess of savory, substantial chow, with little pockets of cheese and turkey and egg. The thing was very satiating, a dinner that could tranquilize a medium-sized horse. One of the biggest compliments I can give a dish is it made me feel full. And this did that.
In this sometimes superficial world of Photoshopped magazine models and aesthetic food fixation, we can be too cruel and dismissive of stuff that isn't conventionally good-looking or is visually nausea-inducing. Instead, let’s not recipe-shame or presentation-disdain; let’s be better. Let’s eat this by ourselves in private and feel good.
Protein-packed, kind-of healthy, super savory mush (ratings 1-5)
Preparation difficulty: 4 (it's just, like, kind of a lot)
Chef quote: "Sounds gross, is gross. Maybe the worst yet. A culinary abomination."
Advanced evolution: I'm not going to say I did this, and I'm not going to say I didn't do this, but crush up some Doritos – another In Poor Taste favorite – and sprinkle those in for extra flavor crunch.
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.