Sounds Weird, Tastes Good


If you've cooked for a family for any length of time, you probably have dishes in your repertoire whose ingredients you wisely keep secret. If they knew that moist, rich chocolate cake contained mayonnaise, for instance, they might not eat it. I wonder, in fact, if that same psychology is the reason behind the ever popular buttermilk dressing being dubbed Ranch Dressing most everywhere.

The fact is that people have food prejudices. People think they don't like all kinds of food. And, as with the Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake, they have aversions to particular food combinations. If people were rational, rather than emotional, about these things, they would realize that mayonnaise is composed mainly of oil and eggs, ingredients that no one would argue have their place in making a good cake. But since most everyone associates mayonnaise with potato salad, sandwiches and pickles, adding mayonnaise to cake batter just sounds wrong.

There will always be a place for the traditional chocolate cake recipe. It takes more than mere cooking experience to recognize a good recipe, particularly one having an unorthodox combination of ingredients. More important in this decision-making process is an open mind and a discerning palate. So with our minds open and our palates aquiver, let's explore some of these culinary oddities. You will find links to each of the recipes at the bottom of the page.

  • Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

    Who knows how this cake originated? Perhaps it was the result of an understocked pantry -- no oil, no eggs -- coupled with an urgent need for chocolate cake (and who among us has not experienced that?). For all of that, however, this cake has been a standby for many years. These days, some cooks substitute reduced-fat mayonnaise with good results, but do not attempt to use no-fat mayonnaise and, for heaven's sake, don't use Miracle Whip or any other salad dressing.
  • Cocktail Smoky Links

    This delicious appetizer whips up in minutes, has only three ingredients and tastes like you really cooked up a storm to make it. The fact that the three ingredients are smoked link sausages, grape jelly and bottled chili sauce may throw some of you, but let me assure you, this recipe is a treasure. Serve a batch at your next gathering, and you'll see what I mean.
  • Glenn's Nippy Pineapple Salad

    I'm not ususally a big promoter of congealed salads. Somehow they're "old" (which is bad) without being "old-fashioned" (which, of course, is perceived to be good). I make exception, however, in the case of Glenn's Nippy Pineapple Salad. Years ago, I got this recipe from my friend, Glenn, but I've been told since that this recipe may have made its original debut on the Knox Gelatin box. I know of no other dish that so delightfully combines the flavors of lime, pineapple and, yes, horseradish. It's creamy, tart, sweet and easily put together.
  • Ruby Red Chicken Salad

    One of my favorite dishes, Ruby Red Chicken Salad combines an array of unlikely ingredients and spices. There's the chicken, of course, some pasta, little green peas, lots of fresh juicy grapefruit, then garlic, pimiento, cumin, oil and wine vinegar. I had to look twice at the recipe the first time I read it, but the combination of ingredients intrigued me, and I wasn't disappointed. At first, I made this salad only during warm-weather months, but my family became so fond of it that I now serve it year-round .

A sense of adventure, imagination and innovation will often make the difference between a good cook and a great one. These qualities, though, often come into play long before the cook is standing before the stove. The next time you're browsing through a cookbook, don't be so quick to reject a recipe just because it contains something you think you don't like, or a combination of ingredients that is not altogether traditional. You could be missing out on a real flavor experience. And until the tastes of your family become as sophisticated as yours, just don't tell them everything that's in that delicious dish.