Carrot-Raisin Salad and Other Atrocities

Photo: lasuprema

If you are like most people, you frequently combine different foods together in one meal. You don't generally, for example, have just have a big plate of spinach for dinner. Or eat a platter of lamb chops and nothing else.

In fact, if you are clever and industrious, you may even chop up numerous ingredients using a "recipe" and then combine them all into a single dish! This is called cooking.

Yet so often, we read nutritional studies that tell us all about how a particular food is good or bad for us as though we ate it in isolation. As it turns out, nutrition is a lot more complicated than that.

Some nutrients work synergistically, so you get way more nutritional bang for your buck from combining them. Olive oil and tomatoes? Peanut butter and whole wheat bread? Berries and green tea? These friendly foods get along really well and they accomplish way more working together than when they're all by themselves.

On the other hand, other foods don't get along at all, and act antagonistically. They behave just like Crabby when she's PMS and hasn't yet had her morning coffee. One food tries to offer up a nutritional benefit but the other food says, "screw that, I'm gonna interfere with it just because I can!" I think green tea and milk may be one of those combos, though the evidence goes back and forth on that. (And sometimes foods are so grumpy they even fight with themselves. Like, for example, the oxalic acid in spinach keeps you from absorbing calcium... which is one of the nutrients you get from spinach!)

So there's a great post over at Arena Fitness about food synergy, and I thought, well, wouldn't it be nice to copy their post and be done for the day do a round up of nutritional food synergies and antagonisms so that people can know what they should or shouldn't be eating together?

But then when I looked into it further, it all got terribly arcane and tedious. And a lot of foods just end up complimenting themselves, (I hate it when foods get so narcissistic like that) like apple skins and apples, so the message you end up with is "don't peel stuff," which you already knew anyway.

Plus, I ended up realizing that it's hard enough to eat a healthy balanced diet with a variety of different whole foods. If I have to start obsessing about whether I should have my spaghetti marinara with spinach or broccoli for optimal results... I might get so fed up that I'd figure, the hell with it, I'll have a cheeseburger, fries and a Coke! Which is a much simpler meal because there's no guessing; you know it's gonna be bad for you.

However, for those of you who are better able to handle nutritional complexity and would to know more about the topic, the food synergy post has some highlights and also some helpful additional links (like this one at Web Md and this one at Bliss Tree.)

Instead, I decided want to address a whole different issue related to combining foods: Food-Flavor Contextual Anomalies.

Sound scholarly? It's actually a fancy-pants term I just made up to describe a perplexing phenomenon:

There are certain foods I only like sometimes. In the wrong combinations, I can't eat them. And because these defy logic, I wanted to see if any of you have similar weird aversions. Like:

  • I hate olives, green or black. Yet I love extra virgin olive oil, the more flavorful the better.

  • I love a sprinkle of walnuts on a hot fudge sundae, or in a salad. But should walnut chunks dare to appear in a brownie or in a banana muffin I will spit them out into a napkin when no one is looking.

  • Coconut in Thai food? Yumm! Coconut candy? Eww.

  • Carrots, raisins, mayonaise? I like all three of these! But combine them in a carrot-raisin salad? Barfarooni.

  • Celery and... oh wait a second. I hate celery whenever and where ever it appears, even if there is peanut butter involved. That's how much I hate celery.

  • Tomatoes, tomato sauce, salsa, bruscetta... Love me some luscious tomatoes! But tomato soup or tomato juice? Bleechhhh.

Anyone else? Do some foods transform from loathsome to lovely depending on the company they keep?


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