Last week I received an email.
Dear Mrs. Mastre,
I am writing to you to ask you an incredible (and slightly strange) f(l)avour. *Drum snare* You see, I’m currently participating in a charity event called GISHWHES, run by Misha Collins. GISHWHES stands for the Greatest Scavenger Hunt The World Has Ever Seen (quite a mouthful) *Louder drum snare* During the week of GISHWHES we are given a list of items we must complete, and each item is worth a set amount of points. At the end of the hunt, the team with the most points wins! I’m telling you all this (and making you sigh with my simply tasteless -sorry- culinary puns), because Item 38 is as follows:
38. VIDEO or IMAGE. It’s time the Internet’s bourgeoning Culinary Master was recognized… or panned. Prepare West Collins’ “Pasta with Jam Sauce” and have a noted food critic review it. It must be a qualified, published critic. If they’re not a published critic, don’t submit. 102 POINTS
I’d really appreciate it if you considered helping me with this task, as it is for a good cause and means a lot to me and my GISHWHES team. Thank you! I promise I won’t make anymore culinary puns.
At first I thought it was spam, with the likes of Link Removal Request, and the ever so popular, “I’m writing guest posts and specialize in home repair and brain surgery. I’d love to write a guest post for (insert URL)”. So, I was hesitant to respond. But then I received another email with the same request (although different text). And I noticed a twitter connection who is also a sci-fi writer talking about “writing a scavenger hunt thing.” I asked if it was the same hunt, and when he said yes, I figured I’d start considering it.
Now, if you need to know why I had to weight the pros and cons, watch this. This is what they were making.
And here’s the recipe…
Yeah. I really had to think long and hard about it.
I wasn’t sold until I started exploring the GISHWHES website to see what this was all about. I read the testimonials. I watched the videos. I read the rules. It was about people just being ridiculous, outrageous, daring, and fun. I’ve needed to lighten up lately, and I’m sure it took some guts to ask a food critic, “Hey, will you eat this super gross dish I’m supposed to make?”
But after that, I was sold. I figured that I’ve eaten worse food from actual restaurants who were serving their death knell meals. And frankly, those are far worse than any kitchen concoction created by a 3-year old. I asked friends to keep their fingers crossed that I wouldn’t hurl in the middle of Old Town.
I made arrangements with both teams to meet me in Oak Street Plaza and I’d taste and review each of their Pasta With Jam Sauce dishes. I arrived to find a table setting and reservation made by Team Vashtanerada, including a glass of water. I was relieved, and smiled to see that they went to these lengths to create a lovely al fresco dining atmosphere.
They also had to take a photo of me actually getting ready to review it.
This dish looked like a typical pasta and tomato sauce dish, although a bit thicker in sauce consistency. If I hadn’t known the ingredients, I would have thought it was an unsuspecting plate of pasta with a garnish of popcorn. I hesitantly gathered a fork-full of pasta wheels and took a bite.
The first thing that came to my mind was ketchup koolaid. It was cloying, but also not as bad as I had anticipated (not that I would recommend eating it). I could distinctly taste the tomato sauce and suspect the loads of fruit gave it the koolaid aftertaste. The sticky texture was a mental challenge to chew, but I was committed to finishing this bite. That’s all I had to do – one taste was sufficient! And boy, was I glad.
This dish was a visual surprise since it had been kept hidden under aluminum foil. It was fascinating to see the difference of interpretation between the two teams. This one was more of a deconstructed recipe.
I inhaled a deep, cleansing breath and took a tentative bite. My first impression was that it tasted like chocolate sauce-boiled pasta. This dish was also incredibly sweet, but since it was missing orange juice, the chocolate flavor was a lot more pronounced. I’m sure this is the stuff that preschoolers dream of eating. Adults? Not so much.
And that was it. That’s all I had to do. It didn’t seem like that much of a sacrifice once the task was done, and I wondered how many other food critics put their professional tastes to the side and offered a hand in crazy adventure. I’m actually looking forward to seeing who else was brave enough to at least try.
As a food critic, sometimes you eat amazing, extravagant wine pairing meals. Sometimes you eat horrific, burnt, flavorless monstrosities. And then, sometimes you eat kitchen experiments from readers just for the hell of it.