|Durian may or may not be your bag|
During the usual Times Square New Year’s Eve celebrations, I always liked to spot souvenir glasses worn by folks at the event reflecting the year to come. 2020, with its convenient round zeroes, was a perfect template for these souvenir glasses, and I remember thinking at the time that 2020 might turn out to be a pretty good year all around.
Boy, was that notion shattered beyond recognition. The couple months of relative normalcy at the beginning of this year was quickly eclipsed by a seemingly two-year long stretch of travails, disruption of the normal, and some challenges that threatened to be majorly disruptive for an extended period of time. As the saying goes, what does not kill you makes you stronger, and the small silver lining I’ll take from the past 366 or so days is that we both have been strengthened in ways that we never would’ve suspected before.
In honor of this dumpster fire of a year, my end-of-year playlist contains food items which are considered by many to be culinary dumpster fires. And to save you all from extreme torture, this appropriate-length (13 songs) set clocks in at a very svelte 28-minutes plus, enough time to immerse yourself in the awfulness but short enough to avoid any lasting damage. (Playlist embedded at the end of this post.)
1) “Spam” – Save Ferris: Released to the public in 1937, Hormel’s canned meat (some have said the name stands “Scientifically Processed Animal Matter”) fed many soldiers much to their delight, or maybe horror, during World War II. Perhaps the biggest surprise after the war was how much of a foothold it gained in numerous international countries, and pop culture paeans like Monty Python’s Flying Circus’s infamous “Spam” skit has earned it a massive kitsch factor despite the general air of derision surrounding the product. Here, Orange County, California\’s Save Ferris adds a ska beat to their ode, with lyrics such as “To get me to eat it at dinner/They said I’d grow up like Bruce Jenner.”
2) “Candy Corn” – Daedelus: Universally considered one of the worst treats you can receive at Halloween, this sweet originated in the 1880s from mellow creme, a slurry of sugar, corn syrup and food coloring. In its early days, this tri-colored treat was known as the somewhat unappealing “Chicken Feed.” The project of Alfred Darlington, Daedelus touts himself as “less a musician and more an aspiration in a world awash in sound” on his Bandcamp page.
3) “pineapple pizza!” – ohsobrkn: Outside of pizza styles, the one pizza topic sure to start a war of sorts on social media is the assertion that pineapple belongs (or is an aberration) on pizza. Surprisingly, the origin of pineapple on a pie wasn’t Hawaii or California but rather Toronto in Canada, where Sam Panopoulous placed the tropical fruit on a pie back in 1962. Hailing from Seiverville, TN, ohsobrkn is an African-American artist who specializes in sad lo-fi, alternative rap, and Christian hip-hop.
4) “Scrapple in the Apple” – Charlie Parker: Perhaps something of a Mid-Atlantic region breakfast Spam of sorts, scrapple is various pig parts boiled until fall apart tender, finely minced, and then tossed in a slurry along with various seasonings, cornmeal and flour and allowed to set. Of course, saxophonist and composer Charlie “Bird” Parker, needs no introduction; his influence on jazz and bebop will long outlast his relatively short time on earth, passing away before his 35th birthday.
5) “Cilantro” – Casi Creativo: I have no issue with cilantro myself, but for my spouse, its pungent punch is best doled out in small amounts, and only in certain Asian cuisines. Others have issues with its soapy taste, as it contains a natural substance used in the making of soap. “Cilantro”, as well as other music created under the Casi Creativo banner, is the work of Fred Lammie, a Barcelona-based artist and animator whose videos and music are geared toward the younger viewer.
6) “Liver Splash” – The Meters: Liver is definitely an acquired taste – some crave a well-prepared Liver & Onions, while others can’t get over the very metallic taste and/or gummy texture of this organ meat. Known most for their funk hit “Cissy Strut”, The Meters are considered one of the forefathers of funk, recording under their own name and performing as backup musicians for folks like Dr. John, Robert Palmer, and Lee Dorsey.
7) “Broccoli Bunch” – The Wiggles: Broccoli as consistently rated in the top most hated vegetables in the U.S. by both children and adults, and received a bit of infamous publicity when former president George H.W. Bush expressed his extreme dislike for this cruciferous vegetable. Unlike broccoli, the Aussie-based child-music-oriented The Wiggles has proven internationally popular with the younger set, launching several successful television shows in a number of countries and touring the world consistently until COVID put a kabosh on things.
8) “Catsup” – MOSS!: A blend of tomatoes, vinegar and sugar, Catsup (or Ketchup, depending on your preference) is perhaps the most popular condiment here, but is also distinctively ordinary compared to a whole host of other dipping sauces. That, perhaps, is its greatest sin and the reason for the disdain. I myself don’t use it that much anymore save for certain meal items such as Tortang Giniling and Meat Loaf; my spouse loves it with fries when malt vinegar isn’t available. Of course, if you advocate putting the red stuff on a hot dog, be prepared for a mini-debate on whether your choice is a crime against an American institution or not. MOSS!, like a few other bands I’ve found in my research, doesn’t have too much info on the Internet other than a few album listings – as it turns out, they put in a Ramones-like performance on this song, clocking in at 47 seconds.
9) “Durian” – Joey Ayala: Known as “The King of Fruits”, Durian is also banned by a number of businesses during peak season, due to its very pungent (some say downright stinky) odor. Its taste is even more divisive – The Guardian journalist Monica Tan once stated, “You will either be overcome, seduced by its powerful, declarative presence, or reject it outright. And run screaming.” (FWIW, this fruit’s smell and taste doesn’t bother me nearly as much as its gummy, chewy, and stringy texture.) Translation services are somewhat tricky, but from what I’ve been able to figure out, durian has a fan in Filipino pop singer Joey Ayala, known for integrating native instruments into his music.
10) “No Anchovies, Please” – J. Geils Band: I once had a co-worker who ate anchovies out of the tin for lunch on a regular basis, and I will just say, these preserved forage fish’s pungent scent proved quite potent – you had to be clear on the other side of the workspace to save yourself. The J. Geils Band has been plying their trade for all or a part of six decades since their formation in 1967; this tune, off their well-received “Love Stinks” album, lays down a truly bizarre story as to why you should avoid asking for these little fishies.
11) “Headcheese Heartthrob” – BB Eye: Originating in Europe, headcheese uses a variety of organ and spare animal parts (but not the brain, eyes or ears) plus an assortment of seasonings and spices to essentially form a gelatinous loaf of meat. Hailing from Knob Noster, MO, BB Eye clocks the second shortest song of this set at 1:15 and reminds me a bit of the early Mute Records sound (specifically, The Normal and their single “Warm Leatherette/T.V.O.D.”)
12) “Burning” – The Haggis Horns: While the traditional form of Haggis (a boiled blend of sheep’s heart, liver, and tongue (or lungs), minced and mixed in with seasonings and pinhead or steel cut oats, stuffed inside a pre-prepared stomach lining and boiled again) is pretty well accepted, the origin of this dish generally associated with Scotland has a much more convoluted history than one might think. Based out Leeds, England, The Haggis Horns might be my favorite find of this particular list – this eight-man outfit has released a number of albums since their formation in 2004 and has performed and recorded with a number of famous artists, including Amy Winehouse, Duran Duran, Morcheeba, and Adele.
13) “Circus peanuts” – Parall3l Beats: No one I’ve ever met has ever looked forward to receiving this treat at Halloween; yet, you’ll find plenty of bags of this almost-neon-orange, marshmallow-based candy in the cheap candy section of many drug and retail stores. Chicago-based producer Parall3l Beats doesn’t put in a whole lot of length into this particular cut, and perhaps that’s for the best – like many others, it probably took about as long as this cut takes to transfer these from the Halloween treat bag to the garbage can (or some unsuspecting younger sibling.)