And now we reveal the REAL reason why you learned the alphabet in seventh grade: the Ultimate A to Z of Food. We went through letter-by-letter and picked what we felt to be the foodstuffs that most nobly represented all 26, then laid out exactly why. From Gushers, to poutine, to sloppy joes, they're all here -- and if you don't agree with any of the choices, we absolutely want to hear about it in the comments. Even though we're totally right.
A is for Astronaut Ice Cream
The day I discovered astronaut ice cream at the Vanderbilt Planetarium was the day I knew I had a chance. I didn't have their space suits, or their weightlessness, or their cool names like "Armstrong" or "Buzz" or "Something Russian." But I had their ice cream. If I was going to be an astronaut, I'd better start eating like one as quickly -- and often -- as possible.
To this day, I don't think I've ever eaten a full package of the stuff. Chocolate? Yes. Vanilla? Yes. Strawberry? Luckily, the freeze-dried brick snaps apart pretty easily, so I can give that section to some other kid/stranger in exchange for candy. I knew right from my first encounter that strawberry was only present as a test, to weed out the unambitious posers just looking for something to snack on -- there's no way John Glenn was eating strawberry anything in that Mercury capsule. Men eat chocolate and vanilla. SPACEmen eat chocolate and vanilla.
I stopped wanting to be an astronaut the day I realized they were also forced to eat packets of liquified peas.
B is for Brisket
Sure, there're more glamorous beef cuts, but hey, I went to a state school where college football was paramount, and that meant tailgating while drinking perfectly rational amounts of beer and chasing it with brisket that's been smoked for 12, 15, even 20hrs. Just go ahead and tell me another food you'd wait that long for. It doesn't matter if you eat it on a po' boy, on a plate next to mashed potatoes, or stuffed inside street tacos -- brisket's the king of B. And you totally thought we were going to say bacon.
C is for Chicken & Waffles
To the dismay of Coney dog and chimichanga enthusiasts, the king of the letter C is the most glorious of all syrup-covered southern comforts, Chicken and Waffles*. No other dish combines sweet and savory in such a beautiful ballet, controversially unites crispy fried batter with its fluffy, ironed cousin in incestuous-but-still-holy matrimony, or dares to walk the tightrope between breakfast, lunch, and dinner with such grace and flavor. For these reasons and many more, be sure to keep your calendar clear and your plate sticky on October 5th, or as it's better known to the initiated, International Chicken and Waffle Day.
*Or Waffles and Chicken, depending on how you feel about causality dilemmas.
D is for Dunkaroos
Remember that time you traded your Dunkaroos for Shark Bites during lunch in 5th grade? Wait, you really do remember? Well then in that case, YOU ARE AN ABSOLUTE SUCKER, SUCKER. Shark Bites weren't better. Neither were Teddy Grahams or Double Stuffs or Fruit by the Foot. Getting to liberally apply icing to delicious marsupial-shaped cookies at your own discretion? That's freedom. That's possibility. That's a lunch. You were had, my friend. You were had.
E is for Eskimo Pie
The epic tale of the Eskimo Pie begins 5,000 years ago, when a group of Alaskans mastered the creation of small stone knives for hunting seal and salmon. So that's why anyone even knows about the Eskimos. A few years later, in 1920, a child at the candy shop of Danish entrepreneur Christian Kent Nelson was unable to decide between a chocolate bar or ice cream. Soon thereafter, Nelson applied for a patent on a chocolate-covered ice cream treat mounted on a wooden stick far too primitive to use to hunt for seal or salmon, but perfect as a handle for an otherwise melty dessert.
If the story of the Eskimo Pie stopped there, it'd be highly unlikely that a vintage branded cooler would fetch $3,000 for a lucky Season 2 Storage Warrior. After a split with his chocolate hook-up (Russell Stover!), Nelson sold out to the United States Foil Company and became rich enough to afford all the seal and salmon he could possibly eat.
But the savory meats of the Arctic could not satiate Nelson's desire for ultimate frozen dessert perfection. He soon rejoined the company and served as head of Inuit-themed dessert development until his retirement in 1961. He died 30 years later at the age of 99, but his chocolate-covered legacy still lives on. There's no way you knew any of that.
F is for Franch Dressing from Breaking Bad
I recently took a four-day Breaking Bad-themed tour of Albuquerque, NM, where the show was once filmed. Sure, I did the requisite touristy stuff like visit Walter White's house, but mostly I shoveled obscene amounts of Southwestern cuisine into my gullet like carne adovada, margaritas, and red chile ribs.
That food was delicious, but it was missing Franch. The mixture of French and Ranch dressing that was taste-tested in the show by the German company behind Los Pollos Hermanos may be a made-up fast food condiment, but someone needs to do something about that. PAUL NEWMAN WHERE YOU AT?!? It'd be an edible nod to the show that put the town on the map. "I'll take a taco salad with Franch and also some Franch on the side, please." That sounds about right.