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TIDBITS: Liver sausage, ramen noodles and their place in the past

TIDBITS: Liver sausage, ramen noodles and their place in the past
TIDBITS: Liver sausage, ramen noodles and their place in the past

I’ve found that certain words or phrases can trigger memories and spark discussions. Some pleasant, some not. Some can take a conversation into many different directions.
For example, when I hear the word “stitches,” the feeling of a needle puncturing my tongue comes to mind, having nearly bitten it off after going down a toboggan slide. In the summer. With a “closed” sign bolted to the bottom. Face-versus-sign. Face lost.
“Pregnant.” Before July 5, 1986, the day I got married, it was a word that was pretty darn feared. After that date, it sounded pretty darn cool.
Accordingly, three words heard in sequence three times elicit sheer joy to me. “It’s a boy!” Three of the best days of my life.
“Cubs” and “win World Series.” For more than 100 years, words never seen together. Frustration. Anguish. Anger. George Mitterwald. Leon Durham. Mick Kelleher. Words connected to those words.
“Cubs win World Series.” Anxiety. Exhilaration. Relief. Parties. Parades. Anthony Rizzo. Kris Bryant. Aroldis Chapman. Words connected to those words.
I often hear the word “vacation” in my wife’s voice. Did I say often? A cash register ringing non-stop plays in the background.
There are words that have become ingrained into our everyday culture that didn’t mean anything up until a few years ago. Facebook, Uber, smartphone, tablet, Netflix. For some, it’s hard to imagine life without them.
Some words harken a memory in hi-definition. Or a scent that brings back a moment with someone special. A touch still felt in the fingertips. Words can stimulate the senses.
Like liver sausage and ramen noodles.
A char-broiled, perfectly-seasoned medium rare filet mignon would say, “Really?”
For me, they invoke distinct memories of being younger. And the promise made to myself that once there was enough money in my wallet, I would never eat that stuff again.
Why would someone introduce this into the food chain? It’s possible there’s a government cover-up here. Russians? Transylvanians? Not sure. But I demand a full investigation.
Start with liver sausage.
I can still picture it in our fridge. It’s an odd little sort. Squatty and squashy.
In a Brady Bunch world of meat, liver sausage is like cousin Oliver. It may technically be part of the family, but it doesn’t fit in, bear any resemblance or have the same likability as the others. As if all good meat ideas were spent, liver sausage was a last-ditch effort to try to infuse life into it.
Many people can’t stand liver. Or the thought of it. Then someone with either no food knowledge or a NASA level of it downgrades it to look, smell and feel different. It gets packaged in a peculiar wrapper that pinches at both ends.
Voila! Spreadable sausage. Oscar Meyer Braunschweiger finds its way into millions of homes. Move over bologna. Move over hot dogs. Cousin Oscar has arrived. Maybe because of its friendly, peanut butter-like application, hidden between slices of bread, you don’t really think about what’s in it? But no one ever charges to the fridge hoping for that last bite of it, like with other leftovers.
Moving on to the science experiment known as ramen noodles. Makes liver sausage look like health food.
Ramen noodles invoke a remembrance of a big building with cinder block walls and a cold tile floor, whose inhabitants actually wanted to spend time inside bars. Not jail, but my freshman dorm room in college. A huge bag full of beef flavored Oodles of Noodles brought from home lasted an entire year. Looking back, I’m certain this was the sole reason for diminished brain cells and, therefore, disappointing grades.
So cheap and convenient. Just boil and eat. Quick and tasty.
Except it’s not quite like eating an apple a day. It contains something called Tertiary-butyl hydroquinone, a preservative that is a petroleum industry byproduct. Pretty sure this is not good for you. If you’re pining for a metabolic change linked to heart disease, diabetes and stroke, you’ve come to the right place.
Incredibly high in sodium, an impressive number of calories and plenty of saturated fat, all stuffed inside such a cute little package. Oh, wait, even the packaging is unhealthy. Apparently, carcinogens, hormone disruptors and food containers aren’t a good combination.
Now, I’m sure there will be folks reading this who say how much they love liver sausage and/or ramen noodles. Not just because it fits into a budget very nicely, but because they truly enjoy it. Bon Appétit!
Of course, there are lots of foods that aren’t exactly high quality, nutritious products. Frankly, if eaten only occasionally, neither liver sausage nor ramen noodles would likely make you explode. Both of these items have a significant place in my culinary past. But like puberty, beer bongs and big sideburns, I’d like to keep them there.
• MIKE BERTOK is general manager of The Times. He can be reached at or 815-431-4014.

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