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Strangest Menu Ever Served To You?

I was thinking about how, here on CH we all seem to be heavily and well-invested in planning good, varied menus with a lot of contrast. Some years ago we went to a dinner party (four couples) and the cook served a menu consisting of spaghetti with meat sauce, au gratin potatoes with cheese, onion rings, and a rice ring with peas and mushrooms. Now, none of this was bad food. Right down to the onion rings, it was prepared from scratch. BUT it was one of the most ill-conceived menues I've ever seen, and I wonder: has anyone had a similar experience?
And no, the hostess isn't a 'hound, so no chance she'll see this. She does much better these days at devising a menu plan, BTW.

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  1. In 2001, (just two weeks after 9/11) we were in Amsterdam visiting friends and they took us to Supper Club just off of Dam Square.

    The theme for the night was "Hospital" and we were served any number of victuals in test tubes, specimen jars, even a bedpan. I couldn't begin to tell you what we ate, but it was hands down the strangest menu I was ever served.

    (BTW, same trip we had an Indonesian rijsttafel for the first time as well as Peking Duck! Not to mention cheeses, chocolates, pancakes and beer! Great food trip.)

    1. My husband and I were on a trip to France where we, not surprisingly, ate lots of cheese and drank lots of wine. I never was really sick, but I also never felt quite right after many meals. Once home, I felt much better, so I chalked the experience up to "the water."

      Shortly after our return, we ate dinner at a friend's house. The meal began with two different cheese spreads with crackers. Next we ate classic French onion soup -- right down to an unctuous gratineed top -- that could have stood up to many of the versions we ate in France. Next we were served flank steak stuffed with a Gorgonzola/rice stuffing. I can't remember whether or not there was any cheese in either the green vegetable or salad that accompanied the steak, but we definitely capped the meal off with cheesecake for dessert. Each item was really delicious, but that was the night I learned I had developed a lactose intolerance.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Indy 67

        I'm glad you found a reason for it at least! But your friend, she needs to back away from the all-cheese-all-the-time-channel and drop the slicer. ; )

        1. re: mamachef

          Actually, that dinner is a favorite memory -- at least after the immediate and unpleasant symptoms passed. You're so right; my friend inadvertently provided important information about my lactose intolerance a lot sooner than if I had just limped along eating smaller doses of dairy products.

      2. I don't have a menu to describe but I've found 'constructing' a balanced and interesting meal to be one of the more difficult parts of cooking. When entertaining, I have this subliminal urge to make all my favorite dishes. I don't do that but I have the urge. Sounds like the host at the party you described didn't resist the same urge :)

        7 Replies
        1. re: c oliver

          You know, I asked her later, as nicely as I could, how she happened upon that particular choice of dishes, and she said, "The spaghetti was protein, the potatoes were a vegetable, the onion rings were a vegetable, and the rice and peas were a side dish." I guess technically she may have scored a point or two (though I don't define vegetable in quite the same terms, I guess), but I know how very very awful I felt the next day: like one of those punching clowns with sand in the bottom.

          1. re: mamachef

            Sorry you felt bad the next day, but that's hilarious.

          2. re: c oliver

            Every once in a while, I inadvertantly make one of my 'blonde dinners' because the items seem to go together so well, roast chicken and pan gravy, mashed potaoes and steamed cauliflower. It looks silly on the plate, but is good on the palate!

            1. re: toodie jane

              I think I read somewhere to finely chop some parsley and put on one of them and then it's not totally blonde!

              1. re: toodie jane

                I do the same thing, but I call it the beige meal. Last time it was roasted cauliflower, poached skate and rice. I did throw some parsley on there, and capers.

                1. re: toodie jane

                  That happens to me a lot with Quorn, chickpeas, potatoes, rice ... various combos of the above. "It's tan night again!"

                  1. re: occula

                    When #2 son was going through a picky phase, I used to plate up (on the white baby plate he demanded) a hardboiled egg, some cottage cheese, mashed potato and breast of chicken. We called it the "All White Dinner Extravaganza." Oh well; it kept him alive for quite awhile, 'til he suddenly decided he loved everything, developed the most adventurous palate of all my kids, and never looked back. ; )

              2. I was once invited and attended a wedding located and catered by a Polish Church. There were over 150 family members and guests from my estimation. For reception, the only hors d'oeuvres served were Perogies and Kielbasa with mustard for dipping. Vodka, Wine and Beer on a table for self service. At dinner, there were two elderly women with * Book Shelf Chests *, serving plates from the kitchen in hand, no trays and only two at a time........Foil Wrapped Open Faced Hot Roast Beef Sandwiches with Instant Mashed Potaotes, Brown Gravy and Canned String Beans.....which they peeled off the foil after placing the entree in front of you.

                For the record, the food was not strange.....it was the experience of how it was served.

                4 Replies
                1. re: fourunder

                  I think that Church committee also vends out to the airline I took my last coach flight on. Or at least consults.

                  1. re: fourunder

                    i went to a wedding where they served icky supermarket salads (potato, pasta, etc.), some homemade salads, a whole roasted pig, and haggis - two kinds, steak and lamb! it was a beeeauuuutiful wedding, but the food was a little all over the place.

                    1. re: mariacarmen

                      I would have loved the roasted pig.....

                  2. I mistook this to mean menu, as in the printed bill of fare.
                    I recall a fun menu in the Caribbean that was painted on a polished coconut.

                    1. Several posters have listed oddly conceived meals with bizarre combinations that were made with care. My contribution was neither well-conceived nor made with care; "desperation" would be a very fitting description.

                      We were the last three couples were at the end of a buffet line at a lovely yacht club in Maryland. We were all too busy talking to realize the food selection was getting very low. By the time we had plates, frantic waiters brought the sole offering to the table -- undrained, canned green grapes mixed with krab pieces. "Strange Menu" barely covers this one. I cannot report anything about the flavor because it went untasted. We retreated to the bar where we drank our dinner.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Sherri

                        I've actually experienced the insult of running out of food a few times at various Charity Golf Outings. Like yourself, we were the last to make it to the buffet line. With less than a couple of dozen golfers left to be served for the first time......they literally ran out of food, but in our case, they did not have anything to scramble for and we all had to retreat to the bar for pretzels.

                        1. When I was in college in England, my friends threw me an "American" party with everything they thought of "American" food. It was all pretty bad, down to the bud light. I can't remember what there was, just plenty of peanut butter and anything that could be made in a dorm room.

                          But, the first meal I ever put together, as a 12, or so, year old was Kraft mac and cheese, Campbells noodle soup and rice. It took me a long time. That was probably the worst meal ever for my parents.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: chowser

                            In Germany once I went to a new friend's home for dinner, and we were served chicken legs in some sort of a hardboiled egg sauce, and canned peach halfs with heavy cream poured on top. It was very, very 1950's Betty Crocker. That was over 15 years ago and I stil remember it for it's oddness. Oh, and while at a VERY highbrow wedding in Japan, I was amused to discover jumbo prawns with the heads still attached as the protein in the kids meal! I ate them, they were delicious. My kids were scared.

                            1. re: dvsndvs

                              My husband recently cooked garlic prawns for myself and a friend-in-need. My son came downstairs and asked for some too - and promptly scrounged all the tails off our plates. Crunchy tails, in his opinion, are delicious!

                            2. re: chowser

                              Aw, I so wish you could remember what they made! I think that's so funny - and the meal you made (with so much love, I know) tells me that at 12, you were right after my friend Shari's own carbo-lovin' heart!

                            3. I find this to be an issue at time going out with a small group, in which everyone chooses to share appetizers. There are times (at less fancy places) where I've been craving a particular chicken dish, but then people will order buffalo wings or chicken fingers for appetizer and it changes my mind. Or some places have appetizer and entree portions and people choose to get something as an appetizer.

                              One thing I find is that people when having dinner parties seem to go a little crazy with starches. They'll have a pasta starter and then serve potatoes as a side. I also think it's odd when someone will serve tons of veggies throughout the meal and then serve a salad after (or vice versa).

                              1. When I was in High School (in India), our school took our batch on a `rural sensitization`trip. The purpose was to see how hard some folk have it etc etc.

                                During the course of the week , we lived in tiny (100 ppl max) villages in the middle of nowhere and this is where I had the weirdest meal ever, here is what happened:

                                One of the days, we were told to pair up with another person and were sent to a villager`s house for dinner. We were told not have any expectations (and not eat too much, since the villagers were likely giving us the larger part of their own meal).
                                At `dinner` - on the roof, under the stars, couldn`t have asked for a more beautiful setting - we got;
                                - Chapati made of Millet (harder than flour, chewier, tasty nontheless)
                                - Green chillies
                                - Raw onion
                                THAT IS IT!! The chapati had some spices ground into it and we had a pickle along with it. It had to be the most simple dish I have ever had....and it was DELICIOUS.

                                After dinner we got kheer also delicious

                                It is amazing to nte that the meal we ate was a treat for our hosts and not something they could have everyday

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: meatnveg

                                  meatnveg, I liked the tone of your post, but I'm not sure you understood the intent. If I went to an impoverished person's home for dinner and they served me naught but rice and millet and barley, all cooked in oil and served on the same platter, I wouldn't consider it a strange or weird menu (and menu's really stretching it.) I would consider it subsistence food. I think it's so great that what they served was something you enjoyed, and I love that they used precious spice and expensive pickles in order to show you hospitality. By the same token if Shari had been poor or her larder had been empty with no money for more food, I wouldn't have taken that as a strange menu either; just the best of what she had. So I don't think the folks who hosted you gave you a strange menu: I think they gave you all they had. ; )

                                  1. re: mamachef

                                    Mea culpa. I misread the itent of your OP.

                                    FWIW, the food items were strange because it was so far removed from what I was used to. For example, only Parantha's get served alone or with minimal condiments, never chapati, which always come with lentils or chicken or a dish of some sort. And for me, kheer was always the ending to a meat heavy meal.

                                2. In my old neighborhood 5 couples used to get together for themed dinners. Like "Honey,Dumpling Sweetypie"," "Where's the Beef?", "Something's Fishy"... you get the picture. Well, One was "The Morning After" (It was not me, but I wish I had thought of it) and was hosted on NY Day. Most brought their fave hangover concoction, but one of us did not get the theme... entirely. They brought Bloody Mary's with something chopped inside them (I think it was olives and celery) served in beakers and had straws with an edge sawed into them.

                                  Some of us thought it was the funniest thing ever, but - you now - some didn't. They moved after that. Too bad because they were great neighbors.

                                  It still makes me laugh but I am a sick sicko.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. last week at my company holiday luncheon we were served (from our cafeteria none the less but that's a whole other story) - thin sliced turkey with canned gravy, penne pasta in oil with a few veggies, scalloped potatoes (that were cooked to a mushy death), white bread rolls and iceberg lettuce doused in italian dressing. not only was it not good, it was all completely white aside the piece or two of carrot and zuchini thrown in the pasta. for desert their were different types of cookies.