Time Travel: Avignon, May 2014 – Tater Tot Hot Dish

Hampus, my new Swedish hostel-friend, suppressed a smirk as he looked around the table at the horrified faces of his audience. He’d just finished telling us about a Swedish culinary tradition that involves eating a fish so rotten that the can it comes in bulges with putrid gases (how you know it’s ripe, apparently), a bit of trivia he revealed while he ate “decent” [shrug] pickled fish he’d somehow found at a Carrefour.

“I really miss American breakfast,” I said. France’s sorry excuse for breakfast is bread and jam, a refined-sugar nightmare that’s akin to eating diabetes-infused air.

“I miss tater tot hot dish,” the American expat across from me yearned with a twang that took her Midwestern-ness up about 400 notches.

insert record needle scratch here

I gaped as my compatriot described “tater tot hot dish,” a layered casserole, if I remember correctly, of tater tots, ground beef, cheese, and cream of mushroom soup.

“Are you joking?” I found this almost as hilarious and horrifying as the rotten fish can. Coupled with her earnest expression it was the embodiment of every Midwestern stereotype. She might as well have morphed into the ‘da Bears guys from old-school SNL.

“No it’s SO good.”

I made her repeat the ingredients, slowly, while I wrote them down like a good anthropologist and true New England clam chowder-fed asshole.

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