hot dog with french fries on red check table clothes
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Who Says You Can’t Put Ketchup on a Hot Dog?

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Plate Of Hotdogs
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Rules to Ignore

Food rules are meant to be broken, right? Read on for a playful tour of food faux pas, some of which are slowly finding favor in the ever-changing culinary world. See if you think these unconventional pairings, habits, and preferences merit cringing — or savoring.


Related: Strange But Surprisingly Tasty Local Foods to Try

Hot dogs for game day
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Putting Ketchup on Hot Dogs

“Nobody, I mean nobody puts ketchup on a hot dog.” In the immortal words of Clint Eastwood as “Dirty Harry,” this food rule goes way back. Some say it’s because the sweetness of the ketchup detracts from the flavor of the dog, something Chicagoans have been saying for decades.


Related: The Truth Behind 29 Urban Food Legends

Hawaiian pizza box
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Eating Pineapple on Pizza

Pepperoni, black olives ... even anchovies. Pizza toppings are a decidedly personal choice, but pineapple (usually paired with ham and called Hawaiian) on pizza remains a polarizing selection. While 82% of people polled in a 2017 survey said they did indeed like pineapple, just 53% considered it a suitable choice for a pizza topping.

Just delectable!
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Sipping Red Wine With Seafood

It’s a special occasion at a very expensive restaurant. You order a bold red wine to accompany your seafood entree. Can you hear the collective gasps? This long-held example of a food faux pas may be outdated, especially in America. It can be successfully done, so long as you order properly. Tips include knowing when to order a red, choosing lighter wines, and truly considering the entire dish (not just the fish) being served.

Peanut Butter Burger
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Slathering Peanut Butter on Burgers

Sorry, but this is cringe-worthy for many people. Slathering peanut butter on a juicy hamburger is a practice that’s decidedly not mainstream. But as one fan noted, it can be done, deliciously, if it’s part of a whole approach: “The nutty, salty taste of the peanut butter only enhances the meatiness of the beef — and takes the place of cheese. The pickle and bacon are necessary sidekicks for cutting through the creamy PB.”

Leftovers for Lunch
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Eating Leftover Pasta Cold

Eating a plate of cold, leftover spaghetti for breakfast the next morning is not unheard of, although it is an acquired taste. Besides creeping out your morning companion who’s happily digging into a bowl of oatmeal, your unconventional choice shouldn’t cause any health concerns, so long as the pasta has been stored properly.

Man holding chips with mayonnaise
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Dipping French Fries in Mayo

For the continental among us, dipping french fries in a creamy dollop of mayo is not a faux pas but a way of life. Others find the imagined idea of a grease-plus-more-grease combination nauseating. While most Americans opt for the traditional ketchup topping, having fries with mayo is just how it’s done in Belgium and France.

lime mousse charlotte with kiwi and berries
lime mousse charlotte with kiwi and berries by distopiandreamgirl (CC BY-NC-ND)

Savoring Dessert 'Pizza'

Some people take sweetness and pizza way beyond pineapple, to what’s come to be called a dessert pizza. These days, a “pizza” to end the meal can feature berries and cream cheese, hazelnut spread and bananas, brownies with marshmallows. It may be tasty — but call it a tart, not a pizza.

Steak Ribeye with spices on the graphite board.
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Ordering Steak Well Done

Well-done steak: feast or faux pas? Chefs prefer medium rare, and wait staff will make it clear that a well-done steak is simply wrong. However, as one who has ordered countless “very, very well done” burgers and steaks over the years, sometimes to barely disguised disgust, it’s good to know there are arguments to be made in favor of well-done steak.

mums seafood doria
mums seafood doria by chotda (CC BY-NC-ND)

Putting Cheese on Seafood

It’s more of an Italian tradition, but there are many who would never consider sprinkling a spoon of cheese over any dish that contains fish or seafood. While that purist approach remains valid for many, today’s palates seem to routinely embrace dishes ranging from shrimp Parmigiana to lobster mac ‘n’ cheese.

Eating Pizza With Fork and Knife
Eating Pizza With Fork and Knife by Adam Kuban (CC BY-NC-ND)

Eating Pizza With Fork and Knife

Yes, pizza is a perennial favorite food, which is why it has so many associations. Chief among the pizza-related food faux pas is eating a classic slice with a fork and knife. Sure, some might say that it slows the dining process and makes you enjoy it more. Purists say it slows the process and makes you look like you’re trying too hard.


Related: Famous Food Fails by American Politicians

Philly cheesesteak sandwich and french fries
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Choosing the Wrong Cheese (Steak)

If you’re in Philly, you eat the Philly cheesesteak the way it comes: with the traditional Cheez Whiz, or even Provolone or American. Former senator and secretary of state John Kerry learned that the hard way, when he was on the presidential campaign trail in 2004 and ordered his with Swiss. People still speak of the choice, often mentioning it in reference to politicians and their food faux pas.

Assorted Bagels
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Making an Untraditional Bagel Choice

Another political food faux pas had people in an uproar during New York's 2018 Democratic gubernatorial primary. Candidate Cynthia Nixon ordered a cinnamon-raisin bagel with Nova salmon, and the media latched on to the choice as a sign of bad taste (and worse). The actress-turned-politician’s outwardly simple food choice was imbued with multiple layers of meaning.

Bacon
Bacon by Terry (CC BY-NC-ND)

Microwaving Bacon

Think you can’t do anything wrong when it comes to bacon? Well, there are countless purists who absolutely lose it when bacon is put in the microwave. Sure, studies have shown the method might reduce fat and calories. Diehards, though, want it cooked in a cast-iron skillet, baked in the oven ... but never, never nuked.

Choosing breakfast at restaurant buffet
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Not Eating Breakfast Food for Breakfast

For generations, some people have refused to entertain the idea of anything but traditional breakfast fare — sausage, eggs, pancakes, cereal, toast and the like — for breakfast. It’s more about nutrition and what gets you moving in the morning, regardless of what it is.

Cheerios
Cheerios by Max! V (CC BY-NC-ND)

Pouring Coffee — or Juice — on Cereal

While cereal tends to be eaten with milk or cream, rule breakers have been known to douse their Cheerios with a splash of coffee (with milk). Some go one step beyond, pouring orange juice in. A Tropicana survey found that 15 million Americans have tried orange juice on their cereal. And that led to the introduction of Tropicana Crunch, a cereal designed to pair with the brand’s signature OJ. See, things do change.

Young woman using the laptop at home
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De-fizzing Your Soda

Yes, we know – it’s pretty unattractive to hear a giant belch after someone gulps down a soda or other carbonated drink. Rather than slow down, some people go to extremes to avoid that happening, gently shaking their soda until it becomes flat so they can sip without fear. There are even blog posts dedicated to the fizz haters, offering countless ways to quickly flatten a soda. 

A banana pudding π for π day
A banana pudding π for π day by John Perry (CC BY-SA)

'Fancying up' Traditional Dishes

Sure, sometimes people want to modernize a dish, but in some parts of the country that can ruffle quite a few feathers. For example, in Tennessee, where banana pudding desserts are an honored tradition, it’s said that if you skip the Nilla wafers in the recipe, you are really crossing the line.

Chipotle
Chipotle by Proshob (CC BY-SA)

Disrespecting the Sneeze Guard

Taking charge is usually seen as a good thing, but President Barack Obama caused a scandal in 2014 by reaching over the sneeze guard at Chipotle to point at what he wanted. It was a move that earned national coverage — and taught many to never do that.

Traditional mexican homemade salsa sauce with ingredients, tomat
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The Double Dip

Immortalized by “Seinfeld” way back in 1993, the dreaded double dip is perhaps one of the most famous food faux pas. Although the pandemic certainly put the spotlight on how we share food — and perhaps truly did upend this dreaded (and unsavory) practice — we’re sure there’s still a bunch of double dipping going on around many a college party. You have been warned.