Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Unusual food combinations are often counter-intuitive and can vary wildly by individual taste. Real-world examples of unusual food pairings, such as pickles and peanut butter, French fries in chocolate shake, or even the comfort-food pairing of chicken and waffles, pair sweet, sour, or salty foods with a food or condiment from a different group. In many "normal" food pairings, though, the cross-over between sweet, savory and salty foods also exists, such as ketchup, a very sweet condiment being regularly applied to hamburgers and French fries, both savory and salty foods.
In this comic, Randall lists twelve somewhat random food items. Below these Megan says a line to Ponytail and Cueball where she claims that two items of food from the list above (pick any) would be a great combination. Some of these are obviously great together (and much depends on personal taste) but many combination will definitely not be enjoyed by most people living for instance in the US (where Randall is situated). Say ketchup and ice cream or hot chocolate and avocado. But no matter which two Megan chooses the response from Cueball (or anyone else) would be the same - he can see what she means with this combination.
Randall suggests, in the caption below, that by using the right tone of voice, you can put any pair of these food items together as an "actually really good" food combination, and no one will challenge you on it. This can either be because they have likely heard, or tried other unexpected combinations that are highly recommended or liked. But it could also just be because they are polite, or did not really think about what you said due to your tone of voice. Cueball's agreement could also be due to some social pressure in this situation, the same reason he will drink beer even though he does not enjoy the taste, as in 1534: Beer. Or maybe they are like Joey from Friends who love any combination of food, as long as it is something he think is good by itself - see this clip.
The title text extends the joke by recommending countering such a bizarre proposal with an assertion that the random pairing announced is an actual potato chip flavor popular in Canada. This plays on the fact that in different countries and regions, cultural tastes can vary wildly. For instance, ketchup flavored potato chips are quite popular in Canada, but are almost never offered in US markets. Loblaws and Lay's have run potato chips flavor competition in Canada in 2013-15 with flavors such as Maple Moose, Bacon Poutine, Jalapeño Mac N' Cheese, Cowboy BBQ Beans. Similar strange combinations of potato chips are run, either temporarily or permanently, in other countries including the United Kingdom. In addition, some parts of Canada are used as experimental markets to test new flavors of potato chips.
 Table of traditional pairings
- There are 12 items and they can be combined in a total of 66 different ways.
- The 66 fields above the blue fields are the same as those below - of course it does not matter which order you put them in.
- As of writing this 24 of these 66 has been made green (aka being tasty) (36,4%).
- But this has much to do with individual taste.
- Since the comic is made in the US, it should mainly be combinations that are common in the US.
- Also remember that even though you personally may not like avocado or relish (etc.), all food items on on the list are something that many people enjoy eating.
- They are thus NOT disgusting!
- Do not take personal taste into account when changing the list below!
- [Megan is talking with Ponytail and Cueball, who has his hand to his chin. Above them in 4x3 black boxes different kind of food is written in white text].
| Ice cream
|| Sour cream
| Hot chocolate
- Megan: You know what's actually really good?
- Megan: ____ and ____.
- Megan: food and food
- Cueball: Huh. I Guess I can see it.
- [Caption below the panel.]
- Fun fact: if you say "you know what's actually really good?" in the right tone of voice, you can name any two individually-good foods here and no one will challenge you one it.
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I tried this on a friend and after three tries she said, you just mentioned all my favorite food items. So... --Kynde (talk) 14:27, 27 November 2015 (UTC)
You know what's really good? Ice cream on pizza. Mikemk (talk) 15:23, 27 November 2015 (UTC)
- That's a popular summer snack in Tasmania. 18.104.22.168 08:02, 28 November 2015 (UTC)
- I used to eat french fries on pizza in high school. Mom still thinks I'm weird for this. I mean, I'm weird, but that's not why PsyMar (talk) 09:38, 9 December 2015 (UTC)
So nobody puts sour cream on pancakes??? 22.214.171.124 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Joey agrees with that - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSFgDZJVYbo 126.96.36.199 15:40, 27 November 2015 (UTC)
- Thanks I was just thinking of that episode when seeing this comic. Think it deserves a place in the explanation. --Kynde (talk) 21:06, 27 November 2015 (UTC)
Well, I made a first-hack attempt, with terrible grammar and no appropriate citations. Please don't be too harsh! 188.8.131.52 16:14, 27 November 2015 (UTC)
Most of the combinations involving the dairy items are disgusting. 184.108.40.206 19:29, 27 November 2015 (UTC)
If you think sour cream and pancakes is not a traditional combination, you've never been to Russia. We put sour cream in a lot of things, really, but pancakes especially.
That applies almost as well to sour cream and ketchup (though that is just a pair of commonly combined condiments, not a food item in itself).
I do, however, agree with the commentor above (even regarding sour cream).
Incidentally, I had to google "relish" - apparently it's a general term for a big variety of chopped-vegetable items. The Russian name for one particularly common type literally translates as "eggplant caviar". Goes nicely with ham, is applied to pancakes occasionally. --220.127.116.11 20:51, 27 November 2015 (UTC)
- FYI, pickle (that is to say, pickled cucumber) relish is generally what people from the US mean when referring to relish. 18.104.22.168 05:05, 29 November 2015 (UTC)
It will be interesting to see if all items will be checked of eventually when people from many different countries comes by? I checked of pancakes and ice cream. I put ice in almost every time I make sweet pancakes. Yummy. But we also have "food" pancakes (not sweat) with meat in them. And I'm note talking about tortillas or burrito pancakes. Made exactly like normal sweet pancakes without sugar and with salt. In The Netherlands they have pancake houses where the toppings is more like that of a pizza, and then after wards they drop on some kind of syrup... --Kynde (talk) 21:06, 27 November 2015 (UTC)
Avocado and ice cream is traditional? Really? I mean, the novelty ice cream places (bacon ice cream, beer ice cream, Tabasco ice cream, you know the drill), sure, but where is that a traditional pairing? ... However, I'm putting in another vote for sour cream with pancakes. Especially if you consider crêpes and associated acts as in the pancake category, so there's the whole world of savory pancakes out there. 22.214.171.124 04:16, 28 November 2015 (UTC)MR
- I have removed avocado and ice cream. That cannot be thought of as traditional even if someone actually likes it. I do not know if you could think of pancakes and sour cream as traditional. But again if you think of them both as sweat and food pancakes (as already is the case, then maybe...) I will not list it though as I do not feel it is traditional. But I would also not delete it if anyone else feels it is. --Kynde (talk) 10:41, 28 November 2015 (UTC)
- Sorry, that was me. Wasn't aware that this had to be exclusively limited to food items from the US, but anyway was thinking about the avocado icecream here (taluwang.com.my). It's quite popular where I come from and quite delicious, actually. 126.96.36.199 14:13, 29 November 2015 (UTC)
- Avocado ice cream is also eaten occasionally in Brazil. Admittedly, Brazil isn't the United States. However, a simple Google Search of "Avocado Ice Cream" brings up dozens of very different recipes (including an avocado coconut ice cream that I really have to try). In addition, the table of traditional pairings says "it should mainly be combinations that are common in the US". If it said "combinations exclusively in the US" then I could see justifiably removing Avocado Ice Cream. However, since there are multiple countries that it is both popular and commonly eaten and literally millions of hits show up in English if you search it in Google, I would say that it counts. (That's not even including the smoothies and shakes that include avocado and ice cream). Jeudi Violist (talk) 07:13, 30 November 2015 (UTC)
At least five of those alleged "individually good" so-called "foods" - relish, ketchup, cheese, sour cream, and avocado - are absolutely disgusting and would destroy any food value of things they came in contact with. YMMV.188.8.131.52 09:46, 28 November 2015 (UTC)
- Well I also do not like avocado or sour cream and neither most forms of eggs plus only a few kind of cheese. But I know that many people really love these items, and that would not make it a bad combination to put sour cream and avocado together. I just would not wish to eat it for my personal taste. That I do not like it, does not make it disgusting. But I would be sorry if someone tried to make me eat it. But not get disgusted because other people eat it in front of me. Disgusting things are something like rat or excrements... ;-) And this has to be taken into account before anyone changes the table above. --Kynde (talk) 10:37, 28 November 2015 (UTC)
There's some "almost something I've seen" combinations, in the above. For example, while I've never had Ham And Avocado, Ham And Pineapple is not uncommon. (Of course, now we're also into neighbouring territory of "does pineapple belong on a pizza?" ;) 184.108.40.206 16:39, 28 November 2015 (UTC)
- Yes pineapple definitely belongs to a pizza! Ham and pineapple are the basis for a classic hawaiian pizza recipe. Nothing odd about it, fairly common in stores or pizza places. One of my favourites. Ralfoide (talk) 16:28, 1 December 2015 (UTC)
Err, what? Ketchup flavored chips hard to come by in the US? I've yet to see a single supermarket that didn't have a large quantity of Herr's Ketchup Chips. And I live in the american Northeast.220.127.116.11 05:00, 29 November 2015 (UTC)
"Pairings" is itself a bit ambiguous, but I'd vote that none of cupcakes/sour cream, pancakes/cheese nor eggs/ relish are traditional pairings. Pancakes with sour cream may well edge in as blinis, but only by counting blinis (and crepes?) within pancakes. Some others are perhaps a little more likely, but still would not make my personal cut as a traditional pairing -- ice cream/ hot chocolate & ham/relish would fail, and if we count hot chocolate/pancakes as OK because they may both be part of a breakfast, then why not hot chocolate/eggs? Miamiclay (talk) 20:40, 29 November 2015 (UTC)
- I agree that Cupcakes/Sour Cream is certainly not a traditional pairing. I believe this should be removed. Teleksterling (talk) 23:24, 30 November 2015 (UTC)
In my experience, all combinations of individually-good foods are only bad if you go into it expecting them to be. Speaking of which, I highly recommend putting creamy peanut butter and slices of banana on a burger.18.104.22.168 05:21, 30 November 2015 (UTC)
the one problem i see is the non-solid combinations... such as ketch and hot coco or eggs (depending on state) Needforsuv (talk) 11:20, 30 November 2015 (UTC)
I think some of those "traditional" combinations colored-coded into the chart are very much "." Just because something /can/ go together (without being disgusting :p) doesn't mean they /traditionally/ occur together. Skittles and Ice Cream don't sound like a bad combination (depending on the ice cream flavor), but I've never seen nor heard of them together.
Pancakes and Ham seem to be paired because they're both "breakfast" foods, but I've never heard of anyone putting ham on their pancakes, so it's not a traditional pairing as is "ham and eggs" or "ham and (disgusting) cheese [sandwiches]."
- I can go to any diner around here and get pancakes and ham for breakfast. Nothing in the comic says I have to put the ham on the pancakes (the comic is about "X and Y", not "X on Y"), although now that sounds like a good idea to try next time (I have done so with bacon, hmmmm baaacoooon...) Ralfoide (talk) 16:28, 1 December 2015 (UTC)
- The comic, however, is food combinations. That, to me, suggests foods that are eaten together, not merely at the same meal. *shrug* But I'm not a regular 'round these parts, so.... 22.214.171.124 03:28, 2 December 2015 (UTC)
- I thought putting ham on pancakes was popular in Russia, but on googling, I found dozens of recipes for pancakes, ham and cheese (note that both ham and pancakes are commonly combined with cheese) - and none for just pancakes and ham. (You can indeed get that at Teremok, though, as well as a lot of other pancake condiments.) --126.96.36.199 06:39, 2 December 2015 (UTC)
The same goes for cheese and relish. They both may be on the same food (burgers), but they're not paired on their own. There may be a correlation, but it's certainly not a /pairing/.
I'm not a contributor, just an anonymous snarker, so I won't be making edits to the chart - especially since someone would just as likely strike them on accusation of "vandalism." :( 188.8.131.52 03:02, 1 December 2015 (UTC)
The comments seem to have converged on the idea that there must be traditional pairings. I think the purpose of the comic is more about being open minded and about "what does sound like a possible good idea" especially where it is not traditional. Comments seem to focus on literally "X on Y" instead of a more vague "X and Y." The color table is too much black-and-white (pun intended); instead what would be more interesting would be a number of likes/dislikes if people were asked "would you be open to try to eat X at the same than Y?" I have no idea how to do that with a wiki syntax. Ralfoide (talk) 16:28, 1 December 2015 (UTC)
- The table is labeled as "Traditional pairings found in the list of combinations" - thus the commentary on them being traditional pairings or not. The comic itself says nothing about traditionality. 184.108.40.206 03:20, 2 December 2015 (UTC)
What are you kidding me? Ham and Skittles is the shit! Auraxangelic (talk) 20:10, 1 December 2015 (UTC)
- Removing the slang/idiomatic connotations, I'd agree. :p 220.127.116.11 03:28, 2 December 2015 (UTC)
Too bad mayonnaise and peanut butter aren't choices. I love them on a sandwich, although I'm sure others would find that combination disgusting.These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 18:27, 2 December 2015 (UTC)
mmm... skittles and pancakes... 18.104.22.168 00:11, 4 December 2015 (UTC)
What's the actual point of the combinations table? It neither adds anything to explaining this comic nor does it appear objective. To be objective, you'd need a cite for each box -- alternatively, make a google-search-matrix, à la 467 --22.214.171.124 14:26, 18 December 2015 (UTC)