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What things are better when they're worse?
December 5, 2010 12:46 PM   Subscribe

I realized recently that I prefer licorice when it's gone so stale it's almost rock-hard, and similarly I also would much rather eat dry, horribly overcooked turkey than a properly-cooked, moist bird. I think pristine new leather on bags or furniture looks ugly, and prefer it when it's battered and beaten up. I understand and appreciate the qualities that makes the "good" versions of these things good, but they just don't dovetail with my subjective experience. What are some other things that are better when they're worse?
posted by hels to Grab Bag (102 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
 
Trashy tv/movies.
posted by kylej at 12:47 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Day old spaghetti.
posted by mrgroweler at 12:47 PM on December 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Marshmallow Peeps are best when they're stale.
posted by zsazsa at 12:49 PM on December 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


Leather jacket. I have a jacket that's been damaged by being burnt on an electric stovetop, and the belt sections have been re-sewn on with mint dental floss. It also barely zips up. I got it for $16 at a thrift shop.

It's the best leather jacket I've ever owned.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:50 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wine gums, jeans and baseball caps
posted by Flashman at 12:50 PM on December 5, 2010


Burnt popcorn and the partially popped duds at the bottom of the batch.
posted by mmmbacon at 12:53 PM on December 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hoodies.
posted by mdonley at 12:53 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Slightly burnt cookies.

Partially popped popcorn, like when there's a little bit of the white part puffing out but at least half of the kernel is intact. The kernel crunches in the most satisfying way which is especially desirable as they are so rare to find in a bag of popcorn.
posted by jamaro at 12:54 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cheese.
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:55 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


In general: salted duck eggs, natto, surstromming and rock'n'roll. For one night only: bad women. Don't try to combine more than two in one day, though.
posted by ouke at 12:58 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lemonade when you're ill.
posted by devnull at 1:00 PM on December 5, 2010


Stale buttered popcorn!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:00 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cold toast with butter
posted by fire&wings at 1:00 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fried chicken.
posted by cog_nate at 1:00 PM on December 5, 2010


Some people prefer the taste of stale Circus Peanuts.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:02 PM on December 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


A lot of people ask for "burnt" french fries
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:02 PM on December 5, 2010


So many people love the dried-out edges of brownies that there are special all-edge brownie pans.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:03 PM on December 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


Fried chicken that's been sitting for days under a gas station heatlamp is the best fried chicken.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:04 PM on December 5, 2010


Burnt marshmallows.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:05 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Everything.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 1:06 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jeans.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:06 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jeans and shoes, especially sneakers.
posted by SisterHavana at 1:07 PM on December 5, 2010


porn
posted by Jon_Evil at 1:10 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Macaroni and cheese. Ok not to the extent of making it from a box, but making it from scratch out of cheap cheddar it tastes so much better than any fancy version with gruyere or truffles or what have you.
posted by hazyjane at 1:10 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Like mac 'n' cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches taste best when made with plain white bread and imitation cheese slices.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:13 PM on December 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


Jokes.
posted by asuprenant at 1:14 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


How has cold leftover pizza not been mentioned yet?
posted by Sara C. at 1:16 PM on December 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


Or cold lasagna?
posted by chicainthecity at 1:20 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Definitely mac and cheese from a box.

Also sometimes I prefer the cold nothing taste of cheap beer from a can.

I'm about to consume both and watch a football game. HOW'S YOUR SUNDAY?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:20 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I like down pillows at the point where they're so flat you almost doubt they were filled with anything at all. So smooshable.
posted by xingcat at 1:21 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Burned rice (sometimes considered a separate dish in it's own right, but also quite familiar to anyone who uses a rice cooker.)

Bananas are a weird case because there are people who like them "worse" = underripe or "worse" = overripe.
posted by kagredon at 1:23 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have always had a fondness for soggy cereal. In an ironic twist, Cap'n Crunch was best when left out to sit and acquire a proper goopiness.
posted by vacapinta at 1:26 PM on December 5, 2010


Hard salami
posted by lee at 1:29 PM on December 5, 2010


Old buildings - when the brick or wood siding gets all weathered and worn and the paint starts cracking, even a bare-bones industrial building starts being kind of beautiful.
posted by ella wren at 1:29 PM on December 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Cold Chinese takeout.

I think pie is better when it's messy and not perfect-looking.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 1:37 PM on December 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


T-shirts.

There's a local deli that makes really gross breakfast sandwiches... a sub roll with greasy eggs and processed cheese, meat if you want it. Not very enticing. They also make a version which includes one of those frozen hash brown patties, deep-fried. It's called a Rise & Shiner, and it is magical. Is that what you mean?
posted by vortex genie 2 at 1:43 PM on December 5, 2010


The cheapest brand of mayonnaise available is always my preferred choice.
posted by frobozz at 1:45 PM on December 5, 2010


I don't know about the overcooked turkey or the rock-hard liquorice (you should buy some proper liquorice sometime and try it out... it tastes nothing like Twizzlers and anything of that horrible ilk) but the appreciation of battered and beaten up leather could be construed as sabi, which is a Japanese aesthetic term for the appreciation of that which has gotten worn with age, or has aged visibly in some other way.
posted by Kattullus at 1:46 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


What are some other things that are better when they're worse?

Fashion.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:46 PM on December 5, 2010


Cheap frozen pizza, cooked until it's slightly burned.
posted by cellphone at 1:50 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dogs.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 1:56 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Meerschaum pipes typically start out a beautiful pristine white, but smoking them over time leads to various kinds of attractive coloration and marbling. And that's what people want.

Cast iron skillets and restaurant flattop griddles are much better after they've been used a lot. They don't look anywhere near as good, but that seasoning gives you a nonstick quality and some say better tasting food.

Speaking of that, greasy diner food can be so much more satisfying than fancypants food when you're in the mood for it.

I like my 80s hair bands cheezy and awful. I'm looking at you Poison and Trixter!

Lots of people are more entertained by bad karaoke better than good karaoke.

Hákarl is the Icelandic delicacy of fermented shark meat that smells like ammonia. This one may not count because the fresh new basking shark is apparently poisonous, so really you're improving it by curing it, not making it worse. But still. Rotten ammonia shark meat. Bon apetit!
posted by Askr at 2:03 PM on December 5, 2010


Cheese puffs like these are always better once they're super-stale and chewy.
posted by saladin at 2:06 PM on December 5, 2010


The Bella Basil sandwich from Atlanta Bread Company. It starts out pretty good but if you forget you bought it and leave it in your fridge for a couple of days, and then you come back to it? All the flavors meld together and it's just so so good.

Actually, I feel like this about sandwiches in general.
posted by estlin at 2:11 PM on December 5, 2010


Also I definitely prefer the cheap canned salsas filled with preservatives to the fancy, freshly made ones.
posted by estlin at 2:13 PM on December 5, 2010


Burnt crispy hot dogs.
posted by amyms at 2:22 PM on December 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Totino's Party Pizza beats any sun-dried tomato fresh mozzarella brick-fired oven pie all to pieces.
posted by cereselle at 2:26 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm a fan of using good ingredients in mac and cheese, but I will always remember the day in Philly when I was forced to try what I considered to be an appalling travesty - Velveeta - on a cheese steak. Good God, that's good.
posted by CunningLinguist at 2:26 PM on December 5, 2010


Also I like cheap imitation "maple syrup" over the real stuff.
posted by CunningLinguist at 2:27 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


burnt grilled hot dogs

Red Vines!
posted by vespabelle at 2:27 PM on December 5, 2010


Thought of another - movies! I have a hard time sitting through most "classic films", but if you put on Home Alone, you'll have my attention. Yes, I'm a philistine.

Also, macaroni and cheese. When it's good, it's good, but when it's bad, it's awesome.

Sweatpants.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 2:28 PM on December 5, 2010


Doritos improve when they're stale.
posted by inturnaround at 2:40 PM on December 5, 2010


anything made out of flannel (especially sheets), day old cold pizza, kraft dinner, jeans, white wonderbread hamburger buns, hamburgers with cheese slices not Cheese.
posted by kch at 2:48 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Plain cake doughnuts. I like them best when they're a tad stale.
posted by sculpin at 3:07 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well-washed linen textiles are beautifully soft, not usually the case with new.
posted by kmennie at 3:10 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I only like oreos when they're stale, like after the package has been open for a few days. The cookie portion becomes pleasantly chewy, almost cake-like.
posted by wondermouse at 3:12 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


New Orleans.
posted by adamrice at 3:27 PM on December 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


A lot of friends of mine swear by day-old stale popcorn. I dunno myself though.

(Dirty secret: people revile canned cranberry sauce, the real gelatinous stuff--I love it!)

Everyone knows crappy pizza is much more edible cold for breakfast the next day.

Shortbread and lots of old-fashioned heavy (rich and dense, compact) cookies and stew-y deep-flavored baked goods esp. cakes (rum cake, whiskey cake, stuff with whole wheat flour, buckwheat, or molasses, etc.) taste much better a day or two after being baked, when the flavor is more nuanced and mellows.
posted by ifjuly at 3:40 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


And yeah, campfire marshmallows that completely freakin' singed black all over. Prolly not so healthy for you, but waaay more delicious.
posted by ifjuly at 3:41 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ginger biscuits when they've been left out and lost their crunchiness so they're a bit soft.
posted by permafrost at 3:45 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Almost every woven fabric (at least those made of good quality cotton and linen) is better when it's been washed and worn a great deal. I guess this is sort of duplicating jeans, but I'm actually thinking of vintage linens (tea towels, sheets) and old cotton dresses. Caveat: stuff that was originally bad quality doesn't age so gracefully.
posted by clerestory at 3:45 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cannot believe no one has said books. New books, or books in good condition even, won't stay open flat for me and I worry about damaging them and I feel like reading them is committing some kind of sin.

Now, a book that's been properly thrown around, and left in a hot car, and stuck in a basement, and maybe later an attic, and gone through five or six owners, and is obviously worn and loved and smells delicious, that is a book. Bonus points if it's gotten wet at some points o the pages are all lovely and crackly.

Well-cared for but worn instruments always sound and look better than new ones to me.

Also, faces. Pristine, unmarked faces on people older than thirty bother me. A face with wrinkles or smile lines or strongly marked eyebrows, that's a face I want to get to know.
posted by WidgetAlley at 3:55 PM on December 5, 2010 [14 favorites]


Deli sandwiches are always better purchased and left in a cupboard for 12-24 hours.
posted by Netzapper at 3:59 PM on December 5, 2010


Corn dogs (especially mini corn dogs) really only achieve perfection when they've been fried past golden brown, to a light milk chocolate color.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:04 PM on December 5, 2010


The Triscuits that have that slightly browned edge. I wish they would cook all Triscuits to that color because it's delicious.
posted by Daily Alice at 4:31 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Peanut butter and honey sandwiches where the honey has soaked into the bread and become sort of crunchy.
posted by annsunny at 4:40 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Winter storms. If it's going to be bad weather, it might as well be full on. (This is assuming I'm inside, dry, and warm)
posted by shinyshiny at 4:54 PM on December 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


Any kind of leftover meal that has been sat inside its own flavours in the fridge for a day or two generally seems to taste much much better than on the day it was made. Chilli is a perfect example.
posted by tumples at 5:08 PM on December 5, 2010


Whoppers malted milk balls that have a teeny crack or hole in the cholocate covering, so the malted milk bit is chewy and carmelly instead of crunchy. I used to think it was a different kind of candy mistakenly mixed in the box, and wondered why I couldn't find that other, better, chewy candy in big boxes, too!
posted by dorey_oh at 5:09 PM on December 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Mu favorite: stale gummy bears, particularly the Harbio mini's. I have three packages of Red Vines that are "aging" in the cupboard right now until they're stale enough to eat. It should be another month before they're ready..
posted by loquat at 5:16 PM on December 5, 2010


Also, faces. Pristine, unmarked faces on people older than thirty bother me. A face with wrinkles or smile lines or strongly marked eyebrows, that's a face I want to get to know.

Yes, I prefer people to look a bit scratched-and-dented as well. Interesting scars, laugh lines, the odd bruise or two, a bit weathered and rough around the edges. Makes a person seem much more real and relatable to me.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:17 PM on December 5, 2010


Movies. See also: Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Cold days! I'd rather get bundled up to walk to class than be too warm for a jacket, but too chilly to go without one.
posted by cp311 at 5:20 PM on December 5, 2010


Stale cheese doodles.
posted by rachaelfaith at 5:32 PM on December 5, 2010


People've said cold pizza, I like reheated pizza way better than fresh out of the oven.

Also I prefer terrible champagne and white zinfandel to good wine.
posted by NoraReed at 5:34 PM on December 5, 2010


For a long time I liked old yogurt, because it gets more firm as it ages (and doesn't actually go bad). But the age of greek/custard-style yogurt has removed the need for me to wait extra months to get tasty firm yogurt.
posted by ch1x0r at 5:48 PM on December 5, 2010


Cold day old pizza for breakfast.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:54 PM on December 5, 2010


Denim jeans, worn out at the knees and frayed at the cuffs - every scratch and tear the reminder of en event.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:05 PM on December 5, 2010


I have a 34 year old canvas Domke camera bag which fits the contour of my hip perfectly. It's been patched up with iron-on patches and gaffers tape, and has a fraying strap. It is the color that dark brown becomes after that much time, with fading and stains. Nobody ever guesses that it generally has somewhere between right and ten thousand dollars worth of hardware inside. Functionally it's at least as good as a new one.
posted by imjustsaying at 6:05 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Real maple syrup, but grade B or (even better if you can find it) grade C; it actually tastes like maple.
posted by usonian at 6:23 PM on December 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


A lot of people ask for "burnt" french fries

That's only because nobody cooks them golden brown any more. If I wanted tubes of mush with skins on them, I would have asked for hot dogs.

Also, hot dogs. The cheaper they are, the better they taste.

And stories. A good event rarely makes a good story. But a worse event makes a better story.
posted by gjc at 7:03 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Converse All*Stars. When you first get them, Chucks are a bit stiff, and the white bits are so pristine. But after months of wearing them, when holes are starting to appear in the uppers, the white has turned to a dingy mottled yellow, and the sole is so thin you can feel the cracks in the pavement, they look like beat-to-heck sneakers but feel like luxury slippers.
posted by fings at 7:19 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


For me, this is cake and pies. Plain old grocery store bakery or cake/pie mix is more enjoyable for me than the too-rich taste of a gourmet cake or pie. Also, cole slaw and tuna salad. Cheaper and less artfully made, the better.

I'd also consider alot of open source software to fit under this classification. Limited in features, unpolished, requiring more engagement from the user than would otherwise be necessary in similar software. Under most circumstances that's what I want out of it.
posted by cowbellemoo at 7:40 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tom Waits.
posted by flabdablet at 8:40 PM on December 5, 2010


Leather work gloves. Felt hats. Notebooks (a special case; best either when brand new and completely unmarked or when mostly full, covers battered, pages all crinkly and textured with writing). Various sorts of hand tools. Bandannas. Trucks. Really worn-in wooden floors. Easy chairs. Bars. The steering on certain models of older domestic family four-door sorts of cars, when it gets just a tiny bit loose and floaty and you kind of roll along on this cloud of unremarkable, obscure automotive mediocrity.

The Stitchgiver.

I really like listening to cassette tapes in the car. They sound a lot worse than CDs and they don't have anything like the cool factor of vinyl, but there's something appealing about them.

Other people have mentioned Velveeta - a terrible industrial product which is often better on grilled cheese or macaroni than any real dairy substance. Similar fake foods are prevalent in the midwest and were everywhere in my childhood. I still think Miracle Whip is infinitely more appealing than any form of real mayonnaise I've ever tried, and once every couple of years I have to track down a jar of Cheez Whiz. Tang and Sunny D are both just wretched, though, and I cannot for the life of me remember what I ever liked about Bacos.

I live in a place with a ton of rich people and vegetarians now, so the salads are great, thanks. Sometimes though I just want a pile of iceberg lettuce with some fucking ranch on it.

Stale popcorn isn't better than fresh popcorn, but it's certainly part of the experience. For best effect leave it in a metal bowl on a trivet on the woodstove over night, or maybe in a slightly greasy brown paper bag on some workbench or car seat.
posted by brennen at 8:47 PM on December 5, 2010


Fig newtons. Stale > non stale.
posted by hecho de la basura at 8:52 PM on December 5, 2010


Nilla Wafers are much better stale.
posted by biddeford at 9:22 PM on December 5, 2010


I love mummified peaches. I found some dried peaches that had been sitting around in the back of a cupboard for a couple of years and they were the best dried peaches I've ever eaten. Oh so dry and thin and sweet. Had to hold them in my mouth for several minutes before chewing.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 9:32 PM on December 5, 2010


Rock. The sugary sticks of rock they sell at the seaside that is, not geological features. It must be left to age, like a fine wine. Several months are required for it to soften, and become a lovely chewy, crumbly stick of sugary deliciousness.
posted by Joh at 9:44 PM on December 5, 2010


Unrestored, but very well maintained, vintage vehicles are often considered more valuable by collectors than vehicles that have been restored to "as new" condition.

In some markets the same goes for antique furniture. It's usually the case in England, but not always here in Australia (we like our 200 year old furniture to look shiny and new..)

And most antique electric kitchen appliance collectors prefer to buy unrestored models. Though I think that one might be about then having the choice to restore or not, and how to go about it, rather than a case of "worse" simply being better.

As a final thought, temples. But it's a highly contentious area. Approaches to restoration and maintenance of temples (such as those in the Angkor Wat complex) differ dramatically depending on what nation is backing the restoration effort. Some go for original materials and minimal intervention, some go for concrete and trying to make things look new. Discussion here.
posted by Ahab at 11:01 PM on December 5, 2010


To go with Ahab's comment about restoration: old Tokyo. The run down, skanky, dirty bits of old Tokyo, including the stuff that managed to survive the fire bombing was wonderful. Everything that hasn't been bulldozed is scheduled to be, and it its place, Mori Buildings will pop up, leaching the soul and character away, but bringing the same luxury brand shopping opportunities available at... every other Mori Building in Tokyo, all encased in steel and glass.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:19 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


De bun bun from da cookup.
There's even a special word for the burnt crusty bits at the bottom of a pot ("bun bun") in my culture. In particular, I find the burnt bits from the bottom of a pot of vegetarian cookup rice especially delicious.
posted by lesli212 at 4:55 AM on December 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


This may be just me, but I prefer bananas just before the green has totally faded, a little chewier and tarter than they become when spots start to appear. I similarly prefer the watermelon adjacent to the rind to that at the center.
posted by condour75 at 7:00 AM on December 6, 2010


I much prefer the economy brand tortilla chips to Doritos, especially for making nachos.
posted by mippy at 7:02 AM on December 6, 2010


Seconding fig newtons. I recently left an opened box of inedible fig newtons in my desk. When I returned to them a couple weeks later, they were delicious!

Also, one of the great joys of my life are stale pepomint lifesavers. When you bite them they're kinda softer and crumbly as opposed to their original shiny and hard jawbreakeresque state. I will buy bags of these and hide them on purpose just so I can discover a package of stale ones later.
posted by mrsshotglass at 8:05 AM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


I like twinkiemisu (twinkies, instant coffee, vanilla pudding, coolwhip) better than tiramisu.
posted by oreofuchi at 8:54 AM on December 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


There's a lore amongst sax players that the horn sounds better (especially something like a mark VI) after the lacquer has worn off. Lots of players won't clean their horns for this reason.

And radios.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:32 AM on December 6, 2010


Dowdyworld is relevant to your query ...
posted by WCityMike at 11:45 AM on December 6, 2010


I'll take a worn dive bar with it's unusual smells and random stickiness and grouchy old men over a shiny fashionable lounge peddling $20 martinis to pretty 20somethings any day.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:18 AM on December 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Real maple syrup, but grade B or (even better if you can find it) grade C; it actually tastes like maple.

"The primary characteristic of maple syrup around which grades are determined is color. Syrup which is the lightest in color (assuming minimum light transmittance standards are met) is assigned the "highest" grade while syrup of darker colors is designated differently. It is perhaps unfortunate that grading standards are based on color in that flavor characteristics are the feature most desired by consumers. To be sure, color and flavor are often related, yet it seem [sic] unfortunate that full-bodied syrups with stronger maple flavors are usually assigned a lower grade."

If you don't wrap cheese tightly enough before putting it back in the fridge, the edges get dry and crumbly. It's awesome, especially with cheddar.
posted by kagredon at 4:27 PM on December 7, 2010


Pre-Olympics Beijing.
posted by kate blank at 8:58 PM on December 9, 2010


Burned hot dogs. Stale Cheetos. Stale popcorn. Secondhand books (bonus if they're annotated by one or more previous readers).
posted by litnerd at 5:41 AM on December 10, 2010


Cookbooks.

I would much rather eat something made from a recipe in a stained, tattered cookbook than a brand-new one. You know the recipes in the beat-up one have been used over and over again. The more stains (meaning the more times used) the better.
posted by timepiece at 11:26 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


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