Strange Foods and Downright Weird Foods that People Eat
Deep Fried Twinkie Anyone?
Strange foods not usually found in family cookbooks
A few years ago I collected recipes from family members and put together a family recipe book for our family reunion. In it, the older generation shared many favorite recipes that their kids loved. There was rouladin, sauerbraten, pierogies, and Black Forest Cake. The younger generation shared their best recipes for barbeque, cookies and beer battered fish. Everyone loved having all these favorites in one place.
Now, as I read through that cookbook, I see that it is obviously missing a vital section: Weird Foods that People Eat. Missing is the mustard sandwich that my oldest son used to make out of white bread and mustard. I didn’t add my favorite liverwurst, raisin and relish sandwich. No one mentioned bananas and sour cream or leftover spaghetti with cinnamon, sugar and butter on it. Old favorites like an egg sandwich with grape jelly or peanut butter sandwich with cucumber slices were totally ignored.
But these quirky family food preferences are nothing compared to the strange foods that people eat around the country and around the world.
Fried Pickles Served with Ranch or Blue Cheese Dressing
Fried Pickles and Deep Fried Twinkies on a Stick
Thinking about some of these family favorites made me wonder what unique snacks people around the world might enjoy. Even in the U.S. there are regional favorites that have to be acquired tastes. In some southern towns, local diners offer fried pickles coated with a beer batter, deep fried and served with ranch or blue cheese dressing while deep fried Twinkies, batter dipped, fried and served on a stick are found in New York City.
When I was a kid in the 1950s, my parents took me to New York City often and one of our special treats was a Charlotte Russe purchased from a street vendor. I’ve never seen it sold since then, but I remember it as a delectable piece of cake served in a paper cup and topped with swirled whipped cream and a maraschino cherry. As a little girl, I loved its looks as much as its taste.
But these foods, while they might be a novelty, are definitely not strange foods compared to some other weird foods that people eat! Read on...
Head Cheese - Mmmmm...
Unusual Food Made From Heart, Liver, Lungs or Heads
Haggis, a Scottish dish that seems to be universally disliked, is a pudding made from sheep’s heart, liver and lungs. While it hasn't gained much popularity in the U.S., some of these other equally weird foods have.
Head Cheese or Souse
Head Cheese or souse is made from cow or pig’s head with eyes, ears and brain removed. This is a jellied meat made from cow or pig’s head, sometimes including pigs feet. The cleaned head of the animal is cooked until the meat falls off the bone, then it's seasoned and poured into a mold to jell. When head cheese cools, it can be sliced. My Russian grandfather used to love this, as did my father, and it was often served sliced as a lunchtime treat. I was surprised to find a similar version was popular in my husband’s German farm family. While many of us find the thought of this unusual food repulsive, making head cheese is just one way of making sure that nothing goes to waste when slaughtering an animal.
Squirrel Brains, Anyone?
The Snowshoe Mountain Resort in Appalachia, serves traditional mountain comfort food –squirrel brains. While there is a video showing in detail exactly how squirrel and squirrel brains are prepared at the Appalachian resort, I've chosen to delete it as my audience may not be ready for this. Suffice to say that, while the preparation is unappetizing, the finished dish doesn't look half bad. That doesn't mean I'd eat it, though! Would you?
Rocky Mountain Oysters
Rocky Mountain Oysters - Definitely a Strange Food!
Despite the appetizing look of the dish, here's one that the squeamish may not find enticing once they discover what it is. My personal opinion? Rocky Mountain Oysters are only a dish that cowboys would enjoy eating.
Rocky Mountain Oysters – Also sometimes called sweetbreads, Rocky Mountain Oysters, or Prairie Oysters, are actually calf testicles. They are prepared by peeling (ugh!), then slicing, breading and frying the ...uh...oysters. Rocky Mountain Oysters seem to be more popular in cattle country like Texas and Oklahoma. They are not something usually seen on menus in the Northeast!
Corn Smut - What a delicacy!
Corn Smut, or Huitlacoche...Yum!
Corn smut, called huitlacoche in Mexico, is considered a delicacy in Mexico and certain gourmet Mexican restaurants in the U.S. Perhaps if no one told us that huitlacoche is another name for "corn smut", a blue fungus that forms galls on corn, it would seem more enticing. When cooked properly, the color of Huitlacoche changes to black. It is said to have an earthy taste similar to mushrooms, and is eaten as filling in quesadillas, in omlets and succotash and in soups.
Menudo – Another traditional Mexican dish, menudo is a soup made from beef stomach, lime, cilantro, oregano, onions and spices. This is a traditional dish, and restaurants in the Southwest often advertise it as a special around holiday time.
Feet, Guts and Other Spare Parts
Pig’s uterus, kidneys, chicken feet, tripe are all components for regional and ethnic dishes found in larger cities with diverse cultures. Probably all delicious when prepared properly...
Balut - Fertilized duck egg
Balut, Duck Egg with Embryo...Strange Food, Indeed!
Balut is a fertilized duck egg, but not just fertilized, it has the actual baby duck embryo inside. Hard boiled duck egg with duck embryo inside is a Filipino treat that is sold by street vendors in the Philippines. It has not quite caught on in the U.S. Though it can be found at Filipino markets, few restaurants will offer balut.
Lutefisk - Strange Food ... Or Is It Food?
Lutefisk is just a Scandinavian dish made of de-boned, salted, white fish that is dried and then soaked in lye. Amazingly, the process for making Lutefisk takes a couple of weeks involving drying, salting, soaking in water, soaking in lye (yes lye!), soaking in water again and finally cooking. The amazing part of this is that anyone thinks the finished product is worth all this trouble. The lye dissolves the protein and the resulting soup is then cooked and eaten. That is, if it hasn't been left in the lye too long. Then it turns to soap. Lutefisk is popular with Scandinavian populations in Winsconsin, Minnesota and British Columbia. Ummm...pass...
Kopi Luwak - Civet Coffee
Kopi Luwak Coffee
The most expensive coffee in the world!
Kopi Luwak coffee - This gourmet coffee is processed with the help of a small animal, The Palm Civet, an Asian relative of the raccoon. In fact, Kopi Luwak coffee, also sometimes called Civet coffee, is the rarest and most expensive coffee in the world. You can try it yourself for only $400 a pound ($25/oz) through Amazon.com!) Oh, you're wondering where the palm civet comes into the picture? It turns out, the palm civet eats the cherries from coffee trees and excretes the seeds, the coffee beans. Somewhere between the eating and the pooping, the coffee beans turn into the expensive and much sought after gourmet coffee beans. The civet poop is collected, the coffee beans are dug out of it and it sold as the best and most expensive coffee in the world. You can judge for yourself for only $400 a pound ($25/oz) through Amazon.com!
Strange and Weird Foods Poll
Have you tried any strange and unusual foods?
There you have it...Downright weird foods that people actually eat
Foods highlighted in this article have been deliberately selected from weird foods enjoyed in the U.S. If you are among those who enjoy some of the unusual dishes mentioned here, please don't take offense. We applaud your fortitude!
Copyright ©2012 Stephanie Henkel
*Update: Friends and readers have pointed out that I've missed some important weird foods that are enjoyed in various parts of the U.S. Honorable mention goes to rattlesnake, turtle, crawfish, periwinkle, chicken feet, conch, snails...
Do you enjoy any strange or unusual foods in your family? Do you have regional or cultural specialties that others might find strange or weird? Please comment below!