What’s the most basic of human needs? Finding food, of course. And people have gotten pretty creative about using the ingredients at hand. Some of the foods listed here seem downright disgusting, but consider what you’d eat if there were no grocery stores nearby.
- In Mexico, people sometimes fill their tacos with escamole, the larva of a venomous ant that is found deep in the roots of agave plants. The baby insects have a nutty flavor and a texture similar to cottage cheese. You’d need a lot of them to fill one taco!
- Under the Khmer Rouge regime, a brutal dictatorial force in Cambodia in the 1970s, people were starving. They began eating tarantulas to stay alive. Today, tarantulas have become a favorite food for Cambodians. They’re deep-fried and often sold at street markets.
- In Vietnam, people eat Balut, a developing duck egg. They boil the egg, crack open the top, add some vinegar, salt, and chile, slurp out the liquid, and then eat the rest—crunchy feathers, bones, and all.
- How about jellied moose nose? In Canada, people slice and boil moose nose with onions and spices. Then they pull out the hairs and simmer the meat with a broth that makes a thick jelly. Waste not, want not.
- Have you ever grown corn? Sometimes it becomes infected with corn smut, a nasty gray-blue fungus that forms in small bulbs on the corn. In Mexico, corn smut is considered a delicious treat. It’s called huitlacoche and it has an earthy flavor.
- Cows aren’t the only dairy animals. In Mongolia, people drink airag, a tart, sour, slightly alcoholic drink made from horse milk that’s been allowed to ferment—sit around until it goes bad.
- Casu marzu literally means rotting cheese. In Italy, pecorino cheese is allowed to sit around until the larvae of cheese flies (maggots) infest it. They tunnel through the cheese, creating an oozing mess. Delicious!
- Rotten shark meat, anyone? In Iceland, Hakari is made by burying a Greenland shark in a shallow sandy grave. It sits rotting for two months before it’s dug up, cut into slices and hung in the open air for another couple of months to dry. It has an overpowering smell, but islanders love it.
- Remember the stinky rotten egg from Charlotte’s Web? The farm animals were highly offended by it. But in China, rotten eggs are a delicacy. Known as century eggs or hundred-year eggs, the eggs are covered with salt, clay, and ash and allowed to sit for months until the yolk turns green and the egg stinks to high heavens. Yum.
- You know the Mother Goose rhyme about the blackbirds in a pie, but how about fish with their heads protruding through the pie crust so they seem to be looking at you? Stargazey pie is an English dish that began in the small Cornish town of Mousehole during the 16th Apparently, a brave sailor weathered a storm to haul in a catch of fish large enough to feed the starving villagers. Every December 23, residents of Mousehole still honor the sailor who saved the town by making this pie for the Tom Bawcock’s Eve celebration.
Questions and Answers
Question: Some of these foods seem like they’d make people seriously ill. Does anyone ever get sick?
Answer: Probably sometimes, but people seem to adapt to the food in their area. It’s possible that they’ve developed “strong stomachs” to handle the food.
Read about more foods that will make your stomach turn.