Ray's List of Weird and Disgusting Foods
I HAVE A THEORY that many (all?) cultures invent a food that is weird or disgusting to non-initiates as a sort of a "marker." The kids start out hating it, but at some point they cross over and perpetuate it (perpetrate it) on the next generation. Then they nudge each other when foreigners gasp.
Many cultures pride themselves on their alcoholic drinks, as in "white lightning," mai-tai, tequila, pulque, chong, vodka, schnapps, and so on. You are accepted if you can match their prowess. There are too many similar local drinks to warrant listing them here.
Sometimes one group disparages another for their eating habits, as in the word "Eskimo" (eater of raw meat) resented by the people whose name for themselves is "Inuit." I believe the food laws of Middle Eastern cultures have more to do with distinguishing your group from the neighboring groups than with health concerns or sacred scriptures, which adapted to the cultural norms.
Foods don't make it onto this list just because they are generally unpopular. President Bush hated broccoli. So what? Foods on this list have some status as a cultural marker. Sometimes it's a tough call. For example, "donuts" (doughnuts, originally "oly cakes") are distinctly American, and I've met many French people who despise them. Chacun a son gout (They gave my son gout) as they say. Do they qualify as "weird-disgusting" or not? Peanut butter was invented in America, widely reviled in Europe. What do you think? I think it stands as a bit of Americana. Cary Grant once ordered a peanut butter sandwich in New York's 21 club.
Thomas Hamilton comments that USers are actually unusual in eating so *few* parts of an animal, so the fact that, say, the French eat brains isn't really a cultural marker. The marker is that USers don't. From: email@example.com (Thomas Hamilton)
Don't bother to respond "But lots of people like X"... that's exactly the point. That's why "X" is ON the list, not off it. See also the entry below for FRUITCAKE.
Don't bother to respond "But this food is also located in..." Yes, important food immigrates even faster than language. Cool. Chile peppers and potatoes are are nearly ubiquitous now.
Here's my list so far. What can you add? (It's arranged roughly geographically, going east from longitude 0.)
England: Warm Beer, Blood Pudding, Jellied Eels, Spotted Dick, Liver and Lights, Kidney Pie, Brawn, Bubble and Squeak, Fried Bread, Crisps with Flavors
Scotland: Haggis, Irn Bru, Blood (Black) Pudding, Herring Roe, Potted Hough, Sheep's Head, Ox Tongue, Oxtail, White Puddings, Powsowdie
Wales: Laver Bread, Rook Pie, Lardy Cake
Sweden: Sylta (Head Cheese)
Norway: Lutefisk, Gravlax
Denmark: Oellebroed, Skipsol, Beer-Jelly, Sild, Gamle Ole, Gammel Dansk, Nordsoe Olie, Rullepoelse, Flaeskesvaer, Skaerpekoed, Rastefisk, Grind, Spaek
Netherlands: Salted Horsemeat Sandwiches, Raw Salted Herring, Peanut Butter Sauce on French Fries, Hete Bliksem
France: Escargot, Tripe, Frog's Legs, Bleu Cheese, Roquefort, Steak Tartare, Brains, Truffles, Camel's Feet, Boudin
Spain: Criadillas, Morcillas
European Jews: Schmaltz, Gefilte Fish, Kishke
Germany: Limburger, Bierkase, Blutwurst, Kuddeln, Ochsenmaul-Salat, Schweinsmagen, Curry Wurst
Italy: Cynar and Campari liqueurs, Carpaccio, Cibreo, Song Birds, Gorgonzola
Sicily: Ricci di Mare
Mediterranean: Sheep's head. The whole thing, cooked and skinned. Includes the eyeballs. Cheese (what a concept!) Octopus, Cicada, Octopus and Squid in Ink
Russia: Borscht, Kvass, Caviar, Vesiga
Africa: Blood fresh from living livestock, Grasshoppers, Okra, Fufu, Gari, Urine, Ugali, Clay, Goat's Head, Chitoum
Central Asia: Kumiss (Fermented Mare's Milk), Yogurt, Sheep Fat
China: Bird's Nest Soup, Sea Cucumber, Jellyfish, Rat, Snake, Drunken Shrimp, Jelled Blood, Bear Paws, Cho Do Fu, Tiger Testicles, Owl Soup, Thousand-Year Eggs, Sa Kuo Yu Toe, Fish Flotation Bladder, Bao Bing (Shaved Ice), Pork Uterus, Camel (and Cow) Tendons, Oyster Sauce, Snake Wine
Tibet: Yak Milk (Rancid), Tea with Yak Butter
India: Cow Urine, Human Urine
Southern India: Blazing Curry
Burma: a MAE oo, Ngapi-jaw
Hong Kong: Monkey Brains
Southeast Asia: Durian, Fermented Fish-Paste, Dog Meat, Snakes, Ngapi-Jaw, Bull Penis, Sour Candies, Fish Eyes
Thailand: Kapi, Grasshoppers, Snake Blood, Water Bugs
Indonesia: Blachan, Dog-Meat Restaurants, Bats
Malaysia: Ice Kachang (Shaved Ice) Belachan
Philippines: Baalut, Bagong (fish paste), Diniguan
Australia: Vegemite, Marmite, Kangaroo, Witchety Grub, Beetroot, Honey Ants
Papua-New Guinea: Sago Worms
Borneo: Monitor Lizard
Korea: Kim Chee, Silk Worm Grubs, Tiger Penis Soup
Japan: Fugu, Natto, Sashimi, Shiokara, Tofu, Miso, Uni, Mountain Potato, Seaweed, Takosu, Takoyaki, Tempeh, Crickets, Unagi, Gingko Seeds, Okra (Raw!)
Hawaii: Poi, Spam Musubi
Arctic Alaska: Blubber, Stinkheads
U.S. in general: Spam, Chewing Gum, Iceberg Lettuce, Bread, Beer, Peanut Butter
U.S. Northwest: Geoduck Clams
U.S. West: Prairie Oysters, Fried Pork Rinds, Blood-Rare Steak, Rattlesnake
U.S. Midwest: White Castle Sliders, Jell-O Salad, Fruitcake, American Cheese Food Product, such as Velveeta, in Fried Cheese Balls, Cincinnati Greek Chili
U.S. South: Grits, Crawfish, Hog Maws And Snouts, Etc Dropped Fowl, Chicken Feet, Chitterlings, Iced Tea, Ramps, Turkey Deep-Fried Whole (Fried Everything) Chicken-Fried Steak, Dill Pickles Fried
U.S. East: Souse, Pork Loaf
U.S. Northeast: Scrapple, Cod Liver Oil, Pumpkin Pie, Raw Oysters, Lobster, Fiddlehead Ferns
Canada: Sugar Pie, Poutine, Oreilles De Christ, Cod Tongues, Cod Cheeks, Pemmican, Cracklings, Seal Flipper Pie, Spruce Beer
Mexico: Tequila Worms, Menudo, Habanero & Jalapeno Peppers, Mole, Chichirrones (Chitterlings), Ceviche, Grasshoppers
The following glossary of explanations is alphabetically arranged.