In many ways, the modern age seems to be the pinnacle of civilization – technology controls our lives and we have more insight than ever into how our bodies work and what we put into them. So, when it comes it food, it’s possible that a modern person might be somewhat reluctant to sample the delights of yesteryear, with the dubious concoctions and unorthodox cuts of meat. Discover the gruesome treats of history in our Top 10 Most Disgusting Dishes from the Past. Warning:may contain unappetizing and downright disgusting images.
10. Roast Tongue
Let’s not mess about – there are going to be a lot of body parts in this countdown. So we’re starting with one of the least obvious things that you might fancy eating – a cow’s tongue. It was a favorite among the Tudor nobles, along with boar meat and venison (the Tudors were very keen on their meat – the poorer people largely subsisted on a thin brew known as pottage). But the disturbing thing is that this particular delicacy is still popular in many places around the world, thanks to its “velvety” and “subtle” texture. If you buy a authentic Mexican taco, check the ingredients and you may well find a bit of tongue in there. Appetizing!
A dessert still made today, the original version of blancmange was slightly more nausea-inducing. It was made with the milk and sugar of the modern version, but with an added twist – chicken! That’s right, it was a sort of meat-y pudding affair and you can recreate it today, if you think it sounds like a crowd-pleasing dish. The word “blancmange” comes from the French phrase “blanc mangier“, meaning “white dish”, although there is some speculation that was it actually “bland mangier“, meaning “bland dish”, referring to the blancmange’s unappealing and unexciting white wobbliness. So it might be bland, it might be white, it might be a dessert, it might contain chicken or even fish. Now wonder it’s never been ultra-popular or fashionable – it’s a weird combination that appeals to pretty much no-one. But apparently it’s good for people who are sick. Because wobbly chicken sweets have never made anyone sicker, of course…
8. Colonial Squirrel Pie
When the first settlers came to America, they had to eat whatever they could find. And so the humble squirrel became a key ingredient, featuring in the tasty-sounding Colonial Squirrel Pie. Apparently, the authorities in Pennsylvania offered hunters 3 pence per squirrel for killing them and squirrel meat became known as the “Chicken of the trees“. Squirrel may also have featured in the original version of the Kentucky state dish – the Kentucky Burgoo – which was a kind of stew that included “whatever walked or flew” in a kind of multi-critter pile up. It is now also affectionately known as roadkill stew, as you can put in any animals that happen to just be lying around by the side of the road. The exact recipe for Colonial Squirrel Pie is lost in the mists of time, but I’m sure the early settlers would approve of the “whatever walked or flew” school of cookery.
7. Iris bulbs in Vinegar
And for a bit of light relief, here’s a dish that’s not meat-based but still bizarre. This one comes from Ancient Greece, a hotbed of learning and culture apparently fueled by the delicious-sounding iris bulbs in vinegar. The iris is a wonderful plant and it can be used medicinally – traditionally to treat dropsy. It’s also used in perfumes. But as a foodstuff? That requires some serious out-of-the-box thinking which, luckily, the Ancient Greeks were very good at. All you need to do is apply a little vinegar and ta-da! An inedible root turns into a tasty treat. Other Ancient Greek favorites included peacock eggs and roasted hare, as well as octopus. Not all just pitta bread and olives then!
Now, sweetmeats sound fairly revolting, don’t they? A blancmange-like blend of sugar and meat maybe? But actually, they are inoffensive sweet confections not dissimilar to our modern day candies. The often-confused sweetbreads, however, are pretty revolting. There’s no delicate way of putting this – they are animal innards. Glands, pancreases, tubes etc – they all fall into the “sweetbreads” category. Nowadays, we’d largely dismiss random animal parts as offal, but certain parts are still considered to be a delicacy in haute cuisine circles. In case you’re confused by the name, it comes from the Old English brǣd, meaning “meat”. The term first appeared around the 16th century, when sweetbreads were considered the height of fine dining, and the sweetness refers to the taste, which is apparently much sweeter than other, more muscly parts of the animal. I’ll take their word for it…