"Chicken feet. When I was in elementary school my good friend was Chinese and his family made a lot of traditional foods. So one night I was over there and had chicken feet and not wanting to be impolite, even though I thought it tastes terrible I said, 'Oh man, this is so good!'
Fast forward to a year after we graduated college. We were both back in town and decided to meet up at his families house for dinner.
His mom made a special meal of chicken feet because she remembered how much I liked them. Once again I lied and said they were delicious; they were not, still terrible."
"We used to have to go eat once a week at my in-law's house, and every week was a disgusting adventure of sadness. One of the first weeks, my mother-in-law made chili, and being from Texas I was excited to hear that's what was for dinner. Except this chili was made by pouring a bottle of ketchup into a saucepan and adding ground beef - it was basically ketchup soup. Another week, the father-in-law grilled steaks and my hopes were quickly dashed when I told him I liked mine medium rare and was quickly informed that everyone got theirs the same way - well done. But not just well done, burnt to a crisp, drier than the Sahara done. Other things were just weird, like smothering pork chops with mustard or deep frying EVERYTHING. I have some wicked IBS so each week was like a trip to a torture chamber for my guts. Oh, and I didn't eat this one, but once the mother-in-law apparently bought tins of a seafood medley cat food and made sandwiches with it to serve at a potluck, labeling them 'seafood sandwiches' because she thought it sounded fancy."
"A few days after I started dating my now-wife, she invited me over to her place for dinner. Pork roast, baked potatoes, green beans etc. Needless to say, I was looking forward to it for many reasons, not the least of which was that I somehow was dating a beautiful woman who also apparently could cook. I show up at the scheduled time after getting out of work and sit down to the table with a glass of JD while she whizzes around the kitchen wrapping things up. She comes trotting out with our plates as happy and proud as could be and serves dinner. I took one look and knew I was doomed (as I had worked in a few restaurants up to this point and grew up in a family of cooks), but figured I could man my way through it. The beans and baked potato were fine, the pork roast, however, was not. It was like eating a hockey puck that had taken a trip through the pits of Hell. I casually asked for the salt and ketchup claiming that I like my pork roast with those and went to town. 30 minutes later I had a gut full of leather and veggies and was thanking Zeus that I was able to get through it after kindly turning down seconds due to a 'late lunch at work.'
Fast forward a few months and we were having a grill out. I am assembling my burger and my girlfriend passes me the ketchup which I (without even thinking) decline because I do NOT like ketchup on anything. The table goes silent, a cold wind blows through the air and it dawns on me -- I just blew my cover. Needless to say, the next few minutes were not pleasant. Fortunately for me, her dad came to my rescue and said, 'Darling, I saw the pork roast you made and I wouldn't have fed it to my dog let alone another person and this guy ate every bit you gave him. Either he was really desperate or he REALLY loves you so you need to keep that in mind before you rip him in half over the ketchup snafu.' Here we are now almost 9 years later and every once in a while at dinner, I'll ask her to pass me the ketchup -- if I want to be ignored for the rest of the night."
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"The day after Thanksgiving, my wife, my father and I went out for the day. It started getting around dinner time and we're about to head back and we pass a BBQ truck. Ribs seemed like a great idea. My dad calls my mom to see what she wants, but she says no, don't get ribs, she's been working in the kitchen all day on an amazing feast. So much for ribs. We get home and find that the amazing all-day meal is turkey cheesecake. Basically, it was stuffing for the crust, gravy and turkey and cream cheese blended together into a slurry and baked into the stuffing crust. Let me repeat that- baked turkey slurry, and we could have had ribs!"
"I rented a room in a nice house a while back, and I had a wonderful Filipina landlord who was very generous to her tenants. As is Filipino culture apparently, it is imperative that everyone under your roof is well-fed at all times. So it was great - a constant supply of cooked rice, tilapia, sausage, as well as some of the more exotic Filipino foods. I actually liked the blood soup, and my tastebuds have beholden the glorious taste of beef glazed with peanut butter. Even had a couple balut, which is a hard-boiled duck egg with a partially grown fetus inside, so you get a little crunchy surprise.
But the one thing she cooked that knocked me over and I just could not for the life of me finish was a fish casserole. The first bite was just such a surprise, an explosion of fishy taste with an overabundance of salt that immediately dehydrated my mouth. It was absolutely inedible.
I was hoping somebody would point out that something was wrong, but I then just assumed that maybe I got a pocket of concentrated juices and salt that just congealed in a corner like Satan's jello. Everyone around me was enjoying it normally; I just had to have gotten a bad piece.
So I took a bite from the other end of the piece and it was even worse. Even saltier, even fishier, it was like somebody compressed Dutch Harbor into a diabolical marble of antimatter and I just chomped down into it. I really was about to throw up, the fish smell was just overpowering.
After that second bite I realized that was the most polite thing I will ever do for another human being in my life. I then pretend to check my phone and pretend that I got an urgent text from a friend, and excuse myself, but I know I can't just leave the fish casserole sitting there uneaten while I cower away hungry and coughing up salt in my room. So in a wild gambit, I say, 'Hey, I gotta take this, but you don't mind if I finish this over in my room?'
My landlord smiles warmly, that welcoming wonderful grin. 'Sure, go ahead dear.' And now I feel even worse. She just wants to see me happy and she's so loving to all her tenants and I'm about to be a huge jerk by lying to her and privately disposing of that casserole without her finding out.
But I take another look at that dish and the smell hits me again. Logical thinking and empathy are out the door, Darwinian instinct takes over, and I do what I must.
Ten minutes later, as I'm hearing dishes clearing out, I make my move. I duck into the shared bathroom with my plate in hand, locking the door behind me. I've cut it up into three pieces, and three flushes later (with plenty of Febreeze sprayed around the toilet) it is gone. I duck back into my room, count to 10, then come back out with an empty plate in hand.
'Ah, hey!' My landlord notices. 'You ate it all in ten minutes? Here, I can get you another if you want.'
Jesus Christ, come on. I already lied to this wonderful woman once and defiled both her cooking and the shared bathroom, do I have to lie to her again!?
I have to lie to her again.
'Yeah sorry, my friend's having some girlfriend issues,' I lie through my teeth, 'I uhh...' The idea hits me: 'I have to go give him some company.'
'Okay!' My landlord warmly smiles again, erroneously thinking about how much of a good man I am. 'If you can't drive home, call me I can drive you home safe.'
I drove off. I went three blocks down the main road, pulled into a Jack in the Box and ordered a burger and curly fries, all the while feeling crippled with guilt and self-loathing. I was imagining her face if she found out I flushed a meal she worked so hard on to feed me out of the kindness of her own heart, that I ditched her at the table of her own meal on a fabricated lie, just to see her warm welcoming smile fade into a disappointed saddened scowl, it was overwhelming my psyche.
I was just too scared to honestly say, 'Thank you very much but this is actually too salty and fishy for my own tastes, somebody else could have my piece if they wish.' And because of the guilt, the disappointment in myself, and that pitiful attempt as misguided politeness, that burger and curly fries was the worst meal I ever ate."
"It was in super rural New Hampshire in 1989. I was eleven and visiting relatives I had never met before with my grandpa. They were his age, around 55, no kids. The wife seemed very stern, although in hindsight I just wasn't used to New Englanders. We go to sit for lunch and it is gristly sliced canned ham with the jelly still on it, raw onions, and tomato aspic aka savory jelly. Eleven-year-old me was disgusted. Grandpa saw me pucker up and whisper-shouted in my ear, 'This is the best they can afford. Eat.' I ate."
"My ex made some pasta with a homemade sauce. Well, it looked good, but the moment I brought it to my mouth I could sense there was something wrong. It was the strangest combination of flavors I've ever experienced. She put Chinese five spice, cinnamon, chives, cloves, garlic powder, onion powder, nutmeg, basically every spice she owned, also a ton of salt and a bunch of hot peppers and fruits and vegetables she had lying around. I ate as much as I could, then grabbed a drink and suggested we watch a movie to get out of finishing. I lasted thirty minutes after 'dinner' before my body rejected the 'food' I'd just eaten. It was torture going in and coming out. I did the dishes after I emptied my body and threw out all the leftovers (she made enough to feed a small village). I told her I spilled it while I was cleaning up. Anyway, that sauce still haunts me. The pasta was cooked nicely, though, so I guess she had that going for her."
"When I was traveling through the Mongolian desert, our host nomad family served us what they called Mongolian Barbecue. It is not what you find in American restaurants. What we got was goat and sheep bones covered in meat and thick slabs of fat. When I tried to get away with only eating the meat and leaving the pure fat behind, the Mongolian patriarch pointed at the fat and made it clear that it had to go down my throat. They had killed their own goats to cook it for us, so down the throat it went. Bonus awfulness: One of the guys in my group was a vegetarian. Thankfully he was a trooper and ate just as much meat as the rest of us. When in Rome - eat some fat."
"My mother was having a bad day once, we're talking lose-your-sanity-and-cry bad. Literally, everything she planned was going wrong and in her mind, the house was falling apart. Anyway, dad gets home from work late, and mom is making dinner. This dinner is going to be the one thing that she gets right today, it is going to be her lifeline to not have a nervous breakdown. It's quiche. My mother, a fantastic cook, has never made quiche but was determined to succeed at something this horrible day. We set the table, and she brings the dish out, hands nearly shaking, disheveled, on the verge of tears, and says, 'Here we go!'
Imagine a sponge, slightly moist, with a hint of cheese and limp vegetables - that was this quiche. It was terrible. We all knew it, all five sons and dad. However, mom has never made food that wasn't great, and we knew it wasn't her fault, so we were happy to choke it down. We finish as quickly as possible and loudly proclaim, 'Mmmmmm, that was great, mom! Thank you!' Knowing we're not boys to leave food on the table, she happily says, 'Oh, get some more!' I'm the oldest, and in that moment my father and I made eye contact, and even though I was only 12, there was an understanding, a moment of clarity between us. He scooped up our plates and said, 'Eat up, boys!' And led the charge.
Not one piece of quiche was left. Partly because of our need to help mom, and partly because we couldn't imagine it being leftover for the next day. Sometimes, with no words spoken, eating the bad really is the best option."
"Guinea pig on my last night in Peru. Two things made it worse than it had to have been, though. The first was spending the ten minutes before it was served to me with the sweet old woman who cooked it who was trying to explain the texture to me and finishing with 'bubble gum.' I made peace with that and thought to myself that it shouldn't matter too much if the flavor isn't horrible. Then it was served in front of me with fried, crispy skin dotted with at least a dozen tufts of fur."
"I stayed at a friend's place when I was in middle school. All she did was rave about how awesome her mom's banana pancakes were, and how nobody could resist them. Morning comes, and I'm served with a pancake burned to a crisp on the outside (nearly black). I took one bite of it and come to discover not only is the mix on the inside raw and uncooked, but the mushy, pulverized banana was not ripe AT ALL. I had to swallow huge bites without chewing (almost vomiting the entire time) to get through my one pancake. Later I remembered that when she told me about the pancakes she mentioned how people 'inhaled them.' I can only assume this is because they didn't want to be impolite and had to get it down before it could come back up."
"On a meditation retreat at a Buddhist monastery, I had some food I could barely handle. First, there are monastic rules that forbid eating after noon, so on a retreat people will eat as the monks do. This means breakfast, lunch, then fasting until breakfast the next day. Naturally, most of us would load up our plates for lunch well aware this was going to be what held us over for the rest of the day. The food was generally good - some Asian cuisine, some American. One particular day, a southeast Asian family brought food for the entire 30 person retreat as well as the monks as part of a celebration and donation, quite a generous gift. I had no idea what anything was, but I loaded my plate up as usual and sat down to eat.
It was a bit spicy. I was sweating. Some bites actually tasted more like chemicals and fire than food. It might have even been 'good' if that's your thing, but I'm a guy that struggles with jalapeno poppers sometimes. But everything the monastery was providing was for free, and everything the monastery received was through donations, so it would be quite rude to not finish my plate. Even more so since this family had just provided an entire buffet for 40 people. I managed to get it all down with about two gallons of water, and I was sincerely thankful to the family for their generosity, but man, that was difficult to eat. It wasn't a matter of anything being 'gross' rather that it was painful. Surprisingly didn't have any stomach issues later in the day though."
"A person I know made what she called 'gumbo.' It was every leftover in the fridge from the month dumped into a pot and cooked, then served over noodles. When she served it, the taste was awful. She had Italian meals, Mexican meals, soups, steaks, chicken, every veggie imaginable, fruit, bread stuff, etc. The first time I forced it down. The second time I just couldn't because I saw inside her fridge before she cooked the monstrosity. Her fridge looked like a science experiment gone wrong. Meat (or maybe cake), cucumber bits floating in liquid, yellowed potato and macaroni salad, something that had purple fur growing on it... I have no idea what some of the stuff was. It was so gross!"
"My mother in-law's lasagna. It is a crime. She used zucchini and cottage cheese. Coming from a very Italian family, her interpretation of lasagna offended my moral fiber. What makes it worse is that she believes the only better lasagna is from Olive Garden. I cried. My ancestors cried. It was a tragic time."
"I was invited to dinner by an upstairs neighbor of an apartment building I had just moved into. He seemed nice. The building was full of studios so I figured it would be good to know somebody in case I needed help or whatever.
The meal consisted of salad made of mint leaves (just the mint leaves, like chewing mint leaves as lettuce) with just olive oil drizzled over it and whole salted peanuts on top. I figured the fish couldn't be that much worse, but it was a horrifyingly dried, baked fish (of indeterminate species) with some sort of very watery bean soup/boiled beans on the side that tasted like tea, and no other flavoring. Dessert was a mandarin orange peeled and pulled apart sloppily by him right in front of me and then he arranged the mangled orange segments on a plate.
I stayed out of politeness and then escaped and proceeded to avoid him the entire year I lived there."
"When I was studying abroad in Japan, the first time my host mom served me natto (a traditional Japanese meal made from soybeans) for breakfast, I pretended it was more delicious than I thought it was (when in reality it was worse than I thought it was). Joke's on me though, because after that she started serving natto EVERY DAY. I've never felt so simultaneously healthy and disgusted."
"A long time ago we adopted a family in a really bad part of town for Christmas which basically meant we bought them presents and ate dinner with them and whatnot. I enjoyed it. Anywho, we get to this place and the smell of these tamales is permeating through the house. The only problem is they're really really bad tamales, like bad husks with bad meat and a bad cream sauce on top. So we sit down for dinner, have our 45-minute prayer and start eating. The lady who made them looks so proud of them, I couldn't help but pretend that they were the best thing I had ever eaten in my entire life. The only thing they had to drink was Sunny Delight and I wondered if the lady saw me cram a giant fork-full in my mouth and then take a huge gulp of Sunny-d to keep the gagging at a minimum. After we left, we drove about 5 minutes out of the bad part of town, I pulled over and yacked up a tamale and sunny delight slushie. I have yet to drink Sunny-D or eat another tamale since. Somewhere I have a photo that they took of all of us sitting for dinner, a fake smile plastered on my face with the eyes of someone who is being forced to eat their loved ones bodies; good memories."
"I was taken to a Chinese restaurant by a friend. I can't remember the exact type of cuisine but the restaurant was supposed to be like home cooking. One dish were these deep fried wrinkled tube-shaped things in a bowl. I asked my friend what it was and he said, 'I don't know how to explain it but it's part of the inside of the pig - you should try it.' My response was, 'Sure! I'll try anything. Besides, it's deep fried, how bad can it be?'
I tossed one of those suckers into my mouth and started chewing. For about three seconds it tasted fine until this blast of what smelled like poop - yes literally poop - overwhelmed my sense of taste and smell. I kept grinding away and swallowed and grabbed a glass of water to help relieve the taste but the stench of feces was still in my mouth for the rest of the evening no matter what I ate. I found out later that the dish was deep fried pig intestines and sometimes you get pieces that basically go all the way to the exit point and as a bonus sometimes pieces 'aren't as clean as they should be.'"
"One of my college roommates was just figuring out how to cook. He made an elaborate breakfast of eggs, toast, and bacon - the bacon being prepared by waving it at the stovetop from a safe distance. He insisted it was perfectly cooked and, not wanting to be rude, I ate it all. It didn't taste all that bad, but it had the mouthfeel of warmed over rubber bands dipped in peanut oil."
"Fried tarantulas. I visited family in Cambodia and my aunt and uncle were taking us out to the countryside and bought some snacks at a pit stop. I didn't want to be rude because they were so kind to me. I spent half an hour nibbling on spider legs and holding back tears. I told them I was crying because everything looked so beautiful."
"When I first started dating my husband, we were watching a movie at his place and I told him I was hungry. I think he panicked and said he would try to make me a sandwich. For some reason, he didn't think a normal turkey sandwich would suffice, so he microwaved two hot dogs and cut them in half, melted some mozzarella cheese, and added some turkey slices. I ate it but it was the worst sandwich I have ever had."