"My grandfather's cousin was dating a man who died quite suddenly and left her heartbroken. Grandfather goes to her house to support her. I go to support my grandfather. She's a mess, but brings us two glasses of what looks like water. It's not. It's cactus juice. I'm not sure WHAT cactus juice is supposed to taste like, but this tastes like a handful of salt left out in the desert for a month and then strained through a sandal. The two of us sip at this horrific drink, nodding politely and trying to hide the fact that we're gagging. We finish the drinks quickly and put them down. She fills them again before asking, and here we go again! Many tears flowed that evening."
"I ate with a very poor Iban family in East Malaysia. They served curry chicken (which was awesome), boiled grass, and gutter fish. I watched them walk outside and pick handfuls of grass from the side of the road and toss it in boiling water; tasted like boiled grass, surprise surprise. The fish was caught from the gutters, also outside the house. The gutter had about 8 inches of water in it. You couldn't see into the water because most of it was mud, but if you tossed a rock into it you could see a bunch of these fish swim away to hide in the mud again. It was terrible. It was a trash fish that eats the sewage and trash that runs into the gutters, and it tasted like a port-o-potty smells. I ate the whole thing. It was all they had and I was amazed that they were willing to share."
"My mother in law, on one of our first meetings, made a terrible meal for my wife and me to welcome me into the family. Now this woman hated cooking and took that out on the food. She was an Irish home cook who would put the vegetables in about 6 hours before mealtime if left to her own devices so they'd taste like nothing come time to eat. She'd then drink the water they were boiled in which, disguising as it sounds, was probably really tasty and full of nutrients and flavor that had boiled out of the vegetables. Anyway, this one meal was a stir fry. She didn't have a recipe for stir fry but how hard could it be? The method is in the name. So she put a bunch of vegetables in a frying pan. Didn't have any oriental spices but she had ginger wine. And then for the noodles, she had some dried super noodles (if you're not in the UK think the least authentic, most anglicized version of ramen). After a while, this all wasn't coming together how she wanted so she put it all in the oven and baked it. Baked stir fry. And yeah it was foul. Crisped up instant noodles, flavorless vegetables and the gloopy remains of the concentrated ginger wine. But I wanted to appear respectful so I tucked into about half of it before I noticed my wife and her mum had both taken one bite and then just stopped eating. We sent out for a Chinese instead."
"Still-moving raw octopus tentacles. When someone looks you in the eye and says, 'You must chew many times or you die,' then you might not be eating the best dish in the world. This was in Korea - during my first tour here. I was with a bunch of other people having a get-together with some locals and we were partying hard at this giant 'BBQ.' Anyway, once everyone was good and having fun, they brought out this plate of something out of my nightmares. These things were still wiggling around and because of the specific purpose of this get-together, I had to indulge our hosts. Anyway, I don't really remember fine details, just that I chewed for probably two minutes straight out of sheer terror, then swallowed. I don't really remember a specific taste. After that, we were hanging out of the windows of our car on the way home vomiting on the highway. No more tentacles for this guy."
"My grandmother is not a good cook. Quite the opposite, but she thinks she's a gourmet chef, and she's very sensitive about her cooking. My grandmother once gave me a big bowl of soup. I took one spoonful, stopped, and insisted that something was wrong. Too much fish? Some kind of seafood? Maybe some ingredient had gone bad? I got yelled at, literally screaming, top of the lungs, yelled at. I asked my grandmother, no, seriously, have you tasted this? Of course she had, she replied, the soup was fine. So I finished the soup, every last drop because it was the polite thing to do. It was incredibly awful, but I figured the soup had to be okay, just particularly foul tasting for whatever reason. For obvious reasons, my family has the ability to choke down food while ignoring the taste and any urge to vomit. Of course, the truth was, she hadn't tasted the soup, she just lied and said she did, in order to win the argument. To be fair, she did apologize when she discovered the melted remains of the plastic container at the bottom of the pot. This didn't make me feel better."
"At the time of this story I was a 16-year-old high school student, had just entered my first semi-serious relationship, and my boyfriend at the time had invited me over for dinner to meet the family. And by family, I don't just mean mom and dad, I mean mom, dad, sister, grandma, aunt, and uncle were all coming to this dinner to meet me for the first time. I was understandably pretty nervous and wanted desperately to make a good impression so I wore a cute-but-casual outfit and resolved to be the perfect, polite guest. I arrive at their house and everything is going great. Then the mom tells me that she hopes I'm hungry because she's made a seafood feast for dinner. My stomach drops. I hate seafood. It grosses me out and every time I tried it as a kid it just never sat right in my stomach. So I had always avoided eating any aquatic animal like the plague. However, not wanting to come across as rude, and being the nervous awkward teenager that I was, I panic, smile weakly back at her, and force out a, 'Great, I love seafood' in response. And with that one sentence, I had sealed my fate.
The first course starts and a pungent bowl of soup with whole shrimp bobbing in a thick, creamy broth is placed in front of me. I give up on breathing through my nose and nod along with everyone as the table praises the food. I finish the whole bowl. The second course is lobster thermidor, a 'French dish consisting of a creamy mixture of cooked lobster meat, egg yolks, and brandy (often cognac), stuffed into a lobster shell', according to Wikipedia. It was as thick, rich, and lobstery as it sounds. I steel myself and dig into the food. At this point in the meal I've started sweating. I can no longer contribute to the table conversation and keep my head down as I shakily bring forkful after forkful of lobster to my lips. When my plate is clear I take the first chance I get to excuse myself from the table and try not to sprint to the bathroom. When I look at myself in the mirror I barely recognize the girl staring back at me. My forehead is glistening with a fine sheen of sweat, my skin is a gaunt gray color, and my hair is sticking to the back of my neck. I briefly consider leaving but decide that I'm too far in at this point. I have to see this dinner through. I splash some water on my face, pinch my cheeks to bring some color back to my complexion, and return to the table.
There is only one course to go, and I envision a nice, light, lemon sorbet helping to calm my now churning digestive tract. I should have known not to dream of such relief. Dessert is a dense, dark chocolate cake with orange garnishes. I take a deep breath, give myself a mental pep talk and start eating. But it's too much. The combination of heavy chocolate, rich lobster, and creamy shrimp soup is turning over inside of me. Sweat is beading on my forehead and it seems the other diners have finally noticed my distress. My stomach seizes painfully and my throat refuses to swallow the chewed piece of cake still in my mouth. I watch, wide-eyed and helpless, as seven pairs of eyes turn to look at me in concern. Panic settles in as my mouth fills with saliva and I realize what is about to happen. I try to turn away but it's too late, I'm out of time. I lean forward and projectile vomit a brown chunky stew directly onto the dining table.
There is a brief moment of stunned silence before I get up and run to the toilet where I continue to throw up violently. I stay in the bathroom until my mom and sister arrive to bring me, smelly and defeated, home from my first big meet-the-family dinner. It wasn't until I changed out of my dinner clothes and saw the hives covering my stomach that the realization finally hit: I am allergic to shellfish."
"I was visiting my boyfriend's family for the first time during Thanksgiving when I was in my freshman year of college. His aunts were cooking the meal all day, smoking cigarettes all the way through. I took a bite of mashed potatoes that had cigarette ash in it and almost vomited in my mouth, but couldn't figure out how to politely get it out of my mouth without pointing out what had happened and embarrassing her, so I just swallowed."
"Many years ago new neighbors moved in. The husband said (privately) that we should never accept a dinner invitation from his wife because her cooking wasn't particularly good. We would occasionally invite our neighbors over for dinner, and the wife would ask us over to reciprocate. Her husband would normally intervene, saying, 'Sorry, but I have a meeting that night' or something similar to save us from the unknown that was her cooking.
Eventually, my wife ended up accepting an invitation to their house for dinner. The menu was lasagna and a salad. Sounded fairly innocuous - even a poorly made lasagna is normally edible. The wife decided to serve the lasagna from the casserole dish at the table. It looked mostly normal; so far, so good. But it quickly went downhill from there. When she served the first piece, the noodles made a cracking sound. The husband rolled his eyes and passed the first piece to my wife. The rest of us were served, and we began eating. The first bite was absolutely horrid. I asked how she made the lasagna, and she proudly said that the sauce was ketchup and the cheese was cottage cheese. She layered in the noodles straight from the box because 'they cook in the oven.' Somehow, I managed to choke down the portion I was served, but my wife could only eat a little of hers because she 'had a big lunch,' and said 'he likes it a lot, so he can finish what I didn't eat' and slid her plate over my way. Worst lasagna ever. Forgot to mention the salad - leaves of iceberg lettuce peeled straight off the head (not washed - lots of 'little black dots' that weren't pepper). Fortunately she forgot it in the kitchen until we were clearing the table."
"I ate duck eggs with the duck still in them, and some kind of soup made out of pigs blood and guts. I dated a Filipino girl in high school. Met her parents. Her mom asked me to come have dinner at their house; my girlfriend was in the background making a crazy face and subtlety shaking her head. I didn't catch the hint and said yes. Apparently, I wasn't the first white guy she dated and this wasn't the first time her parents played this joke. Yuck. I've eaten tons of 'unorthodox' stuff. Whale, horse, reindeer (and any other kind of deer/elk type animal I've come across) alligator, crocodile, kangaroo, stingray-spine stew, turtle, frog, various insects, and tons of other stuff. But cracking that egg open and seeing the little malformed duck fetus inside, nope."
"I helping this old lady with some problem she had with one of her roof tiles - it took a while and it was a hot day so she invited me for something to drink. She brought some cinnamon buns and some juice - everything was looking really nice. I took a bun, which was nice but probably a week old so it was really stale and she poured a rather big glass with some strawberry juice. She probably had never washed that glass ever since you could see fat flakes floating around inside the glass, some as big as a thumb nail. As I was drinking it I could feel the gritty liquid pouring down my throat and I had never been so close to throwing up, but I managed to keep myself from it. That was probably one of my most pleasantly-unpleasant experiences I've ever had with juice, unclean dishes and old people."
"My uncle made his own wedding cake and it was absolutely disgusting. He switched out the ingredients of a recipe and he replaced the sugar with boiled down pineapple and orange juice that he turned into a syrup. The frosting was also basically just that pineapple orange juice syrup combo and clarified butter. I have never tasted anything even remotely similar in any way to this so I can't really describe it. As my cousin and I went to ditch our slices somewhere we watched everyone slowly eating the cake. They were contemplating all their life decisions that led to that point in time. It was sad watching it happen. When my uncle-in-law tried it his face looked like a frightened deer and he ran to the nearest trash can to spit the nastiness out of his mouth. So that was funny at least."
"My then-nine-year-old son wanted to cook dinner for the family. He decided he could make spaghetti and I helped him a little bit.
Anyway, while adding a little pepper to the sauce the top came off the pepper shaker and the entire contents went into the sauce. He tried to cover up his mistake and stirred it in so there wasn't anything left to scoop out of the sauce. Obviously, the kid was heartbroken.
I called out for pizza and everybody had pizza that night except me. I had spaghetti and ate every bite."
"Masato. Hands down; Masato. The backstory: Early 2000's, I'm a white guy and traveling through the northern part of Peru with a friend who is from Peru. We are backpacking and boating WAY off the grid in the Jungle area. Many of the people this far out have very little interaction with outsiders. We come to a village who find it a treat to meet a tall, skinny white guy and everyone comes out to meet me. They say they are honored to have me visit their village and break out a celebratory drink: masato. I wasn't familiar with the drink and asked what it is and how it is made. They explain that they use yucca and the elder women in the village chew the yuca and spit it into a clay pot which is then mixed with water and buried to 'steep.' 1 day underground and it's like a milk, 2-3 days and it's like a beer (in alcohol content) and 5-7 days and it's similar to a hard liquor. They further explain that the elder women make the best masato as few of them have a whole set of teeth among them- and they pulp the yucca by gumming it. They also typically only break the drink out for special occasions - they had made this batch in preparation for upcoming Carnival - but decided to serve it in honor of my arrival. They pass me a gourd filled with a milky white liquid and watch for expected delight. I'm now obligated to drink this as the whole village looks on. I put the gourd to my lips and take a tiny sip. It tastes like a sour, sweet milk with the consistency of wallpaper paste. It has chunks of (what I hope is) yucca and the first sip/chew is more than enough. After that sip, the village is smiling and watching me and someone explains that the whole gourd full is for me. I slug and chew it down begrudgingly and it was the worst tasting thing I've even eaten/drank. I appreciate the respect given, but definitely could have done without."
"Went to a friend's house. His mom was making lasagna, she asked if I wanted to stay for dinner. I said yes because at this time in my life lasagna was my favorite food, my grandma always made a great 7-cheese lasagna. It comes out. It only had 2 noodles, a top and a bottom. Sandwiched between those noodles was an inch thick layer of unseasoned ground beef. That's it, the only thing inside was some gross hamburger. Then to top it off, American cheese melted on the top."
"On one of my first deployments to Iraq, we spent a lot of time visiting families. They were very gracious and loved to give us all the smokes we can smoke and all the tea we can drink. They were also huge into feeding us. I had a bunch of stuff that tasted amazing and loved it all until I sat down with some village elders and was given some sheep. The meat was quite tasty, slightly gamey. But the main elder wanted me to try the best little morsel he had to offer: the eyes. Now, I am grateful I have a story to tell, but I will never eat that again. The taste was not the issue. The issue was the texture. It popped and oozed in my mouth. There wasn't enough tea in the world that could make my mouth forget that experience. The worst part was all the laughing that was going on as I powered through it. It wasn't a tasty morsel, it was a sick joke. Those dudes don't actually eat that stuff."
"Sheep brains. So most of my extended family live in a developing country in pretty farm-y areas. I'm talking you greet the sheep at the gate and then bid farewell when you empty your plate. We don't visit often so it's a big deal when we do. When we rocked up, we could tell that they'd recently slaughtered something (there's a certain smell to warm blood) and were busy preparing it into a feast fit for a king (no joke my aunt is the greatest cook in the hemisphere - she used to earn a living cooking for 3000+ people Indian weddings). Supper time rolls around and we're not disappointed. The table creaked under the weight of the food piled high on massive copper plates. The piece de resistance was, of course, a MASSIVE pot of lamb biryani cooked on the gas stove outside - cooked to perfection with the bottom just very slightly burnt to give the dish it's fabulous smoky aroma. Right next to it was a small dish of what I thought was cauliflower. Being the polite guests that we are, we OF COURSE have to try everything, and I decide to start with the cauliflower like a fool. So I tear a piece of my bread, roll a good dab of the 'cauliflower' on with my fingers, and prepare for one of the few meals that would shorten my expected lifespan by roughly a decade (worth it). And it was just, ugh, how to describe it? Imagine a white floury paste mixed with sand. Except that sand rasps oddly against your tongue while the paste makes for the back of your throat and sticks there just long enough for you to regret everything leading up to this moment. Now just image that against this textural nightmare is the perfect balance of delicious spice, salt and acid, just taunting you.
Of course, I ate it. And laughed and complimented the dish while secretly crying inside. My aunt, delighted, spoons out another ladle of brains on my plate and sits back to enjoy my enjoyment. It took A LOT of biryani to wash that horrible taste out of my mouth. What was worse was the little sandy beads would get stuck in weird places in your mouth and resurface hours later when you were trying to enjoy dessert. Even now, when I go to visit, my aunt asks me if she must cook the brains I enjoyed the last time I came. I always tell her I'm cutting back on red meat, so chicken will be just fine."
"The first time my wife cooked for me while we were dating, she made what she called her favorite potato soup. Odd choice, but I like potato soup, so whatever. There was something akin to a very small dumpling in it, and it felt like snot going down. I assume today that they hadn't been fully cooked so it was raw dough. I ate it, but I apparently didn't hide it in my face very well. We are married, she makes my potato soup recipe now, and I've never seen or heard from that first soup again. We laugh today, but it was awkward at the time. I asked her what that lump was and she said she was making rivels, a flour and egg dumpling about the size of peas. Apparently, there is some point of contention on whether it was undercooked or I just don't like them."
"There's a variation of a 'delicacy' popular in my father's hometown in northwestern Greece that my mother warned me I absolutely should not touch. It's closer to haggis than anything I've otherwise eaten, though without such care taken to save you from the idea that you're eating trash organ meat wrapped in intestines. Evidently, my extended family felt it their duty to reintroduce me to my heritage and slaughtered a suckling lamb for my homecoming. I was ultimately forced to jam a plate of oily viscera down my throat while a gaggle of uni-browed uncles chortled at my struggles. The aftertaste followed me all the way back to civilization."
"This was in the 7th grade, I'm 34 now and I can still taste it. I was at a friends house, his mom made homemade mac and cheese. My favorite! And so simple, how can you mess it up?
Answer: if you cook the noodles until they've lost all the firmness, like 15 minutes past al dente they turn into a mush. Then, my guess is she must have just dropped 3 or 4 slices of American cheese into the boiling water and let that be the cheese sauce.
So it was mushy noodles that were swimming in cheese water. I ate two bites out of politeness and almost threw up, I just sat at the table looking pale after that, just staring at this disgusting soup with a look of horror.
'You don't like the mac and cheese?' she asked. 'No, I'm sorry.' I couldn't take it, I just sat there awkwardly while they ate (drank) their mac and cheese."
"I taught English as a second language in a village school in Nepal for two years. One of their festivals, the principal of the school invited me to eat at his house for the festival dinner. Being the invited guest I had a spot at the head of the room, all the best of the food, etc. They even splashed out on goat, which was nice. I had the only plate with a chunk of this yellowish pudding on it though, sort of pancake shaped and about the size of the palm of my hand. I ignored it, even though I knew in the back of my head it was meant for me to eat it. Sure enough halfway through the meal my principal leaned over and said to me, 'You should eat that goat fat before it gets cold.' Everyone turned to look at me. It is considered rude to leave a single grain of rice on the plate in Nepal so I knew instantly that goat fat had to be eaten. I picked it up and attempted to bite it but it wouldn't separate. It had the consistency of vulcanized rubber and tasted super gamey. I had no choice but to eat it in one bite, only chewing enough to get it to soften a bit so I could swallow it down. I did and through slightly watery eyes said it tasted great. I still think of that moment and shudder."
"Santxu. I was living in rural West Africa on a development project, and one day my neighbors came banging on my door. They were excited to have a 'santxu' on the grill and were throwing a party. They really wanted me to join in, have some drinks, and have some of the santxu. My language was pretty good, close to fluent, but I had never heard that word before, but my neighbors were stoked about it and I couldn't be rude. I didn't ask what a santxu was and it turns out that santxu was the nastiest thing I've ever tasted. Slimy, greasy, disgusting meat that tasted like the dregs of a latrine. I've never tasted the dregs of a latrine, but I don't need to because I tasted santxu. As I politely eat my piece of santxu, trying not to vomit, I slowly realize that the chunk of meat I'm eating has a hand. And a prehensile thumb. Turns out Santxu wasn't a word in the local language, just the nickname they gave to a rhesus monkey before they shot it and put it on the grill."