"Who doesn't enjoy chicken wings? For the most part, unless you're vegan or vegetarian, I think most people do. Being the naive 18-year-old kid that I was, I would see guys on TV do insane food challenges. I decided on the 911 Wings Challenge from my local restaurant, Cluck U Chicken in Maryland. If you manage to get through all ten wings, you get a plaque on their wall, as well as fifty dollars. I signed a waiver, spent ten dollars to get the wings, and I went ahead and just did it.
I didn't realize what I truly got myself involved in until I signed off on the waiver. I took my first bite, and it wasn't that bad, but it was the after-taste. It felt like a bottle of spirits and you didn't feel it until five to ten seconds later. I was shaking, and this was only a leg I was biting into. A few more bites, and the pain just got worse. I asked for a bottle of water, they gave it to me, but it only got one hundred times worse. Within the span of two minutes, I probably drank three bottles of water. I got through a leg, and after that, I had to take a leak. I went in, and I was in a frantic mood. It was mentioned in the waiver to never rub your eye, or touch any body parts. I did, and it felt like third degree burns were happening without the actual fire. It was literally pepper spray on chicken wings.
In the following days afterwards, I had to deal with digesting it. I felt my insides, and whenever I went to the bathroom, it hurt. Like I said previously, the wings were literally pepper spray sauce. Doing a #2 meant getting rid of the wings, and it hurt. It felt like internal bleeding, but those were just the wings coming out. 2-3 days after, I was in so much pain. Would I do it again? Probably! I would need milk next to me and NOT water."
Have you ever been Beanboozled? I was Beanboozled by my precocious 10 year old daughter. She lured me into the trap by using my love of licorice to tempt me. She knew I would risk eating a Skunk Spray jelly bean for the chance to get a licorice one. Our family were lazing around one early evening, when she presented to me two unassuming pellets of power. She held them out to me and said they might be either flavor, if I wanted to test my luck. I should've known better. I'm not that lucky, but I thought, 'How bad could it be?'
I popped one of the rancid sugar nuggets in my mouth and hoped for licorice but instead, my mouth filled with the sensation similar to what I imagine licking a skunk's butt to be like. It was the worst thing I've ever put in my mouth, yet it was so much more. There was a slight moment of panic when I realized it was much worse than I had anticipated. I didn't know what to do. I was filling up with skunk saliva and I didn't want to swallow, but I knew that from where I was, I wasn't going to make it to the sink. I had to swallow, and when it hit my gut, I felt it land. And more saliva was coming and I still had the wasted bean in my mouth. I swallowed that too. Nausea ran over me like a tidal wave, and the one thought in my head was, 'Eat the other one to offset the abomination stuck in my teeth.'
It didn't occur to me that they Both might be skunk-flavored. They were. I thought I was going to die. My wife and kids never laughed so hard and now, a full year later, they still laugh about it. I did get even with them, though. Once I came back down to earth, I chased them all over the house. And when I caught one of the laughing hyenas, I breathed my Skunk Breath into their giggling faces."
"Bacon Favored Lollipop. Now, you might think that sounds amazing, right? Well, take that mentality and cram it into the brain of my 6th grade self along with my friends. We were at our local candy store (which has since closed down, rest in peace) and had twenty dollars to blow. We bought it. Flash forward to us walking to Tyler's house, munching on various items from The Insane Candy Haul, as we like to refer to it to this day, and Tyler finally, finally unwraps the Holy Grail. He takes a lick, thinks, then has another. And then his face. Oh, man. It was hilarious. It was like his nose crumpled in on itself, followed by his mouth, and then his eyebrows. His entire face scrunched, and he loudly proclaimed as he held the Holy Grail away from him, 'This tastes like dog turds!'
Now, we were in the 6th grade. Our little minds were curious and self-destructive. We asked for a lick. Tyler passed it around, and I was first. Oh my god. It smelled so innocent, like sugar and maple syrup, and it was the size of my head. I was ready to enter heaven. Imagine my surprise when the stench of dog turds hit my taste buds, just like Tyler had said! Here comes the funny part. I reeled backwards, my mouth literally curling into an 'M' shape as my eyes practically boggled out of my head. 'HHHHHGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!'
That's the closest I can get to imitating the noise I made. It was HORRIBLE. It tasted like literal rancid meat crossed with dog turds. Mostly dog turds. Tyler and I unanimously decided that the lollipop was too disgusting to live, and being the little creeps that we were, I gave it to Tyler and we cheered as he slam-dunked that monstrosity into the street, where it shattered into a hundred pieces of sin with a satisying 'CRACK!'
"A friend, Janet, and her husband Scott, felt bad that the boys and I would be spending our first Thanksgiving alone since my separation from my ex. We were more than okay with the fact, because we truly had something to be thankful for that year. I couldn’t bring myself to decline their generous offer once I saw how much they wanted to help us. Sometimes the kindest action one can take is to allow another to help whether it’s truly needed or not. This was one of those times.
Janet’s husband was 'fortunate' enough to have bagged a wild turkey right before Thanksgiving, so this was to be a truly old-time American Thanksgiving with a bird just like the one served by the Pilgrims. It turned out that Janet was quite apprehensive about the smallish size of the bird. There were three adults and four children to feed, so it was a legitimate fear, or so it seemed. Scott carved the turkey while Janet served everything else. The white meat didn’t look quite normal, but this wasn’t a normal turkey. This was going to be better. The moment of truth came and everyone took their first bite of Turkey. And nobody’s eyes left their plates as they chewed, and they chewed, and they made disgusting faces, and they chewed some more.
A coarse boot is what flashed through everyone’s mind. Then, right after everyone swallowed, with the meat basically intact after fruitless efforts to grind it into something digestible, the after-taste arrived. It tasted like a sweat sock. I will be eternally thankful that my boys managed to choke down that first bite without a comment of any kind. It was a unanimous decision to relocate our Thanksgiving feast to McDonald's, my treat. I don’t think we ever endured a worse Thanksgiving after this one, and Scott swore never again to get a wild turkey."
"I’m Brazilian, from a family where everyone cooks really well, and I started learning to cook when I was six. I’d make stuffed potatoes with my uncle and bake cookies with my mom. I was a curious, studious child, and I’d always ask my mom to teach me how to cook on my free time. Soon I was ‘promoted’ into making omelets, pasta, pies, and cakes. By the time I was fifteen, I could recreate and create delicious recipes. Another important information to clarify the situation: my dad was a highway engineer, and we used to move around a lot. (I’m 27 and I’ve moved 28 times, by the way). However, he got a long job from June 2001 to January 2007 in Pouso Alegre, a medium town in Brazil with 150k habitats. And I finally had the opportunity to finally make some lasting friends. Enter in one very emotional day in my adolescence that helped me ruin dishes I could do with my eyes closed.
I had managed to find my best friend in this span of time. Obviously, as soon as I got the news my family and I were moving again, there were tears and a lot of teenage drama. It was a short move notice, but by that time, my family was pro at packing up. In a few days, everything was pretty much boxed up and ready for the moving company to pick up. Then I spent my last day at the city with my best friend. We enjoyed watching anime, so a prompt marathon and sleepover was set up at her house. In the meantime, we decided to make some food. Baked potatoes and bolognese pasta sounded good enough for us. We put the potatoes to cook and we went back to our Naruto marathon. Cue in two hours later, when we finally remembered we had potatoes on the stove. Thank goodness we didn’t use a pressure cooker because my friend didn’t like using them!
Okay, the potatoes were falling apart and had a terrible potato skin taste. We could scrape it and start over, but we’d have to go to the market, which wasn’t that close, in order to buy more. Then, my friend had the bright idea of making mashed potatoes using sugar instead, as a desert. I knew it wouldn’t taste well, to put it mildly. Also, there was the fact we had salted the water to cook them. She forgot this, but I kept silent. While she tried to fix the potatoes, I started with the pasta. We had a few issues already. While there was ground beef and pasta, that’s pretty much it. There was no tomato sauce, onions, garlic, or even tomatoes. Her family pretty much only ate out because both parents worked 9–5, and usually they had more ingredients, but it was nearing grocery day.
Now was my time to have a bright idea: why not make bolognese with white sauce? They had milk and cream, butter, flour and plenty of Sazon seasoning. The result was truly disgusting. The mashed potatoes were terrible, and my friend tasted it only after they were done. The pasta as a work of art neither of us could eat, and it tasted like artificial seasoning. We had to toss it out, of course. I don’t even remember what we ended up eating that day. That was my most memorable awful tasting food. However, we had a lot of fun, and that was a day to remember. Whenever one of us brings it up we start cracking as we did, all back in 2007."
"It was a restaurant in Silverton, Colorado, when I was in field camp. The Green color should have been a giveaway that this establishment was no good. I go in there, and they served me, as an hors d’oeuvre,a couple of those puffy bread things that Mexican joints offer that get sugared. I bite into them, and the first sensation I had was the taste of the ridiculous amount of oil that had soaked into them. If you thought the sugar helped, guess again. If anything, it actually made it worse. They had butter melted on them, so the end result was that the whole things tasted of oil (80%), sugar (1%), and butter (5%). Not long after, I noticed the bread dough was still raw and icky (which was the remaining 14%). It gave me serious indigestion for the next couple of days. But, hungry as I was, I wolfed them down. I noticed that the kerchief was soaked with oil. In hindsight, I think I should have paid more attention. But that wasn’t the worst part. No, that came with the main course.
See, I’d ordered this burrito or something (I don’t recall what it was called). I expect, you know, an actual dish.
What was served instead, was a largish tortilla, soaked thoroughly with oil, upon which was slapped a whole bunch of the oiliest, burnt-up ground chuck you ever saw. Being an idiot, I bit into it. The taste is probably the closest I’ll get in this life to whatever awaits people in purgatory. It was super hot, and had a very ashy taste. It was as if I was eating a volcano, which was spewing forth vegetable oil, into which was dissolved some good old-fashioned soap. I did not finish the meal. I paid the restaurant as fast as I could, and I quickly stormed out."
"The worst thing I’ve eaten was when I was traveling through Panama. And this was not the fun part of Panama where you can see the ocean, hear the faint sound of drums, and every woman looks like Rihanna. I was in Central Panama. This is where there’s lots of dirt, zero drums, and the women look more like my Aunty Ruth (you don’t know her but you’d think that was funny if you did). But when you’re in a dirty hostel in Central America, you need to keep your belly full. So I went to the communal fridge for a feed. The first thing I noticed about the fridge it that it was outside. This felt like an odd design choice for a country that hits 90 degrees Fahrenheit on a cool day. But there was also a communal box of food and a packet of local cereal that had caught my eye. I love a good bowl of cereal (assuming the next guy loves cereal as much as me), so I was happy. Grabbing a chilled bottle of milk from the fridge, I filled up a bowl to the very brim with crunchy goodness, and got stuck straight in.
The flavor was NOT good. This cereal was funky. Like, really funky. It had a bitter aftertaste that you could feel on your tongue. And it didn’t smell right. I tried to push through, eating a solid 6 or 7 mouthfuls, but I couldn’t do it. So I gave up. The next morning, I made a bee line straight for that hostel fridge. I wasn’t to be let down again. I wanted to enjoy a local cereal, and I was going to! Grabbing a different packet of cereal this time, I filled the milk to the brim, relishing the chance to get stuck into a tasty breakfast treat. Come at me cereal. COME AT ME. It was absolutelydisgusting.
Maybe worse than the day before. I don’t know why but it felt like there was just something about Panama cereal that did not agree with my refined tastes. I forced 3 or 4 mouthfuls down. But no more. Luckily I had a plan C up my sleeve. Waking up in Central Panama on the third day, I knew what to do. I marched to the local supermarket and bought a box of a cereal called ‘Chocolate Koala Crisp’. As an Australian, this really tickled me. Still, feeling very patriotic at the thought of eating a national treasure, I bought the box and headed straight back to the hostel. So I was ready to be seduced. I had my passport stamped. And I was heading for flavor country. Time to dig in.
My spoon broke the surface of the milk, which rippled outwards like something that ripples. Bringing the crunchy Koala crisps to my lips, I paused, reflecting on how lucky I was to be traveling the world, and trying new things. That bite, that first bite of ‘Chocolate Koala Crisp’, I’ll never forget it. IT WAS SO DISGUSTING, I ALMOST THREW UP. It was worse than the two previous days combined. Then and there, I gave up on my goal of enjoying a bowl.
Like a dead-beat Dad, Panama had let me down. Throwing my desperately disappointing dish in the sink with anger, it took me a moment to even realize another traveler was in the outdoor kitchen with me. He nodded at me and I wiped the scowl off my face just long enough to give him a very valuable piece of advice. 'Mate, just a heads up, don’t eat the cereal in this country. It is disgusting.'
He nodded, opening the fridge at the same time and peering in. He replied and made me realize WHY I had tasted the most foul flavor 3 days in a row. 'I haven’t tried Panama cereal. And I’m probably not going to. The milk in here went off last week.'
Hákarl: Cured shark meat, national dish of Iceland. It could be fairly inoffensive, right? How could something like this be so horrifically inedible? Well let’s go through just what Hákarl is. Hákarl is a national dish of Iceland, consisting of a preserved Greenland shark, which is abundant in the icy waters of the North Atlantic and became the main staple of the island centuries ago. The problem with the Greenland shark is that the meat is toxic to humans, so the Vikings developed a preservation technique like no other to purify the poisonous shark meat.
After beheading the shark, to eliminate poisons such as trimethylamine oxide and uric acid (a compound found in urine), a shallow hole is dug in the sand and the Hákarl is placed in it with stones, sand, and gravel placed on top. The pressure of the stones causes liquids to seep out over a period of 6-12 weeks, a time frame that allows the shark to ferment properly. After this the fermented shark, which is 24 feet long on average, is taken out of the ground, cut into long pieces, and hung up to dry for several months.
Many Hákarl preparers claim they know the meat is ready just by the smell and a characteristic dry, brown crust that forms. When the time is right, the pieces are taken down, the crust is removed, and the meat is cut into slices and served and 'enjoyed'. It has an overwhelmingly intense ammonia-rich smell (yup, just like the ammonia in cleaning products) and fishy taste.
Little toothpicks are used to eat it, and at first the ammonia hits you as if you put your face up to a bottle of bleach and took a big breath through your nose. After you finish gagging from that initial experience, and if you manage to actually get a piece into your mouth, chew and swallow it, the only way I can describe it is to imagine if you went into the Atlantic Ocean, scooped up the ocean floor sand with the salt water, and ate it. I gave it three tries and had to give up. Our waitress laughed and said that, 'No one eats it here,' yet somehow it’s still the national dish! Even Anthony Bourdain said it is the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing he has ever eaten. So, if you won’t take my word for it, please take his!"
"I remember one encounter from driving through a smallish town in Virginia. We were tired from work and needed something comforting to eat. I’d heard decent things about one (the only) Italian restaurant nearby, and I was hoping for a decent plate of pasta. So I ordered linguine with white clam sauce. I’m not Italian, but I lived in places where they don’t mess around with this stuff. But this dish, Lordy, it was such a disappointment. Mushy linguine and clam sauce that clearly came out of a can but wasn’t even cared about enough to be reasonable. I felt sorry for the sauce. The clams and even parsley looked sad. This, from an owner who was Italian. When the owner came back and I pointed out the linguine was mushy and the sauce was cold, he was offended. And that was his specialty, so he claimed. Along with the clams and parsley, my co-worker and I now felt sorry for the locals who might have thought that was good Italian food.
Recently, I stopped at a small place in Central California after a long drive. The steak was tough and overcooked, the mashed potatoes were reconstituted (fresh potatoes are easily available here and inexpensive), topped with fake gravy, and came with canned veggies, even though this was a place in the middle of the US touted for being the 'salad bowl' of America. At least the owner/servers/cooks could have cooked the steak properly. Very sad.
Another incident I can’t forget is a Denny’s down the road from me. You can blame at me if you want, but sometimes I crave a good basic Denny’s meal. The price is reasonable and most people there care as best they can. But this one place is the only time when I immediately use the word 'revolted'. When I approached the desk where someone would seat me, I was overwhelmed by the smell of vomit. And where I was seated, it was bad as well. Sorry, but if you go to a place where one eats food, that’s a bad thing. I thought they hadn’t cleaned the carpets in a while. I had to asked to be moved was seated to a slightly less vomit-inducing section. I finally asked the servers, 'Do you smell that? How do you bear it?'
I received a non-answer and I got out of there as quickly as I could. Honestly, I don’t even remember what I ordered. I only remember the stench of that place, the resigned response, and I will never return. Still shaking my head at the very recollection of that one restaurant."
Animal brains. Sheep’s brain, to be exact. In a country as poor as Egypt, both when my father was a child and in the present day, every part of an animal that can be safely eaten is consumed. Nothing goes to waste. That includes not only organ meats, which are consumed fairly regularly in many cultures, but things we Americans generally discard, like the brains and the eyeballs of an animal. As a child, my father often ate things at which others turn up their noses. My parents raised me to be very polite, and that includes eating what is placed before you so you don’t give offense to your hosts. It doesn’t matter one bit how disgusting I may find it, or how awful I think it tastes. I eat it and focus on my gratitude for the hospitality. That actually helps it go down a little easier.
One time many years ago, we were invited to a sort of barbecue by an Egyptian man my father met through his work. The man was well off, and his cookout was intended to honor not just my father, but other Americans he met through his work. He held it at his vacation home, which was north of Cairo, on the road to Alexandria. There was a large terrace in back, and a spacious yard overlooking the Nile. We lived in America, but we would visit Egypt often.
When we got there, I was surprised to find a deep pit in the backyard. It was lined with coals, and there was an entire sheep cooking on a spit and being tended by the man’s servants. I was accustomed to the American version of barbecues, which involve grills, and my mother took me aside and explained that I needed to remember we were in another country. I was sort of fascinated by the pit and the cooking animal. I had never seen an entire animal, including the head, on a spit before. Additionally, I was one of those kids who was a bit of a firebug, so I watched closely as the servants tended the hot rocks and coals. I was not bothered by the fact that the entire animal was on the spit, head and tail included.
When it was time to eat, we were all asked to take our places at the table. Servants brought out huge platters of many delicious kinds of foods. The final items to be placed were two huge platters of pieces of meat, and a small, very elaborate platter with the animal’s organ meats. The very first thing he did was offer my father one of the most prized parts of the animal—one of the eyeballs. He also offered him a slice of the brain, which my father was eager to eat, since it was a great show of honor and respect. The men knew they had to eat whatever the host had given them because they were being honored. The women were simply relieved they didn’t have to eat things they did not wish to eat. The host had taken a slice of brain for himself, and after all the dishes had been passed and loaded up, just before he asked us to begin eating, he looked at my plate and declared, 'Goodness, Samir, I have overlooked your lovely daughter, who is very much deserving of honor for her helpfulness and cheerful behavior today. Please allow me to correct my mistake.'
He took part of the slice of brain on his own plate and deposited it on mine while people around the table murmured about what a nice girl I was. And then it was time to eat. I did not need to be reminded that the host had paid me a very high compliment by giving me a choice piece of meat from his own plate. I certainly did not need to be told that I had no choice but to be gracious and eat it. So, with all those adults watching, I steeled myself, cut off a neat little piece, and popped it into my mouth with a huge smile.
The flavor was, to my relief, quite mild, with none of the strong flavors I associate with either organ or game meat. The most difficult thing for me was the texture. It was very much like a thick paste. It stayed solid on my fork, but the minute I bit down, it just turned to an unpleasantly firm mush. I was afraid of gagging, since I do have a problem with certain textures, but I managed to eat my entire little piece. When the host asked for my opinion, I said everything was delicious, and I was happy to be spending that afternoon at his home. I had managed to get the brain down without either gagging or vomiting, so as far as I was concerned, everything was roses. The last thing I remember that day was finding someone had taken my seat near my mother, and I was wandering off to find an empty one near my dad. I had a full tummy, I’d had a busy day, and watching the Nile flow by as lights eventually came on in the terraces of other houses across the river was very soothing. I conked out and slept so soundly that I didn’t wake up at all until the next morning in my own bed.
All things considered, including the fact that I definitely find brains disgusting, the fact that I ate them that day has proved to be very beneficial. When someone wants me to try something I don’t want to eat, it’s handy to be able to tell them that while they may not find me a very adventurous eater, I paid my dues at age 11 by eating brain. They give me a very surprised look, but they also immediately stop trying to convince me to eat whatever is on offer. That sort of makes it all worthwhile. I don’t recommend brains unless you happen to be a very adventurous eater determined to try a little of everything. If so, by all means do, but you will be doing it without me."