Our definition of “weird food” is so subjective that it’s difficult to define and call something as it is. At the age of ten, my brother thought that mashed potatoes were a weird food. Most of the world questions the U.S.’s obsession with peanut butter. “Weird” is a cultural and personal culinary designation.
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Even still, the Western world, specifically the United States, does have a few culinary items that people generally see as weird, even within our own borders. The problem is that we also associate weird with tasting bad. The fact is that some of these foods are pretty friggin’ delicious. Here are 10 weird foods that are actually delicious.
You may have seen Vita brand pickled herring stuffed in the corner of the refrigerated section in the grocery store. It’s this big jar filled with sour cream, onions, and rectangular chunks of greyish fish. Though it may appear that something is wrong with the jar, you’ll be happy to know that no one has tampered with the cap and the expiration date is a couple of months out. It isn’t mayonnaise that has grown black mold, nor is it the contents of a sick person’s stomach after eating cream of mushroom soup. It is only the most delicious snack to hit the seafood world: pickled herring in sour cream and onions.
Though it’s definitely not for everyone, pickled herring is a great source of fatty acids and is a tangy, meaty snack. It isn’t as fishy as you’d expect, and the texture of the sour cream and onions cuts through the savory nature of the fish itself.
If you’re ever feeling adventurous, grab a water cracker and put a piece of herring on top. Eat and enjoy!
Fried Grasshoppers (Chapulines)
Eat a bug, you say? Never! Oh, Linda, please, you eat shrimp, crab, and lobster, no problem. They’re essentially underwater bugs. So what’s the big deal with fried grasshoppers?
This Mexican treat is usually served with chili and lime and provides a great source of protein. Even more, the commercial farming of edible grasshoppers doesn’t impact the environment as the meat industry does.
Fried grasshoppers may be odd to folks in the United States and Europe, but it’s a popular snack among kids in the Oaxaca region and is gaining popularity globally. You can make them yourself by heating the frypan with some oil, throwing the chapulines in, and seasoning with garlic salt or a little chili powder. You could even make some chapuline tacos or an Oaxacan-style “pizza” called a tlayuda.
Across the pond sits the country of France, where snails are both garden visitors and food. But though the French word for snails has stuck, it has seen an incredible history in the U.S. Escargot was all the rage in the 1980s, making up a $300 million industry at one point. It may have taken a considerable back seat in recent years as the food trend died down, but it is certainly still one land bug worth trying.
Chefs slather on the butter and garlic and will occasionally serve it with a piece of garlic bread. All you have to do is mentally get over the texture of the snail, which is what I imagine biting into an eyeball would feel like. Kind of chewy, a little hard, but ultimately soft and delicious. Weird, I know.
A word of caution: don’t harvest snails from your garden and assume they are edible. Not all species are. If you want to cook them at home, purchase some apple snails or helix promatia.
We take dandelions for granted. We treat them as a weed when we should be harvesting them instead! Although, knowing pollution and the chemicals we lay down on our grass each year, perhaps grazing on our lawn’s annual dandelions is not a good idea. You can, however, purchase dandelion greens from the grocery store, and those are safe.
This now weird food was once eaten regularly pre-Victorian Era, as the root and leaves of the flower hold certain medicinal properties and are rich in vitamins A, C, E, and folate. You can also turn the flowers into dandelion wine and the root into a tea, making a decent coffee substitute (flavor-wise) if you add chicory.
If you eat the leaves by themselves, they are pretty bitter. But if you pick young leaves and sautee them with some salt, pepper, and lemon, it makes for a delicious side dish comparable to beet greens and arugula.