Most of us don’t usually think about how disturbing our meals might appear to others. There are many with dietary restrictions, such as vegetarians, vegans, lactose intolerant, gluten intolerant, or those with allergies. While hosting a dinner party, one might inquire if any guests fall under these categories. However, the idea of a meal being evil or disturbing doesn’t usually register on most people’s radars.
With that said, there are indeed some meals considered evil in the eyes of those to whom it has been served. We’ve compiled a list of the most disturbing meals ever served for dinner.
10 Foie Gras
The term foie gras means “fatty liver” in French, and it is a popular menu item in the European country. In order to produce this delicious meal through a process called “gavage.” Essentially, “workers ram pipes down the throats of male ducks twice each day, pumping up to 2.2 pounds [1 kg] of grain and fat into their stomachs, or geese three times a day, up to 4 pounds [1.8 kg] daily.”
This process causes the bird’s livers to swell up to ten times the normal size. The birds are so overfed that they can barely stand on their own two feet, and this feeding method leads to a liver disease called hepatic lipidosis. Simply put, the process used to create this meal is inhumane and barbaric. Despite these inhumane practices being well documented, foie gras is still considered a delicacy in multiple European countries. As an aside, the sale of foie gras is banned in California and about a dozen other countries; New York City’s ban is still tied up in the courts.
9 Fish Eyes
It may seem wrong to eat another living creature’s eyeballs as if you were eating the animal’s very soul. However, fish eyeballs are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and are delicious. They’ve been compared to a natural version of the “Gushers” candy despite the obvious nauseating image it creates.
Fish eyes are considered a delicacy in many non-western countries. They are filled with nutrients that are beneficial for the heart, eyes (oh, the irony), and brain. Furthermore, promoting the consumption of fish eyes will help create more sustainable fishing practices. While it may seem disturbing to some, this meal is actually a good idea.
The Norweigan dish, smalahove, is a traditional meal made from a sheep’s head. It is a holiday dish typically served just before Christmas. A typical serving consists of half a head; the ear and eye are eaten first as they are the tastiest parts and best eaten while still warm. The head is boiled or steamed for about three hours and served with mashed rutabaga and potatoes. Some folks like to cook the brain inside the skull, but others prefer to fry it and have it as an additional side.
Smalahove has been eaten in Norway for centuries and was originally popularized by the poor because the wealthy didn’t want—or need—to eat the head. They did not know at the time how delicious and full of nutrients it was, so it was easily accessible for the lower classes. Although it is indeed disturbing to eat another mammal’s head and face, this is a popular menu item in Norway, and it does not seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.
7 Calf Brains
This dish, known as cervelle de veau, is a delicacy in parts of Europe and Morroco and is made of calf brains. If prepared properly, the texture of calf brains is said to resemble that of scrambled eggs. However, there’s no mistaking what part of the body is being served when the plate arrives at the table. It is often served with tongue, sauteed with beurre noir and capers.
This meal is said to be significantly tastier than beef brains which are also popular in those same regions. Beef brains are reportedly mushier and lacking flavor in comparison. While it may be culturally biased, this seems like a cruel and disturbing meal to prepare, and whether at home or in a professional setting, to many, it has been the subject of debate at many dinner tables.
6 Bull Frog Sashimi
Among the most bizarre and disturbing practices in the world is the Japanese tradition of eating live frogs. There is a species of frog in Japan that are bred for consumption. Bullfrog sashimi, or “‘ikizukuri,’ consists of a frog sliced up on order, some soya sauce, and a slice of lemon on the side.” The frog is still alive while being devoured and is known to look the diner in the eye and blink while its bones are being picked clean.
A video of this trend went viral in 2012, and Fox News has been covering the ongoing story ever since. The key factor in the debate is that the frog must witness its own demise, and that alone should be considered inhumane. As of yet, the meal has not been outlawed universally, but it is only available in a scarce few establishments in Japan.
5 Snake Wine
Not to overlook beverages in our list, snake wine has been consumed in China since the Western Zhou dynasty (c. 1040–770 BC). Don’t let the name fool you; snakes are not used in the production of this spirit. However, they are used to infuse the beverage. Rice wine and grain alcohol in many East Asian countries are bottled with an entire snake. Typically venomous snakes are used, but “the snake venom proteins are unfolded by the ethanol, and therefore the completed beverage is usually, but not always, safe to drink.”
Originally used medicinally, it is considered the process of distilling the snake’s essence and consuming it. Just serving wine with a snake in the bottle may not be traditional, but it’s not the most disturbing thing one could imagine. After all, mezcal often has a worm in the bottle and has never been considered disturbing. However, often times the snake in snake wines is alive when the bottle is filled and corked, making this one of the most disturbing beverages to serve at dinner.
4 Casu Marzu
Typically one doesn’t want maggots in the kitchen or their food, with the possible exception going out to The Lost Boys and Kiefer Sutherland. However, once this complex Sardinian cheese undergoes a normal fermentation process, fly larvae are introduced. The maggots break down the cheese’s fats (think ingestion and excretion), making it soft and gooey.
While some people remove all the maggots before serving casu marzu, others leave the tiny larvae as is, believing they add flavor. Cheese is a customary appetizer at dinner parties, but cheese with maggots may be a little disturbing for some guests. Plus, you probably don’t want to run afoul of the law. The cheese is illegal in almost every country and even hard to find in Sardinia.
3 Blood Soup
Any soup in which the main ingredient is animal blood is considered blood soup. With that said, there are many incarnations of this appetizer. Duck and pig blood are the most popular, but cows and oxen are also used to make this disturbing dish. “It thickens, it’s full of nutrients, it’s readily available, and it’s not just for ritual sacrifices. Rich with a slightly metallic flavor, blood from many animals is a common ingredient in many cultures’ cuisines.”
In both Korea and Poland, blood soup is a popular dish, while many countries frown upon it. Czernina, also known as duck blood soup, consists of two main ingredients: poultry broth and duck blood. Although vinegar is often added to blood soup for flavor.
2 Monkey Brains
We all remember that scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom when the cult pressured Jones to eat the brains of a monkey straight out of the skull. Believe it or not, monkey brains have traditionally been eaten in parts of China and Southeast Asia because people believe they will be imbued with ancient wisdom. While it is a well-documented fact that humans have consumed the brains of other species over the centuries, there is much debate as to whether the consumption of monkey brains, in particular, is still practiced.
In Western popular culture, its consumption is repeatedly portrayed and debated, often in the context of portraying exotic cultures as exceptionally cruel, callous, and/or strange. The chances of anyone being surprised at a dinner party with a serving of monkey brains in the year 2023 are unlikely. Still, even the thought of it seems disturbing.
1 Guinea Pigs
Most people would never think about consuming the fluffy and adorable pets known as guinea pigs. Unless, of course, one lives in Peru, where the dish known as “cuy” is considered a delicacy and has become more and more popular over the last decade. So much so, in fact, that there has been a significant uptick in guinea pig farming to the degree that it has helped lower-class farmers get out of poverty.
Guinea pig farming has become one of the most lucrative businesses in the South American country, and people are ordering the scrumptious critter by the plate full. “The meat is prized and tastes like a cross between duck and rabbit. When properly prepared, the meat of a guinea pig is rich, fatty, and flavorful, while the skin, when roasted over a hot fire, gives pork a run for its money.”