Scary Foods

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Loathsome, nasty things… 

Virgil Evetts

 Fear is a funny thing. As clever little bi-peds, we usually manage to override the uber- anxious mother that is our  instincts, but from time to time something just scares the be-jesus out of us for no tangible reason. Sometimes it’s forgivable; inexplicable bumps in the night may indeed be [as your midnight imagination suggests] coming from some knife wielding wack-job dragging your flat screen through the lounge window. Fair enough to get a bit worked up about that. What isn’t so logical  is our quaking terror of certain foods. We all have them; foods that give us the willies [so to speak] or the ones we just plain don’t like. When I started writing this article, I had every intention of making it about foods that have an undeserved bad reputation, but after talking to a few people I realised that foods that are widely hated and feared with good reason are  far more interesting subjects. So don’t expect positivity and inspiration here. These are foods that I really can’t abide; the worst of the worst. Loathsome, nasty things…


Brussels sprouts

Might as well start with the most obvious one I guess. These things are probably the most hated vegetable in the world, and frankly with good reason. They’re bitter little bastards that taste like somebody already ate them. I suspect growers have learnt to hide PR reps among polite society because whenever BS are publicly slammed, some reedy voice from the back pipes up about how they’re ‘ok if they’re really fresh and not overcooked.’ So basically that leaves you with about a 30 second window of opportunity.  All I can imagine is that it must have been a hard winter in Brussels when these cabbagy turds where christened.  Worth feeding to children for the sheer entertainment value.


Tinned Tuna

How could anyone eat something that smells so utterly offensive? I have upset countless friends and strangers by comparing the stench of this so called food to a variety of nasty things that I dare not mention here. Suffice to say it’s never flattering. Add to that stench the tuna industries track record for slaughtering flipper and his kin, the fact that most tuna species are rapidly creeping up the no-no list of dwindling critters, and the migration of weird breast-sprouting synthetic hormones from the can liner to the fish therein and you have pretty good cause to avoid it like herpes. Fresh tuna, on the other hand is Luke Skywalker to tinned tunas Darth Vader; very good, meltingly soft and suspiciously pretty.



I will eat most things at a push [present company excluded] but I have to draw the line at brains. If I wasn’t such a cynical old atheistic I’d say it was akin to eating an animal’s soul. [I’m assured by a friend of a Godly persuasion that animals don’t have souls, which hardly seems fair. Nicky Watson gets a soul but my more likeable and more articulate cat gets nada?]  Anyway, back to brains. I have tried them and can report that they have the texture of clotted bile and smell like steamed puppy. Before you say it, yes I’m aware of the fact that the French eat brains with great gusto, but let’s be honest: the French aren’t all that fussy about what they eat, are they?  In my experience they will happily wolf down anything that bleeds, ejaculates, seeps or oozes, as long as it’s well sauced.

As much as I support Hannibal Lector in his crusade against the ‘free-range rude,’ I think he was seriously pushing the boundaries of good taste with his recipe for brains with brandy and shallots. I can live with the cannibalism, but brains? Eeeew!



You know you’re in trouble when a recipe begins with ‘first peel the tongue.’

Peel the tongue?  Could any sentence be more perverse?  The most upsetting part about my relationship with tongue [speaking of dodgy sentences] is that I actually quite like the stuff- as long as I don’t know I’m eating it. As a ‘mystery meat’ it has a very pleasant, velvety texture and a delicate beefy flavour, but damn it, it’s TOUNGE; that’s just so wrong!

If you can get past the psychological trauma of eating the great flaccid sausage that is cow’s tongue, it presents all manner of possibilities. Tongue terrine certainly sounds catchy. Personally, I’ll never get past the horror of having a severed and sliced tongue in my mouth.



As someone who takes a fairly liberal approach to the food pyramid, I seem to shock people when I tell them I don’t like tripe. I’m regularly taken to task by ancient crones with names like Audrey or Beryl who, despite having have lost their short term memories, have retained [from their apparently desperate youth], an obsessive and fiercely protective attachment to this most pointless of foods.

Admittedly the Italians do some very clever things with tripe [compared to the traditional and utterly odious tripe with onions that lurks in the dark heart of the kiwi kitchen], but even the most inventive recipe can’t take away that peculiar rubbery texture and ghastly odour. By all means eat tripe if you’re too old or bewildered to remember that food shouldn’t smell like athletes foot.



While the above foods are pretty universally despised by the young and relevant, avocados have a bewilderingly big fan-base. On this I take the path less travelled. I simply can’t abide avos in any form other than guacamole, which pretty effectively disguises most of their vileness.  The appeal to the rest of you remains a complete mystery to me. Sure it’s pretty to look at, but with its soapy mouth-feel and peculiar taste – somewhere between grass and pigs blood – it triggers my gag reflex every time. I’d sooner eat road kill. Don’t let me put you off though.



The extended whanau accuse me of having renounced my already-sullied Maori blood through my attitude towards kina.

I’ve really tried to like kina, I have; the trouble is they make my innards want to evacuate through the nearest orifice. I’m quite sure that there’s something worth persevering with inside the spiny little spheres, but one whiff of that iodine/seaweed/fishy fugg and I’m rushing for the porcelain.



So I’m rather hoping I’ve opened a can of worms this week [the contents of which I would find preferable to most of the above]. Let me know if you agree with my list or if I’ve got you hopping-mad in defense of these various food-frights. Better still; list the foods that give you the heebie-jeebies.

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26 thoughts on “Scary Foods

  1. Yes, a taxi driver once lectured me about the dangers of eating durian without mangosteen or langsat. Makes the body too ‘heaty’ apparently.
    Fermented fish stomach curry is popular in southern Thailand, but is very, very pungent.
    Most Thais wont touch the stuff.

  2. I’ve eaten and enjoyed Durien, but it should be followed by mangosteen. The king and the queen of fruit evidently. Yhe one thingI ate recently with much reluctance was fish stomach. A dreadful texture although almost no flavour. I had to pretend I didn’t know what I was eating.

  3. All offal to me is fantastic, tripe properly done is out of this world, deviled kidneys are fantastic at breakfast time, black pudding I adore.Liver with bacon, mashed spuds and gravy are just the tops. Brains and sweet breads, yes for sure.But what no one has mentioned and is the the creme de la creme for sure is stuffed lambs hearts. The heart is cut open, stuffed and sown up, and then gently roasted.

  4. I adore everything you despise Virgil. In fact I’ve tried and enjoyed every food I’ve ever come across apart from one – durian. Just can’t get it past my nose. Smells like a sewer. We have some form of offal most weeks. My children used to eat offal quite happily until they went to school and haven’t eaten it since.

  5. Virgil, I love the article. I to dispise everything you have listed. But I also dont like Pork, seafood (why not just eat a container of salt) and eggs..maybe it sjust me but eggs make me want to projectile vomit, yet I love Pavlova..

  6. My mother used to serve up kidneys, liver, brains, sweetbreads and tripe when my father was away. She said they were a delicacy.

    Offal is for dogs. And they used to dose dogs for hydatids. I rest my case.

    I’ll eat brussels sprouts once a year. Tinned tuna is OK if it’s mixed with something. And avocadoes are great.

    Kina is an acquired taste that I have never felt the desire to acquire the taste for. They cost too much and when they come out the other end the smell is unbelieveable. I have a partner who loves them.

    My pet hates (apart from offal) are corned beef and sausages. But I’ll eat them cold. And bread beans – gross. And margarine is disgusting, as are diet drinks. Oh, the bitterness . . .

  7. Must all be in the eye of the eater. None of the above foods bother me much. In fact I rather like them all. For me beetroot is the evil one. Its smell and taste provoke the strongest urge to violently upchuck my stomach’s contents.

  8. I have a friend whose mother used to make brawn [a sort of meat loaf made from pigs head]. He once found a tooth in it and promptly vomited on his plate causing a family wide round of vomiting. His mother never made brawn again.

  9. Another great article and I always look forward to every offering.
    Oh dear, it appears that I will eat anything so long as it’s fresh I suppose. Everything you listed Virgil, I like. But aha, last night I came up with pigs head, still available in supermarkets and butchers, I always give out a muffled shriek when I come upon them unexpectedly in the chillers.

  10. I happen to quite like Brussel Sprouts actually!
    I’m not sure there is a food i am scared of, plenty i don’t like, but none that give me any of the feelings you have all been describing!

  11. Funny thing about Brussel sprouts; I happend to try one when I was shooting the pic for the aricle and thought to my self ‘hmmm! not bad actually’. I guess I fluked that 30 second window.
    I agree about teh gunk isnide crayfish. Makes the most amazing sauces and stocks.
    We were also discussing the pointlesness of Tamarillos around the water cooler this morning. I dont mind lambs fry with bacon and livers in pate or ala naturale as foie gras, but generally speaking I have no use for offal.
    This article seems to have become a forum for the purging of food demons. excellent! Keep it up.

  12. I have not been able to bring myself to try black pudding – congealed blood and globs of fat encased in intestines. Yak.

    I am tempted to try tongue, we have a cattle beast homekilled each year and the tongue in question has usually been stuck through the fence and ripped up half my veggie garden. But I fear that I will go to a lot of trouble to cook it and no-one else will eat it.

    It took me many years of adulthood to learn to love avacados, so there’s hope for you yet Virgil. To me, it is a vegetable butter.

    I cannot eat kidneys, the smell reminds me of men’s urinal that hasn’t been cleaned in a while.

  13. Brains with capers and black butter, mmmmmmmm! Brussel’s sprouts (perfect, tiny and tightly furled) are my favourite winter vegetable. Tinned tuna – useful. Tongue – I must do one soon and remind myself how good they are. Tripe – No – can’t go there, although perhaps if I’d had it in France a la Bordelaise (or wotever) I might feel differently. Avocados are superfood. Kina – I’ve never had the chance to try it, is it iodiny, like the yellow stuff in crayfish which most people hate and I love and always incorporate into the sauce or mayonnaise whereupon people say (like that nauseating salmon commercial) ‘What’s your secret…?’

  14. Just a little aside here:
    Lady in Restaurant: Waiter, what do you recommend?
    Waiter: They tell me the tongue is very good, Madam.
    Lady: Oh no, I couldn’t eat anything out of an animals mouth! Give me an egg, please.

  15. Personally I like tongue, but son has steadfastly refused ever to try it as he reckons he has no interest in tasting something that can taste him back!

  16. brain sandwiches were my favourite at school, they didn’t go mushy like jam and no one pinched them from you. And I love tongue but I can’t get my kids to relish any of these things. We had to of necessity growing up on a farm thru a depression(of sorts, maybe I should call it a quiet time)When an animal was killed we used as much as we could. Most people like pate, made from the equivilant of the garbage sorters at the dump. Scary eh.

  17. Offal in any form utterly disgusting….its just not right to eat the inner workings!!!….as for brussel sprouts we were always told they were fairy cabbages, quite like them actually have to disagree on the avos though………….Its all a matter of taste and just as well we all like different things…….keeps us interesting!!!

  18. Baked, stuffed marrow – well, the stuffing’s OK; the marrow is like eating water with a fork, slimy water. Tamarillos! So vile I cannot liken them to anything I know. Only good for chucking at Magpies, as I’ve previously mentioned elsewhere. I love Brussel Sprouts, the tight little hard ones. So many ways to cook them to bring bout that deliciously nutty flavour! And tongue! Can’t wait to get that peel off and start the eating, still hot, just as it is, on it’s own. Mmmmm!

  19. Brussels Sprouts are nice when they’re cooked correctly. But you can keep Jerusalem Artichokes – they taste like squashed ants smell. Tripe and Brains are also disgusting, but tongue is devine. I don’t like tinned lychees – they taste like little balls of vomit jelly. Junket with nutmeg liberally sprinkled on the top is also vile.

  20. Great list
    Brussel sprouts – my dad used to call them “rotten little cabbages”
    cream crackers
    funny how much of this goes back to childhood.

  21. Spot on with your list. I will add mash spuds to your list. The reason being school dinners. The thought of the cold lumpy mash uh I cannot go there. One day I must have been 5 or 6 and I refused to eat them. I told the dinner lady that I felt sick and would not eat them. I was made to sit there until I ate them. I got into such a state. In the end I ate them. At that point I threw up. Alas not over the dinner lady. I was never made to eat anything again that I did not like. Yet I love fish pie, sheppards pie etc. Just not mash on its own.

  22. Husband’s fear factor food is Bok Choy, Pak Choy, and coriander. We both adore avocados; to avoid painful excursions to the supermarket over the holidays (perils of living in a tourist meca), a 5kg box of avos sustains us until it’s safe to emerge from our cave and brave the shops.
    On the other hand, I’m not big on crayfish or prawns, resemble cockroaches of the sea…funny how differently we view things:)

  23. As much as I try to be opened minded about food, I absoultely am not.
    Offal makes me reel – butcher shops that display spleens, tripe, brains, sweetbreads and intestines send me out the door in a flash.
    As for tongue…. yes as soon as I read about peeling them I envisage my own tongue being peeled and that is it. Tongues are just not food.

  24. Well I can’t agree with the brussel sprout, tuna and avo one but the rest, I’m on the same page.

    For me it’s offal of any kind. With the exception of pate, I just can’t get past the texture and taste of liver and kidneys (and other such like). The thought of eating things that are glands is off putting. Too many hours in the dissection lab at Uni or something.

    But I know some people love ’em and more power to them! ;-)