There are those really unforgettable meals and then there are the meals that you really want to forget. Sometimes it happens through menu reading confusion, sometimes it happens through sheer bravado. Sometimes it’s just a silly mistake.
Zut alors I cannot be eating that!
I remember as a small boy ordering an andouillette in France because dad, armed with his trusty tourist phrase book, declared it to be a sausage. So it appeared when it arrived but when I sliced it open tubes and springs sprang out, almost with a comedy ‘boinggg!’ noise, and the smell of a midden rose all around me. While ancient Frenchmen looked on with approval I tried a bit of it, gagged horribly, and ran out leaving dad searching for the words ‘my son is not well’ in his phrase book and trying to avoid an international incident. Offal can be awful and I’m not alone in thinking it.
Try tripe, no thanks
“Tripe!” says TV chef Brian Turner, “I’ve tried it but I can’t eat it, I can never keep it down”. Which for a man born in West Yorkshire is an almost shameful admission, rather like a German admitting he won’t eat sauerkraut? Tripe though is probably something few of us would take on.
Halloumi cheese? Who wouldn’t like that? Well Vivek Singh wouldn’t for one. Executive Chef and owner of the brilliant Cinnamon Kitchen, Cinnamon Club and Cinnamon Soho, he grimaces even thinking about the stuff. “Grilled Halloumi tastes like the underside of flip-flops on a beach in Goa,’ he says, before hastily adding “don’t ask me how I know what flip-flops taste like!’
Of course the Westerner can always rely on the Far East for food that sends a shiver down the spine. Sam Harrison of Harrisons remembers it well, perhaps too well. “In 2010 I was in Taiwan. Now I will try anything once, but I will never go near shark blood soup again. The smell was hideous and the seafood broth had things still swimming in it.”
Signe Johansen, food anthropologist and author of ‘Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking...Scandilicious’ also had a bad time out East. “Raw fish intestines. Eaten in Tokyo in 1999.” she recalls. “I chased it down with Kirin Ichiban and spent the next few hours regretting it. Horrid metallic, fishy, death taste in mouth. Never again”
The smell of it
Sudi Piggot, author of How to be a Better Foodie has been repelled by snake in Hong Kong and closer to home duck's tongue and horse carpaccio in Parma, while Fiona Beckett the well-known food and wine writer, and less well-known mother of one of the owners of bar and restaurant Hawksmoor, had no hesitation in her choice of bad choice. “There's a dish of fermented fish called surströmming which comes in cans,” she says. “When you open it the smell has to be smelt to be believed. You can't imagine it will actually taste as rank as it smells but it does. I had it in Sweden and there was a dog there which went mad with ecstasy when the tin was opened, as dogs do when they find something vile and smelly to roll in. Gross.”
Of course you’d have to go a long way to beat eating a delicious plate of horse’s rectum, or Karta, as they regularly do in Kazakhstan. You could say you’d bottomed out at that point.
What do you regret eating? No last night’s curry cold for breakfast doesn’t count, let us know your grossest moments in food and see who can top it.
More bits that you may find hard to stomach.