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Nasty Little Treats

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The salty licorice thread that popped up here yesterday got me to thinking about things that start out tasting strange or downright unpleasant and develop into a rarified addiction. Retsina comes to mind. Also Liederkrantz cheese and oil-cured olives. Chartreuse and bitter lemon. Sardines with raw garlic. What is your favorite deadly little snack that elicits shudders of revulsion from the non-partakers?

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  1. Campari; strong blue cheeses; organ meats in general, sweetbreads and kidneys in particular; brussels sprouts; tiny whole dried and deep-fried anchovies, salted and seasoned.

    41 Replies
    1. re: ironmom

      I worked with a guy in Texas that ate raw pig brains for lunch every day. At lunch time, without fail, we had to stop at the same market every day so Lester could get his pig brains.`He never ate anything with them, either. No hot sauce--nothing.

      1. re: flavrmeistr

        OK, that's it--I haven't read all the other posts, but you win, hands down, no contest.

        1. re: Mike M

          Well, Lester wins, at least...provided he's still alive. I have to admit he had the most disturbing eating habit I ever witnessed.

          1. re: flavrmeistr

            Well, I didn't think anyone could top this, till I heard about Lester's pig brains. But here goes: as a child I watched in horror as my Polish immigrant grandfather would peel the layer of fat off the edges of liverwurst lunchmeat and make sandwiches on wonderbread--with the strips of fat, not the liverwurst.

            1. re: Babette

              is that fat? I always just thought it was a form of casing, like a sausage uses to hold it all together as a solid meat.

              1. re: sourpatch

                No, it was white fat around square slices of liverwurst lunchmeat, not the sausage shaped liverwurst in casing we get now. Maybe I'm showing my age!

                1. re: Babette

                  Spreading fat on bread is not really that weird. One man's butter is another man's Schmalz.

            2. re: flavrmeistr

              Are you sure his name was Lester, not Hannibal? Did he like fava beans and a nice chianti, too?

              1. re: Kirk

                With fava beans and a nice chianti??? I thought that was liver.

          2. re: flavrmeistr

            WHAT???!!!! that's pathological.

            1. re: flavrmeistr

              I am nearly hurling just thinking about it.

              I was once in a Diner in Greensboro, NC and saw the following on the breakfast menu:

              Pork Brains & Eggs

              Granted it is nowhere near as foul as raw brains... But I just could not conceive of eating brains for breakfast in any way shape or form.

              1. re: StriperGuy

                You must have been at Robinson's Restaurant close to downtown Greensboro. I miss that place. But not for the brains...

                1. re: StriperGuy

                  I grew up in the mountains of NC, and my mom would occasionally bring home little containers of pig brains and scramble them up with some eggs. She was not a trashy woman, and I don't know when she developed a taste for brains, but it's a pretty common favorite with old-timers in NC. I never tried the dish myself....

                  My grandfather loved chitterlings. He boiled them up once in a while. I did try those...once....

                  1. re: uptown jimmy

                    Fried brains are tasty, but I have to say that I've never heard of anyone in the U.S. eating RAW brains. What immigrant culture does this come from?

                    1. re: pikawicca

                      I don't know anything about raw brains. Like I said, she scrambled them with eggs...

                    2. re: uptown jimmy

                      My father really liked scrambled eggs and brains ... the textures were similar ... and I recall trying them and liking them as a child. We were in western Pennsylvania, and his family background was German. Alas, I'm in public health now, and I no longer eat nervous system tissue.

                      1. re: Meann

                        My mom is Jewish, but I don't know what part of Europe they were from, or how far back.

                        I think the brains thing is just old-school "eat every shred of the animal" sort of stuff, you know? Subsistance behavior.

                        "I no longer eat nervous system tissue". That's a great line. I will use that in the future.

                    3. re: StriperGuy

                      Haha! I know that place. A certain Congressman enjoys those brains and eggs.

                      1. re: Sue in Mt P

                        I think everyone in Congress should make an effort to get all the brains they can.

                      2. re: StriperGuy

                        Maybe brains for breakfast is (was) a Southern thing----my great-grandmother used to make them, rolled in cornmeal and fried in salty bacon grease, and the object was to have the outside very crunchy to contrast with the gushy texture of the inside (I apologize for this post). Oh God, and when I was three I thought they were delicious---now I can barely write this.

                        1. re: StriperGuy

                          My Dad grew up on brains & eggs in southwest Missouri. They're supposed to be very 'creamy'. I'd try them.

                          One funny thing: In the Ozarks in the 40's people ate rice as a breakfast cereal with milk and sugar; they didn't know another way to cook it. That sounds awful to me.

                          1. re: weewah

                            That sounds a lot like rice pudding to me.

                            1. re: guilty

                              sounds a bit like a bit of trivia I once heard. Apparently when tea first began to be imported to the american colonies, the colonists used to toss out the water (i.e. the tea) and serve the leaves with cream and sugar; the fact that you could drink the liquid didn't become common knowledge till much later.

                            2. re: weewah

                              My mother is from north central Missouri and she made us rice with cinnamon, sugar and milk for breakfast regularly. She also made a mean rice pudding.

                              "Weewah"? That refers to the cake from the Little Rascals, no? That's pretty funny!

                              1. re: flavrmeistr

                                Now you've got me started- I'm going to be making that weewah sound all day, and giggling to myself! It's your fault whan others think I'm nuts, though it won't do me much good here...

                              2. re: weewah

                                Ouuuu; rice with milk and sugar is good...add a little nutmeg and it's even better. Okay, I'm a few (decades) over 21, but I've eaten boiled/steamed rice this way since 'forever' and I'm barely south of the 45th Parallel...but my parents were wed during the (earlier) Great Depression, both of traditional farm families with extended circles of family and friends from many countries and cultures, so we have eaten it all (just about.) Once, and only once, I did purchase a carton of brains but when I opened them, the odor was more than my senses could bear; now with a nursing career under my belt and several family members in police, emergency services, and hospital care careers, I just don't "do" organs....except heart and liver...and then only when I cook them myself on the rare occasion. Brains and eggs is rather 'normal' in a lot of cultures...did I say Grandma was from Denmark by way of Tennessee...my granddad was one of those very old TN families who used every part of the pig, and I'm afraid to (gag) say, the practice of drinking blood was part of the butchering ritual on some farms. (I hope/pray not on his....it was NOT on ours...) Raw brains? Hmmmm....sure sounds like a way to acquire chronic wasting disease (Mad Cow disease), good grief....rolfffffff.

                                1. re: OldGrayWolf

                                  Rice for breakfast.. i grew up thinking that was normal. Any sausage put in front of me.. i suspected blood. My Norwegian grandmother lived with us when i was a child

                            3. re: flavrmeistr

                              Did he ever say how he acquired the taste for raw brains? Was it even the taste that attracted him? Did he have some idea that they were good for him, or that they'd make him smarter? Are there porcine prion disease (mad pig disease, maybe?) So many questions.

                              1. re: optimal forager

                                Yeah I'm perplexed why anyone would develop a taste for raw organs of any kind. I find it disturbing, but then I opened a link someone has posted in here,(I forget the name-Don't eat that Dave!??)) and there was a can of filthy infected corn that is considered a delicacy in Mexico?
                                I swear....

                                1. re: chef chicklet

                                  You're probably referring to Huitlacoche, basically corn that's
                                  deformed and blackened by fungus infestation. sometimes
                                  euphemistically called "corn truffle". but if properly prepared,
                                  I can honestly say it is not bad at all! very unique musky flavor

                                  1. re: pushslice

                                    That was an ingredient on last night's "Chopped Champions"!

                                  2. re: chef chicklet

                                    That's huitlacoche, and it's delicious.

                                  3. re: flavrmeistr

                                    That is some serious trichinosis waiting to happen.

                                    1. re: flavrmeistr

                                      Ugh...that reminds me of "Night of the Living Dead" movies...."Moooooorre braiiiinnsss!"
                                      Eeek!! Gonna have nighmares if I could sleep tonight...

                                    2. re: ironmom

                                      Ditto on the Campari. This past Thanksgiving, however, I served a Campari, Limoncello, Vodka and Orange Juice cocktail to a group of mostly Campari haters. Everybody
                                      (age range 30's to 80's) had 2nds, 3rd's (and some 4ths).

                                      1. re: SJ

                                        Try this:
                                        1½ tsp Campari
                                        1½ tsp Cointreau
                                        1 tbsp sweet vermouth
                                        Put these in a Champagne glass with a sweet cherry and fill with sparkling wine.

                                        1. re: ironmom

                                          I love Campari, and will try that cocktail this evening!

                                          I am a pretty tame eater, but I do have a friend who follows a strange diet (loosely based on the beliefs of the Price Foundation) and eats avocados, raw eggs and raw calves liver every day, and not much else. We have to make a special trip to Whole Foods every day to get the liver when he visits, and he eats it in the car on the way home.

                                          1. re: Divamac

                                            One of my favourite Summer drinks is Campari and Orangina (or orange Pellagrino) over ice.

                                            1. re: Fydeaux

                                              Great idea. I always just did Campari with oj and club soda and a lime, but this sounds nicer, less sweet.

                                            2. re: Divamac

                                              Ah ain't ridin' in no car with no feller what eats raw liver...he just might get ta lookin' katty-corner at me...and mine.

                                      2. I used to keep a bag of dried shrimp in my desk drawer at work, until my colleagues complained of the smell when I opened it up for a quick snack. I love them though.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Pat Hammond

                                          I thought I was the only one! To ratchet this particular nastiness up a bit, when I get the ones dried in the shell at the Korean market, I roast them in a cast iron skillet, in a little oil and kosher salt. Eat'em like peanuts..You just haven't LIVED... ;)

                                          1. re: Pat Hammond

                                            I hate to admit it, but whenever I am in chinatown I filch a few dried shrimp from the bulk bin and munch on them right in the store!

                                          2. – Fernet Branca
                                            – The Mungo Sandwich (tunafish and peanut butter with red onion)
                                            – Scents gum. Haven't had it in years, don't know if it's still made. Tasted like violet soap.

                                            20 Replies
                                            1. re: GG Mora

                                              Choward's Scented Gum is great--in an awful perfumy sort of way. It's still around. I just might have to seek some out at lunch. They also make pastilles--in lemon flavor for the "normals" as well as that wacky violet.

                                              You have to admire Choward for not bothering to update their Art Deco package design since the Hoover administration. [does anyone know anything about this company that time forgot?]

                                              To the list, I'm going to add pickled herring in cream sauce. yum.

                                              1. re: Wisco

                                                I will second creamed herring and add smoked oysters in tins with a dash of hot sauce on top - usually Frank's. D.

                                                1. re: Wisco

                                                  Pickled herring in cream sauce with thinly sliced dill pickles added in, eaten with fresh rye bread - even yummier! Also, mashed tomato herring sandwiches with sliced cucumber on toast.

                                                  1. re: Wisco

                                                    Herring in cream sauce chopped with green apples, pickled beets, onions and capers on rye!
                                                    And I will add sardines in oil on onions rolls with lemon for breakfast.

                                                    1. re: Wisco

                                                      there is a chewing gum called thrills in canada; not sure if it's also in the uk. it tastes like a soapier sen-sen. it is definitely a nasty little treat: you hate it, but you also have to love it. it gives you thrills.

                                                      basset's licorice allsorts. i don't think these are nasty in any way, but i gather that most everybody else does. i get a very distinct biannual craving for these.

                                                      1. re: emily

                                                        I LOVE allsorts. My Grandmother kept a jar in her china closet. Licorice smell always makes me think of her.

                                                      2. re: Wisco

                                                        Ooh, I love the violet pastilles. Even though (or because?) they taste like soap.

                                                        1. re: Wisco

                                                          Their clove flavor is delightful, too.

                                                          1. re: Wisco

                                                            Never had the gum, but I love the violets.

                                                          2. re: GG Mora

                                                            The mungo sandwich sounds like something I could come to like, however as I finally approach the end of a bottle of Fernet Branca, I can't even begin to imagine purchasing another. As much as I would have liked it to become a "treat", it still comes across as a punishment.

                                                            1. re: Bobfrmia

                                                              What does Fernet Branca taste like? I used to go out for business lunches in NJ quite often, mostly for Italian, and my boss always ordered a digestif drink - it was thick and dark, and somewhat reminiscent of Sambucca, but not. I enjoyed it, but never identifed it. Maybe it was Fernet Branca?

                                                              ETA: I just saw the description of it below...still think that may be what I was being served.

                                                            2. re: GG Mora

                                                              I love the violet gum...they have a candy too, but I don't like them as much.

                                                              1. re: GG Mora

                                                                For the uninitiated, is there an easy way to describe Fernet Branca? Is it similar to Campari in its bitterness or maybe like Cynar, the artichoke liquer? Just wondering. Thanks.

                                                                1. re: tony

                                                                  Bitter and sweet and very aromatic in a minty-anisey-herby sort of way.

                                                                  1. re: GG Mora

                                                                    Thank you. Like a mix of Pernod and Campari?

                                                                    1. re: tony

                                                                      Not nearly so heavy on the anise flavor.

                                                                  2. re: tony

                                                                    I always have descibed it as something like Vicks 44 and everclear, only not as sweet.

                                                                    1. re: Bobfrmia

                                                                      That's a night you won't remember :)

                                                                    2. re: tony

                                                                      I think "dilute menthol pinetar" sort of captures it. It's a drink! It's a
                                                                      medicated dandruff shampoo!

                                                                      1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                        No, if I knew the medicated dandruff shampoo wouldn't hurt me, I'd drink that first. Infernal Branca IS like Vicks 44 and Everclear but not as sweet, with some dilute menthol pinetar too. But there's a noxious green note missing in these descriptions... maybe parsley, algae, brussels sprouts?

                                                                        (And this is coming from someone who loves the taste of Jagermeister.)

                                                                        This is a wonderful SF Weekly piece, several pages long, on Fernet Branca.

                                                                  3. Matjes herring -- a Dutch delicacy available for only a short time each year (this is the time and I have several waiting for me for breakfast tomorrow).
                                                                    Boquerones -- a pickled white anchovy served widely in Spanish bars
                                                                    Peanut butter and pickle relish on a Ritz cracker -- my dad used to make these when I was a kid, but has since denied ever eating them. Maybe he just fed them to me???

                                                                    Looking at these, I realize that sweet/pickly/salty must be one of my "dirty" little flavor favorites!

                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Kirk

                                                                      I don't know...that all sounds pretty good to me. Especially the herring. My dad's favorite was limburger and garlic salami on hardtack with scallions washed down with many National Bohemians. The minute he opened the cheese, everyone cleared out.

                                                                      1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                                        Purchased limburger only once in my life; had to pull over on the highway and toss it out the window (apologies to the DNR)...bluuuuck. Nasty treats? Hmm...the appearance of nasty: I sprung a 'nasty' treat on my children when they were very young...stuffed dates with cream cheese and pecan halves...told 'em they were June bugs as I bit into one. My older son (about 11 then) gagged and ran from the room.

                                                                      2. re: Kirk

                                                                        My mom, who was from St. Louis, favored peanut butter sandwiches made with sliced radishes OR sweet gherkins, AND lettuce and mayonnaise on toast. I've never met anyone else who ate any combination of these ingredients, but they were delicious!

                                                                        1. re: Tony Miller

                                                                          My little brother used to eat PB and mayo on toast, and I considered it very strange. If he'd added pickles or radishes, we would've had him carted off to the funny farm!

                                                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                                                            Peanut butter and Miracle Whip sandwiches! Yeah...they're good, really they are. Add crisp bacon if you need a change-up.

                                                                          2. re: Tony Miller

                                                                            My dad would do that but add Bologna. Sometimes he'd even pour tomato soup over the top. Called it Vern's Special.

                                                                        2. banana and mayonnaise sandwiches. mmmmmm.....