5 The Emperor’s Bird’s Nest Soup
Today, Bird’s Nest Soup is a delicacy reserved for those willing to shell out a hefty lump of cash for a single bowl, often into the hundreds of dollars. In centuries past, the nests used to make this odd food were reserved for Chinese emperors and those of their inner circle. We, for our money, will gladly leave this particular foodstuff in the Forbidden City of Imperial Beijing, because, like the name suggests, it is indeed made from the nest of the swiftlet, which uses its sticky saliva as a bonding agent.
4 Henry VIII’s Black Pudding
If you stumble into some sort of magical time machine and find yourself spat out into a the banquet hall of King Henry VIII, you only need to remember one thing: pass on dessert. When the king offers you a taste of Black Pudding, that’s not going to be a bit of creamy dark chocolate sweetness… no, it’s actually onions, fat, and usually a grain of some sort mixed with dried pug blood, then boiled in more pig blood and then usually stuffed into a casing often made of entrails.
The name alone is enough to have you pushing your plate away, isn’t it? And if the name of this fishy dish doesn’t send you running from the kitchen, the smell probably will. Unless of course you are the Swedish King Gustav I, who reportedly loved this Nordic dish made of aged, semi-dried fish prepared with salt and lye. Yes, lye, a chemical which can be caustic in high enough concentrations. The preparation of lutefisk basically involved embalming it with lye, giving the whitefish being used a gel-like quality and then soaking it for many days in clean water until it is no longer poisonous, and instead merely disgusting. Or delicious, depending on how Scandinavian you are.
2 Iced Cheese
OK, let’s get this straight: iced tea? Delicious and refreshing. Iced cheese? No way. Pretty disgusting unless you were a member of the court of King Louis XVI; in that case, chances are you chowed down on the stuff! There are even stories of Marie Antoinette eating so much of the stuff she became ill. To be fair, iced cheese is closer to what we would think of as ice cream than it is to a frozen chunk of Wisconsin cheddar, but still, what a gross combination of an otherwise inane adjective and noun.
1 Lamprey Pie
Lamprey Pie has long been popular with British royalty; indeed, the “delicacy” continues to be a regular menu item today for Queen Elizabeth II. And until you know what a “lamprey” is, this dish sounds absolutely harmless. Now, to burst that bubble: a lamprey is a bloodsucking eel-like fish that latches onto its victims with concentric circles of needle-like teeth. The lamprey then uses its hard, sharp tongue to bore a hole into the hapless, helpless fish, thus to get at its blood. Now, how does a pie of baked lamprey drizzled in syrup and topped with a nice warm crust sound?