One of my favorite parts of traveling is sampling the local cuisine and finding out what all the fuss is about. Paella was a big part of my Spanish excursion, as were street crepes when I went to Paris. However, I felt okay about skipping black pudding when I went to the UK because, despite how popular some foods are in certain regions, their gore factor is undeniable. Just because these dishes are celebrated or steeped in tradition, it doesn’t make them any easier to stomach.
1. Black Pudding
Sounds like a rich, dark chocolate dessert, but it’s actually sausage made of congealed blood, usually from a pig or cow, and grains. It’s a traditional breakfast component in the UK. Photo source: dipfan (cc)
Another food with a misrepresentative name, sweetbread is as far from a delicious after-dinner treat as you can get. Sweetbreads can be one of two varieties—stomach sweetbread is pancreas and throat sweetbread is thymus gland. Photo source: acme (cc)
3. Head Cheese
Head cheese is a more appetizing way of saying “meat jelly,” which is various animal (usually a cow or pig) head bits set in gelatin with herbs and spices. In Europe, it’s used as sandwich filling. Photo source: Bien Stephenson (cc)
A holiday dinner mainstay in Norwegian households, lutefisk is whitefish that’s been dried and treated with lye, a caustic chemical. Photo source: hilderbrant (cc)
In the Philippines, duck or chicken eggs with almost-developed embryos inside are boiled and served with salt and pepper as a street-side snack. Photo source: wmy (cc)
This refers to pig intestines that are stewed or fried and included in a main dish. It’s most popular in the South. Photo source: Wikimedia Commons
Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish involving sheep organs mixed with grains, spices, and soup stock, then stuffed into a sheep’s stomach and boiled. Photo source: Biology Big Brother (cc)
8. Dormouse Stew
Just like it sounds, this hearty soup consists of dormice and is eaten in Slovenia, Italy, and Croatia. The little critter is actually a protected species, so sometimes rats, not dormice, are the stars of the dish.
This food paste—beloved by Australians—is extracted from yeast and is used in the way we use peanut butter—spread on toast, crackers, biscuits, and so forth. It’s salty and includes various spices and a hint of vegetable flavor. Photo source: Rob Qld (cc)
10. Tiết Canh
A component of Vietnamese cuisine, it features duck blood and innards, chopped nuts, and herbs mixed together and cooled so that it congeals. Photo source: Wikimedia Commons
After looking over that list, I can’t stomach the idea of eating anything, let alone dishes centered on blood and rodents. I’m all for cultural immersion when I travel, but everyone has to know where to draw the line. For me, that’s when someone hands me a meat jelly sandwich.