Terrors Eaten Around the World
When it comes to food, everyone gets to be an expert. No matter what it is you like, no one can really argue with you (though there’s a chance they’ll try!) The truth is that the culture of food is as old as humanity itself. We’ve always had things that we’ve preferred and things that we would pass up unless we were starving. It’s part of what makes us human, and whether you spend time in the kitchen yourself or you’re just happy to stop by the fast food place, food is a personal thing.
Food can be an amazing experience, but what you might not know is that it can also be a terrifying thing. Take a look at some of the things that people have eaten throughout history, and then see if your cheeseburger sounds as good!
What does it say about a meal when there is a tradition to eat it with a napkin over your head so that God can’t see you doing it? An ortolan bunting is a kind of bird that was considered the height of gastronomic luxury in France throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth century. A beautiful little bird was prepared for the feast for its entire life, and finally, at the table itself, it is drowned in alcohol. The result is supposed to be a delectable mouthful, but it has also been banned for its cruelty.
Honey Preserved Mummies
Honey is an amazing substance. Long before we started tending hives for our own purposes, our ancestors looted wild bees looking for this sticky sweet stuff. On top of being a delightful treat, honey has also long been thought to have curative powers. It is antibacterial, and just like you can candy people. In the ancient world, when an old man was close to death, he would be fed honey until he died of natural causes. Then his body would be sealed in a casket of honey until he was completely crystallized by the sugar. Pieces of the body that were broken off and eaten were said to be able to cure any illness.
Sometimes, you look at cheese and wonder about the people who first decided that curdled cheese was a good thing to put in your mouth. Cheese is delicious, however, and over the centuries, people have come up with all sorts of interesting ways to cure it. On the island of Sardinia, the method that people use to cure a cheese called casu marzu involves using maggots. The live maggots tunnel through the rind, adding what fans call a certain nutty savor to the cheese. In general, this cheese is definitely something you eat at your own risk. As you might guess, there’s a risk of getting parasites.
Most birds build their nests out of sticks or mud, which does not make them that attractive when it comes food. However, there is a species of swallow that nests off the high sea cliffs of China. This swallow eats insects and then regurgitates a thick white paste. This paste, regurgitated in streamers, can be used to weave a nest that is stuck to the side of the cliffs. With hundreds of feet of sheer cliff above and deadly waves below, most of these swallows rear their young without interference from predators. The only threat to these nests are humans, who will scale down the cliffs at great risk to collect the nests. The nests cost hundreds of dollars per ounce, and are made into a thick soup.
Insects of All Kinds
Before you flinch at the idea of eating bugs, the truth is that people have been doing it for centuries. There is a kind of ant that swells up with nectar, and people who have tried it say its better than candy. Large spiders can be fried and end up tasting like crab, and grubs can be roasted to perfection. As food culture grows and changes, insects might be on the buffet; they are easy to breed and maintain, and they pack a lot of protein for their size.
Fortunately for all of us, the number of people who are willing to eat other people for the taste of it has always been vanishingly low. During the Renaissance, Count Ugliano was locked in a tower with his two sons, and as a result, he ate them, earning him a place in Dante’s Inferno. Alfred Packer, a nineteenth century Colorado guide, supposedly ate the people he was leading when they were trapped by a snowstorm. They are just the tip of an immensely gory iceberg which includes Albert Fish, Katherine Knight and Armin Miewes.