Banned in the U.S. from 1915 till 2007, Absinthe can have anywhere from 47% to 74% alcohol content. Rumors have always been that it’s a hallucinogenic.
Prepared correctly, a very sweet meat that can be served as an entrée, or cut into chunks and served with a dipping sauce as an appetizer.
These small or tiny fish are decried as the worst pizza topping possible, mainly because of poor quality of the fish, far too much salt, or the canning. Better fish and better canning operations make for a much better experience, which I've thoroughly enjoyed.
States such as Michigan and Maine have official Black Bear hunting seasons. The meat is good in stews, sausages and soups. It must be cooked thoroughly and should not be even medium rare, with fall kills being better than spring as a bear coming from hibernation might be parasitic.
Black Pudding, aka Blood Sausage
Blood from livestock or game birds is combined with a filler of meat, nut or grain-based filled until it’s thick enough to congeal before cooking.
More commonly available than people realize. Simply marinade cut beef or veal bones in a solution of sea salt water for 24 hours to remove the blood (changing the solution every 4 – 6 hours), then roast in the oven at 450F for 15 – 25 minutes (depending on size) until the marrow puffs. Gelatinous greatness awaits: just eat it with a spoon or have it on toast or crackers.
A hot or cold soup based on beetroot, with numerous variations.
British Fish & Chips
I don’t care if you think you’ve had the best fish & chips you’ve ever tasted. Unless it was the British version that was developed in the 1850s, it doesn’t count. It’s a select few species of fish with a certain batter fried in a specific oil with potatoes prepared in one of a few accepted manners. Anything else is an imitation, and likely a sad one at that. Oh, and don’t forget the actual British malt vinegar.
Buffalo Our grandaughter Allie with her buffalo burger at the Irma Hotel in Cody, Wyoming, on June 28, 2019.
A rich cattle meat similar to beef and prepared the same. Gets very dry if overcooked.
Generally slices of the body of squid that have been coated with batter and deep-fried.
Must be from a very young camel. It’s marinated and then roasted similar to a beef sirloin roast.
A very soft and creamy cheese that’s stronger than brie, with a thick outer layer of mold.
Can be fried or baked (be sure to score whole fish first), made into cakes similar to crab cakes, and is good for stews, chowders and pickling.
Mostly used as poached in tomato or cream, or fried in a light batter or cornmeal dredge.
Salt-cured eggs (“roe”) from various fish and mammals including sturgeon, beluga, salmon, trout and other specific species.
Chicken Feet, Glazed
Not much meat, but quite rich in flavor. Another item that’s like candy and difficult to stop eating.
Chicken Gizzards, Fried The chicken gizzards and livers at the Pit Stop in Monticello, Indiana, on June 15, 2015.
A soul food specialty, there was for many years an annual Gizzardfest in the month of June in Potterville, Michigan. The ones I enjoyed were made fresh at the Pit Stop Pantry, a gas station/truck stop just north of Monticello, Indiana, on NW Shafer Dr.
These have been so common for me, either sautéed in butter or breaded with corn meal and fried, that I at first had neglected to add them to the list. I first had these as a teen and still enjoy them four decades on.
Chitlins, aka Chitterlings or Tripas
The intestines of pigs, and possibly other livestock, that has been thoroughly cleaned with multiple rinses, then simmered for hours before being made into a soup or battered and fried.
Clams, Steamed (Steamers)
Countless places throughout the U.S. offer fried clams as part of seafood platters. Fewer places offer them steamed, which is popular in New England states. This is also a soft-shelled clam, which is a different beast altogether.
Clams, Whole Belly, Fried My whole belly clam roll at Taste Of Maine Restaurant in Woolwich, Maine, on April 18, 2018.
A whole belly clam consists of everything inside the clam, without trimming anything off. These are battered and deep-fried and eaten as a finger food, or served in a hoagie roll or in a grilled New England roll.
A highly-refined brandy made from specific grapes, and having minimum distilling and aging processes that are regulated by law.
Crab, Whole, Soft Shell
When blue crabs molt, shedding their shells, and before they develop a new one, almost the entire crab is edible whole. In the Chesapeake Bay region the mouths, abdomen and gills are removed, and the crab are then deep-fried and served on sandwiches.
Served as a novelty in the U.S., they are eaten fried or dried by countless people around the world as a main source of protein. Foodies in America generally have them dipped in chocolate to make them easier to swallow.
My dad made this stuff when I was growing up. It was actually made from dandelions he picked in the yard before mowing. Recipes are endless and quite simple.
“Venison” is actually a broad term meaning the meat from any game animal, though most people use it without specifying when talking about deer meat. Cooked correctly the meat has very little of the “gaminess” people talk about when saying they don’t like it. Grill the steaks over high heat till medium rare, or make a sausage stuffed into natural casings.
Duck Eggs At Nezinscot's Farm in Turner, Maine, the top compares a chicken egg with a duck egg. They occasionally also offer partridge and goose eggs.
Slightly larger than a chicken egg, they're much more flavorful. A four duck egg omelet can easily be split between two adults.
This fruit stinks so horribly some airports in areas where it’s grown are specified as “Durian-free zones”.
One of the first items I had my kids try without allowing them to say they wouldn’t like it, they all enjoyed it and have gone on to other foods on this list. Skinned similar to a catfish it is then steamed, sautéed, grilled, fried or smoked.
Available in places such as Wyoming and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I only haven’t yet had the opportunity.
Most often the snails are rinsed in the shell, a solidified herbed butter is added and the escargot are then roasted. They are enjoyed whole by removing them from the shell with a tiny fork.
Yes, people do enjoy sucking the insides from roasted eyeballs from various fish, pig or cattle.
Young ferns that, oddly enough, are shaped like the head of a fiddle. They are cooked in various ways or pickled, and used in salads, soups and other dishes. They are onyx available for a few weeks in the spring.
Strips of grilled or fried mild white fish in a corn tortilla topped with a mayonnaise sauce, shredded lettuce, salsa, lime and other ingredients.
The fattened liver of a duck or goose, which is seared, made into mousse, or any of a dozen or more other preparations. It has a rich, creamy, buttery flavor and texture that has to be experienced to be believed.
Frog Legs Frog Legs I enjoyed at a former local French bistro on March 28, 2008.
Only the legs are used in cooking, with frogs from Indonesia and surrounding areas being larger than most. If battered lightly and gently fried in clean oil, they’re moist and delectable, with no chicken-like flavor.
Extremely toxic. Only licensed chefs in Japan and other Asian are allowed to prepare it after strict training and rigorous testing.
Carp, Pike, Perch, Salmon or Whitefish, skinned, deboned and ground, mixed with onion, egg and matza meal, made into a log, patties or stuffed back into the fish skin, and poached in a fish stock. Served chilled.
A large burrowing clam generally weighing one to three pounds with a siphon for breathing while buried to about one meter deep. Usually sautéed, used in soups or stews, or raw as sashimi.
Raw salmon fermented with a dry rub of sea salt, sugar and dill weed, it becomes like creamy butter when eaten. Can actually be had in the cafeterias of IKEA stores.
Green Pea Ice Cream
Green peas are generally sweet so adding them puréed as an ice cream ingredient works well. Some also include mint, which adds a nice freshness.
Guinea Pig, aka Cuy, Cobayo, conejillo de indias
Served fried, roasted, or roast on a spit.
A classic Scottish dish, which is banned in the U.S. because of the included lung, haggis also includes the heart and liver. Minced together with oatmeal, onion, suet and spice, the mix is stuffed into a stomach for the large haggis, or bladders for links, and simmered or roasted for a few hours. Americanized versions exclude the lung, while the stomach or bladder are replaced with other casings.
Head Cheese Head cheese made at Kilgus Meats in Toledo, Ohio, on January 1, 2017.
The best is made by boiling the meats from a hog’s head with some spices, minus the brains and eyes. The heart and tongue may also be included. The meat is coarsely chopped, various liquids are added, and the mix is formed into a loaf pan or drained in cheesecloth bags.
Trimmed and sliced into steaks and then seared, beef heart has a deep beef flavor with only a touch of the mineral flavors of other offal. It’s also the main ingredient in the topping of the Flint-Style Coney, which I’ve been enjoying regularly most of my life. Chicken hearts are another delight, either sautéed in butter or breaded with corn meal and fried.
Small fish that are generally pickled or preserved in cream sauce. They are also split and the pickled or smoked as “kippers”.
Kept as pets in many U.S. homes (I've wanted one myself), they can grow upwards of six feet based on the environment they live in. In the Florida Keys they're a wild invasive species. We've seen hundreds ourselves along Rt. 1's 110 mile length between Key Largo and Key West. They're hunted and grilled by families there, and served at some local restaurants.
Weighing sometimes about thirty lbs, these are sold whole or in two-pound slices in places such as Wyoming. I understand it takes a bit of skill to prepare certain parts of these correctly. I’m hoping to find them on a restaurant menu for the first time I try them.
The bagged jerky in most convenience stores and gas stations are sad substitutes for real jerky made fresh where you buy it. It can be difficult to find, but there are countless varieties and base meats including ostrich, moose, elk and reindeer.
Richer in flavor than beef and more tender, it can replace beef and other red meats in almost any dish.
Likely the most mineral-flavored of offal, kidneys (which extract the urine from the bloodstream) can be quite off-putting on a first taste. Because of this it’s often a favorite among adventurous eaters.
A dish of spicy pickled and fermented cabbage with other vegetables, many times taking months to cure. Levels of spicy heat can vary greatly.
Not a Kobe-style or the generic Wagyu beef, but the regulated beef that’s available only in Japan, that falls under the rules of the Kobe beef trademark.
Can be prepared in any number of ways, including sautéing, frying, made into terrines, or made into fritters.
In a classic Mediterranean dish known as Kibbeh Nayyeh, raw lamb is mixed with fine bulgur, as well as onions, pine nuts, and other flavors as well as olive oil, then spiced and served with flatbread. I’ve enjoyed this multiple times since 2009 and am always on the lookout for it.
Braunschweiger, which I grew up eating regularly, is a creamy and mild sausage that’s basically smoked liver sausage. The unsmoked version is particularly good, with large chunks of good liver. I just eat it with a fork, no bread or mayo required.
Lobster Meat from a whole claw, and the tail meat, picked from my own first whole lobster at Gurnet's in Brunswick, Maine, on September 13, 2018.
Considered by many to be one of the elite shellfish, many times it’s difficult to find lobster that’s cooked correctly and isn’t rubbery and slightly “gamey”. Have it as fresh as possible, prepared by someone who knows what they’re doing. The best ones I’ve had so far are at Mr. Sea's Lobster Pound in Lewiston, Maine.
Dried cod or other mild whitefish that is then steamed, baked or parboiled. Because of its Norwegian origins, it is then served with more comforting side dishes such as potatoes and mashed vegetables.
Because of its rapid spoilage, unless it’s preserved in some way mackerel needs to be prepared and eaten the day it’s caught. That’s why it’s difficult to find.
Banned for import into the U.S. until 2007 because of the Asian fruit fly, they’re still difficult to find and rather expensive. The fruit has an inedible rind but has been called “luscious”. It can be found on occasion on dishes in high-end restaurants.
Honey Mead was quite possibly the first alcoholic beverage, over 11,000 years ago. Numerous varieties exist today but Honey Mead is certainly where to begin tasting.
Milk, Raw The raw milk I regularly enjoy, at Nezinscot's Farm in Turner, Maine, on July 6, 2018.
Milk that’s directly out of the udder, be it from cow, sheep, goat, etc., it’s been neither homogenized nor pasteurized. Only slightly more than half the U.S. allows for the sale of raw milk directly to consumers for so-called safety reasons. However, because of its properties it is by far the best-tasting milk there is.
Korean Sea Mustard (wakame) soup, it is popular in homes and restaurants there, particularly among pregnant and post-pregnancy women due to its nutrition content.
High-proof spirit, generally corn whiskey, produced by Appalachian home distillers illegally. Legal “moonshine” is becoming available, with some illegal distillers becoming licensed, offering products upwards of 80 proof. Some don’t even taste like turpentine.
Available in places such as Maine, Wyoming, and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I only haven’t yet had the opportunity.
With a very delicate flavor, fresh morel mushrooms are prized wherever they’re found. Many locations have morel mushroom collection tours and festivals when the annual harvest occurs.
Many states now offer hunting season for mourning doves. As they’re quite dry the breasts are usually soaked in a brine or milk solution overnight before grilling or sautéing.
While being nothing more that a water-borne rodent that lives in ditches, for the first few months of the year it’s a delicacy enjoyed by thousands as a Lenten dish at dinners hosted by organizations throughout southeast Michigan. The animals are skinned, cleaned, packed into home roasters with vegetables and roasted for hours before they’re served with mashed potatoes, corn and banana peppers, tasting like a nice roast beef but with dozens of tiny bones.
Cook it rapidly, as in a wok for a salad or on a grill for an entrée, or very slowly, for an hour or two. In-between is where it gets that rubbery texture people don’t like. It can also be canned, which is quite good.
Quite popular at game dinners as a burger, there are numerous other methods for preparation as well.
Kind of a misnomer now, the meaty bones of the tail of any kind of cattle (even though the name used to be accurate). Traditionally used in soups and stews as part of many cultures’ use of “nose-to-tail” of any animal throughout history, they are now also braised or roasted as entrées in higher-end dishes.
On the half-shell. No ice involved, it should be at room or seawater temperature, the fresher the better. Shoot it in one gulp, that’s the best way to really enjoy them.
A Polish delicacy made popular in Hamtramck, Michigan, usually enjoyed on-or-around Fat Tuesday. Home cooks would empty their pantries of fats, sugars, fruits and other baking items for Lent and make these beautiful fruit-filled lard bombs. If you think you’ve had a Paczki and think it’s just a jelly doughnut … No, you haven’t had a Paczki.
Pasty A beef pasty from Muldoon's in Munising, Michigan, on October 31, 2019.
Sort of like a meat pie, this is a complete meal in a crust. People from Cornwall brought the recipe here to work in the mines of the upper peninsula of Michigan and other midwestern states. Rutabaga is a common ingredient. It’s a mix of cut meat, starches, vegetables and lard laid into one side of a round crust, then folded, sealed with a decorative braiding around the crust, then baked and served with gravy or “red sauce”.
Not actually a dish from the region of India, Phall originated in Birmingham, UK, and then to NYC. Considered by many to be the hottest curry available, some curry shops have ongoing Phall Curry eating competitions.
A game bird that can definitely end up gamey if it isn’t cooked correctly, this is one where “low and slow” is apparently the key. Basting helps. The result is supposedly something special.
Pickled Pigs Feet
Offered in jars in supermarkets in the midwest, they’re even better when pickled in someone’s home kitchen using fresh trotters.
Pig Stomach, aka Buche
Knowing my affinity for authentic Mexican food, Ruben at Rosa’s & Ruben’s food truck in Cody, Wyoming, offered me a sample of Tacos de Buche, or pig stomach tacos, which was their family dinner one evening in May, 2019. It wasn’t chewy at all as described elsewhere and was simply delicious, with a rich pork flavor and a texture closer to the inner layers of a roasted pig skin.
Plantains, which are similar to bananas but richer and more fibrous, absolutely need to be cooked before they can be eaten, but they end up like candy and it’s difficult to quit.
Pork Rinds, Fresh Fried, aka Cracklins Fresh pork rinds, which were still warm, at Veronica's Market in Adrian, Michigan, on May 8, 2012.
No, not that bagged stuff on the shelves in the potato chip aisle at the grocery chain. The real thing is freshly made from pigskin and served while it’s still warm from the fryer.
Considered by some to be the “Canadian national dish”, it consists largely of French fries covered with gravy and cheese curds. It’s even served at fast food chains throughout Canada. However, high-end versions exist particularly in cities such as Montreal where Chefs cook the fries in duck fat, top the fries with a duck gravy and then include more expensive toppings on the dish.
An odd looking thing, it’s basically a cactus fruit. Handle with care because it’s very … well, prickly. But inside is a luscious fruit that can be made into preserves, candies, and used in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
Tiny low-cholesterol eggs with a high yolk-to-egg ratio that are used to top anything from burgers to high-end dishes. When soft-boiled they can also be battered for deep-frying.
Eaten fried, or made into a stew or gumbo, if it’s prepared correctly it will taste like rabbit, not chicken. There’s a nice difference.
Traditionally a southern dish, raccoon hunting seasons exist throughout the U.S. The animals are cleaned with scent glands removed, then parboiled with potatoes and other vegetables prior to baking.
After skinning and deboning, rattlesnake is normally fried, stewed or poached. Common dishes are chilis, pastas, and soup or stew.
Sardines get a bad rap because they’re a canned fish that doesn’t fit what people think preserved fish should taste like (i.e., canned tuna). I’ve enjoyed them my whole life, particularly those that are smoked, or preserved in mustard sauce.
Most of the sauerkraut in supermarkets is a highly-processed food. Raw sauerkraut is simply shredded cabbage and salt, stuffed into crocks and sealed for at least 45 days before opening. Variations include the addition of caraway or poppy seeds, red cabbage, carrots, beets, peppers, garlic, and many others.
Farmed in beds in most oceans, the meat of the scallop is usually seared and used as the main ingredient for an entrée.
A mush of hog trimmings and offal, combined with cornmeal and seasonings in a hog stock. This is made into a loaf, from which slices are cut and panfried as a breakfast meat. Call it “Head Cheese Spam”, that’s what it seems like, only handmade and really nice.
Small fish indigenous to the Great Lakes area. When smelt are running it’s popular to have smelt dinners where the cleaned whole fish are pan-fried in a cornmeal batter. They’re also eaten whole as the bones are too small to remove and are also edible.
This is the Thai version of spicy green papaya salad that includes toasted nuts, hot chili, shrimp or clams, and other ingredients.
Even people who don’t like Spam have said they enjoy a breakfast of Fried Spam & Eggs, which became popular on Hawaii during World War II.
Squid Ink The Lobster Ravioli at Davinci's in Lewiston, Maine, on September 25, 2020. The black striping is squid ink.
The only natural way to achieve a perfectly-black color in food, squid ink is both flavorless and odorless. Its use as a food coloring ranges from coloring pasta, to its use in cake, cookie, and pastry decorating.
Squirrel hunting is extremely common, with seasons being long and daily limits being quite good. Recipes abound as there are countless ways to prepare them. Just make sure to get all the buckshot out. The one we enjoyed was hunted by our son Ryan when he was sixteen, which he cooked via suggestions from his hunting mentor who’d been hunting for more than 50 years. The squirrel was very sweet, juicy and quite enjoyable.
The thought of eating raw ground beef, mixed with herbs and chopped onion, was once a scary thing for me, especially topped with a raw egg. I vowed it was the thing I would never try. A proud chef friend placing one in front of me unannounced made me change my tune. And it was one of the best things I ever ate. Kibbie Nayyah is a similar preparation which can also include lamb. I enjoyed this dish at Sidon Mediterranean Grille in Toledo, with spiced minced raw lamb and bulghar wheat.
A spiny and quite prehistoric family of fish, sturgeon live in both fresh and salt waters north of the equator, growing to be from 6 – 12 feet in length. Both their meat and caviar are prized for their richness. Sturgeon can be grilled or smoked, and can be quite expensive.
Not a bread of any kind, this is the term for calf or lamb thymus or pancreas. Generally used in stuffing, terrines or patés, they are also poached in milk before frying and served by themselves or as part of another dish.
Served as steaks or the collar of the fish, they’re either simply seasoned or marinated before grilling.
Testicles, Bull, aka Rocky Mountain Oysters The Rocky Mountain Oysters at the Irma Hotel in Cody, Wyoming, on March 1, 2019.
Not oysters at all, Rocky Mountain Oysters is the rather playful name for bull testicles. Removed from younger bulls prior to branidng, the outer membrane is removed from the testicle, which is then traditionally seasoned well before being battered and fried. The Rocky Mountain Oysters we first enjoyed were at Irma Restaurant & Hotel in Cody, Wyoming. Founded by Buffalo Bill Cody in 1902, the restaurant lists the appetizer as “Buffalo Bill’s original sack lunch.” The thick slices of testicle had a crisp batter on them. They were meaty with a minor “bite” to their texture, tasting like a good sirloin. We thoroughly enjoyed them, and will have them again.
Tongue The Lengua Tacos at Esmerelda's in Monticello, Indiana, on August 27, 2015.
Beef or sheep's tongue are the most common. It's boiled or scalded to remove the skin, and can then be sautéed or panfried. It's then used in dishes such as Lengua Tacos, or as chunks in Blood-Tongue Sausage.
The lining of the stomach of a cow, the honeycomb structure of tripe is most commonly found in the Mexican soup Menudo, although tripe can be prepared a number of ways.
Truffle, White or Black Shaved black truffle on my Truffle Macaroni and Cheese at the Truffle Truck in Wells, Maine, on Father's Day, June 17, 2018.
Former and latter, the first and second most expensive fungus on the planet, used sparingly (sliced extremely thin) to enhance the flavor of dishes.
A deboned chicken stuffed inside a deboned duck stuffed inside a deboned turkey, tied with twine then roasted. Supposedly quite good if seasoned and cooked properly, with a lot of good variations in meat selection for diners.
The body of a snapping turtle can be very meaty. Removed from the shell, battered and deep fried, one turtle can generally feed two people.
There’s a place near us where the owner makes fresh turtle soup from Lake Erie turtle every day. Everyone who tries it becomes addicted, and orders it every time they go. It has beautiful tender chunks of turtle on a beef broth with good vegetables. Excellent stuff.
Uni The top hand roll in this pic contains three sections of uni, at Mr. Tuna in Portland, Maine, on September 5, 2020.
Go snorkeling. Find sea urchins on the bottom. Pick up the spiney creatures with gloved hands. On-land, flip them over and use scissors to open the underside. Use a spoon to eat the sea urchin roe right out of the animal at seawater temperature. Delicious!
Made from leftover brewer’s yeast extract as a paste with a few other ingredients, Australians spread it thin on toast as part of their morning meal. Has flavor and texture that differs from the New Zealand and British versions of Marmite.
This is the spicy green paste found in Asian cuisines. Various legumes (soybeans, peas, etc.) are also fried or roasted, coated with a wasabi powder and sold as a hot spicy snack which is quite addictive.
Whisky, Single Malt
Only Scottish whiskys (no 'e'), such as Glenlevit, Macallan and the like, can be trusted to be true single malt whiskys due to better regulations there.
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