Every country has their own signature dishes that foreigners may find peculiar, even cringe-worthy. For example, non-Americans often find American cheese and peanut butter to be weird, and sometimes go as far as thinking it is gross. This can even happen within a single country. Whether it be due to history, farming practices, or geography, big, expansive countries, such as the United States of America, have distinct regional differences when it comes to traditional food. So while PB&J and Kraft slices in your grilled cheese may sound completely normal, there are a lot of American foods that out-of-staters, or foreigners, may have a hard time swallowing.
Here are 17 of the weirdest foods in the America.
Any food that is affectionately referred to as mudbugs has to be on this list. A staple in most Louisianian homes, these little creatures are eaten by the pounds! They are boiled in a large pot with a variety of spices and other ingredients, such as potatoes, corn and sausage. The way one makes crawfish depends on personal taste. Crawfish boils are popular events throughout crawfish season (which is mid-November through mid-August), and are pretty much cook-out style parties, with crawfish as the main course. If you attend one, be sure to have plenty of napkins on hand, and maybe some spare clothes; you use your hands when you eat this dish, which can mean that it can get pretty messy.
If you've never seen this on the menu at your local diner, you most likely do not live in Eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware or Maryland. It's traditionally a breakfast meat, and can be served with an egg on top, or with ketchup, jelly, apple sauces and other relishes. After the most commonly eaten cuts of the pig are removed (bacon, ham and chops), the remaining parts, such as the skin, heart, liver, brain and tongue, are salted and spiced, combined with cornmeal and buckwheat flour, and cooked on the stove top for hours. It's then refrigerated in a loaf pan to later be fried and served up as a dish called scrapple. It was created in order to not waste any of the meat of the pig. Want not, waste not, am I right?
Chitterlings, usually referred to as chitlins, are a traditional Southern food made up of the small intestines of a pig that are boiled or stewed, and sometimes even battered and fried. They are often topped with apple cider vinegar and hot sauce, and served with such foods as collared greens and fried chicken. They originated during the 18th and 19th century, when institutional slavery existed. Slave owners would feed this dish to their slaves as to not have to share the “better” cuts of the pig. If you ever plan on making them yourself, beware — they can be quite stinky when they are cooking.
14 Rocky Mountain Oysters
Despite the name, this dish is not comprised of shellfish. They are, in fact, bull testicles, and are considered a delicacy in ranching states such as Colorado, Montana, Idaho and Kansas. The testicles are usually removed when the bull is young and being branded. They are then washed, peeled, rolled in flour, seasoned with salt and pepper, and then pan fried. The testicles are either fried whole, cut into thin and wide slices, or marinated, and often topped with some hot sauce. They go by a few other names, such as prairie oysters, calf fries, cowboy caviar, huevos del toros (which in Spanish means “bulls’ eggs”), Montana tender groins, and swinging beef. If this sounds tasty to you, then be sure to check out one of Montana's numerous testicle festivals held every spring and fall. They are also rumored to help men's sexual performance as well, so if you are having problems in that area, be sure to load up!
13 Fermented Fish Heads
This Alaskan dish is also known as Stinkheads, which doesn't make it sound any more appetizing. It's a traditional dish of the Yupik people in Southwest Alaska, and traditionally made out of the heads of King salmon. The heads are buried underground in special fermentation pits. They are left there to rot for a few weeks, then are removed, ready to be consumed. I'm sure you now can guess why the word “stink” is used. Unfortunately, Alaska has been suffering from an ever growing increase in botulism, and these fish heads are a big reason why.
12 Watergate Salad
This is definitely not your typical healthy salad. In fact, it is served as a dessert. Also referred to as Pistachio Delight, Shut The Gate Salad, Green Goop, Green Fluff or Green Stuff, this green colored dish is popular in the Upper Midwest, especially for holidays. It's comprised of pistachio instant pudding, crushed pineapple, chopped walnuts, Cool Whip and mini marshmallows. Originally, in the mid '80s, Kraft put a recipe on its JELL-O Pistachio Flavored Pudding box called Pistachio Pineapple Delight, which was the same recipe as Watergate Salad, minus the marshmallows. Soon people began referring to it as Watergate Salad, and the marshmallows were added. No one really knows how the name came about, but it's stuck ever since
11 Pickled Pigs' Feet
Pickled pigs' feet are exactly what they sound like. The pigs' feet are salted and smoked, then cured in vinegar, salt and spices . They are usually served as a meaty snack, topped with hot sauce. You can even buy a jar of them in their pickling juice at some supermarkets, especially in the South. In fact, years ago, if you lived in the South, it was likely that your local ice cream truck served them as well. Lovers of this dish will suck every bit of meat and fat right off the bones.
10 Spam Musubi
Spam is a common ingredient for many Hawaiian dishes. It's a canned pre-cooked meat, made up of pork shoulder, ham, salt, water, potato starch, sugar and sodium nitrate. A natural gelatin forms around the meat in the tin cans it comes in, and it has an incredibly high fat content. Spam is the main ingredient for spam musubi, a popular Hawaiian snack. It is pretty similar to sushi, just with Spam used instead of fish. The Spam is grilled and placed on top of a rectangular block of rice, then is wrapped together with nori (a sheet of dried seaweed). Sometimes sesame seeds, scrambled eggs or pickled vegetables are added. It's can be found at most convenience stores.
9 Frito Pie
The Frito pie is not actually a pie; it's chili poured on top of Frito corn chips, garnished with chopped raw onions and cheddar cheese. Some places swap out the shredded cheese for chile con queso, and may add sour cream and pickled jalapeno slices. It's also pretty common to have the dish served in a ripped open Frito bag. There is much debate over the Frito Pie's origins. New Mexicans claim it as their own, saying it was invented by a woman in Santa Fe who decided to pour red chili into her bag of corn chips. Texans say this is false. They claim it was invented by a woman in San Antonio, who created the first pie with onions and cheese. However, according to Fritos Pie, Stories, Recipes and More, by Kaleta Doolin, it was actually created by Frito-Lay in a corporate test kitchen. Who would have thought such a battle would exist over credit dibs for this dish?
8 Ambrosia Salad
Ambrosia salad is the prettier cousin of the Watergate salad. It usually contains pineapple, mandarin oranges, marshmallows, coconut, sour cream and whipped cream. Depending on personal taste, maraschino cherries and/or pecans can be mixed in. In the South, ambrosia salad is considered a traditional Easter and Christmas dessert. Considered a variation of fruit salad, I think this version is a lot less healthy. It almost looks and sounds like something your five-year-old would make if you gave them full access to the kitchen.
Another Louisiana dish, chaudin, also known as Southern Louisiana Ponce, is a Cajun sausage that is made in the stomach of a pig. It's smoked, then cooked in a Dutch oven, and smothered in something called Holy Trinity Gravy: a roux combined with onions, bell peppers, celery, and water, broth or wine. It's served in slices over rice. Sliced, it just looks like large pieces of sausage; whole it looks like a stomach sitting right on your plate.
6 Red Eye Gravy
This Southern gravy is made from the leftover fat juices of fried ham, sausage or bacon. Black coffee is then added to the skillet, and as it sizzles, the skillet is scraped to dissolve the particles that cling to the bottom and sides of the pan. This must've been created by someone who didn't want to waste a single drop of that black liquid gold. It also goes by the names of poor man's gravy, bird-eye gravy, bottom sop and red ham gravy. It is served with biscuits, ham and eggs. The official name comes from the blob of grease in the center of the gravy that looks like a an eye staring up at you – though there is a rumor that it came from Andrew Jackson, after he was served the gravy and noticed his hungover cook's bloodshot eyes.
If you take a deboned chicken and stuff it into a deboned duck, then take that and stuff it inside the gastric passage of a turkey, braise, roast, grill or barbecue it, then voila, you have a turducken. Each layer of poultry is often stuffed with seasoned breadcrumbs or sausage. The turducken is yet another Louisiana creation, born in New Orleans. It has become a holiday tradition in the state, as well as many other Southern states. I once went to a wedding in Alabama that took it a step further; they took the chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a turkey, and then stuffed it inside of a pig. Would that be a turduckenpig?
Gizzards are a muscular organ in the digestive track of the chicken that grind up the food that the chicken eats. They pretty much act as the chicken's teeth. It is also a popular Southern dish. Anyone cooking gizzards must first remove all of the dirt and tufts of grass that usually get lodged in between the folds, then soak and wash them thoroughly to remove any clinging bits. They can be grilled, sautéed, or cooked into a stew, but are most commonly fried and served as a munchie food for events like football games. They are a good source of protein, but beware: they are jam packed with cholesterol, with 19 mg per ounce.
3 The Garbage Plate
Not the most appetizing of names, this dish was created 50 years ago in a Rochester, New York restaurant called Nick Tahou Hots. Supposedly, one night some college students asked the owner to make them a meal with “all the garbage on it.” This resulted in a giant plate containing home fries on one half and macaroni salad on the other, topped with hamburger meat, covered with melted cheese, a mustard horseradish sauce, and lastly, smothered with chili hot sauce, served with a side of Italian bread. Even writing that out made my belly hurt. Adaptations in other restaurants replace the hamburger with hot dogs or steak. The Garbage Plate is considered a late night snack and hangover food, and is popular with college students. It's even become part of eating and drinking contests for local fraternities.
This dish is yet another Louisiana specialty (the fourth one on this list), specifically hailing from New Orleans. A nutria is a large, web footed, semi-aquatic rodent, also known as a river rat. They are originally from South America, but in the '40s were brought to Louisiana to control the water hyacinth population (an aquatic plant), and people also started owning them as pets. There were 20 million of these critters roaming around by the '50s, destroying crops, plants and property. The state started a big campaign to get people to eat them in order to control the populations. The meat is served in sandwiches, as burgers, or cooked in a Crockpot with seasoning and veggies. Part of that campaign was also to promote creating clothing out of their fur. It has been branded as “righteous fur” because, well, killing them is supposed to be good for the environment.
1 Jellied Moose Nose
Jellied moose nose is an Alaskan delicacy. The upper jawbone of a moose is boiled in a pot of water and then chilled in cold water. At this point, all the hairs must be removed. It is then boiled again in a pot with onion, garlic, spices and vinegar, until the meat is tender. The nose then sits overnight. The next day the meat is removed and the broth is boiled again, then poured over the meat in a loaf pan and left to cool until it is jellied. It's eaten as a snack in chilled slices. I think I will stick with Jell-O.