#4. Raw, 4-Inch-Long Worms
If you find yourself stuck wandering through the Australian Outback, you probably only have minutes to live, and that's a best case scenario. You won't find a Denny's out here, so why not do what the locals do and dig up some fat, squirming caterpillars to chow down on? It's probably the least disgusting thing you'll have to do today.
Not disgusting, just heartbreaking. Look at that adorable little face!
Food is scarce in the desert, and for thousands of years the Australian Aborigines have relied partly on protein-rich witchetty grubs, which are the larvae of cossid moths. They're not prudes when it comes to preparing the grub, by which we mean they don't prepare it at all -- they just pull it out of the ground and chew on it until it stops moving.
Apparently, when Australia discovered real food, nobody told them that they could stop eating worms now, because the witchetty grub has grown to be regarded as kind of a national signature dish. As a bizarre turn for a critter once eaten only out of sheer desperation, witchetty grubs now turn up in fancy restaurants. And yes, eating them alive is part of the experience, like at La Cafetiere in Alice Springs, where you can order a live grub floating in a bowl of soup. It seems classier when you say it in French.
Clearly a French plot, getting us used to wriggly appendages in our mouths.
Being able to stomach a live witchetty grub with a smile is kind of a rite of passage in Australia, with those who have attempted it reporting that it tastes like scrambled eggs, albeit eggs that are still scrambling as you chew. When Prince Charles visited the country in 2005, locals pushed a live grub to him, telling him he'd be rude not to try it. He politely refused, saying that there are limits. Then Australia had him killed. True story.
#3. Blood Clams
Some of you think eating raw clams is already kind of gross, so any additional disgustingness would just be gravy. All right, so what if that proverbial gravy was a big pool of bright red blood?
Blood clams are clams that produce an excessive amount of hemoglobin (the stuff that helps make blood red), and there's really no way to crack one of these things open without copious amounts of crimson fluid doing a Tarantino on your plate:
The traditional preparation method of this Chinese delicacy is to boil them for a ridiculously short time (about 20 seconds) so all the blood is as just fresh as can be. Consumers of this dish insist that "damn near raw" is the best way to eat them; it's supposedly essential to the flavor.
In lieu of serviettes, the restaurant provides tampons.
And a hell of a flavor it must be, because those who eat blood clams have decided it's worth all the hepatitis ... and when we say "all the hepatitis," we mean "ALL the hepatitis." Anyone who eats these has a 14 to 16 percent chance of contracting the disease because, surprise surprise, barely boiling things barely kills any germs! Blood clams are actually illegal in China because of it, so much so that anyone who gets caught selling them is fined 10 times what they make. But people still insist on selling and eating them, because they're apparently just that good (outbreak of 300,000 infections and 31 deaths good, to be exact).
So, you need tampons and condoms. You'll be running to the bathroom often while eating these.
And if you want to laugh at the crazy Chinese for ingesting such a horror, we should mention that they're also popular in New England right now, being sold raw with a citrus dressing to give that hepatitis some much-needed zest.
#2. A Whole Cobra With Its Still-Beating Heart
Of course, real badasses aren't content to just eat drunk seafood and worms. You might as well go all-out and visit the Vietnamese village of Le Mat near Hanoi, where they will rip out a snake's still-beating heart and serve it to you in a bowl without even giving a quarter of a shit.
But they'll give a quart of other bodily fluids.
The "chefs" who offer live cobra dishes in Le Mat prepare the meal in a number of separate courses. If you're brave enough to order it from the menu, the chef will pull out a juicy snake, slaughter it in front of you, and drain its blood into a glass for you to drink, probably staring unblinking into your eyes the entire time.
Maybe if he didn't stare so hard at you, he'd spill less on the floor.
The next course is a shot glass full of the cobra's bile and venom. No, seriously. The thing about most snake venom is that it has to be injected into your veins to do any damage -- the stomach breaks it down just fine, so it's merely a refreshing drink. Unless you have any cuts or ulcers in your mouth, in which case you will die horribly.
The snake's death will seem swift and painless in comparison.
In time, the chef will prepare a full meal from the snake -- snake spring rolls, ribs, fried skin, snake scales over rice, and spinal soup. But at some point, which is what you really came here for, you get to swallow the cobra's raw heart while it's still beating. Because of course you do.
#1. A Bunch of Dead Birds Left to Rot in a Seal Carcass
This one comes from Greenland, and it is the result of 18 months of preparation, preservation, and fermentation, all of which are euphemisms for leaving it to rot under a pile of rocks. Kiviaq is death stuffed into yet more death, left to decay into the world's most macabre pinata: a sack of seal skin stuffed with the slowly liquefying bodies of hundreds of birds (yes, hundreds). Sure, the end result might be a withered mass of decomposed meat slurry, but it's edible, dammit, and that's what's important. That and smothering it in seal fat to ward off flies. Can't have flies.
Flies are gross. They eat sour fruit!
Your daily recommended allowance of protein isn't all you'll be getting here. The fermentation (read: rotting) process is intended to tenderize every part of the bird, bones and all, so dig in! No, you don't cook it.
Oh, and, for your sake, we do hope you're eating this outside; the odor will make life at home utterly nauseating for weeks if you open this indoors. But isn't that true of all fine cuisine?
Which cabinet member did Lyndon B. Johnson nickname "Jumbo"? (Hint: His penis.) In our latest podcast, Jack O'Brien and Dan O'Brien (no relation) take a look at one of American history's more unusual presidents. Go here to subscribe on iTunes or download it here. Getting your Cracked fix while driving has never been this unlikely to kill you.
Related Reading: Hungry for a wheel of cheese filled with maggots? You might be from Sardinia. Fish eggs with semen more your style? Japan can help you with that. And the sad thing is, these nightmare foods don't come CLOSE to being as scary as the lies our own food industry tells us.