7 Gross Foods Your Grandparents Ate (That We Taste Tested)

From the 1940s to the 1970s, civilization apparently gave up on traditional recipes and decided to be creative. And by "creative," we mean they labored under the philosophy that if you had but a few completely random ingredients in your cupboard, you were culturally obligated to combine them Frankenstein-style into a weeping pile of nightmare food.

We decided to have our brave researcher Evan test seven of these recipes from the "temporary insanity" era of cooking and see if he survived. (He did, as he doled the recipes out over a week of misery, instead of in one singularly fatal banquet of the damned.) Were these foodstuffs disgusting or simply misunderstood? Here were the results ...

#7. Ham and Bananas Hollandaise


Yes, this was actually a thing. Coming from McCall's Great American Recipe Card Collection of 1973, Ham and Bananas Hollandaise was a secret government project introduced to distract an innocent public with something worse than the oil embargo. To create this potassium horror, I sprinkled the helpless bananas with lemon juice, wrapped them in ham, smothered them in mustard, and baked the lot for 10 minutes, pausing only to douse them in viscous hollandaise.

If that oven could talk, it would be screaming right now.

Are the bananas ... frowning?

The finished dish smelled liked a banana slaughterhouse, but for the good of culinary archaeology, I dug right in. The end result was OK going down, but two cans of Coke and a mouthful of Listerine did nothing for the lingering aftertaste. Important note: If your face assumes a thousand-yard stare after eating something, there is something wrong with that food.

#6. Monterey Souffle Salad

Star-Kist Tuna

In addition to traditional cards and books, recipes also appeared on the insides of magazines in the 1960s, usually with a nifty coupon and some sort of Technicolor picture that could have been a photo, a drawing, or a frightening hallucination brought on by repressed childhood memories. (Remember, it was the '60s.)

One such recipe is the Monterey Souffle Salad. I mixed mayonnaise and lemon juice into dissolved flavorless gelatin and placed it in the freezer for 15 minutes to make it thick. I then dropped in tuna, stuffed olives, celery, onion, and pimento and let it sit in the fridge.

I did not lick the beaters.

As soon as it passed the Cosby test -- it was suitably a-wigglin' and a-jigglin' -- I turned the bowl over to reveal the gelatinous fish treasure our forefathers had promised me:

It sounded like footsteps walking on marshy soil.

Although the tuna aroma permeated my past, present, and future, I carved up a slice ...

... with both of our faces locked in silent screams ...

... only to gag immediately. Seriously. My body gave a collective "Oh, hell no!" as I fought to swallow the mutant albacore lump. The fresh celery was helpless before the pimento-mayo-tuna-Jell-O miasma that settled into my skull cavity. I'm not sure how the city of Monterey got roped up in this recipe, but I know it's not their fault this happened. So let's just blame, oh, say, Fresno.

#5. Ring-Around-the-Tuna

General Foods Kitchens

My third day of forgotten delights brought new hope in the form of Ring-Around-the-Tuna. The illustration looked nebulously delicious, but my heart sank as I read the instructions. With a sense of doom I was getting accustomed to, I dissolved the Jell-O, added in the vinegar and onion, chilled it, and added a final slurry of cucumber, celery, pimento, stuffed olives, and flaked tuna.

I then threatened it to taste better with a knife.

After it became a solid mass, I flipped it over and beheld my mold. It maintained its shape for two seconds and promptly collapsed:

Thereby rebooting The Blob.

Dejected that my Jell-O mold gave up on being a nice, neat shape so quickly, I cut out a piece and tasted my creation:

It was surprisingly not bad. I still don't recommend it, because it was more or less tuna surrounded by C-list vegetables, but unlike the Monterey Souffle Salad from the day before, the lime Jell-O was there as if to say, "Sorry you had to eat this. Here is a citrus twist to cauterize the gaping wound in your soul."

#4. Glace Fish Mold

via brainpickings.org

This is one of the two I was dreading (you'll know the second one when you see it). Look at that thing. It's a freaking Jell-O-ized fish. And it's smiling. Despite my seething hatred for everybody who had taste buds from 1960 to 1969, I prepared my no-flavor gelatin to cool real quick, added everything in, and let it solidify in a tubular, fish-like shape. I then plopped it out and added stuffed olive eyes. This was the end product:


It was that bad. Notice how it looks NOTHING like the recipe picture. No pink color. Almost no visible gelatin. Nothing. The only matching feature was the pleading olive eyes.


I was a bit afraid to try it, but I dug in anyway, mostly out of pity (not for myself, but for my walleyed creation, the pimento garbage fish).


Despite looking like a Cronenberg creation notched up to 11, it is surprisingly good. Unlike all those other fish-Jell-O blends, this one had double the fish and no-flavor gelatin. It took a while to get used to the texture of fish Jell-O, but it was edible, even if it did fill me with the terrible realization that I had become a mad god.

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