In medieval times, cooking was a big chore—for a lot of reasons, but mainly for one. People had no easy way to light fires. They didn't have matches, much less the self-igniting stoves or flamethrowers that are a part of every modern kitchen. Some people figured it was easier to just keep a fire burning constantly. It took a little more effort to fetch the extra wood, but not as much effort as lighting the fire anew every meal with steel and flint.

Now that there was always a fire in the kitchen, it seemed natural to always leave the household pot of stew on top of it. They didn't have any kind of refrigeration, so keeping the pot constantly simmering was a way to prevent the stew from going bad. It's a bit like a buffet keeping a warming plate all day, except it was a boiling plate, and they never dumped the dregs out and washed the pot out. They kept the same stew brewing, month after month, topping it off with more water and tossing in more veggies but never starting from scratch.

This was called a perpetual stew, and you might have heard of the concept already, if you've read stories set in that period. Game of Thrones talked about it, and you'll also see it in video games. But you'd think that we wouldn't have perpetual stews anymore, since "turn on the heat source" is now a trivially easy task.

And yet we've had these stews brewing even in modern times, thanks to tradition. Perpignan in France kept one going for 500 years, right into the 20th century, till the Nazis put an end to it. As recently as the 1980s, Normandy had one stew that had been going for 300 years.

Today? Individual people still keep their own ones for decades. Instead of boiling them continuously, it's more normal to stick it in the fridge overnight, scrape off the smelly floating fat the next morning, and then heat it again. In Bangkok, there's a restaurant called Wattana Panich that's been passing the same broth from one day's menu to the next for 47 years. It now has the special flavor that you can only get from 40 years of festering beef squeezings. 

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For more gross old food, check out:

6 Gross Foods from a '50s Cookbook

7 More Disgusting Foods Your Grandparents Ate (Taste-Tested)

We Ran Out of Mummies Because Europeans Ate Them

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Top image: Eustaquio Santimano

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