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 ...
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.
Monterey Souffle Salad
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.
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."
Glace Fish Mold
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:
"WHY DID YOU GIVE ME LIFE."
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.
"THE ONLY THING I SEE IS AGONY."
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.
Hey look, it's another McCall's Great American recipe! With more Jell-O! The Perfection Salad strives to live up to its name by including apple juice, lemon juice, vinegar, carrots, celery, cabbage, green pepper, and pimentos, aka the Milwaukee Bucks of the vegetable world. After combining apple and lime juice with the assorted vegetables and cooling and unmolding, it came out like this:
I shed a lone gelatin tear of pride.
And it looked so awesome. Everything stands still inside a sea of apple-lemon Jell-O. And guess what? It actually tasted awesome! Finally, a recipe worthy of being reprinted! The lime-apple Jell-O somehow complemented the weird-ass salad mixture, plus my food wasn't staring at me. It was smooth sailing from here, right?
Liver Sausage Pineapple
I'm going to lay out what happened next as clearly as possible. Here are the unaltered ingredients for my next endeavor, the Liver Sausage Pineapple:
1 pound liver sausage
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
Sliced stuffed olives
And here are some visual aids. Observe this plastic container filled with gelatin, mayo, and liver sausage. Please note that it is only halfway filled with liver sausage.
And completely filled with despair.
After mixing and fridging my concoction, I ended up with this liver tube:
Pictured: Not dog food. Maybe.
Which I proceeded to frost with a food-dyed mayonnaise ...
... stud with some helpless stuffed olives ...
Each olive is like a prison tear tattoo for the number of colons this thing has killed.
... top with a pineapple stem ...
This is what would happen if North Korea attempted to clone a pineapple.
... and then serve:
Ask a sommelier for the proper pairing of Pepto-Bismol or Maalox.
Here I am putting it in my mouth because commitment:
Even the bottle of household cleanser averted its nozzle in fear.
Simply put, I almost threw up. Even people born without a sense of taste in neighboring counties could taste how bad this was through my psychic anguish alone. The meat-mayo-jelly mix didn't even remotely taste like any one of those three things. The best way to describe it is sugar water, Monterey Souffle Salad, and Spam tossed in a bucket, then left outside for two days. Please do not ever attempt this recipe.
Frosted Lime-Walnut Salad
For the last day, I chose the only recipe that sounded remotely good going into this experiment. The Frosted Lime-Walnut Salad was another one of those recipe-ads found sandwiched in magazines. But again, despite looking like the vomit of the gods, it had tolerable ingredients. Pineapple, cottage cheese, lime Jell-O, celery, pimiento, and walnuts mixed together? Sure, why not?
Amazingly, this did not smell like sewage.
Once it was done cooling, I frosted it with some jaunty cream cheese:
OK, maybe not so much "jaunty" as "nearly rock solid."
All in all, it tasted like a less sour key lime pie. Miraculously, this was the best of all the foods tested. I know I disparaged the abundance of Jell-O recipes in the 1960s, but all of those god-awful ones were worth it for the Frosted Lime-Walnut Salad.
In conclusion, should you be forced to consume any of these vintage recipes at gunpoint, go with one of the fruit gelatins with salad ingredients. Just please don't make that meat pineapple.
For more food items from beyond the realms of imagination, check out The 3 Most Disgusting Breakfasts in America and 7 Japanese Fast Food Items (Almost) Too Insane to Be Real.