Ha! Here it is, my secret of grossing people out: my childhood experiences of food. I never thought any of them were strange as I grew up, but when I tell people about them now I get some odd looks. Below you'll find a small sampling of delicacies I encountered as a child.
I grew up in the northwest of England, in a small village called Rainhill. My father trained as an army cook in his youth, so he did most of the cooking, not Mum. Trouble is, because of his army days he was accustomed to cooking in LARGE quantities, and he liked to produce meals of staggering proportions and height (height was important to him; Dad could stack 30 slices of toast on one plate without producing any lean). Every Saturday morning without fail, we'd be treated to "Dad's Breakfast Special". Beside the aforementioned toast, there would be bacon, sausages, grilled tomatoes, grilled mushrooms and fish (yes, fish! Whitefish. Boiled for ten minutes then served beneath the bacon). There were no eggs (Dad didn't want to upset the delicate balance of fish and bacon!). However, on the Saturdays when whitefish wasn't in season, Dad would treat us to a slice of black pudding.
Black pudding, also known as blood sausage, is a pudding made of curdled and boiled pig blood, mixed with chunks of pork fat (for texture and juiciness) and spices, then stuffed into a sausage casing. When served sliced and grilled it has a peculiar grainy texture all its own. It's perfectly black (except for the chunks of fat) and is really quite delicious. I haven't eaten it since childhood, though I do remember it fondly. I never questioned what is was when I was a child, simply accepted it as "that funny black stuff we ate instead of fish."
This was one of Mum's specialties, not Dad's. Lamb's hearts are roasted in the oven like a joint of meat. They're the size of a child's fist, have a rubbery-velvety texture, and when you slice them in cross-section with your knife you can see all the various chambers and arteries of the heart. I ate these about once a fortnight as a child, we called it "having hearts", yet I didn't realize what they were until several years later.
Tripe is the stomach lining of a cow. It is white and translucent, rubbery in texture, and is served boiled with onions. It comes from the butcher in square sheets (so as to fool you into thinking that it's not actually an animal product at all, rather something you might put under your carpet for extra padding). This strange, waffle-textured organ (imagine the suction pads on a deep-sea anemone) turns water thick and gelatinous as it boils. I've never tried it myself, but Dad cooked it from time-to-time for him and Mum.
Wild Blackberry Pie
Thank goodness for that, you're thinking. No more gross out stuff. Well, you just might be wrong. The village my family and I grew up in was situated in a rural area, with pig farms, wheat fields, frogging ponds, woods and berry bushes. Every year, in late Summer, my brother Paul and I would go picking blackberries. We'd come home late in the afternoon, and present Mum with a large basket of mushy fruit. "Make pie!" we'd say. And she did...but always the next day. It wasn't for many years that we learned the significance of the overnight wait. Flies love to lay their eggs in wild blackberries, and by late Summer these eggs have usually hatched and given way to maggots. You can't see the maggots from the outside, but they're in there, deep inside the fruit, chomping away. Mum knew this, and whenever we came home with blackberries, she'd dump them into a large bowl of water, and place a plate on top. She called it "drowning the maggots out". By the morning, the surface of the water would be bobbing with little off-white maggots, forced from the berries by fear of drowning. Mum would separate the berries from the maggots and then make pie.
Black Pudding: King of Foods?
Tripe: Who Wouldn't Love This?
Blackberry Pie: High Protein Food?
Lamb Chops: What No Photo of the Heart?
Black Pudding From Scratch (if you dare!) Order
Yourself A Black Pudding (as long as you don't
live in the US, of course. Strict customs laws
forbid the import of black pudding! Who would have
Your Own Tripe Machine and amaze your friends
by producing industrial quantities of tripe! A
Recipe For Tripe Soup (proving you can add
tripe to almost anything!) How
To Prepare Maggots (according to this gentleman
you boil them and give the skim-off to the
Prepare Black Pudding From Scratch (if you dare!)
Order Yourself A Black Pudding (as long as you don't live in the US, of course. Strict customs laws forbid the import of black pudding! Who would have known??)
Purchase Your Own Tripe Machine and amaze your friends by producing industrial quantities of tripe!
A Recipe For Tripe Soup (proving you can add tripe to almost anything!)
How To Prepare Maggots (according to this gentleman you boil them and give the skim-off to the dog!)