It is a winter night somewhere in the late seventies. The family is gathered around the dinner table my mother bought when we moved into our brand new house, white laminate with a leaf pattern running around the edge in gold. The chairs have green metal posts to match the avocado electric stove and avocado fridge. My mother has platinum hair, and she is—without question—the most beautiful woman on our street, though I am equally sure she doesn’t know this.
Anyway. It’s dinner time, and that means everybody has to come to the table, the four of us children assigned our seats because other wise there is a scuffle over who sits where according to the fights fo the day, and my sister Merry is left handed, so her spot has to be the same all the time. Next to my dad.
Ordinarily, I am a good eater, mainly because I’m starving all the time. I walk to school, to my friends’ houses, even to the mall sometimes (8 miles away). It’s more than a mile and a half to my junior high (a closer one is being built to serve this suburb, but it isn’t finished yet), another good hike beyond that to my best friend Kelli’s house. On weekends, the two of us hike up to Austin Bluffs and take our lunches to eat inside the houses being built there (where we imagine how plush our lives would be if we had a fireplace facing both the living room and the kitchen, if we had balconies overlooking the city and the mountains. Probably, we think, they have maids and stuff to help them). I gobble my breakfast of hot cereal, and my school lunch and my after school snacks (an orange or a piece of bread or sometimes—heaven!—my mother has baked something amazing like pumpkin bars and we can have one, very small piece), and by dinner time, I can eat football teams under the table. All of us can.
But not tonight. Tonight, we’re having one of my father’s favorite meals, one my mother cooks every so often, and around the table, the children are very quiet. The overhead fluorescent buzzes faintly, and once in awhile, a fork clanks. My parents are eating cheerfully, but on four plates are four identical pieces of shoe leather.
There is not one single good thing about liver. Not even when I am starving after eating lunch at eleven o’clock and then going to PE and changing classes and walking home through the fields and having an orange to tide me over.
Liver stinks when it’s cooking and it stinks on the plate. It has the texture of a an ancient dog toy, left out in the rain and sun and snow for six years. Cutting it takes effort, and the grain is tight and disgusting, maybe only because I can’t go beyond the smell, but I cannot chew. Can not.
Everybody ought to get one food they can’t stand to eat, but that was not the rule in our house, not in that day and age. You have to eat dinner to get dessert, and trust me, I’m getting that dessert, no matter what it is. All four of us children have devised methods of getting rid of it. Mine is three-fold. First, cut it into tiny, tiny pieces, no larger than a baby asprin, and for the same reason: I swallow it whole and wash it down with red Kool-Aid. Even then, I start gagging after a few minutes, so I surreptiously sweep a few pieces into my napkin, or into my lap and onto the floor for the waiting cats, who weave between our feet, feasting on our leavings.
Since becoming an adult, I have learned to love Brussels sprouts and tolerate mushrooms and will even gag down an egg white if forced, but I have never, and will never, ever, ever eat liver again.
Does anyone actually eat liver any more? Are children still forced to gag it down for the iron?
What’s your worst food ever?
photo yuck by _boris.
26 thoughts on “The Most Disgusting Food Ever”
Liver is the worst. When I was in jr. high our family went to have dinner at the home of some friends. When we sat down to eat at the table there on our plates for the appetizer was a huge mound of liver pate, made into the shape of a turkey, for us to eat. ICK! Who would serve that to kids? Anyway, my poor mother ate a lot of our pate whenever the people weren’t in the room so that we wouldn’t get sick and they wouldn’t get their feelings hurt. It was just horrible! Not only was it liver, it was mushy liver. Ugh!
I never had liver growing up in the 70’s because my father hated it. Beef liver, anyway. When we had a whole roasted chicken with giblet gravy, I’m pretty sure there were cut up chicken livers in it – my mother liked sauteed chicken livers, but it was never served as an entree.
And yet there was one time that I had beef liver served to me, at a friend’s house, and I actually enjoyed it. I must have been in junior high school, and this friend and I had been BFFs since we were five years old, when we met on the first day of kindergarten (and we’re still friends to this day, though we’re in our 40’s and live several states away from each other).
Anyway, her family is 100% Polish on both sides, and her mother had a recipe for liver that included onions and stewed tomatoes and some other delicious flavors that I was too young to properly take note of – but that when cooked with the liver changed everything about it, even the dreaded texture (which I recall in this dish as being as more the texture of steak as opposed to leathery….perhaps the moist cooking method?). It was delicious, and because of that one meal, I’ve never had an aversion to liver.
I cook – a lot – but my husband and two daughters refuse to even try liver. And without that recipe from my friend’s mother, I hesitate to make it and have it turn out awful and prove their suspicions right, LOL.
There aren’t too many foods I can say I really despise, I suppose. Beef (or any) tongue meat would probably qualify, but I’ve never actually eaten it. Same for tripe. Beef tongue was served to me once when I was studying abroad in Russia in the late 80’s, and it literally was just a whole tongue (gigantic – right out of the cow), boiled with some spices, I think and laid on the plate in all its grainy, rough-textured glory. Yuck! There was no way I was cutting into that and eating it.
It’s funny how certain foods inspire such varied reactions in people. I wonder how much of it is cultural conditioning to certain flavors and textures being more familiar to us?
Ok, I’ll be quiet now. 🙂 But I have to end by saying that I love reading your posts, Barbara, and I find those you write about food to be especially sensory and wonderful. This one, being about a *hated* food, was a delightful surprise, so thanks in double measure!
My mom makes a liver and onion dish that I could actually eat. I think it’s an Austrian style, tons of onions, sauteed with thin slices of liver. Then simmered. The end result is a a tender meat in a rich, dark gravy which is served over noodles. If I remember right, the trick is to hold the salt til serving, that toughens the liver, or something like that.
I”m with you on the ICK to liver. I think my folks tried to feed it to us once because my dad likes it and it was such a debacle of screaming protest they never tried again. I do occasionally eat pate but basically any kind of offal (tongue, brains, kidneys, tripe etc) is not my thing and not going there.
I also hate cream of tomato soup (just thinking about it makes me vaguely ill). It’s weird because I like tomatoes and I’m find with minestrone and other non creamy tomatoey soups, pasta sauces etc etc but I hate cream of tomato. Not big on canned spaghetti. Or lobster. And coffee. Coffee makes me feel ill. I quite like the smell (though a really strong coffee smell sometimes makes me queasy too) but can’t drink the stuff or anything strongly coffee flavoured (kahlua etc, strong tiramisu). Never been a fan of stinky blue cheese or anchovies either.
Things I used to hate but now like: porridge, baked beans, watermelon, cherries.
Things I used to hate but will now eat if someone cooks them for me but don’t really like: asparagus (tastes mouldy to me though I don’t mind it as much in stir fry), corn on the cob or fresh corn at all really, brussel sprouts (I have hideous memories of my father cooking brussel sprouts so that they were simultaneously hard yet somehow overcooked and stinky and could only be gagged down when smothered in tomato sauce) but again, only if sliced and stir fried.
*Smile* I love your imagery and the food necessity in your life!!
Oh I want to violently gag gag gag just thinking about it… what a topic Barbara!!!!It was my Mum who liked liver… and the utter stench that permeated the house for (what seemed) days is still etched in my mind. And that shrivelled piece of my ultimate abhoration – agghhh – shivers prevail!
I too had the laminate, although ours was orange with yellow edging flowers (daisies? – and it is here I have to ask why on earth would any parent attempt to feed a child liver??!!!!
I was an only child (a lonely only I like to say) and so there were NO OTHERS to share in the utter panic and then painful silence of not being allowed to leave the table until the stinking, vile, revolting piece of offal was eaten!!
I can recall one night my Mother insisting that I had to eat it (my Father was away – as he was a lot as an interstate truck driver) and I have no clue how long it ACTUALLy was, however, dinner had come and gone, my Mother had washed up, dried up and restored all the cooking and dinner eating utensils and crockery… folded washing and ironed my school uniform (I must have been around 7 – 8). She then turned out (actually clanged the flick button up) all the lights bar the buzzing fluroescent overhead (I HATE those too!) after several screaming rounds and a wooden spoon being smashed on the table top (not by me!)and a torrent of tears, I was told to “get to bed” – I don’t recall feeling triumphant, just sad and relieved…
I have since asked my Mother what the heck she thought she was doing making such an issue out of this and by the same token why on earth feed me liver???!! and she can’t recall the incident (interestingly!) however, she said she was trying to broaden my taste buds… PLEASE!!!! That would be trying chilli con carne instead of bolognaise in my book!!! SIGH – anyway…
I did learn something from the liver debacles (I think perhaps there were two more spanned about 5 years apart!) – I can remember my Mother screaming at me one day (when I was a teenager) that she was only doing the best she could do and I recall scoffing at that… however, now as a parent of 3 littlies 5 and under I get it, I totally get it! Thanks Mum for trying your best xx
Yeah, my gran used to make steak and kidney pie and I would never touch it. Any kind of offal puts me…off 🙂 Except since living here I’ve become a real fan of my friend’s home-made foie gras. I promise I’ll stop eating it when I leave!
Other things I hate: brussel sprouts, pea and ham soup, and the corned beef that my stepfather used to boil the hell out of. Blerk!
Emeril L. has a recipe for lagagne boullinaise that calls for chopped chicken livers added to the sauce at the last minute to give it a ‘dark, earthy flavor.’ Yeah, not a fan, even though I like fried chicken livers.
Things I hate? Okra in all its forms — fried, stewed, in soups — so slimy. Cauliflower. Yeah, I know, it’s broccoli’s cousin and I love broccoli, but there’s something about that white veggie that turns me off.
Lima beans. Nana used them out of a can and it wasn’t the taste, but the texture that skeeved me out. And then? The WORST? She used to eat a lima bean sandwich with the leftovers. I’m gagging just thinking about it. Funny thing is now I love beans but I still can’t bring myself to try the limas.
I won’t eat whole clams, either. I can’t get past the thought that thier stomachs are popping in my mouth. And I’m with you on the liver.
Mary, so happy to see you here. Loved your whole post! My mother and sister used to gobble the chicken livers and gizzards and hearts. Slurp! Don’t like those either. And LOL on the tongue. Ew.
Cyndi–oh, it’s true. The only thing that smells worse to me than liver is chitlins. A friend of mine is very proud of her chitlins and I love her dearly, but there’s no way that’s ever going in my mouth.
Amanda, what a picture you painted! I think it was more of a thing to force children to eat things they didn’t like in previous generations. My sister sat at the table like that once over peas. Would. Not. Eat. Them. She won, as I recall.
Mel, that’s funny about the watermelon. It seems something every child would like, so sweet and crisp. (It is one of my favorite foods in the summertime, so cooling.)
Oh, yeah, Lee. Okra! It’s just kind of weird.
Eva, LOL on the lima bean sandwich. I’m just imagining those icky green beans popping out of the bread. I love beans, too, almost all of them, but don’t much like green limas and I don’t love black beans, either.
Liver is bad, I agree. My ex loved it and so I used to cook it, holding my nose, and only then could I could bear cooking it. Could not bear eating it, however.
Well, aside from liver, here is my story.
When my sister and I were little, back in Rice Lake, WI, my mother used to take a shift every so often with JC Penney, mostly in the fall and winter, in order to earn money to pay for Christmas gifts. And she worked nights mostly. And so, of course, my father was in charge of Roxie and me when she worked and he would have to prepare a wonderfully tasty and nutritous evening meal for us.
Yes. Well. Our father seemed to favor some kind of box mix, can’t even tell you to this day what in the world it was, but he favored some kind of instant noodles with “red and green things” in them. Horrible. Awful. Can’t even remember what the proper name for this concoction was but it was BAD. Maybe pimentos, maybe red peppers, who knew. BAD.
Ick. Picture two blond headed little girls, hungry girls, waiting for their mother to come home from that foreign place (work), sitting at a table in a cold house in Wisconsin of all places (don’t get me wrong, I love my northern heritage but I recognize it’s cold up there), hoping for a tasty, warm, chill-chasing meal.
Our father loved it and really, REALLY, expected that we would love it too. We didn’t.
Both of us remember, to this day, about the “noodles with the red and green things in it.” I’ve not found much, since then, that was so vile and unappealing.
Except maybe liver, but since I’ve been divorced, I barely recognize the word. HA.
Peas. In any form. BLECH. Even floating in butter, I will not eat, and will not like.
Miracle Whip/Cool Whip. Ich.
But I am atypical: I hate whipped cream and any kind of frosting and my all time favorite food as a kid (and I still like)?
Liver and onions with a side of broccoli.
For all who don’t like it …. MORE FOR ME!
Yvonne, send me your address via email. You won one of the baskets.
Heather, hahahah! Yay for you. I have to confess that I love Miracle Whip.
As a child and teen I totally hated liver and onions, which we had occasionally. Now I eat organic chicken livers and if I could find organic beef liver, I’d buy it for the family. I’d be afraid to eat regular beef liver now since the liver filters out all the toxins of the cow’s body and with everything they feed cattle now, NO WAY. Of course, it’s kind of a moot point for me since I cannot eat beef, pork, or crustaceans for medical reasons.
For the chicken livers I drizzle with EVOO and a little garlic powder, cover the dish and bake for 45 minutes at 350. Pretty good. I need liver for regaining my health.
I too hate brussel sprouts and caulifower.
Try eating burnt frozen spinach…you know the kind that comes in the little rectangular box? My mother was famous for burning the veggies in the little pot. We five kids were expected to eat it anyway. Depression era parents. Oh, that was awful.
What? I won one of the baskets?? Thank you!! I’ll send you my email at your gmail address. Thank you so much!!
Had to post again.
Someone, and I apologize because I read it fast and can’t remember who, posted a bit about okra.
Okra. Yuck. Gotta be the Most Disgusting Food (food – loosely speaking) Of All Time. Hate it. Slimey, tasteless, disgusting quasi-vegetable.
I will not have it.
There is a culture here in the Ozarks and the culture loves okra. We even have a restaurant nearby where not only throwed rolls and really good fried taters are the pass-arounds but, also deepfried okra. I can’t bear it. Ya can’t dress this stuff up, folks. It’s awful. You can put a breading on it and deep fry it, you can stuff it down into a soup, you can do what you want to, but you cannot change the fact that okra is gross and it is truly slimey and it truly does not have any flavor whatsoever.
I just felt behooved to share my feelings about okra, since it was already a topic.
Okra and liver seem to be on the same dance card.
NASTY. NASTY. NASTY. But high quality protein!
And still better than kidney…
Food is so many things to us. It speaks so much about who we are and how we view the world.
Have you ever noticed how there’s no bad picnic food? Whether it’s a handful of granola on a hike or a champagne tailgate in anticipation of a meteor shower. Yummy.
In the bad column my former mother-in-law’s annual Christmas Eve ickfest: delicate swirls of angel hair pasta in a fresh tomato sauce flavored with dried cod and sprinkled liberally with white raisins. White raisins that we begged her not to toss in there. The same ones that marched around the edge of every plate like bloody ants as dishes were removed after the course. (Insert shudder take here.)
But most disgusting? Well. It was a year harder than most for our family. I remember eating more than one meal of “leftovers” that my mother brought home from the diner where she waited tables and occasionally cooked. But I was thankful for the diner and the bags of overripe lettuce and carrots and other veggies mom brought home. They went to feed my rabbits–six of them with soft fur and silk-long ears. Possessed of the great stillness that rabbits have. Then, in the middle of a time when groceries were scarce, I woke one morning to find the hutches open and my rabbits gone.
Stolen, my parents said. Who would do such a thing?
The next evening there was plenty of “chicken” to eat. Dad dug right in. Mom looked vaguely upset. It took me about 5 minutes to figure it out. It was probably 10 years before I ever ate a meal involving chicken again.
Oh My God.
Alyse, your post reminds me vaguely of my experience with “California Steaks.”
Many, MANY, years ago now, my parents wished to decieve my sister and I into eating deer meat. Well. Of course, Roxie and I would not eat Bambi, no, there was no way we would EAT our childhood friend, our fantasy, our Disneydreamworld friend. Of course not. We loved Bambi. No way would we eat Bambi.
And so, our parents concocted a fantasy of sorts, all because they’d recieved a packet of deer meat from a parishoner and so, well, it was meat and well, we had very little of THAT and so, it went. “California Steaks” were the rage.
We, Roxie and me, we loved California steaks and we asked our parents many times, “can we get those again? Will you buy for us some more of those California steaks?” Well, obviously, it did not happen and we finally quit asking and assumed that California steaks were so exotic and costly that we’d probably never see them again.
Until several years later when we figured it all out. We’d eaten Bambi. And we’d liked it.
How shameful. Roxie and I had eaten our childhood Disney enhanced friend?? Oh no….what next??
Bad scene. Can’t say anything more than that.
Colin, so true. I’m glad to say I’ve never been so hungry that I would be grateful for a squirrel or a hunk of liver. A huge blessing.
Alyce, your post proves the point. That’s a beautifully written story, and heartwrenching. Have you ever discussed it with your parents?
Denise, I’m laughing so much at burning the spinach that comes in a box! A friend of mine tells stories about her mother’s cooking that are just that bad.
As the mom in this story, it will gladden your heart to know that I cooked liver and onions for the dad last week, the first time in at least 3 years ( I spotted it in the meat counter and thought ” I haven’t cooked that in a long time”).
Good reason!!! As you noted, it stinks up the house something fierce AND I did not like it, it even made ME gag. Dad said thanks, but he would order it out when he needed a liver fix, so I don’t EVER have to cook it again. Revenge is sweet, is it not??? Sorry for all those nasty dinners! I still haven’t learned to like canned beets (pickled ones are good), and eggplant is the WORST.
Mom! Isn’t that hilarious that you just made it?? I must have picked up the liver vibes. LOL
Oh, beets. I forgot beets. They’re just too earthy or something.
I disagree with some of the “ick” foods and dishes here. I like okra and I think eggplant tastes absolutely divine — delicately flavored and cooked until oh-so- meltingly tender. Breaded, sauced, seasoned. Garlic eggplant at the local chinese place. Ratatouille. Parmesan. Rollatini. Dang, now I’m drooling.
My major culinary ickfest? Tuna fish. Even before I became a vegetarian at 20, in the late 80s, I always thought those pasty beige flakes looked and smelled too disgusting to ever taste. Just the thought is enough to turn my face green.