6 Disgusting Yet Delicious Foods
Good question. We pondered it and instantly got hungry, daydreaming about cheese that smells like feet, luxuriously musky truffles and liver pate that smells like wet dogs. So gross yet so good, no words can describe them. Why is there no word?! We need a word.
The French term jolie laide translates to “pretty-ugly,” but jolie laidelicious presents too many spelling challenges. Grossgood? Nastasty? While you brainstorm, have a look at this list of our favorite gross-but-good foodstuffs:
Foie gras, of course, is French for “fatty liver” and typically is that of a duck (sometimes a goose) fattened unnaturally with a feeding tube until its liver is larger and oiler than it would be in the wild. The result is a rich, creamy delicacy with a beefy umami flavor and sometimes the smell of a wet dog. In California, our home state, foie gras became illegal in 2012. Eating wet dog: also probably illegal.
Cheese is great. Stinky cheese is better. Fun fact: Stinky cheeses are cultured with the Brevibacterium linens bacterium, a strain very similar to the tiny nasties that live in sweaty parts of the body. Interestingly, humans are attracted to pungent body musk. Raise your hand if the thought of stinky cheeses is oddly arousing. Now let us smell your armpit. Just kidding; we’ll just eat this aged limburger instead.
The most prized example of musky deliciousness may be the fungal lumps we call truffles. Whether it’s a white truffle usually from Italy or the French black truffle, these mushroomlike fruiting bodies grow most often at the base of trees and for centuries have been dug up with the help of female pigs. The truffle-hogs become sexually excited at the truffles’ odor, which is similar to androstenol a musky-smelling sex pheromone in pigs. Not shockingly, humans also produce androstenol, which explains why the musky earthy nutty smell of freshly shaved truffles like stinky cheeses excites more than your taste buds. Gross. But so good.
“Corn smut” sounds like trouble. And it is: delicious, disgusting trouble. A botanical disease, corn smut grows on ears of corn, surfacing as knobby galls filled with ashy-black spores of the fungus Ustilago maydis. In Mexico, this corn rot is known as “huitlacoche,” which roughly translates to “sleeping/hibernating excrement.” Why, why, why do people eat it? Because it’s tasty, in that earthy, musty mushroomy corny way. If mushroom and cheese in a tortilla sounds appetizing, a corn-smut quesadilla should satisfy your muskophilia. Just try not to think of it as hibernating excrement.
If you have no idea what a durian fruit is, you’ve probably never smelled one. But in Southeast Asia, the thorny football-sized monstrosities are called the “king of the fruits.” Remember, sometimes kings are reviled. The yellow flesh of this prickly fruit is smooth and custardy but its odor is a curious mix of almonds and onions, sometimes smelling like sewage and dirty laundry. Food writer Richard Sterling may have the most-oft quoted description, colorfully saying it tastes like "pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock." An acquired taste, indeed.
And finally: booze. Do you remember your first hesitant sip of whisky? The first glug of gin? Alcohol burns the throat and sears the sinuses, and very few people would purport to have enjoyed their first taste of the hooch. But once the palate is trained to look for the oaky notes of aged spirits, the subtle smoke of mezcal and the piney juniper essence of gin, the fact that it’s technically poison tends to elude us.
So… grossavory? Delicioustinky? If you’ve got suggestions, leave them in the comments. We’re serious about finding a word for this, people.
Alie Ward and Georgia Hardstark are best friends who met outside a tragically hip dive bar in Los Angeles. Together, they created the cocktail abomination called the McNuggetini. You can find them on Cooking Channel stirring up Drinks with Alie and Georgia, getting schooled on Classy Ladies and devouring desserts for Unique Sweets. Find out more about them here.