Halloween is one of the best holidays for a reason. It's not the mountains of candy, the festive costumes, or the totally awesome jack-o-lanterns. It's the simple fact that Halloween, more than any other modern holiday, is an invitation to be as simply, unapologetically childish as possible. Everything else, all the specific festivities, are just individual manifestations of our inner nine-year-old.
Of course, grossness has a lot to offer the creative inner child, especially on a holiday that has bred an entire industry based around candy that looks like bodily excretions. Some prefer to take the obvious route with their grossness, and that's fine. There's something immediately rewarding about presenting a group of squeamish party-goers with a cake that looks like cat shit.
Of course, the catch with this sort of grossness is that everyone's in on the gag. None of your friends believes for even a second that you would actually feed them used Tidy Cat. For those of us who enjoy truly screwing with our friends' gag reflexes, a more subtle route is in order.
This Halloween, might we suggest a dinner party composed of innocent-looking foods, each of which harbors a dark secret. For your perusal, here are our top five picks for the most surreptitiously disturbing foods.
5. Kopi Luwak. Why feed your friends cake that merely simulates the feces of a small, furry mammal, when you can pour them a delicious cup of joe made from beans harvested from the actual feces of a small, furry mammal? Since it's just a cup of coffee, reported to have a smooth flavor with hints of chocolate and a notable lack of bitterness, your friends will be none the wiser until you bring them in on the joke. Of course, it's an expensive way to gross out your acquaintances. Kopi Luwak can sell for hundreds of dollars per pound.
4. Boudin noir. Everybody loves sausage. Here on the Gulf Coast, we especially love boudin. Why not delight your dinner guests with a lovely, plump, ruddy link of boudin noir? Unless they're already familiar with this delight of classic French cuisine, your friends will never suspect that the creamy, rich slices they're enjoying are little more than congealed pork blood, spices, and something to bind all that hemoglobin together.
3. Tête de Veau. Succulent slices of veal, poached gently in an aromatic broth. Sounds like a delightful main course for any dinner party, right? Sauce it with an elegant, mustardy Ravigote and serve a few simply boiled potatoes on the side, and you've got something really special. Of course, Tête de Veau is the kind of dish that might make Hannibal Lecter consider a change in diet. You can wait until everyone's done with seconds before you tell them that they've just consumed the tightly rolled face of a baby cow.
2. Shirako. The Japanese call it shirako and prize it for its creamy, delicate consistency and flavor. It can be served cold, with a citrusy ponzu sauce, fried like tempura, or cooked gently to accentuate its custard-like texture. It is mild in flavor and pairs well with a variety of sauces. We call it soft roe, cod-milt or, once your diners have scooped up the last fragile white blob, cod sperm. If you're extra-lucky, it's still encased in the fish's genitalia. Another exotic splurge, cod milt is only available for a brief season every year, so your friends better appreciate the lengths to which you'll go to gross them out.
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1. Balut. This one is truly a gem. Unfortunately, the chances of you getting your friends to actually consume balut without realizing that this Southeast Asian delicacy is in reality the partially developed embryo of a duck, soft cooked in its shell, complete with beak and feathers, is fairly slim. You'll have them up until the point at which they crack their otherwise innocuous-looking eggs open, at which point it's pretty tough to confuse the bony, feathery mess inside for a regular hard-cooked egg. Take solace in the fact that that moment is almost sure to elicit gasps of horror from your guests.
Of course, each of these foods is considered perfectly normal in its region of origin, and we know for a fact that several of them are delicious. Besides, we're pretty sure there's worse in the hot dog we ate for dinner last night. Still, nothing says Halloween like a little culinary jingoism employed to freak out your friends.