What odd foods did you grow up with?

oxtail soup on the stove
My mom cooked oxtail soup. Now it’s one of my specialties. I cooked these two pots of soup for Christmas week when we had our son’s girlfriend’s family stay with us.

My mother had a few recipes that I couldn’t stomach. Mom loved the odd cuts of meat (like organs) and learned how to cook them from her mother and grandmother. I don’t remember many of our neighborhood moms cooking the same things.

I liked her chicken hearts that were dusted in flour and fried. But I passed on gizzards.

Beef tongue was a hard pass.

Mom’s beef heart I could handle. She’d stuff the heart and bake it in the oven. Then she sliced it and I’d have a thin ring of heart around delicious stuffing.

The oxtail soup I shied away from until I hit junior high. Then I discovered oxtails were the most tender delicious meat I’d ever eaten and the broth was rich but so flavorful. Years later, I made oxtail soup for my “at the time boyfriend.” I overheard him telling a friend that he had to marry me because of my oxtail soup.

“How can she make something so amazing out of !!#!??”

I discovered this recipe in one of my great-grandmother’s cookbooks that she published in the early 1900s and sold to Ladies’ church auxiliaries across the country. It’s my dream to bring the little cookbooks back to life. Great-grandmother Nellie’s recipe is not how I cook oxtail soup, but it’s the same general principle.

My dad’s side of the family had some oddball dishes too. Christmas meant Lutefisk and fish head stew. I could not get myself to stop staring at the eyeballs staring up at me from the stew. It definitely killed my appetite.

If you haven’t heard of Lutefisk this is from Wikipedia:

Lutefisk is prepared as a seafood dish of several Nordic countries. It is traditionally part of the Christmas feast; Norwegian julebord and Swedish julbord, as well as the similar Finnish joulupöytä.

 Finnishlipeäkala [ˈlipeæˌkɑlɑ]; literally “lye fish”) is dried whitefish (normally cod, but ling and burbot are also used). It is made from aged stockfish (air-dried whitefish), or dried and salted cod, pickled in lye. It is gelatinous in texture after being rehydrated for days prior to eating.

Besides the recipes I mentioned, my mom also served us canned Chef Boyardee ravioli, Swanson’s TV dinners, Space Food Sticks and Tang.

What are some of the foods you grew up with? Did your family cook anything odd?

42 thoughts on “What odd foods did you grow up with?

  1. Nothing really odd in my history I think. Dad liked liver and onions, which I wouldn’t eat. He hunted also but I did eat the venison my mom cooked. I’m not sure I’d jump onboard with anything containing eyeballs looking at me either so your fish stew wouldn’t be on my favorites list! I do remember Swanson TV dinners fondly- we ate them on TV trays in the living room just the way it was supposed to be done.

  2. Wow – you have an interesting heritage. My mother is Italian, the only thing she would make that we didn’t like was liver / onions. Although, when I finally tasted it, I didn’t mind it, but it did have a different taste. In Italy the relatives made rabbit stew, I just could not eat it.

  3. My dad used to eat pickled pigs feet and we tried making dandelion wine on our farm in the Catskill. Rhubarb pie was delicious and something I miss. My mom left me a recipe for potato cake but I don’t make it as it is made with flour and we still follow a ‘dirty keto’ so we don’t eat as many carbs, mostly. I have some odd eating habits picked up over the years of diets, trends, and just needs for something like mayo on everything.

  4. I don’t know about weird but we used to eat liver (Weight Watchers used to require that once a week). It was gross. My grandmother made apple fritters but I ate so many once that I got sick and could never eat them again. I guess you could say the raw hamburger sandwiches that we used to eat as kids was weird. Also probably unhealthy but we knew the butcher.

  5. And this is why it is a good idea to always keep a good old box of mac and cheese available. Shin of Beef and Oxtail are best left to the Jackals. Growing up, my folks loved to serve Aspic. I hated that stuff, but they were convinced they could change my mind. They failed.

  6. I enjoyed my mother’s smothered liver and onions as a kid but never learned to make them. Dad enjoyed eating cow tongue (not going to eat something that could potentially on some level taste me back — no I’m not!), pig’s feet, and menudo (which is tripe) which was supposedly good for hangovers. Certain family members will put ketchup on their eggs and just the smell of that turns my stomach! I’ve never had oxtail anything, but the way you describe it, I’d be willing to try that! Mona

    • You made me laugh about not eating something that could taste you back! My mom went to a deli when she was visiting us and brought back a tongue sandwich. A piece of tongue dropped to the ground and the dog — a lab who eats everything — wouldn’t touch it! I’ve tried menudo but I’m not a fan.

  7. I don’t remember anything quite so exotic as you experienced but my grandmother made pig’s tails and sauerkraut which I thought sounded awful but was delicious.Thanks so much for following Judith and Me at A World Apart. I always enjoy your blog! Chris

  8. I grew up poor. My dad hunted and fished. We ate a lot of wild game and fish. My sister had huge issues with this. She only eats fish and chicken bought from the store as an adult.

  9. Mother cooked traditional Italian or basic American. I did really like the stuffed artichokes and all vegetables except lima beans. There was a kitchen table screaming match continuously as she never stopped serving them and I never understood why. Now I’ve never had them since I left for college 55 years ago !

    • My husband’s uncle (in the photo) was from Palermo and his cooking and screaming matches were incredible! He’s in his 90s now.Stuffed artichokes sound delicious.

  10. You may know about some of the (Jewish) delicacies that were not uncommon in my Bubbie’s home. Have you eaten kishka or gefilte fish or homemade chopped liver or home rendered chicken fat?

  11. I grew up with Mac and cheese in the US then a lit of Malaysian and Lebanese dishes once we went to Lebanon. I’ve heard of the odd “organ” dishes. My grandmother made them for my dad but I never ate them.

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