In the past, Cracked has “gently forced” me to make and eat foods from the Insanity Era of cookbooks, which is roughly the period of time between 1955 and 1985 that the Back To The Future movies completely ignore. Having made and eaten everything from liver sausage pineapple to food that turned powder blue to aquariums made of Jell-O, I was confident I had built up my tolerance enough to try again.
Fellow Cracked writer Isaac Cabe would be along for the ride, mostly so that someone could alert an ambulance/coroner should things go exactly as expected.
5. Cup Steak Puddings
Some people say to never judge a book by it’s cover, but I’m doing that with this recipe.
Yep, that looks like human skin full of chopped-up organ meat. It looks like a dish served in a hallucination a character is having in a David Cronenberg movie. These are apparently “cup steak puddings.”
The recipe itself was the product of a corrupted, fragmented mind. It called for water, but never said how much. Some ingredients listed were never used, while others weren’t listed but then mentioned as being needed halfway through. It was complicated and ever-changing, with little-to-no direction. It was as if walking through Denver International Airport was a recipe.
The crux of the recipe was suet (aka cow kidney fat, which I will note is these days primarily used as bird feed), but I still had hope, because some of the ingredients were normal things like flour and baking powder. Then they were combined and poured into cups and … oh no.
Well, maybe they look better after they’ve cooked-
I don’t know exactly what happened next, but my notes gave a pretty good rundown:
I took them out of the oven and-What’s that smell? It smells like a bakery covered in beef grease. And oh no, why is the bread rubbery? Why is it leaking? HOW DID GREASE GET HERE?! WHY IS THERE SO MUCH?! DAMN YOU, SUET! DAMN YOU, COOKBOOK!
Then, after having taken a bite:
Did I use dog food?! I INVENTED DOG FOOD! I INVENTED WORSE DOG FOOD! NOTE TO SELF: CALL SHARK TANK GUY RE: HAVE DISCOVERED NEW INVENTION CALLED WORSE DOG FOOD. MARKET TO WORSE DOGS. CORGIS? MY STOMACH IS SECEDING.
It’s greasy, fatty pudding that makes you retch when it’s within smelling distance. It’s true today, and I refuse to believe it wasn’t true back when this recipe was written.
4. Savory Bacon Pudding
Before the days of bacon cinnamon rolls and chocolate-covered bacon, we had this monstrosity:
You know you’re in for a blast when your food vomits itself up.
The recipe called for everything from the basic (milk, eggs) to the pretentious (Gruyere cheese). It told me to start by making a custard, because nothing goes better with floppy sliced pork belly than a delectable, creamy custard.
Then you dump every ingredient in, which at this point was a combination of a dessert (custard), breakfast (bacon and cheese omelet), and Passover (Challah Bread). I’m pretty sure I did something sacrilegious by mixing bacon and Challah bread, but honestly, that is the least of the abominations occurring here.
God wasn’t going to help me out of this one, anyway.
So I dumped my failed-art-project-looking slurry into the little bread houses I made for them, put aluminum foil on top so it would be more difficult for it to escape should it come to life, and slid it all into the oven long enough to get my roommate sick from the smell again.
If the bread was a house, it would be somewhere between “Section 8” and “shotgun shack burnt down for the insurance.” And the taste? A stunning “surprisingly edible.” Don’t get me wrong – it was the equivalent of stuffing a gooey omelette into a bread cup and attempting to boil it – but it was still a substance that could be processed by the human digestive system. It was runny hotel food quality, like a Motel 6 room service breakfast.
I was just happy to get a recipe that didn’t cause one or more bodily functions to cease. In retrospect, it was just softening me up for …
3. Cheddar Mousse
On the surface, it doesn’t seem so bad. It’s a yellow mousse made of cheese! Can’t you imagine just burying your face in this?
OK, maybe not. Still, making it wasn’t bad. You make a cheese sauce, then you add in some tomatoes and eggs and a few other ingredients.
Combined, it’s almost like a cheese and SpaghettiOs mix. But as I mixed it for the last steps, chemistry began to work its dark magic.
The smell wafted out of the bowl. At first it was but a whisper. I didn’t even know it was there until I had to leave the kitchen for a moment and came back. As soon as I walked in, it hit me.
Vomit. It smelled exactly like vomit.
The gelatin, the cayenne pepper, the mustard … this was not a recipe, this was a guide for manufacturing a chemical weapon, disseminated to terror cells via a cookbook. When Isaac entered, he literally almost keeled over and ran to the trash can. It was that bad. Windows were opened and fans were set on high to get rid of the smell, but it didn’t happen fast enough. We were trapped in the house of puke.
And you know what’s worse than smelling that? Eating it.
What I ate immediately came back out. It was destined to all along – this dish was barf that was designed to skip the middleman. It was spongy, pale, acidic orangeness. If I wanted a day off from school and poured the bowl into the toilet, not only would my parents have believed I was sick, but they might have also called off work by proxy. Here are my actual raw notes on it after eating it:
It’s sadness. I ate [sic] sadness. Almost an hour later and the apartment still smells like this. Remember to apologize to Isaac. Note the blood rushing to my head.
2. Christmas Candle Salad
As a palate cleanser, we made some interesting bananas.
See the ooze at the top of each? That’s mayonnaise. The thing sticking out of the top is a salted almond. You know, to look like the “flame” in the “Christmas candle.”
The recipe says it’s from Christmas 1958, but there is no way in hell they didn’t know what they were doing there. They had these bananas in 1958, I know they did, and there is no team of recipe editors who could look at the white ooze running down the tip of those bananas without giggling just a bit. Even those angels in the picture are wondering why this family is serving plugged boners for Jesus’ 1,958th birthday bash.
Since nothing is being cooked here, this one was all about artistry and presentation. Make the Jell-O into stars? Some geometrically perfect stars coming right up!
Cut out circles and stab the bananas into the middle, plug the top with an almond and have it drip down mayonnaise. This is all normal, perfectly normal. You could serve this to your boss at a dinner party in 1958, and they would note only how the dish looked incredibly like a Christmas candle.
As for the taste, it really depends on where you start. The banana and cranberry gelatin – the bottom end – was great. But once you get to the mayonnaise – which, remember, has a salty almond crammed into it – everything goes to hell. The sweet, salty, oily, and jiggly all hit the tongue at the same time.
I could forgive it for being an obvious schlong dessert clearly intended for the ’50s swinger scene. What I could not forgive is the fact that they could have simulated the stuff with banana pudding, yogurt, anything other than mayonnaise, and it’d have been a delightful dessert. I wonder if a previous draft of this hadn’t called for using actual stuff, before deciding that would give away the prank.
1. Hormel Tongue Mold
This one didn’t begin easily. Or end easily. It also wasn’t easy in the middle.
You can make a drinking game around stereotypical gelatin molds of the 20th century based on the ingredients they throw in. Chicken broth, stuffed olives – basically everything you pass in a grocery store and say to yourself, “Huh, I wonder who still buys this.”
Chicken broth gelatin, mixed veggies, tongue …… and a cream cheese / milk mix. All together they formed this, which I feared was going to give me a food coma. And not the good kind. The bad kind where you actually go into a coma.
After chilling, it turned into a gelatinous lump. It actually took some prying to get it out.
It felt like a bouncy ball cadaver and smelled like danger. I can’t describe the smell in terms of food; I can only describe it in terms of what my brain told me, and it was saying “Run.”
Still, I decided to dig in. How bad could it be?
Isaac’s Note: Evan couldn’t write after tasting that, so I’ve transcribed here what he said after tasting this wretched masterpiece:
“What the hell was that? Why? Why would someone make this? Whyyyyy? Why, uh, eh? Eh? Gordon Ramsay would just … murder … eh, uh … *pokes dish* Did someone have it out for Jell-O? Is that what’s going on here? Was this like a meal for someone? *scoffs, still poking the dish* Why would you make a meal like this ever? Was this just supposed to be a centerpiece and not eaten? Just … the tongue! The olives! They had no purpose! Cream cheese? Why? Why? God, why? *punches couch* I’m done. It’s going to the trash where it belongs.”