a canonical compendium of repulsive recipes


rotting shark and black death

Iceland is a wacky place. Apparently if you're an American and you go there, there will be people just lining up to have sex with you simply because the entire nation only has like twelve people in it and they're all completely sick of each other and are in need of new folks to bang. When I was in elementary school we had an Icelandic au pair named Ragna. As far as I know she didn't have crazy sex with everyone; instead, she sat in her room and cried and occasionally ventured out to change my sister's diaper. She went back to Iceland after a month, where I like to think she lives a rich and fulfilling life involving hot tubs and Bjork. In reality she is probably still sitting in a room and crying, because you would too if your name was Ragna.

Besides totally unfathomably weird people, Iceland is also home to the most virulently repulsive traditional cuisine ever. I'm positing this is because they don't have much on the island besides sheep, or surrounding it besides weird northern-Atlantic fish. Limited food resources + hella awful winters = "creative efficiency," which is the phrase I'm going to use as a euphemism for whatever demonic mind decided that the following recipe was a good idea.
hakarl (rotted shark)

1 shark
a sandy beach in a cold area

Bury the shark in sand. Wait six to nine months, or until the decomposition process has stalled. Dig up the rotting shark. Serve it frozen in small pieces, accompanied by shots of Brennevin (Ed: an icelandic alcohol whose name somwhat appropriately translates to "Black Death.") in order to mask the flavor of rotting, moldy shark meat.

Here are some fun warnings about Hakarl:
- if you eat too much, you will get horrible diarrhea
- if you dig it up too soon, and eat it, you will die. The sand leeches out ammonia and other toxins from the shark.
- apparently Icelanders consider this worth the risk and effort nonetheless.

I tried to find a picture to go with this recipe, but Hakarl actually looks pretty inoffensive, and pictures of dead sharks - while moderately unpleasant - aren't really that big of a deal. Apparently it's the smell of the decomposed cartilaginous fish-thing that really gets you, and they don't make an HTML tag for stinkiness yet. So instead, here's a picture of an icelandic person being crowned Miss World. Mentally insert rotting shark meat if you like.


Zombie Chicken

I'm quoting this from the New York Times, and I don't really think it needs comment. However, I do promise this: If you can obtain for me a live pre-plucked chicken, an appropriate quantity of mercury and sulfur, and an on-call ambulance, I will prepare and serve this dish for you. In its entirety.

The speaker here is Heston Blumenthal, chef at The Fat Duck, England's highest-Michelin-starred restaurant. The "Oh, my god"s are the interjections of the article's author, Christine Muhlke, who is my new best friend. I have decided to name this dish Zombie Chicken, for obvious reasons.
"I had came across a manuscript of Le Viander de Taillevent. He was the chef to the Palais Royal in Paris. I think it was the 14th century.. . .And in there was this wonderful — wonderful? fascinating as opposed to wonderful; it's not the right word — recipe for how to roast a chicken. You take the chicken, and you pluck the chicken while it's still alive, and you baste the skin with a mixture of soya, wheat germ and dripping, I think it was. And apparently this makes it look like the skin's been roasted. You then put the head of this live chicken under its tummy and rock it to sleep. Then you get two other chickens and you roast them. And you bring these three chickens out on a tray to the table. You start carving one of the roasted chickens. And. . .the one that is still alive but sleeping goes sort of 'Wha!' — head pops up — and it runs off down the table."

Oh, my God.

"And that's Part 1. Then you take this poor chicken, and you kill it, and you stuff its neck with a mixture of quicksilver, which is mercury, and sulfur, and then stitch it up. And apparently — obviously I haven't tried this at home, or at work — the expanding air in the neck cavity as you roast causes the mercury and the sulfur to react and somehow creates a clucking noise."

Oh, my God.

"And then you bring this clucking chicken back to the table. So you've taken a live chicken and made it appear dead, and then you've brought it back to life again."

Oh, my God.

"And so it's completely extreme, but it represents for me a point of creativity in cooking — not that I'd ever do anything like that."