100 foods to eat before you die

Cutlery (colour)

Knives and forks

Continuing the food-related themes I’ve been writing about of late (not that I intend this to be my sole source of subject matter), I was intrigued to come across this 100 foods to eat before you die list. It’s been doing the rounds as a Facebook app and there are countless blog entries that deal with it, so I can’t reliably say who came up with it, only that I found the complete, unedited list here.

It seems to have originated in the United States: although there is quite a bit of diversity of cuisines and ingredients included, it contains quite a significant number of things that are easily identifiable as quintessentially American, including chicken and waffles, clam chowder, biscuits and gravy, as well as a number of other things I hadn’t heard of and that don’t seem to have found international recognition. Some of these I have looked up in the meantime, but any items that baffled me initially I have marked with a question mark.

I’ve crossed off all the items on the list that I’ve tried, and the grand total is: 54. This compares really very favourably with the predicted average total of twenty items, though I am still some way behind friends who have travelled more widely, grew up with a wider range of these foods or have more adventurous palates.

I’ve also picked out a few of my personal favourites (comments in green) as well as a few items I either don’t like or think are overrated (comments in red). At the end of the list you can find out which further items I’d most like to try, those I’d prefer to avoid, and a few suggestions of my own.

  1. Abalone
  2. Absinthe
  3. Alligator
  4. Baba  GhanoushI adore aubergine, and although I find this dip fiddly to make, the taste is SO worth it
  5. Bagel and lox
  6. Baklava
  7. Barbecue ribs
  8. Bellini
  9. Bird’s Nest Soup
  10. Biscuits and gravy
  11. Black Pudding - one of those foods from home that I miss here (German Blutwurst is similar, but not the same and tends to be served differently)
  12. Black TruffleI can’t really understand the appeal of either black truffle or white truffle. They both seem to add a slightly mildewy note to things
  13. Borscht
  14. Calamari
  15. Carp
  16. Caviar
  17. Cheese fondue
  18. Chicken and waffles
  19. Chicken Tikka Masalapossibly not my favourite curry ever (I prefer ones that are more coconutty and a bit hotter), but definitely one of the best items on this list
  20. Chile Relleno ?
  21. Chitterlings/Chitlins ? (I’ve heard of this but can’t remember what it is)
  22. Churros
  23. Clam Chowder
  24. Cognac
  25. Crabcake
  26. Crickets
  27. Currywurstdefinitely not a favourite: I don’t like sausage and chips, or the sauce, or the sprinkling of curry powder
  28. Dandelion wine
  29. Dulce de leche
  30. Durian ?
  31. Eel
  32. Eggs benedict
  33. Fish Tacos
  34. Foie GrasI’ve written about my dislike of this before – I really don’t see the appeal at all (and it’s not exactly good for the goose or for the person eating it)
  35. Fresh Spring Rolls
  36. Fried Catfish
  37. Fried Green Tomatoes
  38. Fried Plaintain
  39. Frito Pie ?
  40. Frog’s Legs
  41. Fugu ?
  42. Funnel Cake ?
  43. Gazpacho
  44. Goat
  45. Goat’s milk
  46. Goulash
  47. Gumbo
  48. Haggis
  49. Head CheeseI’ve only had this once, in France, in a truckers’ hotel we ended up in at the end of an exhausting 100km+ bike ride. The most welcome meal ever! It’s called fromage de tête in French, which sounds so much more poetic, doesn’t it? ;) (edit: originally had this in red, but could also be green, hence “neutral” black…)
  50. Heirloom Tomatoes
  51. Honeycomb
  52. Hostess Fruit Pie ?
  53. Huevos Rancheros
  54. Jerk Chicken
  55. Kangaroo
  56. Key Lime Pie
  57. Kobe Beef
  58. Lassi
  59. Lobsteralthough I went through the whole of my childhood seeing the piles of lobster pots at the harbour in Aberystwyth, it wasn’t until well into adulthood that I actually tried lobster. Verdict: wow!
  60. Mimosa (I guess a strong Buck’s Fizz counts ;))
  61. MoonPie ?
  62. Morel Mushrooms
  63. Nettle Tea
  64. Octopus
  65. Oxtail Soupin its tinned variety, a childhood trauma (and I haven’t felt moved to try a better version since)
  66. PaellaI got to know and love this dish at a shooting club in Tübingen, of all places. The (public) restaurant there was run by the Spanish wife of the guy who ran the outfit, and a large group of us would often go there on special occasions, when Carmen would serve up these huge pans of garlic-infused goodness
  67. Paneer
  68. Pastrami on Rye
  69. Pavlova
  70. Phaal
  71. Philly Cheesesteak
  72. Pho
  73. Pineapple and cottage cheesecottage cheese is excellent stuff and I could eat it by the carton, but I really don’t like pineapple in combination with anything savoury
  74. Pistachio Ice Cream
  75. Po’ boy ?
  76. Pocky ?
  77. Polenta
  78. Prickly Pear
  79. Rabbit Stew
  80. Raw OystersI’m inclined to say these are highly overrated, though I have had them only once and that was without any kind of dressing (other than a bit of seawater and sand): I’m told a good vinaigrette makes all the difference
  81. Root Beer Floatdefinitely doesn’t float my boat. The two ingredients should be served separately
  82. S’moresIn my case, s’lesses (far too sweet and sickly)
  83. Sauerkraut
  84. Sea Urchin
  85. Shark
  86. Snail
  87. Snake
  88. Soft Shell Crab
  89. Som Tam ?
  90. Spaetzle
  91. Spam
  92. Squirrel
  93. Steak Tartare
  94. Sweet Potato Fries
  95. Sweetbreads
  96. Tom Yum
  97. Umeboshi ?
  98. Venison
  99. Wasabi Peas
  100. Zucchini Flowers

A few things on the list I’d like to try

Borscht – not really sure why I’ve not had it before (I prefer the impossible-looking German “beatbox” spelling Bortschsch)

Crabcake – I’ve got several recipes for Thai-style crabcakes, so this is something I should definitely try making

Dandelion wine – the sound of this has always had a magical quality. I expect you can create your own fairytale world if you drink enough of it. I have recipes for wine made out of various common or garden plants among the old recipes I wrote about here.

Kobe beef – just to see what all the fuss is about

Snails – they’re a fairly local speciality here, so I think I should try them

A few things on the list that I wouldn’t touch with a bargepole

Abalone, bird’s nest soup, sea urchin, snake – these all sound ecologically and/or ethically dodgy in some way (though maybe the same could be said for many of the things I’ve eaten and enjoyed. Hmm)

Chicken and waffles, chitterlings (I have now looked them up), crickets, squirrel, sweetbreads – I find all of these ideas a bit stomach-churning

Items I’d add to the list

Pakistani mangoes – I love mangoes in any case, but the elongated, yellow Pakistani ones – which Kavey introduced me to – are the most exquisite in flavour, perfume and texture

Traditional mature Cheddar cheese – I’ve tried a lot of cheeses in my time, but nothing beats this. It’s such a pity that the mainstream market (esp. outside Britain / Ireland) is flooded with poor imitations

Fresh tuna steak – I know there are ethical issues with particular species of tuna, but if you can get a sustainable, reliably sourced and dolphin-friendly variety (feel free to add any further criteria I may have forgotten), then do try it. I’m happy enough to eat tinned tuna, but the fresh stuff is something else entirely.

Pickled walnuts – eaten with cold meats after Christmas, pickled walnuts remain one of my favourite foods in the festive season (not that there is any reason not to eat them at other times!)

San Daniele ham – this is cured roughly in a similar way to Parma / serrano hams, but I find the flavour superior

Suet crust – another of my favourite comfort foods from home

Morellino di scansano (red wine) – this comes from the same area of Tuscany that produces the prestigious (and pricy) Brunello di Montalcino. It’s a fraction of the price and on almost every occasion I’ve been able to compare the two wines one to one, this one has been the distinct favourite. As the name may suggest, it has a deep cherry flavour, and it’s been one of my favourite wines for years now.

Have you tried any of the more unusual things on the list? Have I missed out on anything spectacular in the dishes I put a question mark next to? I’d love to read about other people’s “scores” and experiences with any of these foods / dishes.

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21 Comments

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21 responses to “100 foods to eat before you die

  1. squonky

    Humm, do I smell an opportunity to start a Black Pudding export business I wonder? ;^)

    For me the big thing is food or drink I experience somewhere and then can’t get hold of at home. One of the biggest pleasures of travelling for me is trying as many local foods as I can. Also, I would very much like to return to the little hotel I stayed at in Rome and ask the proprietor *exactly* how he made the coffee. I’ve never tasted better, maybe it was the Roman water? Just last week in West Yorkshire I sampled some local cheeses that persuaded me that my taste buds do indeed still work and that what we get from the supermarkets here really shouldn’t be described as cheese at all. Hope you don’t mind me supplying a link : http://www.pextenement.co.uk/

    • Thanks for the link, and for those thoughts.

      You’re quite right that hard-to-come-by local foods can really characterize a holiday or other visit to a new place, and a chance rediscovery of that food elsewhere can bring the memories (and, if you’re lucky, the holiday feeling) flooding back.

      I really wonder about that coffee thing – it can be the water, the coffee, the machine, the way it’s served, the weather, the mood, the fact you’re in a new place…

  2. squonky

    And to be more “on topic” with your post :-

    Biscuits and gravy : I have to say I’ve enjoyed “biscuits” during various visits to the US. But I just treated them as a breakfast roll, I don’t remember any gravy being involved.

    Strange that Bird’s Nest Soup cropped up on this list as it sprang into my head totally unbidden just a few days ago. I am willing to try just about anything once, but I think I’m with you on that one. Let the birds keep their nests.

    Frog’s legs / snails : If / when I finally get to “do Paris” I’m intending to experience both of these. Hey, you only live once! Would be interested to hear what you made of the frog’s legs as I see it’s one you’ve crossed off.

    One to add to the list from me would be Bere Bannock, which I grew to love during my trips to Orkney. Especially fine with the local cheeses, or just dunked into some hearty soup :^)

    • I’ll look that cheese up – thanks.

      Frogs’ legs were OK, though I didn’t find them terribly memorable. You could probably have told me they were chicken or rabbit and I’d have believed you. Not unpleasant, but not green or particularly amphibious-seeming in any other way ;)

  3. I love your additions to the list… to my mind it has some enormous gaps and some odd inclusions… but as any of these things is wont to be, it’s abitrary.
    I won’t eat anything which is an endangered species, or which endangers a species by its collection, so birds nest soup is out. And some of the processed stuff doesn’t appeal.

  4. Very chilli crab cakes way out on top of the list. Whereas the devil’s food – Spaetzle, perfectly happy to die before eating the evil phlegmy sick again. Never tried a prickly pear but cleaned out a few prickly urchins with bread, lemon and retsina. Seems to feature a lot of what I take to be American (cartoon?) foods, I am not even going use google to find out what “root beer floaters” are.
    Missing in action… zabaione, queenies, pork scratchings, winkles & semolina, Venetian rice pudding, deep fried elderflowers and the bottle exploding elderflower champagne.
    Off now to do a bit more research for any local opportunities to try Hostess Fruit Pie. If my suspicions are right………

    • Ah, but have you had “proper” home-made spaetzle? I can’t say it’s my favourite food, but it really does work well with any kind of meat in a creamy or wine-based sauce. Kässpätzle is not something I’d ever order in a restaurant (having done so and regretted it in the past – too heavy and claggy, bland in some cases), but M does a fantastic version that includes mushrooms, bacon, white wine and lots of garlic.

  5. simontaylor

    Interesting detail, I have a nice recipe for crab cakes here – http://www.phooto.co.uk/books/simonsrecipes.pdf

    • Thank you for the recipe suggestion – there are some other nice-looking dishes in there, too.

      • simontaylor

        Book is a work in progress, just somewhere to keep things I’ve found and liked, so no claims are made for completeness or readability. Also, it’s an experiment with a book publishing program!

  6. Frank "Yuca" Blanco

    Curiously, four of your question-marked entries are in fact uniquely “American” creations. Frito Pie is basically a casserole of chile, cheese (preferably processed Velveeta) and Frito Lays corn chips. Funnel Cake is a fried dough concoction with loads of powdered sugar and is usually found in local state or county fairs in the US. Hostess Fruit Pie and Moon Pie… I can’t even begin to describe, except they’re both processed and packaged in little plastic bags. Why they made it on the list heaven onlt knows. Fair warning, though, if you decide to try these American “delicacies” make sure they are at the end of your list as they will result in either a diabetic coma, heart attack or both and chances are pretty good you won’t survive. Happy eating!!!

    • Thank you for your wry and informative explanations ;)

      Frito Pie sounds dangerously appealing, I have to admit, but I might give the others a wide berth.

  7. I hope you’ll try Borscht, it’s one of my favourite soups (recipe on my blog).

    I still have no idea what Birds Nest Soup is though?

  8. simontaylor

    I hadn’t tried Salsify until a couple of weeks ago, have since bought some seeds to grow my own, it’s virtually unobtainable here. Seems quite versatile and an alternative to pasta or potato.

    • I’m assuming (but may be wrong) that you mean the sort that’s also known as scorzonera (long thin, black root vegetable). If so, I’ve had it too and found it tasty. Very easy to get at the market here when it’s in season.

      Take care in preparing it: it discolours quickly after peeling so needs to be immersed in water quickly; peeling it in water with a dash of vinegar also stops it discolouring your hands, peeler etc.

      • simontaylor

        I think there are both black and white skinned types. I’ll have to wait for mine, it IS available in the UK, but only by mail order, and then £10 / Kilo. That’s the same as Lamb fillet!

  9. Alexey

    If you finally decide to eat borscht, see that you get a nice round bone with lots of marrow in your plate, take the marrow out and smear it on a slice of rye bread. Make sure you have a clove of garlic at hand, to gnaw at before biting into the bread. And, of course, a full spoon of home-made sour cream must be added to the soup (this is so intuitive to a Slavic mind one forgets that here in the West it could be forgotten or – God forbid! – replaced by mayonnaise or some such).

    This is one of the few dishes I miss from my carnivorous days (also, albondigas, of course).

    Important: do not splash!

    • Now THAT sounds like someone who knows his borscht! Sounds great (but can you get bones with marrow here these days??).

      I’d like it to be known that I would NEVER add mayonnaise to soup. In fact, I think I’m a lot more likely to add sour cream than any of the alternatives, so have no fear! ;)

      Albondigas – now there’s something else I haven’t had for an age and a half. Might have to go on a menu soonish – will let you know if I do cook it.

  10. Pingback: Recipe of the Day: Mini Chocolate Dalek Cakes - Lez Get Real

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