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10 Unusual Foods for a Taste of Traditions

August 2, 2014

When you’re looking for unusual foods in the USA take a drive to the country, especially in the south. Interesting cuisine abounds when money is tight, and traditional foods may seem like weird food to those who live elsewhere.

Kentucky means many things when it comes to food but among the more unusual is burgoo. Kentucky natives uphold the “waste nothing” where money is tight and some residents report even “road kill” (fresh I hope!) being scooped up to use. Burgoo, even years ago, was reported as a meal that one might use raccoon, opossum or squirrel as often as beef, lamb or pork. It’s concept cooking and is a Kentucky tradition. A soup or stew from meat and vegetables it’s a way to insure leftovers don’t go to waste and, perhaps, disguise the meat from the pesky raccoon that met an untimely fate. Go to Owensboro for the International Bar-B-Q Festial for over 1500 gallons of burgoo that uses reportedly 10 tons of mutton and 5,000 chickens. There’s even a Kentucky Derby winner, in 1932, that paid tribute to the stuff – his name was Burgoo King.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFried green tomatoes is something that those in the south don’t think is weird but those from other areas do. It was even the title of a movie about southern tradition and – well – not all is what it seems. There is no waste of garden produce and fried green tomatoes is a dish that dates back almost 100 years (if not beyond).

Moose chili is a dish a friend in Maine proudly offered up in the unusual foods (along with bear and other “wilderness” food). It might surprise people to learn there are moose in the lower 48 states too, but moose chili is a hearty meal that pays good tribute to the moose.

Turducken definitely qualifies as the unusual as it’s something that involves three different types of birds – a barnyard medley you might say. Turducken is a deboned chicken stuffed into a larger deboned duck which is stuffed into a larger deboned turkey. This uses also cornbread stuffing, Cajun rice dressing and – well a different meal experience for sure!

Tongue used to be an inexpensive meat and is often discarded or, alternately, marketed as a specialty meat (with a specialty price!). Beef tongue is a way to use more of the beef animal rather than just discarding it. If you raise your own beef and want a way to use more of it, consider the beef tongue also. There’s even a recipe for tongue tacos!

Rocky mountain oysters are sometimes called calf fries or lamb fries depending on where they came from. One might say they’re a seasonal meal traditionally although today they can be purchased breaded or not. There are also turkey and pork varieties. Although even some in the food industry think these are found in the seafood case that isn’t so. This is, in true farm and ranch fashion, a way to make use of something that otherwise would be thrown away. When bull calves or ram lambs (or other animals) are castrated to be raised for meat the testicles are peeled, coated in flour, seasoned with salt and pepper and deep fried. Other inventive names are prairie oysters, cowboy caviar and swinging sirloin. For the adventurous attend the World Champion Rocky Mountain Oyster festival or the TestyFest.

Tripe is a worldwide offering and humble in nature, born of the “waste nothing” from our ancestors. In Australia it’s glorified, a variation in Scotland called Haggis is somewhat a national dish. A variety of ethnic dishes may be used to serve tripe

Frog legs are represented with a variety of recipes and in some areas they may appear on restaurant menus but more commonly this is a dish that can be caught, prepared and made at home. They can also be ordered at exotic meat outlets, are low in fat with 2 large frog legs or 4 small per person a meal.

Turtle isn’t as common today as in years past when snapping turtle was a depression era meal, as mentioned in the book “Getting By: Lessons From a Rural Past.” However, this isn’t the chocolate candy called turtles! Turtle soup is but one way to fix turtle as well as southern twice fried and other recipes.

Calamari is a dish that perhaps (after all the above foods considered) could be deemed the offering from the coast. Calamari, for the uninitiated, is meat from the squid, with the bodies cut into rings. Cooked too long it becomes tough, so preparation is important. Eaten worldwide, it is sometimes called different names in different countries.

If you’re looking to expand your horizons on the cuisine front these are certainly foods to start with!

  • Some of these foods are known and served world wide.
  • Many make use of the philosophy of don’t waste anything – use all but the moo/oink/baa.
  • Exotic meats can be purchased online today from anywhere.
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