When I was a kid I had a neighbor down the street that used to put on the best Halloween haunted houses. He used to set it up in his garage using black lights, cottony spider webs, and giant refrigerator boxes to make a scary maze that we had to walk through – filled with “ghouls” that would jump out from hidden compartments – before we received some awesome Halloween treats.
One of the highlights was the banquet table where we were encouraged to stick our hands in bowls of gross foods like “zombie eyeballs” (made from peeled grapes) and “mummy guts” (cooked spaghetti mixed with canned whole tomatoes).
The best part though was the grand finale. Without fail, every year it was the trusty “head on a platter” which came alive as soon as some unwitting trick-or-treater lifted the lid. Is it just me, or does that trick never get old? I mean, really!
Of course, those foods were just pranks to give kids thrills and chills, but that doesn’t mean that scary foods don’t exist in real life.
Here are five foods that you should always think twice about before buying because, if you aren’t careful, they could end up (cue the Psycho music…) killing you!
Sannakji is raw baby octopus that is served immediately after the chef takes his bloody hatchet – okay, sushi knife – and chops it up into little pieces. The tentacles are served while they are still squirming. The danger lies in the fact that the tentacle suction cups are still active, which can result in a choking hazard if the tentacles manage to attach themselves to the back of the diner’s throat. Now you know why mom always harped on you to take the time to chew your food.
Fugu is a popular dish served in Japan that comes from the blowfish. The trouble is, the poison in blowfish liver and ovaries is so deadly – 1,200 times more powerful than cyanide – that fugu can only be legally prepared by a licensed chef with three years of specialized training under his belt. So if you love fugu but happen to be a poor tipper, here’s some friendly advice for you: make sure you never eat at the same restaurant twice.
Over the past 50 years or so, there have been approximately 28,000 mushroom poisonings worldwide. If I do the math that’s (Let’s see take the square root of 16, cross multiply, carry the one. Ah, yes…) about 560 unwitting victims on average annually. No wonder witches are always putting toadstools in their bubbling cauldrons. I don’t know about you, but it kind of makes me want to think twice the next time I order sauteed mushrooms with my steak dinner.
Real absinthe – that fluorescent green spirit you may find at some bars around the world where it is not banned – is made from wormwood extract, which can result in convulsions, kidney failure or even death when taken in large enough quantities. I think I’ll stick with a nice frosty beer.
5. Hot Dogs
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, hot dogs are responsible for roughly 1,700 asphyxiations annually of children under 14 years of age. Adults aren’t immune either; my son and I witnessed the horror of a lady choking on a wiener at a baseball game last year. She was saved only after a nearby fan successfully performed the Heimlich maneuver on her. Believe it or not, the Academy is now calling for a redesign of hot dogs to make them safer to eat. I’m sure it won’t be long before hot dogs will be formed into a ball and encased in a special round bun so we can eat them like an apple. Now that’s really scary.
Photo Credit: pjan vandaele
(This is an article that I originally wrote in October 2010 for the now-defunct Currency blog. By the way, I’ll be back from my vacation on Saturday with a new edition of Black Coffee!)