LutefiskWhat it is: Dried fish (usually cod or haddock) cured with lye and then rehydrated by boiling or steaming
Where it's served: Norway, Finland, Sweden…and Minnesota
Want a bite? Vikings ate lutefisk, although it has not yet been proven that the consumption of this revolting stuff is why they went forth and attacked and pillaged everybody who might have had better food. While this time-consuming, hideously smelly, gelatinous fish preparation has its roots in Scandinavia, lutefisk is now one of those old-world delicacies that's primarily consumed by second-generation Americans, mostly in Wisconsin and Minnesota, at lutefisk suppers that run from October to January. What draws all these otherwise-sensible Midwesterners together year after year? Fish soaked in lye until it practically turns into soapthe residue is caustic enough to dissolve the finish on silverware and plates. File under "stuff to eat before it eats you."
SannakjiWhat it is: Baby octopus cut into pieces while still alive, served immediately (raw and still wriggling) with sesame oil and seeds
Where it's served: South Korea
Want a bite? So fresh it's still fighting to get off your plate (and out of your mouth), sannakji must be aggressively chewed before swallowing, both to remind the octopus of its place in the food chain and to prevent the critter's suckers from sticking to the inside of your esophagus, causing pain and presenting a choking hazard. If the 18th Saw movie sequel isn't grisly enough for you, the Internet abounds with video clips of ruthless octopus masticators, complete with wildly squirming tentacles making a desperate bid for escape from their mouths.
Rocky Mountain OystersWhat it is: Bull testicles
Where it's served: Wyoming, Colorado, and Montana
Want a bite? Late summer is, apparently, the harvest season for bull testicles: You can get a freshly reaped and deep-fried pair (or quartet) at the annual Testicle Festival (or TestyFesty) in Clinton, Montana, typically held the first weekend of August. As in the rest of Montana, at the TestyFesty, only the strong survive: Besides the obligatory Rocky Mountain oyster eating contest, there's bullcrap bingo (involving a large bingo board where the recently fed cattle roam) and a greased-pig-wrestling competition. At a three-ring biker circus like this, the oysters themselves are almost an afterthoughtan afterthought that tastes like chicken…with veins.
FuguWhat it is: A type of puffer fish poisonous enough to cause violent, swift death
Where it's served: Japan
Want a bite? Fugu is so dangerous that chefs who prepare it in restaurants must be specially trained, licensed, and certified. There are no prerequisites, however, for eating the stuff, except for fairly deep pockets. Fugu's cachet in Japan is a little difficult to understand, considering that a) it can kill you so effectively you almost think it wants to kill you, and b) it tastes exactly like rubber bands. Fugu is only available from October through March, and the classic fugu presentation is fugu-sashi, in which the wildly poisonous flesh is sliced paper-thin and arranged in the shape of a chrysanthemum, with grated radish and sauce for dipping. When radish is the least horrible thing on your plate, you know you ordered the wrong thing.
ScrappleWhat it is: Miscellaneous pig parts, ground and mixed with seasoned cornmeal, then formed into loaves and fried
Where it's served: Pennsylvania
Want a bite? Pennsylvania's proud, hardy Quaker ancestors endured real hardships to tame an inhospitable land. Scrapple is our clearest extant proof that they actually enjoyed suffering. How else to explain this unspeakable fried pork mush? Scrapple renders unrecognizable meat trimmings (read: the parts no one wants to look at, much less eat) into a glistening, fatty loaf that tastes like dirty, greasy sausage. It is intended, we presume, to stand in for choicer breakfast meatsor sanity, when both are unavailable.
BalutWhat it is: Partially developed duck or chicken embryos, served warm in their eggs
Where it's served: The Philippines
Want a bite? If you like your bacon with a side of OMG, balut is your best breakfast bet. Even adventurous eaters have a hard time swallowing this one: mature, fertilized eggs, eaten from their shellspartially formed bones, feathers, beaks, eyes, and all. The squawks of the easily-grossed-out fall on deaf ears in the Philippines, however, where balut is a cherished local favorite. Indeed, balut fans might point out that Americans eat bucketfuls of chicken nuggets, strips, loafs, tenders, and other cock-a-doodle-disgusting machine-extruded formats. To which we respond: Yeah, but McNuggets don't have feathers!