All humans are united in at least one way: we all eat food. However, what we eat varies greatly by region and time. Today, Americans enjoy a wide range of foods influenced by other cultures and what grows in North America, but there are ingredients we’ve abandoned for one reason or another. Here are three of the most unusual dishes:
In the 19th century, robin pie was quite popular. Food historian Sandra Oliver over at Food History News describes digging up a recipe for the dish from the 1890 Wehman’s Cook Book. The cook is asked to first cover the bottom of a pie dish with slices of beef and bacon. Then, layer with 10-12 robins rolled in flour and finish off with salt, pepper, a few herbs, broth, and “half puff taste,” or pie pastry. The pie is served hot after an hour of baking. Robins are a protected species now, and eating songbirds is odd to most Americans, but back in the day, people ate whatever animal tasted good.
In the 17th-century, both Europeans and American natives enjoyed roasted beaver tail. Beavers were plentiful back in the day, and their tails were high in calories and fat, making it an ideal food for a hard-working man. The tails were cooked over open fires until they had the consistency and taste of pork rinds. You can still find recipes in a few 1940’s cookbooks, but today, a “beaver tail” refers to a type of doughnut in Canada.
Liverwurst and peanut butter sandwich
Liverwurst arrived in the United States from Central and Eastern European immigrants. It consists of a ground liver mixture mixed with onion and spices, which is made into sausage links or slices, like bologna. Like all liver food products, it’s packed with iron with a strong, meaty taste. Peanut butter (as we recognize it, since we do know that civilizations as ancient as the Aztecs were mashing up peanuts) is an American creation and made its debut at the 1893 World’s Fair. The first recipe for PB and jelly sandwiches appears in a 1901 cookbook, but at least a few people were enjoying liverwurst and peanut butter sandwiches at the Empire State Building observatory. Their menu from 1933 offers this bizarre combo for only 25 cents.