Ben Oliver

7 misunderstood gross things

Ol’ Benny wrote a listicle
26 April 2022

Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

How and why on earth do you eat that? And why are you writing this article?

- Abraham Lincoln

1. Pork scratchings

A hairy pork scratching
Credit: John C Bullas BSc MSc PhD MCIHT MIAT.1

The Russian roulette of pub snacks—will it be a soft one (gross)? Will it be a hairy one (weird and gross)? Or will it be the perfect salty friend your beer needs? These days you get enough of the latter to keep me interested, but enough of the former to put everyone else off.

They are a snack on the decline, which is a shame because they are cheap and embrace the ‘eat every part of the animal’ ethos, including the hair I suppose. Having said that, they are just roasted fat and salt so if my GP reads this article they might ask me to move to a new clinic.

2. Chip shop curry sauce

A picture of chip shop curry sauce

Perhaps this is the one on the list I’m most ashamed of. It’s a neon yellow or vomit coloured slop with mysterious translucent chunks floating inside, often served in a polystyrene cup. And yet even at its worst I’ll eat and enjoy curry sauce on fish and chips, probably because if it’s that bad it might be the only part of the meal that tastes of anything.

Times are changing though and some places are starting to put a bit more effort into their curry sauce. Gone are the anonymous chunks of protein™, now replaced with a nice smooth sauce or even something with bits of batter in for some crunch. Despite my lack of standards in this field, I have to applaud this development.

Bonus item: The chip shop battered sausage. I like them but it’s best not to overthink what these are actually made of.

3. A Beres pork bap

A pork sandwich from Beres in Sheffield
Credit: Northern Food.2

OK so this isn’t gross, everyone in Sheffield knows it’s a top class product, but it’s off-putting to the uninitiated. They take the soft white roll, slice it in half, then dip both open sides in pork dripping.

Then they apply stuffing, and a generous amount of thinly sliced roast pork. Top that with finely chopped crackling (unusual in the pork bap world, but much easier to eat than a big slab) and apple sauce. All served in a bag with a warning for those with brittle teeth.

The result can only be described as a symphony of pork and apple with little crunchy nuggets running throughout. Or depending on which way you look at it, bread and pork mush.

4. Oysters

A lovely picture of a raw oyster, opened
Credit: Malcolm Murdoch.3

The second Russian roulette food on the list, and the stakes are higher than with a bad pork scratching. Pick a bad one and you could be running to the loo for a week. Sounds scary but it’s a fairly rare occurrence.

It’s a live animal snatched from the ocean, prized apart and noisily slurped down raw. It takes like a salty seawatery lump of snot.

And yet I can’t get enough oysters when they’re in season. Crack one open, drop a squirt of lemon juice on, maybe some tabasco and slam it down the hatch. It’s like the ocean kicked you in the bollocks and slapped you in the face at the same time, and it makes you feel alive. Pair it with some Scotch or a good Bourbon and you’re having a good day.

This is the one I would urge people try a few times before writing off, it takes a few goes for the Stockholm syndrome to set in.

5. Porridge

Porridge with toppings
Ben Oliver.

“It’s a popular breakfast”, I hear you say. Yeah well I’ve taken to having it like some sort of Scottish monk instead of a normal person.

Forget your quick cook steam rolled stuff, here’s what I’ve ended up liking:

If you have time, toast the oats in a pan.

Add the water and salt, then stir on a med-low (steaming) heat for about 10 minutes until thick. Take off the heat, put a lid on, leave to sit for 5 minutes.

It’s like eating a sort of cardboard box, and for some reason this works for me. On a bad day I’ll add jam or something to spice it up, and if I really need cheering up I’ll get some toppings.

6. Chicago Town ‘Takeaway’ stuffed crust heart attack pizza

A picture of pizza
Credit: SmartCookieSam4

This is the greasiest mankiest junkfood you can imagine, yet it seems to have been in a made laboratory to appeal to fat twats such as myself. You can almost feel the fat squirting into your mouth with every bite, and yet they nailed a one of a kind texture and taste that keeps you coming back. It’s somehow soft and crispy at the same time.

There’s a stuffed crust, either cheese or tomato sauce depending on which one you buy. They are both good. I think I prefer tomato because it’s unique and doesn’t turn into a rubbery shlong when cold.

You can get pepperoni and shit. That’s fine but plain cheese is also fine.

I’m reluctant to even call this pizza, but when it comes to absolute cack food you probably shouldn’t eat, this is probably the best tasting one and perhaps the only one I’d recommend you seek out. It’s sweaty cheesy crack.

A tub of Ben and Jerry's Cookie dough ice cream
Credit: Like_the_Grand_Canyon5

This is super popular and not at all gross these days. But I just wanted to acknowledge that raw dough in an ice cream is weird and as a kid eating raw dough was some sort of crime. Then again when I was a kid the word ‘fart’ was a swear word.

I don’t really eat this any more, there are at least three local ice cream places near me that make better stuff, and I would encourage you to seek out places where you live that do the same.

Yeah it’s a weak entry but I thought 7 sounded like a good amount for a list.