Stuff Your Great-Grandparents Ate That Sounds Honestly Disgusting

By Jake SchroederLast Updated Apr 18, 2020 9:44:46 PM ET
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Photo Courtesy: Marco Verch Professional Photographer and Speaker/Flickr

A culture's cuisine is a significant reflection of its people and policies. Looking at recipes and meals from American history is a great way to gain a better understanding of the corresponding period. But it can also make you start to doubt the sanity of people from the past.

These dishes can be overwhelming in many ways. Luckily, these 'foods' are now in the past — or so we hope.

Chicken-Flavored Scrambled Eggs

What sounds better than eggs mixed with creamed chicken soup? Honestly, lots of things. This scrambled egg dish combines two things that taste great on their own, resulting in something that tastes overwhelmingly like both eggs and creamy chicken broth.

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Photo Courtesy: Jamie/Flickr

Seeing as how most supermarket eggs come from chickens, the act of adding chicken flavoring to scrambled chicken eggs feels almost perverse. And who eats their scrambled eggs on a bed of greens and cherry tomatoes? More than likely, this recipe was just a ploy to get consumers to buy more cream of chicken soup.

Peach Spam Bake

Spam may indeed contain ham, but one thing is for sure — it doesn't contain peaches. At least, it shouldn't. But at some point in the murky past, advertising executives at Hormel Foods decided that sweetened fruit and canned pork were a match made in heaven, generating one of the most unappealing peach-based recipes in the history of man.

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Photo Courtesy: Jamie/Flickr

While it's true that sweet ingredients can complement savory ones, in this case, the canned processed pork product is hardly improved by the addition of sliced peaches, peach juice, and 35 minutes inside a blazing-hot oven.

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Golden Vegetable Shortcake

In 1948, consumers were only beginning to acquire appliances such as refrigerators, dishwashers, and electric cookers. Pre-packaged, processed foods were seen as a luxury. Shelf-safe cheeses like Velveeta and Kraft were advertised as being the perfect addition to any food item.

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Photo Courtesy: Matthew Paul Argall/Flickr

And while most people associate the term 'shortcake' with sweet dessert items, this recipe doesn't contain much sugar. Instead, there are fried tomatoes, onions, green peppers or sweet pickles, puffy pastry and tons of melted cheese on top. Overall, it's an extremely unhealthy way to get a serving of vegetables — and where's the shortcake?

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Spiced Tongue

During the World Wars, US citizens had to make do with small portions of groceries and food goods. This was known as rationing. One way that families kept themselves fed was by eating all the parts of an animal, making the supply of meat last longer. This recipe for 'spiced tongue' could be an example of rationing.

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Photo Courtesy: Ross Griff/Flickr

However, considering that the recipe calls for three tablespoons of sugar — and sugar was a heavily rationed item — it does seem more likely that this conversational dish was the outcome of an individual's particular fondness for steamed, sweetened beef tongues.

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Canned Fish

Plastic didn't begin to reach its true potential until the 1970s, and many processed food items were kept in either fragile glass containers and bottles or aluminum and tin cans. For the most part, if manufacturers could put something into a can and sell it to the public, they did.

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Photo Courtesy: Matthew Paul Argall/Flickr

This recipe for fish cakes requires more creamed mashed potatoes than fish, which should tell you a little something about how canned 'fish' (notice that it's not tuna, salmon or any identifiable species) tastes, even after being battered in melted butter and fried until golden.

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Tuna Pizza With Mayonnaise

This advertisement/recipe isn't something that anyone should be thanking anyone else for. Baked tuna and noodles? There are far more disgusting casserole dishes. But tuna pizza? Consisting of unrolled crescent roll dough, tuna fish, mayonnaise, onions, sweet red pepper and American cheese, this creation is confusing, frustrating and entirely unappealing all at once.

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Photo Courtesy: Jamie/Flickr

Never before has delicious crescent roll dough been so mistreated. But besides the obvious confusing element — tuna — the most disgusting thing about this recipe is the suggestion to use either Swiss or American cheese on top. What's so wrong with mozzarella?

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Beans and Pickles

Most modern recipes found on blogs tend to start with a narrative relating to the recipe. Older recipes occasionally did the same thing. But things begin fairly rough with this one and quickly spiral into some bizarre extremes. The first sentence compares a 1950s wife to a 'dinner bell.' Oh boy.

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Photo Courtesy: Jamie/Flickr

It then it lists the instructions for a recipe involving two whole cans of beans, chopped-up hot dogs, and dill pickle slices. And those cut-up franks are on shishkabobs along with tomatoes, onions and pickles. And those shishkabobs are laying in beans. That's gross.

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Deviled Lettuce

There's something so stomach-churningly vile about the idea of 'deviled lettuce.' Iceberg lettuce is a pretty flavorless vegetable, and people have nearly always used spices and sauces to liven it up. But this concoction takes things too far. In total, it contains an entire 8oz. package of cream cheese and nearly half a cup of Miracle Whip.

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Photo Courtesy: Jamie/Flickr

The canned deviled ham and chopped veggies only make this dish more hellish, both in flavor and in looks. There are far better ways to use a head of lettuce than by filling it with a cheesy, creamy mayonnaise paste.

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YamYums

Moms often use sweet or savory ingredients to cover up vegetables, but there's nothing quite like canned yams and orange slices. The yam, a cousin to the sweet potato, is far more starchy than it is sweet, which is why the recipe for this dish calls for 1/4 of a cup of brown sugar and a ton of tiny marshmallows.

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Photo Courtesy: Jamie/Flickr

Still, hot yams baked in sugar seem far less pleasant than a slice of cake or a tasty muffin. Even a simple apple seems tastier. Still, you can always scrape off the marshmallows and orange slices.

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Thrifty Tetrazzini

This dish should set off a parade of red flags as soon as you see that it contains 'old shredded cheese.' While each portion of this penny-saving meal costs less than a fast-food hamburger, there's a point at which you should ask yourself if mixing pre-cooked spaghetti, mushroom soup and moldy cheese together is worth the financial benefit.

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Photo Courtesy: Jamie/Flickr

Maybe this budget-friendly meal was delicious. Maybe not. But no amount of flavor can change the fact that this baked dish looks like a plate of gore. Nobody wants to eat a plate of guts — except maybe horror-movie zombies.

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Gelatin Vegetable Pie

Enjoying a lovely gelatin dessert is common, even today, but creating a gelatin mold with milk, meat, eggs, mayonnaise or canned vegetables is just wrong. Gelatin is notorious for its involvement in some of the most repulsive, stomach-churning recipes from the past.

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Photo Courtesy: Jamie/Flickr

This particular gelatin-based recipe took the beautiful image of a fruit-filled pie and perverted it. Instead of cinnamon-boiled apple slices, there are chunks of green beans, corn, peas and carrots. There's almost no limit to the amount of disappointment a child must have felt, expecting a delicious pie but instead getting this monstrosity.

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Turkey Au Gratin Sandwich

America's poor eating habits began around the same time as TV dinners, canned and frozen foods and shelf-stable cheese were released onto the market. These recipes from yesteryear not only make our throats do uncomfortable things, but they also offer a little perspective on the previous few generations.

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Photo Courtesy: Jamie/Flickr

This recipe may seem like a cholesterol-packed, dubiously obtained mishmash of breakfast ingredients and cheese — and it is — but it is so much more. It's proof that families in the 1950s ate 'bacon-cheese spread' over their canned turkey and buttered toast. It's an enlightening — and revolting — revelation.

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Crisco

When a product's tagline is, "It's digestible!", it may be time to question existence and how the human species ever got to the point where they felt that they needed to label food items as 'digestible.' However, when you realize that the tagline belongs to Crisco, a brand of shortening, everything begins to fall into place.

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Photo Courtesy: Internet Archive Book Images/Wikimedia Commons

Shortening doesn't have much if any nutritional value. To put it bluntly, it's fat, and usually rendered animal fat. While shortening is a common ingredient in vintage recipes, it's not a hugely popular item for people nowadays, probably because shortening is unhealthy.

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Fish Loaf

Sweet pickles, vegetable soup and fish. A match made in the bowels of someone's worst nightmare, or the greatest act of vengeance. But for the cooks of 194, these were the ingredients for a suspicious item known only as 'fish loaf.' Perhaps it was meant to resemble meatloaf since they both use chopped onions.

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Photo Courtesy: Jamie/Flickr

These chunks combine with chopped pickles and celery to become a suspended matrix of small vegetables. The fish seems to fuse with the eggs, holding everything together tightly. The resulting flavor profile is fishy, eggy and a little sweet. In short, this whole thing is a mess.

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Crowning Glory

In many ways, this old recipe is the crowning glory of its generation. By then, people had already begun combining soup, beef and cheese in multivarious combinations when this dish hit the public in 1969. What this dish did, however, was put bacon, meat and soup into a bundt pan, bake it and cover it with melted cheese.

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Photo Courtesy: Jamie/Flickr

By using a cake mold to make a cheesy meat cake, the inventor of this recipe was changing the landscape of American cuisine and what ordinary people felt comfortable eating at home, namely lots of cheese and red meat.

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Spamwich

Any food that naturally looks like an internal organ is immediately nauseating. This is the case with the 'Lunchbox special Spamwich,' which looks like scrambled brain matter with tiny chopped pickles. Bon Appetit for some, but for others, repugnance.

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Photo Courtesy: Jamie/Flickr

Spam has almost always been a mysterious canned pork product — slightly jellied and shaped like the can in which it arrived. Mincing it into a pink mush and adding sour pickles doesn't seem like a winning way to enjoy lunch. You're encouraged to add mayonnaise to help it all slide down more easily.

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Tabasco-Infused Chinese Food

When you think of Tabasco sauce, you probably don't immediately think about Chinese food. And yet — hopefully for a brief time — it seems as though the two things were connected via awful recipes. Though the poorly researched dishes don't resemble Chinese meals in any way, shape or form, they're honestly not the worst combination of ingredients.

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Photo Courtesy: Jamie/Flickr

It's the recommendation of adding Tabasco sauce to each portion of the dish that causes stomach acid levels to rise and heartburn to wreak havoc. The recommended dosages within these recipes seem not only foolhardy, but downright dangerous.

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Halo Hash

Hash browns — shredded potatoes fried in a skillet — are a popular breakfast item. Breakfast hash, on the other hand, is a combination of many familiar breakfast ingredients, including eggs, sausage, bacon and potatoes. One of the great things about breakfast hash is that it can be made with leftover ingredients from the previous morning's meal, saving both money and time.

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Photo Courtesy: Internet Archive Book Images/Wikimedia Commons

But sadly, this 'Halo Hash' isn't as old-fashioned or homemade as the recipe would have you believe. Resembling a pasta dish more than a classic breakfast hash, this unappetizing mishmash actually came out of a can.

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Jello Salad

Seeing these old dishes could convince anyone that members of the older generations were trying to poison one another. Regularly. This Jello salad features a lime base — yum! Unfortunately, that's the beginning and end of anything good to say about this appetizer. Radishes, vinegar, salt and scallions all do their part to turn this strange concoction into an absolute tragedy.

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Photo Courtesy: Internet Archive Book Images/Wikimedia Commons

Sour, bitter and salty Jello might be the worst kind of Jello in the world. Perhaps if these ingredients had been tossed in some greens — rather than suspended in a green mold - things would have turned out differently.

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Golden Salad

There are many different types of salads, and some are healthier than others. This salad gets its name from the outstanding amount of cheese required to prepare it. While it could be enough to chalk this up to a dairy-fixation, rename it 'cheese salad,' and move on, there are other peculiarities that need sorting out.

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Photo Courtesy: Matthew Paul Argall/Flickr

For example, this salad contains sliced deviled eggs, orange slices, peas and radishes. Interested cooks are also provided with a mayonnaise-based salad dressing recipe so that they can drown the misfit platter in creamy, eggy goodness on top of the abundance of cheese.

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Prem

Spam isn't the only four-lettered canned pork producer of the past and present. Canada has its own version of Spam, known as Prem. The taste of Prem must have been relatively equivalent to the original taste of Spam because nearly every recipe that includes Prem also contains a massive amount of melted butter.

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Photo Courtesy: Jamie/Flickr

Home cooks probably saved a good deal of grocery money by buying processed and preserved meats instead of fresh or frozen ones, but at a great health cost. In addition to containing unbelievable amounts of fat, a can-shaped pork loaf is just nasty.

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Ham and Asparagus Sandwich

The late 1960s and 1970s were a time of social experimentation for many, and it seems that the beloved sandwich was not immune to trying new things. It is often said that the only way to become stronger, wiser and better is by making mistakes, and learning from those mistakes.

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Photo Courtesy: Jamie/Flickr

The beauty of that sentiment rings hollow while gazing upon two awkward asparagus laid out on a square slice of ham. There are lots of interesting ways to make a sandwich, and many prove to be delicious. But this is ham, asparagus and bread.

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Mayonnaise and Almonds

In addition to cheese, our recent ancestors had an unrelenting passion for mayonnaise. It is more common to find mayonnaise in a vintage recipe than it is to find nearly any other ingredient, save maybe butter or cheese. This take on chicken pasta is creatively titled 'chicken almondzini,' and its three major components are mayonnaise, milk, pasta and almonds.

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Photo Courtesy: Jamie/Flickr

Hungry yet? This casserole should be a savory dish with pasta, creamy sauce and chicken, yet it was pelted with a heavy rain of sliced almonds. It's enough to make you want to cry — and order pizza.

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Canned Salmon Chinese Food

Canned tuna persists, but thankfully, other forms of canned fish have mostly gone the way of the past. There are tons of ethical quandaries relating to eating canned fish, in addition to health concerns associated with storing raw meats in metal containers.

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Photo Courtesy: Jamie/Flickr

Times have changed a lot over the last few decades. In the past, people were less aware that the tuna they were eating may have in fact been a dolphin. This canned salmon dish would be far more delectable if made with fresh ingredients, solely for the fact that fresher is always better.

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Canned Shrimp with Rice and Cheese

Canned fish is easy to turn your nose up at, but canned shrimp takes things to a whole new level, especially when that shrimp is added to a plated wreath of steamed white rice and promptly smothered in cheese. How does someone eat something like that? Slice it like a cake — one with gooey yellow cheese sauce and bright-pink canned shrimp?

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Photo Courtesy: Internet Archive Book Images/Wikimedia Commons

It sounds like a surefire way to un-impress guests and lose friends. This bizarre way of cooking is shocking when compared to contemporary standards, causing the average joe to wonder, "Why did they eat that stuff?"

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Canned Ravioli And Peas

Many homebound wives and mothers of the 1950s were encouraged to 'loosen up' and let their new technological gadgets save them time and household work. Because of this, a great portion of the adult female population was finally able to spend time on themselves or with female friends.

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Photo Courtesy: Internet Archive Book Images/Wikimedia Commons

Subsequently, canned meals and frozen dinners began to dominate the American home. Chef-Boy-ar-dree canned ravioli probably seemed a lot tastier than a cold ham and cheese sandwich, but it’s still it's shocking to think that this canned pasta was once a luxurious life-saver for busy housewives.

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Shredded Wheat

Shredded wheat can be a delicious treat when adequately coated in sugar, cinnamon or some other sweetener. Left on its own, it's probably the closest thing anyone could ever experience to eating shredding cardboard. Flavorless and dry, the original shredded wheat product was a difficult thing to love, especially without jam, fruit, sugar or cream.

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Photo Courtesy: Jamie/Flickr

That's why it's amazing to think about the people who did just that. Wheat is an excellent source of fiber, and it’s affordable, but it's difficult to stomach the idea of chewing on a bone-dry mouthful early in the morning.

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Healthy Margarine

Margarine isn't a product of this century, but rather the 1800s. It was created to be an alternative to butter, which was beginning to acquire a poor reputation. By the end of the World Wars, American citizens were tired of rationing, and margarine had all but disappeared during wartime.

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Photo Courtesy: Wyeth, N. C. (Newell Convers), 1882-1945/Wikimedia Commons

Consequently, people wanted margarine on everything. Some manufacturers even boasted about how much their fattening spread was filled with essential vitamins and loved by children, parents and pretty much the whole planet. In some circles, you weren't properly caring for your child if you didn't feed them margarine. Yuck.

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Unsweetened Corn Flakes

Just as with shredded wheat, the original corn flakes cereal was utterly sugar-free — or at least the manufacturers didn't add any sugar or sweeteners to the corn-based breakfast. While recent increases in health-consciousness have helped to make sugar-free foods more popular, most modern products have some sort of spice or seasoning to make the food tastier.

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Photo Courtesy: Matthew Paul Argall/Flickr

However, corn flakes were baked chips of corn — and nothing else. If you wanted your cereal to taste like anything except corn, it was up to you to figure out how. In homes where sugar was still a rarity, this meant a disgusting breakfast.

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Fruitcake

Although there continues to be some debate as to whether fruitcake is abhorrent or wonderful, the majority of the population tends to agree that fruitcake is low on their list of favorite desserts. Even so, the holiday tradition of gifting someone with a fruitcake lives on.

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Photo Courtesy: Matthew Paul Argall/Flickr

Often colorful and deliciously-scented, fruitcake typically looks far better than it tastes. Why anyone would choose to eat fruitcake over pie, muffins or cookies is an enduring mystery. However, the rock-hard, neon-colored cakes have existed for several millennia, so they're probably not going anywhere soon. You can always use one as a doorstop!

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