Do you know that we today consume foods that were once garbage?
Eat a burger with Krispy Kreme donuts for buns, and someone will certainly tell you it’s junk food. This is another way of saying that the food is full of sugar and fat and delivers none of the nutrients you should really be consuming. But obviously, the thing you’re eating isn’t literally garbage.
It’s food, and no part of this amazing creation was ever meant for anything other than human consumption. However, we can’t say the same thing for all foods. In fact, some stuff—some delicious stuff, by the way—was thrown away at some point in the past until people eventually decided to add it to the menu.
This being said, here are some foods that were once garbage!
For most of us, craisins are dried cranberries, much like raisins are dried grapes. Since lots of fruits come in dried forms, the same thing must apply to craisins as well, right? Dried cranberries are definitely a thing. Packages of craisins even describe their contents as “dried cranberries” (no laws forbid them from doing so).
However, this isn’t what craisins are. At some point in the past, they were foods that were once garbage. They are actually produced exclusively by Ocean Spray, a company that invented them about 30 years ago. It farms huge amounts of cranberries and mashes vast amounts of these fruits to make cranberry sauce. The process leaves a waste product, which is known as cranberry hulls.
Well, the cranberry hulls are basically inedible. While you can consume them, they are just indigestible fiber, and they taste like nothing. Which is why farmers used the stuff as animal feed.
At some point, though, Ocean Spray found a way to turn these foods that were once garbage into something humans would eat. So they infused some cranberry juice into the hulls, a process that made them into kinda-fruits again.
At first, they added these “craisins” to cereal, unsure if consumers would be interested in buying and eating them outright. Surprisingly, people soon proved extremely willing to do that. Nowadays, you’ll also notice that some other brands call real dried cranberries craisins, but this isn’t how it actually is. Craisins lack the nutrients found in cranberries; the dried ones, though, contain those.
Now that we’ve established that craisins are foods that were once garbage, let’s see how the process works. If you squeeze all the juice out of a cranberry and then add it right back in, that’s basically a roundabout way of getting back where you started, correct?
But Ocean Spray doesn’t add all the juice back in. What they do is return only a tiny bit. To make you want to eat the product, they add an important ingredient: sugar. A lot of it, actually. Or, as the company representatives put it, “a little bit of natural sugar cane,” because it sounds healthy that way.
2. The rice in sushi
This may be unbelievable, but it’s true. The rice in sushi is also among the foods that were once garbage. When you buy sushi, you want it to be very fresh. Whether the fish is raw or not, you don’t want it to have been sitting out at room temperature for a week. But do you know that the fish for sushy was originally stored long-term—for years, or even for decades?
The dish was called narezushi, and it dates back to the 10th century and probably a few centuries before that. As you can imagine, this was a while before any sort of refrigeration, so when people wanted to store food without having it rotten, they had to pickle it.
So they used vinegar and salt to preserve the fish, and the rice around the fish was added to facilitate the preservation process. When the time came to consume the narezushi, people would only eat the fish, discarding the stinky rice.
However, starting in the 16th century, some people were really starving, so they tried eating the rice along with the rice. They were surprised to learn that the two go great together. Eventually, the recipe underwent several centuries of adaptations and improvements, always including that rice.
As one of the foods that were once garbage, vinegared rice today isn’t just an important part of sushi, but an essential part of it. In fact, sushi doesn’t even need to contain fish; it just needs to contain rice (otherwise, that slice of salmon is just sashimit).
Keep reading to discover other foods that were once garbage!
3. Tater tots
The next entry on our list was also used as animal feed until we got our act together. We’re talking about tater tors, which are basically the leftover potato shavings after the potato is cut into a cube to be chopped up as French fries.
During the first years of America’s industrial-scale fry operation, these shavings were used to feed livestock because no one could think of a better way to discard them. As foods that were once garbage, we can think of many things you can do with potato shavings.
You can mash them, boil them, or stick them in a stew. But none of these suited the frozen food empire that Ore-Ida potatoes was building. Eventually, the company founder, F. Nephi Grigg, had the brilliant idea to turn the shavings into potato sludge and shape this sludge into little bullets. “Tater tots” was how he called them.
Similar to other foods that were once garbage, they became so popular that people bought them weekly to cook them at home.
4. Pie crust
Eat a slice of pie today, and you can rest assured it won’t crumble all over your lap. You have your slice on a plate. And the plate is on a table. And between the plate and the table is probably a tablecloth and maybe a place mat. If we think about it, we really do have plenty of layers shielding us from our food.
You couldn’t rely on all of that in medieval England. Instead, the pie crust would be your plate, as well as your table, tablecloth, etc. Perhaps you’d want to indulge in some warm, spiced fruit, so you’d have a mince pie. But the crust wouldn’t be flaky and buttery like it is today.
It was plain flour mixed with some water and offered a flat, dry surface for all those gingery dates. After you consumed the filling, you would throw the crust in the bin. In other words, the pie crusts were foods that were once garbage.
Some would have seen this as a wasteful luxury, as lots of people back then were starving and would never discard edible flour, no matter how tasteless. Some of them might have relied exclusively on pie crusts thrown away by the rich, never getting a chance themselves at eating pork, dates, and other scrumptious pie fillings. It’s safe to say that they must have wept when the piemakers began making crusts tasty, after which trash bins contained no pie crusts at all.
If you love baking, here’s a pie recipe book where you can find plenty of ideas!
Get ready for the last entry on our list of foods that were once garbage! You’ll be surprised!
Do you like eating chicken feet? Some people will answer yes (half a dozen of the Asian population cook their own style of chicken feet, as do Mexico and some Caribbean countries), but many will say that it’s disgusting.
Chicken feet are just bones and skin, right? And yet some of these people love chicken wings, which are also bones and skin. While they contain meat, it’s a comically small amount compared to the real meaty parts of the poultry.
Get ready to be surprised because chicken wings are also among foods that were once garbage. We’ve spent thousands of years breeding chickens to have thick thighs and huge breasts, but we never did anything to plump those wings.
As recently as the start of the 1960s, these parts of the chicken weren’t considered food. Some eateries in America cooked them (Chinese restaurants and black-owned restaurants), while others only boiled them to make chicken stock. Apart from these cases, chicken wings were foods that were once garbage.
However, in 1964, chefs in Buffalo, New York, had the brilliant idea to do something else with these useless parts of the chicken. While the exact story of who pioneered the wings and how is up for debate, it resulted in people from all over the world soon eating this style of wing (no batter, deep-fried, rolled in hot sauce).
If you liked our article on foods that were once garbage, you may also want to read 4 Things to Eat and Drink After Food Poisoning.