22 Foods That Were Staples for Our Grandparents But Not for Us

Did you think it was just your grandparents who had some odd food memories? Not so. The past is a different place when it comes to food and some of these 22 controversial dishes were even popular in their day.

Hogshead Cheese

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Similar to head cheese, hogshead cheese is made using various parts of a pig, including the head and sometimes even the feet and heart. These ingredients are combined in a spiced jelly, making for a dish that modern palates often find challenging.

Cod Liver Oil

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Though not a food per se, cod liver oil was a staple supplement in many households. Today, fish oil supplements offer a less offensive alternative, available in capsules that eliminate the need for the traditional spoonful of oil.

Lard Sandwiches

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When periods of economic hardship struck, a simple lard sandwich provided a calorie-dense option. A slice of bread slathered with lard was an easy, if not particularly nutritious, meal. Today, with a plethora of healthier fats available, the idea of eating a lard sandwich is quite alien to most.

Pickled Pigs’ Feet

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A byproduct of pork processing, pigs’ feet were often pickled and stored in jars for future consumption. This dish is still enjoyed in some regional American cuisines, but it has largely disappeared from mainstream eating habits, deemed too unusual by contemporary standards.

Jellied Eels

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Primarily a British dish, jellied eels did make their way into American dining tables as well. Eel meat was boiled in a stock that would later set into a jelly-like consistency when cooled. For most modern Americans, the idea of eating jellied eels is anything but appetizing.

Head Cheese

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Don’t let the name fool you; head cheese is actually a meat jelly made from the flesh of a pig’s head. Often spiced and flavored with vegetables, this dish is more akin to a cold meatloaf than any dairy product. Most contemporary diners would approach with caution.

Suet Pudding

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Steamed or boiled puddings that used suet—a hard animal fat—as a key ingredient were quite common. These heavy, rich desserts offered a distinct flavor profile that would likely overwhelm the taste buds of today’s consumers accustomed to lighter fare.

Tongue Sandwiches

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Sliced, boiled tongue from cows or sheep were sandwiched between bread slices and often enjoyed with mustard or horseradish. This protein source has largely fallen out of favor and is rarely seen on modern menus outside of specialty eateries.

Prune Whip

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This airy dessert involved whipping prunes and sugar into a fluffy, creamy consistency. Although prunes have health benefits, they are now mostly sidelined as a health food, and the thought of a prune-based dessert is less appealing to modern tastes.

Calf’s Liver and Onions

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Fried liver, particularly from calves, was commonly served as a dinner staple, often accompanied by sautéed onions. While still consumed in some regions and cultures, it’s far less commonly encountered on the average American dinner table today.

Oxtail Soup

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Made from the tail of an ox, this rich, meaty soup was often enjoyed as a hearty meal. While it has culinary applications in current international cuisines, the idea of oxtail soup might make some contemporary American consumers uneasy.


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Composed of water, salt, and flour, hardtack biscuits were a durable food item often used for long journeys. It’s a far cry from today’s specialty breads and rolls, offering little in the way of flavor or texture.

Fried Squirrel

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During times of scarcity or as a hunting bounty, squirrels were sometimes fried and consumed. This rodent is certainly not found in the meat aisle today, making it a protein source many would find off-putting.

Chicken Feet

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Chicken feet, usually boiled or fried, were not uncommon on early 20th-century American tables. Today, these are mostly found in specialized or ethnic markets and are far less commonly consumed in typical households.

Tripe Stew

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The lining of a cow’s stomach, known as tripe, was often used in hearty stews. While tripe does appear in some international cuisines, it’s generally considered a specialty item in contemporary American cooking.

Blood Sausage

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Also known as black pudding, these sausages were filled with pig’s blood and fat. Although still found in some traditional cuisines, the idea of consuming blood sausage is unappetizing for many Americans today. These are still popular in parts of Europe.

Sardine and Onion Sandwich

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Sardines, packed in oil or tomato sauce, were a pantry staple and often featured in sandwiches along with sliced onions. While sardines are still eaten today, they aren’t as commonly used in sandwich form.


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A savory jelly made from meat broth, aspic was often used to preserve or present meat and vegetables. This dish has waned in popularity and is not commonly found in modern American cooking.

Pickled Herring

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Once a common snack, pickled herring has lost its mass appeal. Though still consumed in certain cultural contexts, it’s not something you’d commonly find in the average American pantry today.

Boiled Brains

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Considered a viable protein source in days gone by, animal brains were boiled and sometimes even scrambled with eggs. Modern awareness of disease transmission through brain tissue makes this dish a hard pass for most.

Lye Fish

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Also known as lutefisk, this dish involves treating fish with lye until it takes on a jelly-like texture. Now considered potentially hazardous, this food is rare and confined mostly to traditional celebrations.

Canned Meat Spreads

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Spreads made from canned meats, such as liverwurst or deviled ham, were pantry staples in the past. In the present day, these spreads have largely been replaced by fresher, more appealing options.

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