Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.


Fear Factor Friday Recipes

Christine asked for Fear Factor recipes in a recent comment. Who am I to refuse?

Inspired by the appealing grossness of the TV show and the nifty-sounding programs organized by colleagues on listservs like YA-YAAC and TAGAD-L, I decided to host two Fear Factor Friday food challenge programs in February.

The first round was all about gross food. The deal was, each course consisted of real food, but combined with other real foods in such a way as to pervert the entire purpose of the food. All courses were served cold, but I heated thoroughly all of the foods that came in jars or cans, and then refrigerated them until serving time.

Round One Foods
Bad Baby Food: I combined baby lasagna with baby vanilla pudding. I thought this would be the easiest course, but the kids had a really hard time choking it down.

Spaghettios, Buddy The Elf-style: You know how Buddy, Will Ferrell's character in the movie Elf, likes to put chocolate sauce & maple syrup on everything he eats? Well, that's the theory behind this dish. Mix several cans of spaghettios with a generous portion of chocolate sauce or maple syrup (I gave the teens a choice), and eat. Surprisingly, this was not nearly as nasty as the Bad Baby Food, or so I was informed.

Mama's Eyeball Jello Mold: This is a modified version of a real dessert my grandmother makes. Don't judge, people: she learned to cook during the Great Depression. Pour your hot green jello mixture into a mold (I used a Bundt pan) and refrigerate. After an hour or so (but before the jello is set), pour an entire jar of pimiento olives into the jello, pushing them into the jello so that they're suspended, like crazy eyeballs, in the goo. Continue refrigerating until set, turn out onto a plate, and serve! Let me say right now that my preparation was a kinder, gentler version than my grandmother's. Mama includes chunks of cream cheese in her jello mold. The combination of fake lime flavor with real olive flavor was overpowering for some teens.

Cold Spam: Well, this is just what it sounds like. Purchase one can of SPAM. Refrigerate. Slice & serve. Most teens were really grossed out by this, but one girl wolfed her slice and asked for another. She had a secret weapon, namely that she eats SPAM when she goes camping with her family each summer.

Clam Milkshake: I'm pretty sure I got this idea from someone on TAGAD-L or YA-YAAC. Combine ice cream (any flavor will do, but vanilla fudge is what I used) with cans of whole clams (plus their juice!) in a blender or food processor. Pulse to combine and serve frozen. I thought this would have the highest gross-out factor, since it made me gag when I prepared it at home. Apparently, I didn't put enough clams in it to make it as foul as possible. Let this be a lesson to you all: buy as many cans of clams as you can!

Round two was held two weeks after round one, and I took a page from my Ohio colleague Rollie Welch's book and decided to try an exotic foods challenge. I wanted to encourage the participants to try foods they might never have heard of or seen before. I went to two Asian supermarkets to stock up.

Round Two Courses
Dessicated Anchovies: This is exactly what it sounds like. I bought a bag of dehydrated anchovies (complete with eyes!) and served each participant 5 fish, thereby providing them with about 50% of the US RDA of sodium. The intrepid eaters ate nearly all of their portions. I was so proud.

Dehydrated Octopus: More fruits of the sea! The octopus was not recognizable as anything but very pale shoe leather, as it had been sliced very thin. I gave everyone three largeish slices. This course took quite a while to complete, as the octopus is about as tough to chew as shoe leather might be. Some teens spat it back onto their plates -- chewing was one thing, but swallowing was another.

Lychee Fruits: I wanted to give the participants a treat for trying the new & different seafood options, so I bought canned Lychee fruit. They loved the flavor, but were challenged by the texture.

Chili-Flavored Dried Mango: I found this in an Indian grocery. It's dried mango, rolled in a mixture of sugar and hot, hot chili flakes. Everyone tried 3 pieces, and then shoved a fire extinguisher down their own throats.

Chocolate-Covered Bugs: Unfortunately, the bugs I'd ordered showed up about 3 days too late for this program, but I think they'll be very popular when I run it again. They're not about to go bad, now, are they?

Japanese Candy Buffet: Everyone was such a good sport about trying new foods that I decided to give them another treat (which was good planning, because the lychee fruits? Didn't turn out to be the smash hit I'd hoped for). I provided boxes of chocolate-covered Pocky, Kasugai Fruit Gummies (these are the greatest fruit gummies ever -- they taste like real fruit. The strawberries taste like strawberry. The kiwis taste like kiwi. The snozzberries taste like snozzberry!), and White Rabbits (which are sort of a milky flavored white Tootsie Roll). Pocky and the fruit gummies met with the most success, while the White Rabbits were declared stale.


  • At 10:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    i did a food fear facture for our superkids ages 4-12 at church. it was amazing how the kids did not like common things like cottage cheese, or sour cream by itself. then the kitty liter cake which i got the recipe off google search was the ultimate gross looking but good tasting end.

  • At 12:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    i just want to thank you for this list! i am planning a food fear factor program now, and have used your list extensively!



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