When it comes to delicious delicacies, you’ll find no end of treats at Easter. If you like binging on Hot Cross Buns or indulging on chocolate eggs, you’ll certainly be thankful that you’re living in modern times!

As usual with our Horrific History series, we’re diving into some of the less savoury aspects of the past, this time with some of the best loved foods from history. Maybe don’t read this while having your dinner.

Beaver Tails

Beavers are being reintroduced to Britain’s countryside but that doesn’t mean you can bring this menu option back. There is a reason that they were almost extinct and one of them is that they ended up as food. In the Middle Ages, there was a bigger emphasis on fasting, with almost 6 months of the year taken up by days where you weren’t allowed to eat meat – however, at the time, fish wasn’t considered to be meat, so on fast days, which included the whole of Lent, all Wednesdays, all Fridays, and the run up to Christmas, you wouldn’t be allowed meat, but you could get away with eating fish.

The problem? Not everyone had access to fish, so they went for the next best thing, beaver tails. Beaver tails are similar in shape to flat fish, so they fit with the no meat loophole and were a cheaper option.


Yep, mice. This is probably the oldest ingredient on the list, the Romans were big fans of dormice, which were considered to be a delicacy in Roman society. Back then, dormice were much bigger and fatter than the ones you’ll spot today. In order to make sure you got the biggest, juiciest mice, they were caught and kept in special pots that were dark, comfy and full of fatty nuts like acorns and chestnuts. Once they were as big as they could be, they were cooked and served at feasts and banquets.

Fish jam

Yeah, I think I’ll stick with raspberry jam myself! This one was a favourite of the Victorians. It was made out of the bladders of sturgeon and was used as a thickening agent in recipes, as well as a way of making glue. Fish bladder jam was incredibly popular and continued to be used until the introduction of gelatine. We do still use a similar jam like substance made from fish bladders today – it’s part of the brewing and distilling process for a variety of beers and wines – so if you’re vegetarian, make sure you check the labels!

Poisonous pancakes

We all love pancakes, in fact, we’re debating starting a revolution of a pancake day once a month rather than once a year but maybe not these pancakes. In Medieval England, Lent featured meals like lentils and dried fish, which is very boring and likely where the inspiration for tansies came from. Tansies were like a very eggy pancake and could be sweet or savoury and were incredibly popular, the problem? They were a tiny bit poisonous. They were made from a herb that grew all over the country and was at one time used in medicines, until of course it was discovered that it was in fact not particularly healthy for you. Tansies did remain part of Lent until around the 20th century but thankfully have been faded out of existence.


We’ve already featured jam made from the bladders of fish so we couldn’t leave ambergris off the list could we? Ambergris continues to be used in some industries but isn’t used in food production any more, probably because its gross. It is formed in the intestines of sperm whales and is likely created to help them digest their food – anyway, with that pleasant thought in mind, ambergris is usually found on beaches or floating in the sea and was used as a food additive to enhance the flavour of just about everything from cigarettes to hot chocolate. In fact, King Charles II was a huge fan – his favourite dish was eggs and ambergris. Yum.

Feeling peckish after all that? We don’t blame you!

Stay tuned for more horrific history!




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