The HORROR of Horrible Food

I’m not concerned with ordinary horrible food, or even the extraordinarily horrible mush that passed for India Vegetable Curry with Rice and Continental Breakfast on the United Airlines flight I took to Amsterdam. Both meals were awful (I picked at dinner and ate the grapes from the fruit salad at breakfast) but all they inspired was a ravenous search for breakfast at the train station — not true HORROR!

There are plenty of great examples of scary food in folk tales, mythology and genre literature: the witch’s gingerbread house in the woods draws children to her oven, countless hypnotists convincing the gullible that a plate of worms is pasta (and similar scenarios), Alice follows the mysterious instructions to EAT or DRINK with startling consequences, and so many more.

I believe the scariest is unintentional cannibalism. This comes up in contemporary horror, but it’s nothing new. In classical Greek mythology, the brothers Atreus and Thyestes vied for the same throne. Atreus had the Golden Fleece so he became the ruler, but Thyestes seduced his brother’s wife, stole the Fleece and took the throne for himself — temporarily.

Atreus retaliated and regained both throne and the Golden Fleece, sending Thyestes away for years. Eventually he invited his brother, and nephews, back offering some kind of reconciliation in the form of a dinner. Curiously, Thyestes sons weren’t present for the meal and when he asked Atreus, he was told to lift the lid off a platter revealing his sons’ heads!


Atreus’ revenge took years to exact and caused true pain and horror — with really horrible food.



  1. What? No Hannibal Lecter? Oh tsk tsk Candy 😀

    I wonder if horrible food is horrible precisely because food so important to us. Food is seen as almost the universal good. so its corruption is doubly horrible.

    • Candy Korman

      I still get chills whenever someone says, “Let’s have a nice Chianti” LOL!

      Yes, of course Hannibal Lector is the king of the cannibal fiction sub-genre and it is because sharing food is so much a part of human culture that we fear the poisoner, the typhoid Mary and the evil individual tampering with the food chain.

      So much HORROR and all of it on the table!

  2. Some food horrors hit too close to home. And quite often is shrouded in mystery like good horror should be. GMOs and factory farming have bred their own brand of horror. Some of it comes from misunderstanding and fear mongering and then some comes from the truth of horrific practices. But our horror builds because many times we don’t know what stories to believe.

    • Candy Korman

      Yes! And there is always “Soylent Green” from that old movie.

      Between the fear of someone intentionally tampering with your food and the realistic fear about mistakes… it can make your head spin in real life and THAT can also be great in fiction.

  3. For me, mayonnaise is a food version of HORROR. And I’m far from alone in this aversion. Once, at an old job, 7 of us were chatting over lunch. Somehow the subject of mayo came up. I made an “EWWWW” face. A colleague joined in. Then another. Then another. In fact 6 of the 7 had mayo horror stories! Maybe we need a 12-step program. Or a murder mystery in which mayo plays a key role?

    • Candy Korman

      I’m not a big fan, but I don’t have that classic aversion. Of course my sister considers mayo to be among the five food groups so if you ever had questions about her sanity, I think mayo is the answer! LOL….

      Using mayo, or another often hated food, in a mystery makes sense. You can poison the mayo laden egg salad and be sure which of the picnic guests will eat it and which ones will say….. ewwwwwwwwwww.