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8 Foods That Are (Almost) Too Difficult to Eat

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Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

lobster feast

lobster feast

I adore food. I swoon over carbs, I fantasize about a Heaven filled with cheese, I have a not-so-secret love affair with chocolate.

I don’t want a messy, ugly battle when I eat, but there are some foods that are more trouble than a preschool full of three-year-olds. Slippery pasta, obstinate oysters, contrary crustaceans, tenacious tacos—there are some foods that are nearly impossible to eat. Here’s how to win the battle of the food and the fork.

Spaghetti

Spaghetti

1. Spaghetti

Unless you actually are 5 years old, please don't approach a plate of spaghetti like the little guy in the above photo. I love pasta (actually it's more of a swooning reverence) and I've visited Italy several times, so this topic is near and dear to my little Carb Diva heart. The rules:

  • Don't stab down into the center of the plate. You will end up with a much larger amount of pasta on your fork that you can possibly manage.
  • Please put away the spoon, ditch the bib, and for the love of all that is holy put down that knife. You can eat spaghetti without any of those tools, and you can eat a plate of pasta without pushing it to the edge of the plate and shoveling it into your gaping mouth.

Here's how to eat it properly:

  1. Pick up your fork with your dominant hand (for 9 out of 10 of you that will be your right hand).
  2. Gather a few (2 or 3 or 4, but no more) strands of spaghetti with the tines of your fork. Give the fork a quick (but gentle) jerk upward to separate these strands from the rest.
  3. Use your fingers to twirl the fork around and around in circles. The spaghetti strands caught in the tines will start wrapping around the fork and form a bundle. Keep winding until you have a tight, tidy little package of wrapped-up spaghetti. If it fails, pull your fork out and start over.

If you are more of a visual learner, I have found a video that will show you what to do.

2. Oysters

On the topic of raw oysters, I stand alone. One daughter is a vegetarian, the other shuns all seafood, and my husband cannot stomach the thought of consuming raw protein of any kind. Nevertheless, I must confess that I have eaten raw oysters, and I loved the experience.

It was my second business trip to the San Francisco area, and my co-workers and I found ourselves at an oyster bar at Fisherman's Wharf. Thankfully we didn't have to shuck the oysters (this was an oyster bar), but if you are ever faced with an ice-filled tray of oysters still in the shell, here's what to do.

Eating (actually slurping) oysters isn't rocket science, but there are a few rules:

  • Don't stab the oyster with your cocktail fork and for goodness sake don't cut it up into pieces!
  • Don't swallow it whole. Chew a little bit to fully appreciate the flavors.
  • Unadorned is best, but if you must, a spritz of lemon juice or mignonette is OK. If you have to drown the oyster in Tabasco sauce or horseradish, why bother eating the oyster at all? Leave it for someone who will truly appreciate the experience.
  • Don't discard the liquor at the bottom of the shell. That is part of the flavor.

Rowan Jacobsen of The Chowhound posted a beautifully written treatise on how to truly enjoy the experience of eating oysters. It's worth reading.

Steamed artichokes

Steamed artichokes

3. Steamed Artichokes

Let's assume that the artichoke in question has been properly prepared; it was trimmed to remove the tough bottom leaves and the sharp tips have been cut away (unlike the one in the above photo). The flower (yes, it is a flower) was then steamed or boiled or roasted until it is perfectly tender.

  • Starting at the base (the flat end, not the pointy one), peel off one petal. Grasp it by the tip and place the bottom end of the petal (the part that was attached to the flower) between your front teeth to scrape away the soft fleshy portion. When you're done, discard the rest of the leaf.
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat.
  • As you delve deeper into the artichoke the leaves will be smaller but the amount of soft flesh available to eat will increase. Eventually, you will reach the center of the flower.
  • Do you see that fuzzy part? Don't attempt to eat it. You will choke (is that why it is so-named?) and you will die. This is not an old wives' tale. The choke is the portion that you slice off and discard (with the remainder of the leaves you have already stripped of their flesh).
  • What is left will be the bottom of the artichoke, the heart, and this is what you really have been working for. This is artichoke nirvana. Cut it into bite-size portions and enjoy.
Hard shell tacos

Hard shell tacos

4. Hard Shell Tacos

In a July 2017 article for The Skillet, Patrick Allen wrote the exposé on hard-shell taco eating. I used his diagram to create one of my own and will do my best to convey his knowledge to you in my own words.

  • Begin by grasping the taco in the middle of the shell, not too close to the top lest you break the edge and not too near the bottom fold or the contents will spill out of the top.
  • Lean over your plate and take a bite from the end (No. 1 in the diagram).
  • Chew, chew, chew (Mom doesn't want you to stuff your mouth).
  • Lean in again and take a second bite from Section 2.
  • You're pretty smart, I'll bet you have already figured out what happens next—yes, take your next bite at No. 3, then No. 4, and so on.

Mission accomplished.

Crabs, lobsters, and other crustaceans

Crabs, lobsters, and other crustaceans

5. Crabs, Lobsters, and other Crustaceans

Don't let crustaceans make you crabby. Mammals (that's us) have internal skeletons, shellfish wear their skeletons on the outside of their bodies—think of it as a suit of armor. They are hard, but not impenetrable. I'll explain how to crack and extract those succulent morsels.

Tools You Might Need:

  • Bowl for empty shells
  • Lobster scissors or poultry shears
  • Nutcracker
  • Nut pick, skewer, or chopstick
  • Mallet or meat tenderizer

Crab

  • I am assuming that you are working with a crab that has already been cooked and cleaned (lungs, guts, and nasty things already removed).
  • Separate the legs from the body; simply twisting the legs where they join the body should do the trick. If not, use your trusty nutcracker.
  • Use the nutcracker or mallet to break up the outer shell on each leg, but resist the urge to whack the dickens out of it. If the shell shatters you will spend too much time extracting shell shards from that delicious meat.
  • Some types of crabs (stone, blue) don't have much body meat. But Dungeness crab, for example, has a wealth of succulent sweet meat in the body cavity. After you have dealt with the claws and legs, you should be able to remove the meat with the aid of a pokey skewer.

Lobster

The following instructions are from the website Maine Lobster Now:

  • Remove the claws by separating them from the body and then pull the lobster’s “thumb” off. Use a lobster cracker to break the shell, and pull out the meat with a lobster pick. The claw meat should be about the size of the shell around it.
  • There’s meat in the head and body cavity that’s sometimes overlooked. Peel off the outer shell and split the body down the middle with your thumbs, and pick out the thin shells separating the rib meat. You'll end up with about half a cup to three-fourths of a cup of lobster rib meat.
  • If the tail you’re eating is attached to a whole lobster, pinch near the top of the tail and twist to pull it from the body. To crack open the tail, split it down the center with a knife or squeeze the edges of the tail shell together and then pull them apart. Push the tail meat out of the shell in one piece by sticking your finger in the base of the tail at the smallest opening. Cut the meat in the center of tail about halfway through — if you have the tail facing forward with the fins facing you. Cut it top to bottom about halfway into the tail, depth-wise. Then pull off the sections of the tail fan at the tip for small pieces of meat.
foods-that-are-almost-too-difficult-to-eat

Shrimp and Prawns (Raw)

Of all shellfish shrimp and prawns are the easiest to clean.

  • If the head is still intact, twist and remove it from the body (and discard).
  • Grasp the legs and pull them off.
  • Lift up the shell that surrounds the tail and pull it off.
  • Use a small, sharp knife to slice open the back of the shrimp or prawn from head top to bottom. You are looking for a black line. Slip the tip of the knife under one end of the black line and lift it out.

Langostino

  • Everything you need to know to cook and clean is right here.
Shrimp (The black "bead"? That's an eye. The opposite end is the tail.)

Shrimp (The black "bead"? That's an eye. The opposite end is the tail.)

Mango

Mango

6. Mango

The mango—sweet, floral, juicy and totally frustrating. How do you open them? Peel them and you are left with a slippery hockey puck that shoots across the kitchen counter and onto the floor. And where is that darned pit?

To understand how to deal with these lovely little pests, you first need to know the anatomy of a mango.

  • They are not perfectly round. Notice that they are oval in form, shapely in the middle and tapered at the ends.
  • The mango is a type of fruit known as a drupe. A drupe is a fruit in which a single pit is contained by an outer edible flesh.
foods-that-are-almost-too-difficult-to-eat
  • Now you have three pieces, two "cheeks" and the center pit surrounded still by some flesh (don't throw it away!).
  • You can scoop the flesh from each cheek with a spoon. Another method is to gently score the inside of each cheek with your knife (don't cut through the peel), making a diamond pattern (see the above photo), and then scoop out the resulting cubes with a spoon.
  • Remember that pit? Remove the outer peel with your knife and then whittle the remaining flesh from the pit (or as we do in our house, simply eat it off of the pit when you think no one is looking).
Escargot

Escargot

7. Escargot, Whelks, and Periwinkles

Do you remember this scene in the movie Pretty Woman?

Your platter of escargot should arrive with specially-created snail tongs, a two-tined seafood fork, and (if you're lucky) one or several sturdy toothpicks. Sometimes the snail is tucked deep back into the shell beyond where the fork can reach. This is when the hefty toothpick comes to the rescue. Stab, wiggle, and withdraw the perfectly roasted morsel, dip into the pan of garlic butter, and eat.

8. Wine That Doesn't Come With a Screw Cap

Technically, the food isn't the problem here; it's the container, or to be specific, how the container is sealed. I don't intend to laugh at the misery of others, but this video from Epicurious is entertaining and in the end they are successful (oh, happy day!).

Are There More?

Do you have other foods to add to this list? I'd love to hear about your food dilemmas. If I receive enough suggestions, I will create a Part two.

Questions & Answers

Question: Where does cooking stop and alchemy begin? For example, what is an "herbal "cooked" recipe for a toothache, cooking or alchemy?

Answer: Without going to the dictionary, I would say that cooking is for nourishment (although there are healing properties in many of our foods). A tincture or poultice or medicinal tea is not cooking. I hope that helps (and I hope your tooth is feeling better soon).

© 2019 Linda Lum

Comments

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 04, 2019:

RTalloni, Wesman Todd Shaw said the same thing. Honestly, all pasta tastes the same; it's pretty much just personal preference (or aesthetics I guess). I would rather have something I can easily stab (like rigatoni). I'm glad you enjoyed the article. It was fun putting together.

RTalloni on July 04, 2019:

Yeah....naaaah. ;) A neat read, useful too, but having to dig it out of its home stops the game for me. Just saying no to spaghetti solves the problem since other pasta recipes are so good. Fun stuff here.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 04, 2019:

Wesman Todd Shaw, I can always count on you to pen an absolutely amazing comment; at times you veer slightly off-topic, but you always find your way back, and it's delightful.

Yes, I agree that spaghetti was not the best-designed of pastas. Give me something that readily accepts that incredible sauce and is willing to hop onto my fork (I don't have a road-worn spoon) and I'm a happy camper.

If you're unfamiliar with whelks and periwinkles, well then that means there's just more or the rest of us.

Wesman Todd Shaw from Kaufman, Texas on July 04, 2019:

Probably one of my favorite eating utensils is a soup spoon I found on a black top road. It had been run over by something with at least four wheels, possibly more. It operates as both a spoon, and a bit of a fork. I can certainly cut most well cooked pork chops and chicken tendies with it.

I've considered buying soup spoons and modifying them with a large hammer in order to perfect their design. Would be perfect for spaghetti. Why oh why, hasn't anyone yet done this?

I try to avoid spaghetti. I just don't like the format. Give me some much more sensibly designed pasta. Probably I want shells. I like something which was designed so as to grab the sauce for me. Pasta engineering improved rom the time of the spaghetti. It's like going from a Model T. to a Ferrari, not that I've ever got to ride in, or drive either. I'm certain I know what I'm talking about just the same. Heh.

I remember one summer where I was working 90 hours a week some weeks doing hvac work in Dallas, Tx. When I'd get off work, no matter how late, I'd always go to this one Cajun seafood bar and grill. Great food, and it had a very Cheers (the tv show) sort of atmosphere at the bar....everyone wanted to know your name. And the same folks were always there. Great place.

Anyway, I remember watching those kitchen and wait staff there shucking oysters.....aaaand it worried me. I felt like what they were doing was pretty dangerous. And they were doing it intensely. I felt like sooner or later, they'd always wind up stabbing themselves in the hand. Well, if they'd have seen me work, they'd know I also always wind up getting a nice hot jolt of live electricity. Works better than coffee, but is less advisable.

Escargot, Whelks, and Periwinkles? Wut wut WHAT? Heh.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 04, 2019:

Thanks, Linda, for stopping by. I had fun writing this and I'm glad that you enjoyed it. Have a great weekend.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on July 03, 2019:

This is an entertaining and useful article. I love your topic. Thanks for sharing the great tips.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on July 02, 2019:

Linda, I checked with my sister. We got them from patients who could not pay their bills but got deals for their stores. Can you imagine a doctor doing that nowadays.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 02, 2019:

Good morning Sha. I'm glad that you enjoyed this hub, and I'll forgive you your spaghetti faux pax (after all, I'm not a true Italian).

I'm finding that the most difficult part of doing this writing thing for Hubs (specifically writing about food) is that it's hard to stick to a diet. I write and make myself hungry.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on July 02, 2019:

Linda, this is a fun post.

I'll have to admit, I commit the cardinal sin of spaghetti eating. I use the spoon assist. I just find it easier and cleaner to bring up a few strands with my fork and rotate it on a spoon.

Crabs, oh glorious crabs! Half the fun of eating them is getting all the meat out. I dip mine in melted butter with fresh lemon squeezed into it. Yum!

Escargot is yummy too. I've never eaten it out of the shell, though. I've always had it served in mushroom caps (with lots and lots of garlic).

I love your solution to eating the flesh of a mango off the seed. But, hey, who cares if anyone's looking?!

Oh, I'm making myself hungry commenting on this post!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 01, 2019:

Flourish, I created this Hub based on suggestion you made several weeks/months ago. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Hmmm, maybe I should add chicken and ribs to the list (Lori suggested pomegranate). Sounds like Part 2 is starting to write itself.

FlourishAnyway from USA on July 01, 2019:

This was fun to read. I was taught to twirl a few strands of spaghetti noodles around the fork twines using a spoon to anchor it in place at the end. It’s very elegant actually and they stay tightly wound. When I’m at home though I eat like I want but you need to be prepared when dining formally. I thought it was funny that some politicians didn’t know how to eat fried chicken or ribs. Finger food or fork is a dilemma for many.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 01, 2019:

Lori, pomegranate is simply a pain in the butt, and your suggestion is a good one. If I receive any more suggestions I'll create a Part 2 of this. Thanks for your comment. You always contribute something to make one's hub that much better!

Lori Colbo from Pacific Northwest on July 01, 2019:

What a great topic and so helpful. I had artichoke for the first time about five years ago and was so disappointed at the arduous task it was to eat it but was impressed that it was so delicious. Even with the correct instructions on how to eat them I still don't want to be bothered.

Tacos are a mess regardless of they type of shell. For some reason it doesn't deter me. I love tacos.

One thing you left out is pomegranates. When I was a little girl some relatives had a pomegranate tree and every Christmas we would get to eat one. All those tiny little seeds implanted well were such a frustration to me. Yes, they were sweet, but so small it was really hard to appreciate them. I am glad they make pomegranate juice now.

Lobster and crab are tedious also but so delicious I am willing to put up with the cracking them open. My grandmother taught me how to do it and once you get the hang of it it is no longer so tedious. I don't eat oysters because they look like a blob of, ahem, nose content. I ate one once as a child and remember loving it but now I can stomach looking at them let alone eat them. Loved this article and the videos were so helpful.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 01, 2019:

Wow, Mary, it sounds messy but decadent. If you don't mind, I think I'll stick with my knife method.

Mary Wickison from Brazil on July 01, 2019:

I love this! I never realized there was a correct way to eat a taco. I can see that is a good idea.

With regards to the mango, there is another way, the native way. You get one with no insect holes and begin to massage it, loosening the fibers. Then you bite a hole in the top end (the one without a stem). You then put your mouth over it, and eat it like an ice pop, sucking the juice out. Because we have so many mangoes, I stop at that point but other people will then rip it open and chew out the flesh.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 01, 2019:

Bill, no tacos for you? I hope you have a wonderful (and quiet) week. Fireworks are now banned in our town. (That doesn't mean that there won't be any percussions from up the street, but it might make a few stop and reconsider.)

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 01, 2019:

Eric, we had none of these things in my house (other than mom's version of spaghetti) when I was growing up. Your party of 8 must have put on quite the show.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 01, 2019:

Hi Pamela. I can probably clean shrimp with my eyes closed, but the other shellfish are a rare treat--just too pricey.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 01, 2019:

It's like a list of foods I will not eat, other than spaghetti, which I adore.The rest of them I'll leave for all of you to enjoy.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on July 01, 2019:

How marvelous. When for whatever reason we had these foods, (a little expensive for a family of 8) you got schooled and doing them wrong would excuse you to eat in the family room so as not to disgust my mom. These were some foods that it was permissible to take your left hand up from your lap with the napkin. But if you leaned on the table - off you'd go.

"you cannot get anywhere in life if you do not know how to eat in front of others" For some reason the lobster is not worth it to me. Which is strange because it really should just be fun to do it.

Thanks again Linda for a great one.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 01, 2019:

There is a large amount of practical knowledge in this article. I am very good at cleaning shrimp as that is something I have had access to for many years. I love lobster and crab meat also but we don't have it very often. My husband lives oysters, but I don't. I've tried but just can't eat them. Thanks for all this useful information.

Have a wonderful week my friend.