Trying to come up with the most annoying meal ever

The other night, I had a small fish for dinner. The small fish combines two annoying features: (1) Lots of tiny bones, and (2) not a lot of meat. The challenge then occurred to me: Come up with the most annoying meal ever.

Specifically, the criterion for most annoying meal would be a meal in which the diner expends the most amount of effort to obtain the least amount of food, while still adhering to the general shape of a traditional dinner. Here's what I came up with:

Appetizer: Dried watermelon seeds. To eat dried watermelon seeds, you insert the seed vertically between your back teeth and bite down to separate the two halves. Then you extract the (tiny amount) of seed meat.

Vegetable: Artichoke leaves. To eat artichoke leaves, you insert the leaf flat between your two front teeth and pull it with your hand, using your teeth to scrape off the meat.

Main dish: A small fish. To eat a small fish, lay the fish on its side and remove the meat from the half that sits on top. Then you carefully remove the spine and the bones attached to it, leaving the meat from the other half on the plate. This operation is not perfect, and you still have to be on the lookout for tiny bones that remain in the fish meat.

Alternative main dish: A small crab. Picking the meat from the body of the crab is not too difficult (though you have to avoid the gills), but extracting it from the legs takes a bit more work. You eat it in a manner similar to the artichoke leaf, inserting it between your teeth and pulling it through, using your teeth to compress the leg and extrude the meat out the end. Even if you manage to do it somewhat efficiently, it's still a messy affair.

Dessert: Pomegranate. To eat a pomegranate, you tear it open and pick out the jelly-coated seeds. You pop the seeds into your mouth, suck off the jelly, and spit out the pits. (Or eat the pits, as some of my friends do.)

(Still looking for a beverage.)

Pre-emptive snarky comment

: If you want the dinner to be truly annoying, make the guests use Windows Vista!

Life imitates art corner: I received a piece of email from a colleague who actually did this!

I have cooked a dinner very similar to this. The theme was "off-piste" dining: tasty food a restaurant would never serve because it would infuriate too many customers. My menu:

Starter: Artichoke leaves (as you describe them)

Main course: roast wood pigeon. (Very little meat on a pigeon, they're tough, and have lots of bones, but very tasty!)

Dessert: chocolate cake (I relented)

The major unintended side-effect was that very little wine was consumed: everyone was far too busy interacting with their food!

Comments (42)
  1. Falcon says:

    I have to admit, the pre-emptive snarky comment was the best part of this post! (Nitpicker’s corner of my own: That doesn’t mean the rest was not good.)

    To add to it: make sure that installation of Windows Vista has UAC enabled, preferably it should prompt administrators for credentials, rather than just confirmation.

  2. Sam Carter says:

    In the beverage category, I’d nominate any drink that has a preparation ritual associated with it (which varies from diner from diner), e.g. absinthe or coffee.

  3. Gabe says:

    For the beverage, I recommend something that’s mostly ice. With no straw. In a tall, narrow glass that’s almost impossible to drink out of without dribbling all over yourself.

    For an added bonus, put some treat, like a little cherry, below all the ice.

  4. Alex says:

    That sounds delicious.

    Drink options: Something entirely frozen solid so you have to wait for it to melt and drink the liquid off the ice without hitting yourself in the face with the ice block.

  5. Neil says:

    Another beverage option: pearl milk tea, with large pearls.

  6. Eric TF Bat says:

    Another drink option: some kind of carbonated beverage with entirely too much CO<sub>2</sub>, served in a narrow-necked glass bottle, so you have to burp every time you take a swig.

    Or perhaps something teeth-bitingly cold or tongue-vaporisingly hot.

    [I guess I wasn’t clear. It needs to be a legitimate beverage, just one that happens to be annoying. (As opposed to an invented drink designed to be annoying.) Sam Carter’s suggestion is on the mark; the “frozen solid in ice so you have to wait for it to melt” less so (unless there is a drink for which that is the standard preparation). -Raymond]
  7. David Dunham says:

    Dang, someone beat me to bubble tea. The straw should of course be too small. Or one of those Vietnamese drinks with the gelatin blobs.

  8. Jonathan says:

    When visiting China, several times I got served chicken feet – just the feet+claw, in some dressing. I couldn’t quite figure out what you’re supposed to eat there – I gathered you’re supposed to gnaw on them to extract what little meat there is on them.

    Oh, Oh, and pig feet, too.

    As for drink, I second the "ice-cubes-to-the-brim" suggestion above. Some fast-food places do that, in order to skimp on actual drinks.

  9. silky says:

    Yes, Sam, great call on the coffee, I suggest a Short Macchiato (I think it’s the tiniest of all).

  10. Worf says:

    The beverage would be any regular one, with ice cubes that are between 1cm – 1/2" (mixed units!) in size. Oh yeah, the glass is filled t5o the brim with ice first, then the drink poured in.

    The ice cubes are too big to crunch, so you have to suck on them. Or pucker your lips so you don’t get ice cubes in your sip. And the ice can fuse, forming larger globs. The pour drink afterwards ensures whatever the beverage, there isn’t a whole lot anyhow and refills are necessary.

    Anyhow, another annoying bird is quail. Not a lot of meat, but damn a lot of tiny bones. I gave up after half a quail when after what little I had (I don’t think I tasted anything), there was a huge pile of bones. Eating a fist-sized bird – annoying.

    Fish, depends. Too small and you might as well eat the bones. Too big and the spine comes out easily. Fist sized birds, have no easy way of eating. No amount of skill will keep you from having to pull each rib out and pull it between teeth. Oh, and they’re curved, too.

  11. Drak says:

    A fun beverage to serve would be just about anything in one of those boot-shaped glasses. If you don’t know how to drink from those properly you are in for a surprise. (See

  12. An alternative to the crab could be crayfish/crawfish/crawdad. They’re traditional in Sweden in August/September – and word is that you lose calories by eating them: so much work for so little meat that you don’t gain enough to compensate for breaking into the little beasts.

  13. Peter says:

    How about something in one of those bottles with a marble in the neck? Wikipedia tells me they’re called Codd-neck bottles:

    There’s a Japanese soft drink called Ramune which comes in them, which may be the easiest way of finding them today:

    That’s about as aggravating as I can imagine a drink becoming, especially if you haven’t seen one of the bottles before.

    (Speaking of aggravating: If one’s web browser is set not to accept cookies, then for some reason the code image doesn’t appear, so you’re prompted to enter a code with no clue to what it might be. Fortunately that doesn’t fit into the dinner theme.)

  14. Sven says:

    The Japanese have found a perfect way to make eating small fish less annoying: they just eat the entire fish, head, bones and tail included.

    I’ve done this several times myself, it’s not as bad as it sounds, and it’s a heck of lot less work. :)

    (Disclaimer: it may not be a good idea to apply this technique to every fish; so far I’ve only done it when I’ve seen other (typically Japanese) people eat the entire fish, or after asking the waiter if you can eat the whole thing)

  15. jMarkP says:

    I presume you consulted the authority before drawing up the menu:

    </obligatory xkcd reference>

  16. Tom Denley says:

    How about freshly squeezed orange juice — presented as an orange and a glass.

  17. silky says:

    To double-post, you may also add some mango pips to the desert component. They happen to be delicious, but also *exceptionally* annoying to eat from a cleanliness point of view. They have minor amounts of mango on them, but you can only eat them with your hands, and of course your hands get covered in (delicious) mango juice.

  18. Craig Stuntz says:

    How about serving Durian?

    Looks frightening, smells like rotton meat, tastes great!

  19. Bart Willems says:

    Pomegranate is one of my favorite fruits. A great tip to eat it is to cut the "apple" and extract the seeds in a bowl of water. The seeds sink to the bottom and the icky stuff floats to the top and can be scooped off.

    The seeds don’t pop so quickly and if they do you don’t have juice squirting all over the place.

  20. Gabe says:

    I think that an overly-thick milkshake served with an overly-narrow straw would fit the bill for the beverage, too.

  21. Joshua says:

    @Peter: Actually, drinking from a Codd-neck bottle isn’t as hard as it seems. At least it wasn’t for me. You learn real quick where the optimum point is for the best flow without the marble blocking it.

    Though I do guess that listening to the marble rattle around can be annoying, especially if there are quite a few people around…

  22. Doug says:

    Small fish are best when you can eat the bones along with the meat.  If the bones are not edible then the fish must not be small enough.

  23. keith says:

    After dinner and before the dessert: Cheese plate.  There is an Italian soft cheese (I think it’s a kind of robiola) ripened in cherry leaves and comes in about an ounce portion.  It’s not so much effort if you like firm stinky-cheese rind with your runny soft interior, you just have to peel off the leaves.  If you don’t like firm stinky-cheese rind, you have to do a lot of work to scrape out a small quantity of the runny interior.  To that, add a wedge of "Laughing Cow" cheese, in the foil wrapper that inevitably tears and leaves little foil pieces in the ridges and makes your fillings hurt when you chew into one.  Finally, a block of really firm aged cheese (gouda, manchego, parmesan, whatever) and a dull knife to scrape/cut it.  Since it’s a cheese plate, it comes with nuts.  Of course in the shell, with nutcrackers and little metal nut forks.  I sometimes eat more pecan shell than pecan, and macadamia nut shells are pretty obnoxious to get off as well.  

    For beverage, how about sangria with both firm floating fruit chunks (apples) and soft sinking fruit chunks (berries)?  Alternately if they still make this kind of candy where it’s a wax bottle with sugar water inside.  You bite off the nib and try to get the waxy flavored sugar water out, but the bottle sometimes collapses so you don’t get all of it unless you chew on the wax bottle.

  24. Emmanuel says:

    This sounds like a lot of fun; I may try it at my next dinner party!

    Does anyone have an idea for a vegetarian main dish that would fit the bill?

  25. lacroix says:

    I think anything involving pecans (in the shell), sunflower seeds (in the shell) or food that requires dissecting with great attention is annoying.  I don’t want to have to THINK about my food that much.

    For dessert you could have one of those cakes / custards with a "prize" hidden in it, like a coin or small trinket.  Nothing like breaking a tooth to make a meal really annoying.  

    Any drink with non-edible garnish annoys me.  

  26. Ian G says:

    Wood pigeon was something that occurred to me when I first read the idea.

    But for meat course I’d have to say pig’s trotters. Very tasty meat if you can find it between the large quantities of fat, skin and cartilage.

  27. configurator says:

    I’ve once been with a friend at a bar and he was given a free drink. I don’t know what it’s called, but it went like this:

    You have a beer glass half-full of beer (I think) and inside it floating a shot glass full of absinthe. The barman lights up the absinthe and put an inverted highball over the shot glass, which causes the beer to enter the shot-glass due to air-pressure. The barman quickly removes the highball at which point the poor drinker must drink the entire contents of the shot glass quite quickly, then the contents of the beer glass, and then inhale the fumes left in the highball. It’s quite an effort to drink it, but I think it makes you see pink elephants.

  28. Pat Boule says:

    Raymond – meat at this meal should be the Chinese chicken feet dish. A- They’re feet. B- You bascially have to suck on them to get the meat off.


  29. MS says:

    For the beverage, you might consider coconuts.  It takes a hell of a lot of effort to open one.  I know I smacked at one with my ka-bar for a while until I managed to crack it open enough to get any milk out.

  30. Julian says:

    Although it is a huge effort for the amount of food, the real reward for eating an artichoke is when you get to the "choke" at the centre. Of course, you have to carefully de-fur it first (or suffer eating a mix of choke+hundreds of tiny hairs).

    Not surprisingly, the USDA food database lists globe artichokes as having about 80 or 90% waste material.

    For a beverage, try coconut "milk". First drill the two holes and drain!

  31. afed says:

    Thanks, I’ll use this menu for my Windows 7 release party.

  32. Michael G says:

    Drink: <A HREF="">Nik-L-Nips</A&gt;.  These are those little wax bottles each filled with a teaspoon of juice.

  33. Stephen Jones says:

    The person complaining about wood pigeon evidently hasn’t eaten quails.

    You normally eat sprats whole, but Raymond is talking about the type of fish that is too big for that.

  34. Stephen Jones says:

    ——"For the beverage, you might consider coconuts.  It takes a hell of a lot of effort to open one."——

    Easy-peasy lemon squeezy, if you have the right knife. You just cut the top off and stick a straw in it.

  35. Stephen Jones says:

    I’ve just looked up ka-bar on Wikipedia. Much too small.

  36. Stephen Jones says:

    —–"One alternative for the drink would be loose tea, which combines all of the extra steps for coffee with the tedium of filling the stupid steepers and waiting 5 minutes for it to steep."—-

    Real complicated, innit?

    1. Put tea leaves in pot.

    2. Boil water

    3. Pour boiling water in pot

    4. Wait 5 minutes

    5. Pour and drink

  37. Stephen Jones says:

    —"Looks frightening, smells like rotton meat, tastes great!"—–

    If you like the taste of rotting meat.

  38. Aaron G says:

    I like the mostly-ice suggestion for the drink because it’s annoying on two fronts – it’s difficult to drink from *and* becomes progressively more watered-down and tasteless the longer it sits.  The only caveat is, restaurants do this to be cheap, so (a) it’s not exactly a "real" drink, and (b) people are used to it anyway.

    One alternative for the drink would be loose tea, which combines all of the extra steps for coffee with the tedium of filling the stupid steepers and waiting 5 minutes for it to steep.  A gracious host would probably do the prep work himself, but it’s not that unusual to have "gourmet" tea served this way because tea drinkers are fussy about the strength and temperature.

    I’d also suggest the commercial dyed pistachios as part of the appetizer, because they’re just the right size/hardness to prevent the use of a nutcracker but still infuriatingly difficult and messy to shell with bare hands.

  39. Capri Sun is a pain in the ass to get the straw in.

  40. Worf says:

    Durians just smell bad, but the meat is quite tasty. It’s an odd tropical fruit. But not annoying at all.

    And quails or other fist-sized birds are more annoying than pidgeons.

  41. frankchn says:

    What about as an appetizer? However, I think they won’t be in the appetite for anything else after smelling that.

  42. Cheong says:

    The major unintended side-effect was that very little wine was consumed: everyone was far too busy interacting with their food!

    That got me LOL-ed.

    @frankchin: You know what? I LOVE Stinky tofu and many people in the place where I live also loves it. However, haven’t seen any restaurant offer it as it’ll make people at your adjacent table smells nothing else.

    You probably won’t see any such heavy odor dishes in traditional restaurants.

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