November 26th, 2012
10:00 AM ET
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I am no Anthony Bourdain or Andrew Zimmern. I’ve never eaten, yet alone enjoyed, Rocky Mountain oysters, and I know not the joys of feasting on fried scorpion skewered on a stick or mopane worms fresh from the ground. And for good reason – my stomach turns at the thought.

How then did I find myself willing to attend a dinner where all of the courses I’d be served featured animal blood? Your guess is as good as mine. And as I stood in front of my bathroom mirror day of practicing my "No really, I love it!" face, the butterflies in my stomach feel more like giant moths begging to get out.

As a researcher, after I volunteered for this task, I wanted some information to help ease my mind (and stomach). Primarily, I needed to know, is this normal? Is it normal to consume the blood of other animals? And if so, why did it seem so foreign to me?

To the history books I went. And by history books I mean Google. “Is blood safe to eat?” and “blood as food” were the first two phrases I typed into the search engine. Most of the results focused on why one shouldn’t eat an egg that has a blood spot on it, and the rest were about vampires. Not much help.

So instead I turned to people I knew I could trust: scholars. I came across Peggy Barlett, an anthropology professor at Emory University. She reassured me that while blood can carry disease, commercially sold blood is safe to eat. There went that excuse.

Bartlett also gave me some insight into the history of eating blood, and how in some parts of the world it’s actually a necessity. Take the Maasai tribe in Kenya for example. Because of natural disasters like droughts and disease, having enough crops and animals isn’t a viable option for the Maasai. So they maximize what they do have in order to survive.

“The Maasai have adapted where some people have grown crops but they trade animals,” Bartlett explained. “Meat consumption is rare so to get the adequate protein, they would drink milk and blood” she said. The protein and minerals in the blood, along with the nutrients in the milk, is enough to sustain them.

I asked Bartlett if she thought I was crazy for going to the blood dinner. She assured me I wasn't. “People are afraid of using blood mainly because we’re so out of touch of the whole process of growing, butchering and preserving meat.”

Bartlett explained that our societal attitudes toward meat have changed. One hundred years ago instead of picking up neatly packaged meat from case in a super market we likely would’ve been raising, slaughtering and butchering that meat. “If the goal of the farmer is to use all parts of the animal, blood would have to be considered.”

That is something Livingston Atlanta chef Zeb Stevenson can relate to. "There has been more focus now than before on responsible sourcing and usage of our food resources. There’s more than just [offal]; there’s another ingredient that makes up that animal” he told me over the phone. He was talking about blood.

Stevenson was one of four chefs behind the blood dinner. He’s known as a bit of a risk taker and is no stranger to boundaries. He’s also admittedly obsessive and had been thinking about the dinner ever since a vacation to England introduced him to blood pudding and blood sausage.

“I focus in on ideas and try to take them as far as I can," he said. "I started looking into the cultural significance of blood and the use of blood world wide and I looked around and thought ‘We are the only nation in the world that doesn’t use blood in a food way, how can I broaden people’s horizons a little bit?’”

Earlier this year, Stevenson was approached by a food writer about hot and trendy ingredients in the culinary world and immediately told her about blood. Her response: Atlanta’s not ready for blood. To Stevenson, that was a challenge begging to be accepted.

“The onus is on us," he realized. "Many people are ready for whatever chefs are ready to feed them. As long as it’s really delicious and executed properly, there’s no reason not to have fun and challenge palates.”

blood chefs

And that’s how I found myself at a cocktail reception about to sit down to eight (8) courses of blood prepared by Stevenson, Tyler Williams of Abattoir, Ryan Smith of Empire State South and Josh Hopkins of STG Trattoria. Stevenson had told me to expect blood chocolate ganache, blood pasta and cured blood, along with the traditional blood sausage.

I kept Stevenson’s words in mind as I sat down: “Blood is very high in protein, it’s essentially pure protein. It’s very mineral rich and low in fat. The Spartans made soup from raw blood which gave them power to go into battle.” If the Spartans could handle this, so could I.

As I nervously inspected the first plate before me, I realized that my fears were unfounded. Instead of drops or pools of blood sitting on my plate, there were beautiful pieces of blood line hamachi with seasonal radishes and cured, shaved blood. The result was an interesting collaboration of texture and flavor.

The second course was almost too pretty to eat – not at all what I expected. Foie gras and blood torchon played nicely off a slow cooked egg with caramelized white chocolate and puffed faro. Beets added the color of blood, but otherwise at no point did I stop and think I was eating anything other than deliciousness.

Probably my favorite application of blood as a technique came in the third course. Eel blood was used instead of egg whites to make the most delicious consommé for eel dashi. And in case you were wondering, the blood tastes like the animal it came from. A bright red ring of eel blood around the rim of the bowl was probably the only time we really saw blood in its raw form.

The next few courses brought blood pasta, blood sausage and squab to the table. The evening was capped off with desserts, one of which featured blood Styrofoam. Yes, you read that right. This was the only point in the meal where my cheeks puckered from the tinge of iron and where my tongue felt like it was coated in blood. Even though it looked like chocolate, it was anything but.

While some of my fellow diners were slightly put off by the bait and switch, I found the experience to be exactly what I was looking for. That taste was what I had been dreading all night, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had thought. In fact, like the whole meal, I actually liked it.

My fellow diners agreed. Tod Lawrence had come because he was a fan of offal and in particular one of the chefs who prepared our meal. At the end of the meal, Lawrence's companion Horace Hume found, “This was palate exploration for me. As much as I love blood sausage and organs, to me the meal was a different excursion.”

Like Hume, most of the diners I spoke to either had an interest in offal or were fans of the collaborating chefs. The dinner was seemed to be a success, and no one gagged or fainted (that I saw). The conversation drifted from food to politics and back – it was a pretty normal dinner in that regard.

So, is Atlanta (and by proxy the rest of the country) ready for blood? Those that open up to the idea might be pleasantly surprised. I definitely was.

Previously - Andrew Zimmern's five foods that can change the world and Scary-sounding ingredients not to be scared of

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Filed under: Ingredients • Meat • Offal • Taboos

soundoff (85 Responses)
  1. marimar

    Pork blood with a lot of ginger with rice cake on the side!! Yummy!!

    November 27, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
  2. allen

    I used to eat pork blood and it was so good specially when u put a lot of ginger on it...We call it "dinuguan"..

    November 27, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
  3. jamesnyc

    Don't get me wrong, I love steak but specifically blood, I dunno.

    November 27, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
  4. Henri

    Blood pudding, blood sausage or blood pan cakes are regular staples in Northern European menus. Good honest food.

    November 27, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  5. Bill Hannegan

    This is not eating every part of the animal for environmental reasons, or even being adventurous. This is gluttony – plain and simple. A generation jaded on every delicacy known to man goes further and further in search of something to better stimulate their gullets. For the poor man the buffet with $9.95 buffet with 85 items soaked in grease and sugar. For the rich man "molecular gastronomy", and eating to be different. Do something with your life instead of pursuing this rubbish.

    November 27, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Unegen

      Oh p1ss off, you philistine. You wouldn't know adventurous eating if it bit you. But you do seem awfully familiar with those cheap greasy buffets.

      November 27, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  6. Sir Biddle

    Did any of you hunters drink some of the blood of the first deer you shot? Kind of a right of passage for young hunters that supposedly goes back to the American Indians.

    November 27, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Truth™@Biddle, Sir Biddle

      Nada, though I was with my Dad who has an even worse gag reflex than I do, so no chance there.

      I just remember him telling me to take off my coat, then my sweater, then my shirt, then my watch. When I asked why, he told me that I would be going in up to the elbows.

      November 27, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      I read Schwarzkopf's autobiography and he said when he was a youngster he and his Dad dined with some nomads. Blood was the norm, and the eyeball was the delicacy reserved for the special guest. I think he said he just swallowed it whole to avoid chewing it.

      November 27, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

        It was a sheep. Forgot that part. In the middle-east, too by the way

        November 27, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
      • Sir Biddle

        Who wants to play a nice game of Buzkashi?!?!?! (Look it up,its not dirty)

        November 27, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
        • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫ @ Sir Biddle

          Sounds like a new NBA in the works.

          November 27, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  7. Berk Demirbulakli

    I eat a bloody muffin every month. Delicious!

    November 27, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫


      November 27, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • Rick

      earning your red wings?

      November 29, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  8. Wayne

    " If the Spartans could handle this, so could I." Wait, what? Because the Spartans were such wimps?

    November 27, 2012 at 9:41 am |
  9. goatsandgreens

    I think I'd enjoy trying that meal. Maybe not the dessert item.

    I've had blood sausage in England - okay but not great. I like steaks rare to medium rare.

    I think it is a worthwhile goal if you are going to eat meat, not to waste meat, especially if said meat comes from reputable sources.

    November 27, 2012 at 6:35 am |
  10. Rachelle

    This is a really interesting article. At first impression, it disgusted me, but then I remembered I much prefer my steaks medium-rare :)

    November 27, 2012 at 5:14 am |

    When I was on a trip to Kenya the tribesman said they only drink "hot and fresh" cow's blood. I think we prove that we have come from there

    November 26, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  12. jdoe

    If you eat a medium rare to rare steak, you're eating blood. People need to get over it. It's actually safer than eating a rare steak, because in most cases the blood is cooked all the way through.

    November 26, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  13. interesting

    Im amazed by how many people there are that dont know that blood is in all meat. Such a failed educational system.

    November 26, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  14. Jane

    In Finland many traditional dishes use blood. The most common are blood pancakes that you serve with lingonberry jam and "black sausage" made from meat & blood. We commonly enjoyed these dishes at school lunches a few decades ago. Not bad, inexpensive and loaded with iron.

    November 26, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Truth™@Jane

      So is a keg of nails, but I would probably decline consuming same.

      November 26, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  15. Sir Biddle

    OK guys admit it, who has earned their blood wings?

    November 26, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Jerv-Ugh!

      "Dude – congratulations on getting your bloodwings bro – now go wash your face."

      November 26, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
      • Sir Biddle

        Jerv, just when I think you can't go any lower, you take it to a new low on the perv level. Blood wings is a military tradition where you earn a promotion or your airborne/air assault wings and they are pinned on you with no backing. Then the person giving them to you gets to punch you on the rank or wings hence drawing blood.

        DDD's called and you left your wallet in the theater.

        November 26, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
        • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

          That's sort of in the area of what I was thinking, until you reminded us of what it is. I forgot about that tradition. It can get a little out of hand during the "ceremony" I've seen.

          November 26, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
        • Jerv-SirB

          Atta-boy, Peewee.

          November 26, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  16. ron

    how they stop the blood flow of the cattle that 'donate'? to draw more than a few drops the incision must need some kind of repair.

    November 26, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • goatsandgreens

      Well, I'm glad the Red Cross has figured out how to stop the bleeding when I donate my pint. I'm sure the tribesmen you refer to have figured something like this out, as well.

      November 27, 2012 at 6:41 am |
  17. Vampire

    Hey, what's a little blood between friends! Bwahahahaha

    November 26, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  18. Ruth Villanueva

    Try the famous and very delicious Filipino dish "dinuguan'

    November 26, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • Ruben

      Thanks for the tip. Try also the mexican "moronga" or "rellena" (stuffed tripe with seasoned blood and vegetables). It's delicious alone or in a taco.

      November 27, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
  19. kswiss

    Blood is delicious and nutritious. Unless you've tried it you have no right to form an option

    November 26, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  20. Daniel

    Bring it on! In fact, make me martini using blood.

    November 26, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      Oh, Danny boy.

      You mean Bloody Mary's, right?

      November 26, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  21. Judy

    NO! NEVER EAT BLOOD...the Bible commands it and it does so for OUR BENEFIT...

    November 26, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Daniel

      Who in their right mind would read the bible and believe it? Do you even know who wrote it?

      November 26, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
      • Colin Morgan

        Jackie Collins wrote the bible.

        November 26, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      Your post is a shining example of everything that is wrong with so many self-proclaimed christians today. It takes the form of an unequivocal command to all others. If you had simply said, "I believe I shouldn't eat blood because my religion says I shouldn't" there would be no problem. Instead, you immediately not only ram your beliefs down the throats of your entire audience, but proceed under the assumption that there is nothing whatsoever wrong with doing so.

      This nation was founded on the bedrock understanding that ALL of its citizens have a right to pursue their own lives according to their own beliefs, without having someone else's religion forcibly imposed on them. Apparently, you need to think hard about what that means. And start practicing it yourself.

      November 26, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • kamakiriad

      Sky-man has had his son, which he impregnated a virgin to make, command you to not eat blood. Good for you. Keep your commands to yourself.

      November 27, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • mayviolet

      You are correct Judy. To deliberately eat or drink blood is forbidden and unholy. The unholy and confused will jeer at this concept, but there is more profound Wisdom in this universe than they are willing to acknowledge. Notice how everyone can have an opinion except those of us who strive to walk according the Scripture. Heaping insults on you and the Bible is only proof of their ignorance. And WE'RE supposed to be the intolerant ones?!

      November 27, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
      • Rick

        Wow, aren't YOU the pompous gash?

        November 29, 2012 at 10:38 am |
      • Rick

        Also, no one is denying your right to have an opinion. Perhaps you have the vaunted Christian Persecution Complex in high gear this morning

        November 29, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • Chasya

      People are stubborn and are going to do whatever they want to, and totally ignore what our Creator instructs us to do, regardless of the fact that it's for our own good. One day, they'll find that out the hard way. I'm just SO GLAD He woke me up to His Word and the importance of following what it says. I'm SO THANKFUL! As a result, I'm the only person to reach my age – 63, in my entire family to never have even so much as a trace of cancer, heart disease, nor any of the other life-threatening diseases that are rampant on both sides of my family!

      It's not for everyone, as some simply have no clue, as evidenced by most of the comments I see here. At least we know, and that's all that matters. What others do is their own choice. But as for me and my house, we will serve YHWH!

      November 27, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
      • Typical arrogance

        Or perhaps it isn't stubbornness, but disbelief that that Creator exists, hmm?

        November 29, 2012 at 5:43 am |
      • Rick

        What makes you think you speak for the creator, Chasya?

        November 29, 2012 at 10:44 am |
      • Rick

        "But as for me and my house, we will serve YHWH!"

        Serve him with sauteed onions

        November 29, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  22. Harleyxx

    Acts 15:28, 29: “The holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things, to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication. If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper. Good health to you!”

    There the eating of blood is equated with idolatry and fornication, things that we should not want to engage in. If you're a Christian you should not eat blood.

    November 26, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Judy

      Thank you for defending our faith....I know one of Jeh Wit when I read one...

      November 26, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
      • Rick

        is your faith so weak it need defending?

        November 29, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      Pretty sure this relates to ingesting blood as part of a ceremony. I could be wrong. It seems most Christians (and I am one) takes things a little too literally a lot of times (which I don't)- which leads people to call us looney.

      Blood is in all our meat. You will ingest it if you eat meat. Difference between white meat and dark meat is the amount of blood cells in the dark meat.

      Read between the lines when you read the Bible, folks. Don't take things so literally, you'll look like an idiot who can't interpret meanings.

      November 26, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
      • Judy

        In this case it refers to LITERAL BLOOD. The blood is DRAINED from the meet before you eat it. That's the difference between eating whole blood, which is forbidden in the Bible. Blood is sacred and belongs to God who says not to eat it directly. It is paralleled with fornication, which means that in body fluids (and animal fluids) there are disease carry germs that must be avoided to have good health.

        November 27, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
        • Sir Biddle

          Going to go out on a big limb here and guess that you don't partake in oral sex since that would involve bodily fluids and is kind of in the same column as fornication.

          November 27, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
        • Rick

          meat, not "meet"

          November 29, 2012 at 10:50 am |
        • Judy

          Rick: Thanks for reading!!! (and correcting me (meat not meet).

          November 29, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • oops

      ...and then they go and make you drink "the blood of christ" at church

      November 26, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

        That would also be a metaphor.

        November 26, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
        • Bob White

          It's not a metaphor in the Catholic church. Catholics believe in transubstantiation that the "substance" of the host and wine that are part of the sacrament of Communion, are changed into the "substance" of the body and blood of Jesus Christ at the point in the Mass known as the Consecration while by all outward appearances they seem to be simply bread and wine.

          It's a doctrine rejected by most reformed Protestant sects.

          November 27, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • jdoe

      Yeah well the Bible says that eating shellfish is an abomination too, yet I see plenty of Christians eating it.

      November 26, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      That's your interpretation. It is NOT every christian's interpretation. You need to get off your high horse and stop trying to force everyone to march in lock step with your beliefs, and start coming to grips with the simple fact that the nation is built upon the understanding that there are not only many disparate beliefs, but that it is wrong to try and ram your beliefs down the throats of others who don't share them.

      November 26, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
  23. Jen

    As someone who was raised as a Jehovah's Witness but hasn't been one for nearly 20 years, I've only recently tried black pudding for the first time and found it delicious. I've also only just started eating the marrow out of bones after being brought up to think it was wrong to eat it. I would be interested in going to that restaurant if I was in the US.

    November 26, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  24. food mom


    November 26, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  25. anna lee

    🔴🔴🔴🔴 Great! What's next, Cannibal Cuisine ?

    November 26, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • crazypete

      Yes, your logical connection is impossible to dispute.

      November 26, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  26. HarleyGirl

    I'm not a very adventurous food eater. I can handle the juice from a cooked piece of meat, but that's as far as I'm willing to go.

    November 26, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  27. Josh

    There are few foods forbidden for Christians to eat, meat sacrificed to idols, meat that was strangled and blood. Acts 15:20.

    November 26, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • myreply

      that's right! blood is not for consumption

      November 26, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • bczu

      Good for you? And since you cant eat it no one else can?

      November 26, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      In your view. Which is a view that is not shared by all. Deal with it. If you can't, please find somewhere else to abide.

      November 26, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  28. Beth

    I've eaten medium-rare steaks, yes, but I haven't eaten the blood, sorry. I just like the taste along with the spices and meat itself; however, I have a problem with blood: I can taste the iron in it and I don't like it. Sorry, but no.

    November 26, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  29. Andrew

    I've had cooked pig's blood (English blood pudding) and raw duck's blood in Asia. Both were delish.

    November 26, 2012 at 10:21 am |
  30. paul

    49% say no way?? That's a little silly considering that anyone who's ever eaten a mid-rare or rare steak has eaten plenty of relatively fresh blood. It's essentially just a richer, concentrated source of the same flavor that's in whatever meat you're otherwise eating. That said, I'm not so sure I'd be super excited about eating food with a LOT of blood, e.g. blood sausage, but it doesn't surprise me that it's fairly popular.

    November 26, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  31. Obama: Saviour of the People 2012 to Forever!

    Sounds like the average Republican Meal, the blood of the poor all over everything they shove in their greedy mouths.

    November 26, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • SteveDave

      What a sad pathetic person you are.

      November 26, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
      • Cheech N. Chong

        Dave's not here...

        November 26, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
        • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

          You THIEF!

          November 26, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
        • Truth™@Cheech, JDizz

          Don't you just hate when people politicize a food blog?

          November 26, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      Sounds like a very bigoted and stereotyped point of view on your part.

      November 26, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
  32. M T Nest

    Ummm, no thank you, I'll pass.

    November 26, 2012 at 6:33 am |
    • myreply

      Me too! Anyone ingesting animal blood consumes the animal's waste matter. Disgusting!

      November 26, 2012 at 11:25 am |
      • Ann

        Um, if you're okay with sausage in natural casings, you're a lot closer to "waste matter" that way.

        November 26, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
      • crazypete

        Huh? There is residual blood in all meat, so I assume you are a vegetarian. Or very ignorant.

        November 26, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
        • bunnykeet

          I'm vegan and would never touch this. However, I find it extremely sad to think that an animal is slaughtered (and often, treated horribly until the slaughter as well) for parts of it to go to waste. For those who eat meat, I would love to see them consume less and waste less. The idea of this causes me to personally recoil, but no more so than the thought of ingesting any other dead flesh or animal secretions.

          November 26, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
        • VladT

          At Bunnykeet.....

          Is there a point regarding your "what makes Bunnykeet feel sad?" rant

          November 27, 2012 at 8:23 am |
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