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5 Animal Byproducts That Are Also Expensive Delicacies

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When it comes to animal byproducts, one man’s trash truly is another man’s treasure.

1. Snail Caviar

Price Tag: $139.00 per 75-gram jar
Pair With: Beets, black pudding, and beef.

Free-range “happy snails” at the Aylesbury Escargots outdoor Snail Park go where they like, enjoying daily sprinkler showers and a diet of fresh leaves and biscuits. Come mating time, the hermaphroditic snails pair up, swap sperm, and lay about 100 tiny, pearly eggs each. Snail farmer Sophie Wharton then collects, sorts, and cleans the eggs by hand. The Escargot Pearls, as the Whartons call them, have a “slightly earthy, ferny taste.”

2. Elephant Poop Coffee

Price Tag: $50.00 per cup
Pair With: Chocolate, carrot cake, and raisins.

Some people look at a pile of elephant dung and see a pile of elephant dung. The folks at the Black Ivory Coffee Company see a fortune. Building on the well-established and super-gross model of civet poop coffee, Black Ivory coffee is “naturally refined” in the digestive tracts of rescued elephants in Thailand. According to Black Ivory developer Blake Dinkin, the elephants’ digestive processes break down the proteins that make coffee so bitter, and the fermentation in their stomachs imparts “flavors you wouldn’t get in other coffee.” No kidding.

3. Fish Sperm

Kirk K, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Price Tag: Market price.
Best Served: Steamed in miso soup with seaweed, raw with ponzu sauce, or tempura-style.

The culinary term for fish sperm sacs is “milt.” In Japan, this delicacy is known as shirako, or “white children”—a pretty poetic euphemism for something kinda gross. Shirako is eaten for its creamy, custard-like consistency, its light, delicate taste, and its supposed powers as an aphrodisiac.

Most shirako comes from cod, anglerfish, or salmon, and is pretty inexpensive. Then there’s fugu no shirako, the milt from the ridiculously deadly pufferfish. Chefs have to undergo a rigorous training and certification program to even prepare fugu, and even then, accidents happen. Safely serving fugu shirako is a tricky job, which means that even finding a chef who will serve you “white children” is incredibly rare and very expensive.

4. Donkey Cheese

Price Tag: $1000.00 per pound
Best Served: Alone, in thin slices.

High in the mountains of Serbia, deep in the Zasavica nature reserve, 100 endangered Balkan donkeys and a few humans are hard at work making the most expensive cheese in the world. The jennies (female donkeys) are milked by hand three times a day, because, astonishingly, there is no such thing as a donkey-milking machine. It’s hardly an efficient process: From three gallons of hard-won donkey milk, the cheesemakers will get about a pound of pule, or smoked donkey cheese.

Pule’s appeal is due in part to its rarity, in part to its reputation as a superfood, and in part to national pride. In 2012, claims surfaced that tennis superstar Novak Djokovic had purchased the entire world supply of pule for his chain of restaurants. The story was later debunked, but Djokovic was inspired. “As I understand it,” he told the press, “it is incredible quality. I have not tried it yet, but I am looking forward to it."

5. Sea Urchin Gonads

Price Tag Market price
Best Served: Raw atop crackers and cheese, in sushi, or mixed into pasta sauce.

They’re eaten all around the world. At the sushi bar, they’re called uni, which is usually translated as “sea urchin roe.” This is not quite accurate. Uni’s vibrant saffron color and rich, creamy texture belong not to the urchin’s eggs, but to its gonads. And what magical ‘nads they are.

Some diners are repulsed by the urchin’s smooshiness. For many others, a mouthful of sea urchin junk is a ticket to bliss-town. Texture and flavor can only claim part of the credit: Urchin gonads also naturally contain the euphoria-producing cannabinoid anandamide.

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History
The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

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holidays
Custom-Design the Ugly Christmas Sweater of Your Dreams (or Nightmares)
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For those of you aspiring to be the worst dressed person at your family's holiday dinner, UglyChristmasSweater.com sells—you guessed it—ugly Christmas sweaters to seasonal revelers possessing a sense of irony. But the Michigan-based online retailer has elevated kitsch to new heights by offering a create-your-own-sweater tool on its website.

Simply visit the site's homepage, and click on the Sweater Customizer link. There, you'll be provided with a basic sweater template, which you can decorate with festive snowflakes, reindeer, and other designs in five different colors. If you're feeling really creative, you can even upload photos, logos, hand-drawn pictures, and/or text. After you approve and purchase a mock-up of the final design, you can purchase the final result (prices start at under $70). But you'd better act quickly: due to high demand, orders will take about two weeks plus shipping time to arrive.

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