What do you buy from vending machines? I bet you get a Coke, a bag of chips, a Mars chocolate bar, or maybe even an odd sandwich wrap. But have you ever bought a pair of underwear from a vending machine? How about a plate of French Fries?
Vending machines are so common in our environment that we don’t pay attention to them. And that’s probably because we really only use them to buy soda and a candy bar if we’re stuck in the middle of nowhere.
But you’ll be surprised (I promise) by what other countries put in their vending machines. Japan alone has an insane amount of vending machines. Even the ones here in America have gotten weirder by the year! These photos will change the way you think about what is considered a “need to buy” item that justifies being placed in a machine for 24/7 available purchase. Let’s jump on to our first vending machine…
Where to find it: Singapore
Yes, ladies and well, more so gentleman; a male Calvin Klein underwear dispenser exists in Singapore. And it will most likely end up here if we’re being honest with ourselves. But I gotta ask…What situation could you be in that requires buying top of line underwear from a vending machine? I mean, I could get creative and give some less than flattering examples, but I’ll let your mind do the wandering.
Random fact: Calvin Klein revolutionized jeans and underwear. He changed the denim market by bringing in the first pair of designer jeans. The tight-fitting jeans brought his brand to cult status. He also created the first type of masculine underwear for women and elevated the status of men’s underwear with a successful line of boxer shorts.
Where to find it: China
At first glance, this vending machine looks like it’s selling little aliens. But then again, sea creatures are pretty much aliens. I mean, just look at them! This machine dispenses crabs, yes crabs, for your enjoyment. Oh, and are the crabs dead? No! These crabs are kept alive at around five degrees Celsius at the main subway station in Nanjing, Jiangsu province. Feel like buying your own living crab? Do you have between $1.50 and $7? Are you in China? Then you’re set.
Random crab fact: Blue crabs have an odd mating habit; they only mate once for life! The females hold on to the semen from male crabs for their entire reproductive lifespan, and every set of eggs will be from that same clutch.
Where to find it: Italy
If you’re in Italy in the middle of the night and no pizza places are open, you’re in luck. You can put some coins in a vending machine, push the button, and in three minutes, you’ll have fresh pizza. The vending machine is called “ Let’s Pizza,” and it can be loaded with enough ingredients to make 100 pizzas from scratch. Yes, I’m serious. It even makes the dough. No more microwaving pizzas, people.
Random pizza fact: You can order pizza from space! Pizza Hut was the first restaurant to deliver a pizza to outer space when it rocketed one to astronaut Yuri Usachov at the International Space Station. What was on the pizza? Extra spices (because taste buds are dulled in space) and salami (instead of pepperoni), so it wouldn’t mold.
Where to find it: West Hollywood, California
Behold, the burrito vending machine. This one’s closer to home, in California, but still unique enough to be on this list. While the Burrito Box gives is a new high for food distribution technology, it’s also a new low for Mexican cuisine. But whatever, burritos are too good not to try putting in vending machines. The world’s first automated burrito kiosk is now located inside a Mobil gas station in West Hollywood, California. West Hollywoodians, you know where you’re going tonight…
Random burrito fact: Did you know that the word “burrito” means “little donkey” in Spanish? It comes from the word burro or “donkey.” The name burrito possibly refers to the tendency for burritos to hold a lot of different things just like how a donkey can carry a lot.
Where to find it: Japan
The name says it all. This vending machine isn’t as bizarre as others on this list, but definitely cool! Not only do you have a nice array of beer and sake to choose from, but it’s also cheap! Two dollar beers and sake is actually one of the most commonly purchased items in Japanese vending machines. Unfortunately, it’s becoming less of a thing lately due to worries about underage drinking.
Random sake fact: There are only four ingredients in sake: rice, water, mold, and yeast. Some sakes have a little distilled brewer’s alcohol, but on in general, these few ingredients are responsible for so many complex flavors. Oh, and sake has only 1/3 of the acidity of wine.
Where to find it: Russia
Now, I’m actually surprised that this doesn’t exist in the United States. Well, not yet, at least. But in Russia, people with an immediate craving for tasty french fries only need a few dollars and the ability to wait 90 seconds. In 90 seconds, you can get a box of fresh fries, fried to order, and served in an easy-to-eat the on-the-go paper cup. And yes, it comes with ketchup on the side. But if you ask me, I’m a mustard kind of girl.
Random french fries fact: There’s a debate as to where french fries were invented, but they were supposedly used as a fish substitute in the 1600s. People in Belgium normally fried fish, but in the winter when the river was frozen, they couldn’t catch any fish. So they turned to potatoes as a substitute.
Where to find it: Europe
Raw milk? Europe has it covered. And by covered, I don’t mean the typical selling of milk in stores. I mean raw milk sold in machines. And these raw milk vending machines are drawing lots of European customers. This delicacy is the talk of the town these days, but it’s also facing controversy. People are wondering how safe raw milk really is to drink. The jury is out, but go ahead and see what happens! Next time you’re in Europe, buy a full jar of raw milk and see if you need to run to the washroom after 10-15 minutes.
Random milk fact: Dairy cows from Europe were brought to North America in the 1600s. Louis Pasteur, a French microbiologist, did the first pasteurization tests in 1862. He is credited with revolutionizing the safety of milk and thus the ability to store and distribute milk beyond the farm.
Where to find it: United Arab Emirates
If I didn’t state above where this vending machine could be found, chances are you would have guessed Dubai anyways. If you’re heading there, take a gander at the Abu Dubai Hotel. And while it probably costs a little more than pocket change, you can use your lunch money to treat yourself to some gold. Every ten seconds, the machine checks the value of gold and dispenses bars and coins of up to 10 grams.
Random gold fact: Gold is the only metal that’s yellow or golden. Other metals can develop a yellowish color, but that’s only after they have oxidized or reacted to other chemicals. Almost all of the gold on Earth came from meteorites over 200 million years after it formed.
Where to find it: London
The champagne label Moet & Chandon created the classiest vending machine in the world to date! It’s located in the Selfridges department store. The vending machine dispenses champagne. And if a champagne vending machine isn’t an oxymoron, I don’t know what is. You can buy miniature bottles of champagne. Because, why not?
Random champagne fact: Champagne is really just sparkling wine. Yeast and sugar are added to wine for another round of fermentation, which creates the bubbles that make the champagne. Oh, and the most expensive bottle of champagne is 2.07 million dollars! The bottle has a diamond ingrained in the design on the outside. But that bottle won’t be found in a vending machine in London.
Where to find it: Istanbul, Turkey
So as it goes, Istanbul has a lot of stray cats and dogs. And while that’s a sad fact, the silver lining is that there’s a real solution! Since feeding them can be a bit of an issue, these vending machines were placed to let people put empty plastic bottles to get cat and dog food for the strays. So, it’s eco- and animal-friendly!
Random fact: This is a sad fact. Each year, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized (670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats). The number of dogs and cats euthanized in the United States shelters annually has actually declined from approximately 2.6 million in 2011.
Next, see what Singapore has in its vending machines…
Where to find it: Singapore
So you know how you can buy Slurpees at the local gas station? Well, instead of, or perhaps alongside your Slurpee, you can grab some mashed potatoes on the go. It’s funny because mashed potatoes aren’t hard to make. I get it, maybe you’re out of potatoes, but if you’re going to go out anyways, then why not just buy the potatoes that you clearly need to get? Well, in Singapore, a cup of mash on the go is a serious thing.
Random mashed potato fact: Mashed potatoes vary across cultures. Indian mashes have a lot of flavor with many ingredients, while the French include the yolk of an egg. Mashed potato commercially made in a dehydrated or frozen form, whereas an ‘instant’ dehydrated flaked version has been on the shelves since the 1960s.
Where to find it: All over the world!
Here’s another vending machine I never saw growing up. Here’s how it works: you put in your payment, and the monitor walks you through the BrAC (Breath Alcohol Content) testing process. So you grab a straw, put it into the testing hole, blow for two seconds, and see your results. The Boozelator can be found on 6 continents and in almost 20 countries. These should be placed outside of every bar.
FYI: The results of a breathalyzer test on a portable device isn’t admissible in court. It can’t be used at a trial. But, officers are allowed to use the reading from a device in deciding whether to arrest a person.
Where to find it: Amsterdam
FEBO is a chain Automat that dispenses food out of a vending machine. Which means fast food is a lot faster in Amsterdam. Some of the most popular FEBO items are croquettes stuffed with either veal or beef. Everything at these portable machine restaurants costs less than $10. Not too bad!
Febo prepares all of its products fresh every day. They’re hand-picked and transported to the shops. Febo is one of the few fast food shops in The Netherlands that doesn’t use frozen food. Some famous Febo products are Bami, a roll filled with Chinese noodles, vegetables, and chicken, and there is also Frikadel, a long roll made of beef and pork and Cheese.
Where to find it: Beverly Hills, California
Now, this is what life is all about: cupcakes all day and all night. Because who doesn’t want a cupcake on your way back home from the club? Kratom Crazy Sprinkles is responsible for this vending machine that is also basically munchie heaven. The machine holds 600 freshly-made and individually-boxed cupcakes at a time.
Random facts about cupcakes: The most cupcakes that were eaten in the shortest time is 29 cupcakes in 30 seconds. Think about that! That’s one per second! The world’s biggest cupcake weighed over 1,200 lbs and contained over 2 million calories. The first cupcake-only bakery is Sprinkles Cupcakes, which opened in 2005. They make over 25,000 cupcakes a day.
Where to find it: Japan
Japan has its share of bizarre vending machines, and this is definitely one of them. Are rhino beetles your thing? Then you’re in luck. For 100 Yen, you can get your hands on some Rhino beetles. Apparently, these are low maintenance pets (not for eating). Why would you want a beetle for a pet? I don’t know. Ask the Japanese!
Rhinoceros Beetles are some of the largest beetles in the world. Their name is due to the horns on their heads like the rhinoceros has. Rhino Beetles reach 60 mm in length. They have two horns, and each horn is a bit forked at the end. The male Rhino Beetles use their horns in mating battles against other males.
Where to find it: Toronto & USA
Now, this is genius if you ask me. Any woman knows that wearing heels can be extra crappy, especially if it’s the first time wearing them. Well, two Toronto men found a solution for women looking for high heel relief. The machine sells flats for $14.99 and they even come with a bag that can be used to put the other pair of shoes in.
“The idea for the company came from seeing women walking around downtown with their heels in their hands after they left the bars. It just popped into my head: why are these women wearing no shoes? I figured it was a solid idea, and we had the framework.” says co-founder Andrew Palillo.
Where to find it: Philadelphia
Philadelphia has the answer to all those ladies who need hair extensions ASAP. Who needs the salon when you have cheap hair extensions in a machine? And apparently, these are a hit. Marvin Kilgore, the company’s founder, leased 40 of these vending machines for $130 per month around Philadelphia.
Random hair extension fact: Hair extensions aren’t hard to manage (contrary to what you may have heard) even after a salon installation. Women go to the salon because they don’t know how to properly do their hair themselves or simply because of laziness and convenience. But, hair extensions are most time used for convenience. There are also tons of tutorials on YouTube for anyone who wants to know how to put them on.
Where to find it: Montana
Got bait? This vending machine is a fisherman’s savior. If you’re heading out for a day of fishing but forgot your bait, this will come in handy. The minnow-filled vending machine sits in Montana’s Tongue River Reservoir State Park. The machine ensures that the minnows aren’t illegally transported into Montana from other states.
FYI: Fishing bait is anything used to attract and catch fish, either on the end of a fishing hook or inside a fish trap. In most cases, nightcrawlers, insects, and smaller fish are used for this purpose. Fishermen have started using plastic bait and electronic lures to attract fish. And now, vending machines are there to make your lives even easier.
Where to find it: The United States & Canada
Who said vending machines are only for junk food and crabs? Why can’t they also sell healthy stuff like what you would find at a farmer’s market? That’s exactly what Farmer’s Fridge was wondering. So they made these machines that make slow food available fast. They basically turned the vending machine into a veggie machine. The company uses as many local and organic ingredients as they can.
Farmer’s Fridge is great for people on the go, for those who have from $5 to about $8 in their pockets. Farmer’s Fridge has a chef on board who even gets feedback from customers to tweak their menu constantly. There’s also a huge workforce to restock the food, which is prepared daily.
Where to find it: Las Vegas
I gotta say, when I saw that these vending machines are found in Las Vegas, I was surprised. It’s the last place I would expect to see these. Now that I think about it, it makes sense that it’s in Las Vegas because it’s more of a gambling machine than a vending machine. Their slogan states, “You Catch ‘Em; We Cook ‘Em!”
Random lobster fact: In 2009, a Maine fisherman caught a massive 20 lb lobster, which was estimated to be about 140 years old. And that’s not even the oldest lobster ever found. According to Guinness World Records, a 44 lb lobster was caught in 1977, with claws powerful enough to snap a man’s arm.
Where to find it: Cedar Creek, Texas
Texas is serving up pies 24 hours a day. No need for the local bakery in this town. You can purchase a freshly baked pecan pie from this machine by Berdoll Pecan Farm for $17.50. And funnily enough, it sits right outside their retail store. Why? I have no idea.
Random pecan fact: The name “pecan” is actually a Native American word that used to describe nuts requiring a stone to crack. The pecan is a heart-healthy nut that contains antioxidants, 19 vitamins, minerals, and healthy fat. About 78 pecans are used in any average pecan pie. Pecan trees can live over 200 years old. One ounce of pecans holds 10% of the recommended daily fiber intake.
Where to find it: Seattle, Washington
With marijuana slowly becoming legal in more and more states, it only makes sense that companies are capitalizing on the new laws. Medical marijuana dispensary, Seattle Caregivers, opened the state’s first marijuana vending machine. It’s called ZaZZZ and described as the “first age-verifying, climate-controlled, self-service dispensary.”
First-time users of this machine need to simply swipe their medical marijuana cards and their driver’s license. Their information is then compared to the biometrics data from the camera. If the two match, then the customers can create an account and make their purchase. On future visits, they can just present their driver’s license to pull up their information and make a purchase. It’s as easy as that!
Where to find it: Nairobi, Kenya
This one renews my faith in humanity and reminds me that there are good people in this world! What seems completely obvious to us is sometimes unattainable to others. The people of Nairobi now have convenient access to clean water! The Kenyan government partnered up with a Danish company to install water ATM Vending Machines in the impoverished community.
In 2010, the UN explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation. This means that it’s official: everyone has the right to sufficient, continuous, safe, acceptable, physically accessible, and affordable water for both personal and domestic use.
Sad but true fact: Approximately 1.1 billion people (which is 1 in 7) lack access to safe water.
Where to find it: Hong Kong
Don’t worry if you forgot your umbrella at home when you’re in Hong Kong. If you get caught in the rain without an umbrella, you can just find one of these bad boys and place some coins in exchange cash for a rain shield! Rain must be a big thing there. London, you have met your match.
Random umbrella fact: The word umbrella comes from the Latin word “umbros,” meaning shade or shadow. Modern-day umbrellas started to spread across Europe in the middle of the 18th century. Up until then, umbrellas were viewed as a female fashion accessory. Modern-day umbrellas are quite similar to the models that were used in ancient Greece and Rome.
Where to find it: Japan
Okay, so Japan gets the prize for the strangest vending machines in the world. And yes, you’re going to see even more on this list. Apparently, in Japan, canned bread is a popular thing. It’s a favored snack for many years, and now you can get some 24 hours a day, seven days a week! They even come in a variety of flavors, like chocolate and coffee.
Random canned bread fact: New England also sells canned bread. Once take out from its can, the bread can be sliced and served with butter, cream cheese, or jam. I don’t know about you guys, but bread in a can is not my preferred way of buying bread.
Where to find it: The United States
Okay, so this is another smart idea and one that makes perfect sense! It’s basically a 24-hour pharmacy in a machine. InstyMeds is a new pharmacy vending machine that dispenses antibiotics, inhalers, cough syrups, and painkillers. They are found in hospitals and clinics across the country. This will definitely come in handy for many people.
“The InstyMeds are much easier for patients to use instead of leaving the hospital and going to a pharmacy,” said the director of the pharmacy at MetroSouth. “Everyone who has used it has liked it. They’ll say, ‘You mean I can be seen, get my medications here and go home?’ It’s very efficient for us and the patient.”
Where to find it: The United States
Hey you – yeah you! The one who “forgot” to bring the doggy bags to pick up your dog’s poop. You’re not fooling anyone. Now you have no excuse. The Hey Buddy! vending machines are saving people from accidentally stepping in dog poop. And no one likes to step in dog poop. The machine sells pickup bags, toys, and snacks!
Random fact about dog poop: Other than your grass, it’s been estimated that a single gram of dog poop can contain 23 million fecal coliform bacteria. It’s known to cause cramps, diarrhea, intestinal illness, and serious kidney disorders in humans. Dog poop is one of the most common carriers of heartworms. So pick up that poop and wash your hands!
Where to find it: The United States
Okay, so when I said earlier that the champagne vending machine was the classiest yet – that was before I saw this. It looks like the vending machine gods are getting creative… and fancy. Yes, fine dining and convenience came together and created a niche vending machine that is the caviar vending machine. Because caviar is the thing, you want to buy from a machine…
Random caviar fact: Caviar is salted fish roe or egg. Pure caviar comes from the icy waters of the Caspian Sea and from the finest sturgeon. Ninety-five percent of the caviar produced in the world comes from the Caspian Sea. Only three sturgeon species produce this kind of caviar: Beluga, Osetra, and Sevruga.
Where to find it: Japan
You’ve heard the rumors; we all have. And I’m here to tell you that it’s not just a rumor – it’s a real thing. For years this has been something of an urban legend. But the Japanese really do have underwear vending machines. And not new panties…used panties. I’m not going to say anything else…
According to the latest stats from the Japan Vending Machine Manufacturers Association (JVMA), there are over 3.8 million “automatic sales” machines across the country (not including ATMs). That’s about one vending machine for every 33 citizens. In one year, these machines earn something like 5 trillion yen, which is the equivalent of US $46 billion. That’s a little less than what Google makes in a year.
Where to find it: France
When you think of Paris, what do you see? Cheese? Wine? A woman smoking a cigarette? Yes, all of those. But also baguettes. The French love their bread and especially their baguettes. This vending machine is always stocked up with baguettes that are amazingly fresh and finished to perfection. Superb!
Random baguette fact: National law says that “French” bread can only contain four ingredients: flour, yeast, salt, and water. The average person in France consumes about half a baguette every day compared to a whole baguette back in 1970 and more than three in 1900. France also has the highest density of bakeries in the world, with 32,000 spread throughout the country. Anyone in the mood for a baguette?
Where to find it: New York
You can find these bad boys at JFK Airport in New York. And don’t judge – we’ve all been there. Forgot to buy your mother in law a gift? Don’t have the time to head over to the duty-free and wait in that long line? This handy dandy machine is meant for super-last-minute shopping.
Random fact about gift-giving during Christmas: One of the primary reasons why we have the custom of giving and receiving gifts at Christmas is to remind us of the gifts that were given to Jesus by the Wise Men: Frankincense, Gold, and Myrrh. But it looks like that fact has gone out the window. People don’t think about that when buying their co-workers perfume from Target.
Where to find it: Germany
This one is great for all the parents who need to immediately distract their kids. Germany is on the ball. These Lego vending machines have been spotted in German train stations. It’s the perfect solution to those fits that every child has. And a train ride is no fun with an erratic toddler.
Random Lego fact: According to the LEGO Group Company, the word “LEGO” isn’t a noun. It’s actually an adjective, as in LEGO bricks, LEGO products, LEGO universe, and so on and so forth. Where did the word Lego come from? “LEGO” is from the first two letters of the Danish words “Leg” and “Godt,” which translates to “play well.” Pretty cute, huh?
Where to find it: The United States
Who doesn’t like a nice steaming cup of loose-leaf tea? Problem is they’re not as easy to find as some may think. Loose-leaf tea is now being dispensed in the ultimate convenience. TeaBOT sells a variety of loose tea leaves. The robot proves that you don’t need a barista to get a personalized experience.
Random tea fact: Green tea is a superfood. In addition to its healing properties, green tea is known as a superfood when consumed. The green type can help soothe a sore throat, regulate blood sugar levels, and also reduce the risk of heart disease. It’s been used medicinally for thousands of years, but only recently have scientific studies begun to confirm many of the widely held beliefs regarding its healing powers.
Where to find it: Japan (where else?)
I told you we would see Japan again on this list. At least, this time, it’s a little less bizarre. Japan has future-proofed their salad needs by placing these vending machines around town. It’s called the Chef’s farm and can grow 60 heads of lettuce every day. It’s aimed towards restaurants rather than general consumers, but it’s still pretty cool.
Random lettuce fact: Lettuce is the second most popular fresh vegetable in the United States, behind only the potato. And yes, potatoes are technically classified as veggies, even though they are classified nutritionally as a starch. The average American person will eat about 30 lbs of lettuce every year! That’s a lot of lettuce.
Where to find it: Japan
Look, at this point, why not have tie vending machines? I mean, it does kind of make sense. Think about it. You buy batteries, disposable cameras, lettuce, and used panties. So why not get a tie in the subway station while you’re at it? You do want to look professional, don’t you?
Random fact about neckties: Historically, neckties were used to keep men’s shirt collars together. And through the years, the tie has evolved and changed to what we presently see men (and women) wearing. Did you know that neckties are the most popular gifts given on Father’s Day? Every year, Americans spend somewhere around $1 billion to buy 100 million ties. Oh, and there are 177,147 different ways to tie a necktie!
Where to find it: Japan
Back to Japan, again. Man, these guys have convenience on lockdown. They really are the vending machine capital of the world. You’re right if you think that eggs are too delicate to be dispensed in a vending machine. But this one lets you pick them out of compartments that you yourself open.
Random egg fact: White eggs are a lot more popular among commercial producers. Why? It is because chickens that lay white eggs tend to be smaller than those who lay brown eggs. This means that they need less food to produce the same number of eggs. Most of today’s hens are White Leghorns (white eggs) and Rhode Island Reds and Barred Plymouth Rocks (brown eggs).
Where to find it: Japan
Okay, so luckily I haven’t had to find this out personally (thank god). But apparently, toilet paper isn’t given out in public washrooms! Toilet paper isn’t a customary thing, I guess, in Japan. Which means people have to bring their own. Which means toilet paper vending machines make total sense.
Random toilet paper fact: It takes 384 trees to make the toilet paper that one person uses in his or her lifetime. The average person will use 100 rolls of toilet paper each and every year (which comes out to over 20,000 sheets). The daily production of toilet paper is something like 83,048,116 rolls every day. Toilet paper is often used for making dresses, too.
Where to find it: Japan
How now brown cow – did you say burgers from a vending machine? Yes, sir, that’s right. Some might say this is brilliant, and some might wanna puke at the idea. Which one are you? These are the vending machine versions of your local burger joint. I wonder how good the burgers really are.
Random burger fact: Wanna know how big the biggest Hamburger ever was? Well, it was a massive one. In 1982, 10 thousand people came to look and also taste the largest Hamburger ever made, even if it was a single bite. The burger weighed an insane 3,591 pounds. The name Hamburger comes from Hamburg steaks that were introduced to Americans by German immigrants.
Where to find it: Canada
If new books or libraries aren’t your thing, then maybe this vending machine is. If you’re in Canada, you might stumble upon one of these. This vending machine helps promote reading by letting you choose a book or deposit one. Hey, it’s better than letting them gather dust at home.
Random facts about books: According to Dr. Google (and by that we mean just Google), 129,864,880 million books had been published as of the year 2010. That number is quite obviously a lot higher now. The most expensive book ever sold had a price tag of $30.8 million. It was Codex Leicester by Leonardo Da Vinci. Who bought it? None other than Bill Gates. Go figure, right?
Where to find it: Tokyo, Japan
I think it makes sense to sign off on another example of what Japan has to offer in terms of convenience. At train stations in Tokyo, you can buy bananas from a vending machine. Single or in a bunch – that’s up to you. What are your banana needs?
Random banana fact: Evangelist Ray Comfort recorded a famous video where he argued that the banana displayed many user-friendly features that were, to him, evidence of intelligent design. Comfort ended up taking down the video when he learned that the banana is a result of artificial selection by humans and that a wild banana is small and unpalatable. Oh, and did you know that bananas are considered bad luck on fishing boats? Yeah…
Where to find it: Pennsylvania
Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania installed one of these vending machines for the students. And it’s proven to be a great success. Condoms have actually been in vending machines for years, but the morning after pill just seems to make more of a difference. Students at this college can buy the morning-after pill by putting $25 into the machine. The vending machine also dispenses condoms, decongestants, and pregnancy tests.
Random fact: The Pill wasn’t the first oral contraceptive. Before hormonal pills were available to women of childbearing age, eating and drinking particular substances was a rudimentary form of birth control. People in Cyrene, a North African state in the Greek and Roman Empires, ate a plant called silphion.