I just love the title of this email. What does it refer to? Food, of course! Both in the U.S. and around the world, we have encountered food that is so different, mostly culturally distinct, and often, downright strange.
The one that stands out for me is the king of fruit, the almighty durian. I tried it on a Kuala Lumpur street corner about a decade ago. I gagged, wanted to spit it out, and must have looked like I was going to barf. They say it takes several tries before the taste is acquired. It has not happened for me, and after three tries, I give up. Much like Andrew Zimmern on Bizarre Foods, the gag reflex is just too strong.
We have tried cuy or guinea pig twice now. Once in Cuzco, Peru, and once in Quito, Ecuador. Both dishes were very greasy and gamey. Perhaps if it was barbecued to well done, I would try it again. The crispy skin that I see in photos looks inviting, despite my previous experiences.
Snakes have never appealed to me, live or dead. I have eaten rattlesnake in Colorado, and some type of white meat snake in Hong Kong. It is really no big deal, and tastes like chicken. Or canned tuna in the case of the rattler.
Escamoles or ant larvae can be quite tasty. I have tried them in the Mission district of San Francisco, as well as in Thailand. In both cases, it was caramelized, then poured over ice cream. Both times, I wanted more!!
Having tried poutine in numerous places, it just do not see what the big deal is. Fries, covered with cheese curds and gravy. It is hearty, rather fatty, but not difficult to enjoy. I like the Charleston version better than the Montreal version.
When golfing in Scotland, we had to try both the haggis and the blood pudding. Neither were very appetizing. In fact, both were rather gross. What a way to ruin a good day of golf, in the home of golf, St. Andrews!
Cheeses of various kinds were often difficult for me to eat when I was younger. Not now! I can eat most any kind of cheese, smelly or not. Chalk it up to maturity? We have even made our own cheese at a “farm to table” dinner in Washington. And it goes great with my champagne.
Some body organs and parts of animals are acceptable, some not. But when a tiny little two chambered heart was floating in my pho in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I was just a little surprised. Over the years, we have seen plenty of other body organs. Chicken feet come to mind whenever I get to Chinatown in any city. And in Japan, they love the chicken combs on a stick, called yakitori. I would call it Yukky-tori!!!
Many people I know still have a problem with taro root, or poi, as it is known in Hawaii. It is an acquired texture, though without much taste, in my opinion. I like it only when it is served with something very spicy or tangy.
Another strange thing occurs when I visit a foreign country. They take certain food, and make something else out of them. Have you seen a dessert soup made out of dried string beans? Or ice cream ranging in flavor from avocado, corn, purple yam, or red bean. Or an icy dessert (ice kacang) made with gelatin, sweet corn, ice cream, shave ice, and red beans.
Closer to home, foods like escargot and oysters tend to put many of our friends into a big “no way” Jose’ frenzy. And even in some Asian restaurants, food like oxtails, chicken feet, pig’s feet, pig cheeks, menudo, sea urchin (uni), and sea cucumber make some of you a little queasy.