October 10th, 2014

Food Gone Wild

The featured image used on the previous page is courtesy of Joe Parks via Flickr.

PLEASE NOTE : This post contains graphic images and content not suitable for some readers.

When I was a kid, we attended my dad’s masters course graduation in Colorado. While there, we went out with a bunch of his classmates and my brother and I were encouraged to eat Rocky Mountain oysters. We were told were fried mushrooms, which is exactly what they tasted like.

Photo credit: Carol Von Canon via Flickr

 Rocky Mountain oysters are fried bull testicles. 

My brother and I were prepared to not speak to our parents for a month, but they were bigger and basically clothed and fed us, so what were we going to do? Our “revolt” on both counts was simply lost.

The funny thing is, these days, I’m all about trying weird foods. I’ve had turtle, alligator, shark, snake, live sea urchin (and a live goldfish, but that was in college and followed by a mandatory shotgunned beer), beef tongue, escargot, sweetbreads and peanut butter on a hamburger to name just a few. I actually wish I would have tried the Guinea pig in Ecuador, but it gives me a good excuse to go back.

That said, even I’m not sure how I feel about these stories. Read with caution … and an empty stomach. Don’t forget to share your “weird” (or wonderful!) story in the comment section!

“I don’t have good stories of things I actually ate because I don’t play that game. But I did eat a bite of my friends “crocodile roll” at the night market in Darwin (from a booth that also sold kangaroo sushi) when in the outback.

I saw a skinned dog in a market in Vietnam. I could elaborate but that basically covers it. Worst “food” I’ve ever seen. That said, I also saw a tent at a night market in Taiwan where they hang a large — like 8 foot — snake by the throat on a hook, slice open its belly and give out shots of snake blood. The locals take it for vitality (and you though huggie bombs were bad).

The <expletive removed> I worked for in Italy served me a bunny that still had ears on it the night that she tried to kick me out of her house. I cried.”
~ Heather, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

But, there are some of us who do play that game. It’s not all gross, but it is definitely adventurous. And, of course, there’s this other traumatizing rabbit story …

“Weirdest things I’ve eaten? I wouldn’t call them weird necessarily, maybe just things that aren’t commonly served here:

  • Sea cucumber
  • Chicken feet
  • Pigeon on a stick
  • Butter tea (it’s tea with a bunch of butter in it)
  • Squid cooked in its own ink
  • Cow belly lining (http://showshanti.com/restauran-beijing-men-ding-li-baodu/)
  • Sauteed crickets in a soft taco (that was actually in a Mexican restaurant in DC’s Chinatown)

The biggest surprise was when I studied in Spain and went out to eat for the first time. One of the few things I could understand on the menu was conejo, or rabbit. It was cut up with the bone in and mixed in a tomato sauce. I had some trouble getting meat off of one of the bones, then slowly noticed an unusual hole in the bone. And then the teeth.”
~ Jennifer, Bloomington, Indiana

Like Jen, there are those that whole-hardheartedly enjoy a little gastronomic exploration. It’s just different. And just because we don’t serve bug for dinner in the United States, doesn’t make them any less mouth watering. I think. Take Sara’s word for it:

“When I was visiting Oaxaca, Mexico, two years ago, I sampled different varieties of grasshoppers — a very common street snack in southern Mexico.

Grasshoppers, or Chapulines in Spanish, are generally served in two way: sauteed whole with oil and spices, or ground up into tiny pieces. They’re generally easier to eat ground up since you can’t make out the bug silhouette … that, you know, you’re about to put in your mouth. They’re refreshingly tasty and full of protein. Just close your eyes and grab a handful!”
~ Sara, Seattle, Washington

And Nick’s:

“Although I’ve eaten African Lion (in Missouri!), pigeon (in Macau, China), Alligator, Rabbit, wild Boar, Goat, Elk, Bison (not nearly so exotic now, but it was when I had it), octopus makes for the best story. I’ve had it twice.

On the first occasion, while in Korea, I told my friend that I’d eat whatever he ordered as long as he was willing to eat it too. To test me, he ordered a smorgasbord of seafood at a place that catered to Asians as opposed to Western tourists.

Halfway through, they brought octopus. It was chopped up and seasoned, but still actively moving (see video). It took me a while to realize that it was easier if I let the food grab the chopsticks instead of the other way around. I also recommend putting it in your mouth carefully to avoid it sucking on to your lips!

On the second occasion (a different trip), we decided to hit up a famous seafood market in Seoul. It was almost like a hidden maze to get there, but when we finally walked through the door, it was huge! Stalls and stalls in every direction. I think it was an entire city block.  We walked around a bit, and then went to a vendor, pointed to the baby octopus  swimming in a bowl of water, and he plucked one out and put it in a bag.  We then walked to a restaurant that was nearby and asked them to prepare it quickly.  They soaked it with soju and then took the cleaver to it, added salt and pepper and served it.  Very tasty!”
~ Nick, Arlington, Virginia

Nick’s octopus story wasn’t the only one we received. Believe me, I enjoy fresh grilled octopus. Grilled being the operative word, here. Elaine has tried octopus, too. Well … part of it, anyway.

“Octopus eyeballs. I thought they were peanuts — they looked JUST like them. Everyone was intently starting at me until I finally noticed and said, “what?” Hysterical giggles. When they told me, I said, ‘huh, I was wondering why they were a little squishy in the middle’.”
~ Elaine, Arlington, Virginia

Mistakes are easy to make … whether it is “peanuts” or “mushrooms” … or something else that looks familiar — but isn’t what you thought.

“The craziest thing I’ve ever eaten was mondongo … a soup made from diced tripe. I got confused and thought I was getting mofongo. I won’t be making that mistake again!”
~ Jorge, Gaithersburg, Maryland

But none of this really camel headbeats our last story. Maybe it’s because I rode one in India, or maybe it’s the picture. Regardless, clearly Jason felt the same way. He passed. 

“In 2008, officers were invited to a Qatari military leader’s beach house. There was an impressive buffet laid out, which included a cooked camel’s head. Other officers partook, but I passed. My palate wasn’t “refined” enough yet to try it”
~ Jason, Arlington, Virginia

I may not eat for a week. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve eaten? Can you top camel? Leave a comment with your story below.

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Posted in In The Blue Corner
One comment on “Food Gone Wild
  1. Amanda says:

    I haven’t tried anything as exotic as camel’s head… just some less common (where I’m from) foods like alligator, ostrich, shark, and kale and Swiss chard from my grandfather’s garden way before kale got trendy. I’m cautiously adventurous, I guess, but would never eat anything that was still moving!