When it comes to food, what do you find crazy? No I’m not talking about putting ketchup on a hot dog or piling prosciutto di San Daniele high on top of wonder bread, then covering it with American cheese to make a bastard sandwich. I’m asking you what you won’t eat. What foodstuff do you find so vile that you just can’t imagine eating it? Where do you draw the line? For me it started out with my brother and I eating ants…how far can I go?
I never knew it, but I was an adventurous eater from a very young age. My mother would cook up something called poor man’s steak for my father once in a while when I was about three or four. It was cooked with bacon and onions and I supposed it was just a cheap cut of meat. I had no idea what liver was but I suppose my parents called it poor man’s steak to avoid the connotation liver carried with it amongst little kids all over the country, and my brother and I were none the wiser. It’s one of my favorite things to eat to this day.
I remember being in a coastal restaurant when I was a kid with my family and suddenly the word “Mako Shark” caught my eye. I was probably twelve or so, and was just coming off a two year bender of nothing but fried chicken or cheeseburgers every time my family ate out. I was ready to expand my horizons, and shark was it. I remember everybody being excited to see if I’d actually eat it and what would it be like. It was fine and truth be told, it was probably just swordfish as it tasted exactly like it…but the child beast of eating was born.
This experience brought me some notoriety amongst my family and peers as a daring eater. I liked this reputation but like anything in life, it’s not what did you do yesterday…it’s what are you going to do for me today? Translation, dance for me circus boy…dance, what else can you entertain me with?! So my eating of strange items continued and I was on to Rocky Mountain Oysters…
For vacation the next summer my parents thought a leisurely drive to Calgary, Alberta Canada from New Hampshire would be a good idea. It was a quick little jaunt of over twenty five hundred miles each way, and if done today would cost as much as an MIT education in gas.
It was fairly uneventful going out there and the most exotic thing I ate was a pizza in Calgary that had pineapple and shrimp on it for twenty two dollars American. These were 1982 dollars, and adjusted for inflation those dollars today could buy the full tasting menu at Le Bernardin with enough scratch leftover to get an hour long massage complete with a happy ending. Seems to me the only one who got screwed back then was my father, who begrudgingly shelled out the cash.
After going to the Stampede and the world Scout Jamboree my brother was participating in, (or was supposed to, but instead got galloping dysentery two days into the event, and spent the next week and a half shitting like a cow in fresh grass and eating whatever it is you eat from an IV jammed into your arm and a bedpan jammed on your hind end) we went to Yellowstone National Park. There was a restaurant in the town of Gardner, MT that had something called Rocky Mtn. Oysters on the menu.
Sight unseen I decided to try them and was pleasantly surprised with how good they were. I always believed deep frying was a no brainer in the making anything taste delicious department. So when I was told they were bull testicles I was shocked and at the same time relieved to find out after the fact what they were. But because they were so tasty, I had no problem in eating them again. My association became taste rather than the unfortunate waste product of something that gives me a stomach ache to think about.
I have few food aversions and can eat anything you and I might consider normal day to day fare. The toughest thing for me to eat is a raw egg which isn’t really done today, but when the film Rocky came out and me and my classmates were aspiring to be bad assed thugs at the age of eight…drinking three raw eggs was the way to do it. I choked them down one at a time and found the last one lingering just a bit in the form of stringy wet dog snot…it was dry heaves for the next half hour but I managed to keep them down. My friend Jeff was not as lucky, nor was his mother’s seven foot fake Ficus tree.
After high school my brother was stationed in England and I got to not only visit him, but I got to try my first blood sausage. This was a surprise of sorts as it’s part of a “full breakfast” and I never gave a thought to the color. When checking out a butcher shop in the town of Ipswich I found out what was in it and again was glad to know afterward due to certain mental or psychological associations.
I’ve had a goodly number of things from chitterlings in Mississippi to Haggis in Scotland, Horse meat in France and a lot of “odd” things in between. I’ve had bugs and grubs in a wilderness survival school and lutefisk in Minnesota (Thanks for the heads up on the gravy and potatoes after I had finished eating the lutefisk!) … So when I saw my friend Roddy’s stories on both Balutand Balutomelet come out, I couldn’t get my head around why I would try Balut.
Balut is a street food in the Philippines, and sometimes eaten as an aphrodisiac. I don’t care if it made me hard as Chinese arithmetic and last longer than the energizer bunny…I couldn’t get my head around the contents. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, I just can’t imagine sipping the juice from the shell and eating the contents without wanting to produce a Technicolor rainbow onto the sidewalk.
I can’t imagine eating fermented shark fin, and I’m pretty sure live spiders, eyeballs, warthog anus, cod sperm and cobra heart aren’t in my future either…there are some things I just don’t need to eat. I understand they are edible and some folks even consider them a delicacy. When a Namibian tribesman makes dinner then tells me warthog anus is delicious while offering me a bite, I’m just gonna have to take his word for it and ask for a rib. I’ll take the risk of offending their delicate sensibilities, rather than risk 5 days of hallucinations and explosive “purging.”
What about you kindly adventurous folks? What are your limitations? What is the food you’ve always wanted to try, but didn’t have the opportunity to? What is the one or multiple things you would absolutely not try? What is the thing you look at and without hesitation say to yourself…”No F’king way!” Do you think these folks eat this stuff because they just want to experience everything the world of food has to offer, or is it because it’s some barbaric game of one-upmanship? Where is your line drawn?