Weird foods of the world
One thing that simultaneously amuses and horrifies me in other countries is the menu. I love that you can waltz up to a street vendor only to discover that your options are stuffed cockroaches, deep-fried crickets or pickled centipedes. That is something you most definitely cannot get at home.
When I lived in Thailand, eating out was a constant Russian roulette of gore. Chicken’s feet, duck’s blood jelly or BBQ dog; you name the animal and I reckon the Thais have found a way to cook it, curry it or failing that, whack it in a jar to frighten the children.
Same goes for the Vietnamese. I remember a very funny dinner where the ‘brave’ (read: show pony) member of our group ordered a deep-fried rat. He got part of its tiny, tiny jaw stuck in his throat. My rule of thumb is that if it can eat you, you shouldn’t eat it and rats will eat you. I’ve seen the BBC’s version of ‘1984’.
In Texas, it’s not so much the ingredients that scare you as the quantities. For example, I was deeply puzzled by the French toast at The Hyatt. It seemed to be made from molten sugar, texturised butter and something undescribable that could only be the work of the Devil. I had to investigate. Turns out they take a big, thick slice of white bread, butter it on both sides, dip it in sugar, batter it, deep-fry and then dip it in sugar again. So good, and yet, ouch, my chest … gurgleahhh … DOA. This is the same hotel where scrambled eggs come straight out of a carton. Yes, these people are so lazy (or semi-catatonic from carbohydrate overload) that they can nary scramble an ova.
My favourite weird food experience, however, was in Peru. But before I go on, I would like to tell you a little story. Imagine you are a young man growing up in the countryside. Your family has lots of pets, including a large clan of lovingly raised guinea pigs. Now imagine that you are asked to mow the lawn on a ride-on mower but noone tells you that the guinea pigs are free-range that day. Forget Texas Chainsaw; this was the Tamworth Mower Massacre.
What is a terribly sad tale in Australia is an entree in Peru.
A year or so ago, The Future Husband and I were up in the hills near Cusco when we popped into a local village for lunch. This was the kind of place where the locals sell you all kinds of hand-woven, hand-dyed wallhangings made out of alpaca wool and the tears of Shamans. We bought everything in sight and signed up for banquet.
We had a nice sopa, followed by a nice roasted guinea pig on bed of rehydrated potatoes. What was especially nice was the fact that we didn’t have to fight over who got the legs because there was enough to go around.
Tell me, Hungry Caterpillars, what have you eaten that freaked the hell out of you? Stuffed cockroach anyone?