Andy Chapman is a good friend of mine. He makes his living in the food business. Now, food is something I have always had a fondness for, and I have the waistline to prove it. But there are some foods I just don’t get.
Liver. I’ve tried, but I just can’t do organs.
Of course, as always, there is an exception.
One time while in Brazil on a business trip, my host took me to a churrascaria, which is a concept I had never heard of at the time. For those of you who are equally ignorant, I learned that it is sort of a barbecue place where they serve a a variety of fire roasted meats. Originating in the Pampa region of Brazil hundreds of years ago, the servers, referred to as passadores, roam the restaurant with hunks of meat on skewers ranging from beef, pork, lamb, chicken, fish to even pineapple. Generally, they offer some twenty or more varieties, some varying only with the cooking method or seasoning.
One of the waiters stopped by offering a sample from a skewer filled with chicken livers. At my host’s insistence, I finally tentatively tried one. Much to my amazement, I found it quite tasty. I suppose it must have had something to do with the preparation or cooking method because my subsequent tries were not successful.
On another occasion, I was on a business trip in Puerto Rico where a large bank customer arranged for us to have lunch at a South American grill of some sort. I think it was either Chilean or Brazilian. Along with one other American in the group, I ordered the mixed grill despite the fact that along with the beef, chicken, and sausage, it also included…the dreaded organs.
I think the selection included a kidney, one other organ as well as one of two round parts of the animal that only the male has. I had decided to try the kidney and maybe the other organ, but I was not about to taste the third one. When a platter the size of a Volvo arrived, I asked my hosts to help me identify what was what which they happily did. It was only later that I recalled their subsequent conversation in Spanish and laughter while I was distracted dealing with my mixed grill.
At the conclusion of the meal, they asked me how I liked the organ part. When I replied that the kidney, of which I had taken only a couple of small bites, “really wasn’t too bad,” their wide grins immediately tipped me off that I had been had. Needless to say, that was my one and only dining experience with that host.
Despite that record, I am much more willing to experiment with food than my wife is.
It was only after we married that I got her to try and like strawberries and, foolishly, lobster, which has been an expensive mistake. Growing up, her approach to trying new foods was to not try them. Though I will say she really surprised me when she consumed the worm at the bottom of the mescal bottle. Of course, this only happened after she had consumed a considerable amount of the mescal in order to get down to the worm.
But there are other foods I don’t get. Like those Styrofoam looking noodles they serve with lettuce wraps. What’s the deal with that? Or rice cakes: like eating crispy air. Those jars of pickled pig parts that sit in this disgusting red liquid in bars and convenience stores is another one I don’t understand.
The only thing worse is when my dad used to get the economy sized jar of pickled pigs feet and put the uneaten portion in the refrigerator at which time the liquid turned into something resembling clear Jello or perhaps congealed mucus. He always seemed to be offended when I consistently declined his generous offer to share.
Brussels sprouts and boiled cabbage. Not only do I not eat those, I don’t like to be in the same building where they are being cooked or same table where they are being consumed. Then there are the array of fried and/or chocolate covered insects. Really? I mean, if I was lost in the jungle I can imagine eating insects or grubs to stave off starvation, but paying big bucks for such gourmet fare?
In writing my first novel, one of the characters has a penchant for eating weird, or as he called it “exotic,” food. This required me to do some research into weird foods and boy there are lots.
I think the Orientals lead the pack in this regard. Pickled snake head fish, salmon candy, canned giant water bugs, artichoke flavored tea, and dried lizards are actually some of the more benign. The worst, in my opinion, include anything eaten alive, natto (fermented soybeans which look like popcorn kernels mixed with snot), large cockroaches served live after having been fed red pepper, cow lungs, and brains from any animal, fish or fowl. Trust me, there are even worse foods, but I feel like I have come as close as I dare to the line after which readers would be so grossed out that they would be forced to the bathroom, unable to finish my blog.
Durian fruit is one of the most enigmatic of the weird foods. This is an exotic fruit that, I have read, has a meat that tastes like a rich custard and is revered in parts of southeast Asia as the “king of fruits”. The taste is not the problem with this food, it’s the odor. Evidently, it is incredibly offensive to most people and so strong that it can be detected at a considerable distance. I read one account where a hotel guest had his fine durian dining experience interrupted by a knock at the door. It turned out to be the hotel manager who confiscated the offending fruit and threatened to evict the guest for any repeat offense.
Setting aside the lost in the jungle scenario, why would anyone eat this? I mean there are a lot of things to eat in the world that don’t require everyone within a two block radius to hold their noses. And can you imagine how hungry the very first durian eater must have been? Not for me. Hold the durian fruit and just pass me the rotten tomatoes and a pair of gym socks to smell, please.
One of my all time favorites was in the deli of a local grocery store. They were actually selling Spam and broccoli casserole. I told my wife that it renewed my commitment to attending church as I am pretty sure that this is a food served in hell.
But my choice for winner of the most gross food or beverage goes to baby mouse wine which the Chinese make by filling a bottle full of baby mice then pouring in rice wine. I’m guessing not too many people worry about the year.
Disclaimer: Frank Wilem is an author, speaker, and all around funny and entertaining guy. On this blog, his stories are based on his real life experiences, often with a satirical twist.
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