Food preferences vary wildly among the world’s cultures. In some Far East countries, it is a rare treat to eat monkey brains — live. Africans love chocolate covered grasshoppers and ants. Koreans eat live octopus. The French eat snails. Chinese eat fried chicken feet, seahorses, rats, scorpions and starfish. Mexicans eat intestines in a clear soup called menudo. I tried it once — yuck! It tasted like guts.
There’s even a new reality show highlighting the weirdest culinary treats from around the globe, aptly titled “Bizarre Foods.” I got stuck watching it one time when I was having my nails done at an Oriental salon. It showed some pretty disgusting things. I was so sickened by it all that I ate only saltine crackers and water for the next two days.
My cousin, who has hardly ever ventured outside of Texas, made an epic journey halfway around the world to visit a friend in Indonesia. Besides the shock of having to use a primitive, hole-in-the-floor type toilet in the modern airport in Jakarta, the biggest adjustment she had to make was getting use to the food selections. She was trying to squelch the desire to throw up at a fancy dinner party one night when her table mates were eating the chicken entrails cooked inside the bird. She picked at her rice and vegetables waiting for the moment when she could finally snag a drumstick. When she tried, her host was mortified. “Oh no!” he said through a translator, “we don’t eat the meat. That’s for the servants!”
There are some pretty weird dishes here in the U.S., too, like sweetbreads, frog legs, raw oysters and caviar. But the one that I’d rather not eat is testicles. Some genius came up with a romantic euphemism for those things — “mountain oysters.” I got tricked into eating some goat “fries” one time by my prankster husband. When I found out what I had just eaten, I was horrified. I just knew I would wake up making billy goat noises the next morning.
We used to have an Italian friend in Dallas who swore that the best tasting meat was horse meat. It is one of the most popular meats in the world, outside the states. It is very lean and supposedly tastes like a cross between beef and venison. He told us a story about a couple of his Italian buddies that were living in Canada. They were driving through the countryside when they came upon a small farm with a handwritten sign scrawled on a piece of plywood that advertised a horse for sale. They decided to stop and take a look.
The farmer showed them the horse, a sorrel gelding that he and his children no longer rode. It was getting older but still had a few good years left on him. The men inspected the animal, looking at his hooves and in his mouth, but mostly checking the condition of his muscle tone. They negotiated a price with the farmer and shelled out the money. When he asked what they were going to do with the horse, they told him that they planned to butcher him and feed their families.
The farmer managed to conceal his outrage. “Can you wait here one moment?” he asked quietly. The men waited and wondered what the farmer was up to. They found out in a few minutes when he bolted out the door with a loaded shotgun. “Get the h___ off my property!” he yelled. When they asked what was wrong, he told them how sick and demented it was to eat a horse, and how that just wasn’t right. They tried to remind him that they’d made a deal, but somehow, looking down the barrel of loaded gun was a more convincing argument. The farmer tossed their wad of cash back at them, and they barely managed to scrape it all up before they scampered back to their truck and took off.
Next time they found a horse to buy, they kept that vital piece of information to themselves, especially if they were west of the Atlantic. ❖