Tuesday 20 March 2012


Do you ever wonder how some cultures came up with certain foods – or the preparation thereof - that are highly questionable (to other cultures of course). And no culture is immune. Each one has a few dishes that make the stomachs of other cultures turn over.

Take the English for instance (insert joke here about the culinary history of the English. There are many), when I first moved here and had my first glance of mushy peas, I seriously thought about returning to America. No disrespect, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around a dish that resembled, well…Kermit the Frog’s vomit. Making matters worse was that usually mushy peas were usually served alongside fish and chips and back then the chips were wrapped in newspaper. To my OCD brain, I may as well have eaten the fish off the bottom of my shoe (I've been told newspaper is incredibly sanitary, but I'm not buying it). But I digress of course. When it comes to the common garden pea, it has been eaten for over 8000 years. The Romans apparently ate loads of them, but rarely ate them fresh. I’m not sure how the English decided that mashing them to a pulpy soupy mush was a good idea, but alas, there you have it.

Now, of course, so I don’t receive piles of responses telling me how vulgar food is in my country, I shall of course balance the scales. To most the world, when it comes to America the thing people always comment on is the portions size. That’s far too easy. But to the English, and many other cultures, the American version of the biscuit (not to be confused with the English version which is a cookie) completely baffles the mind. They simply can’t understand why some Americans (I’m thinking this is more popular in the deep South, as it never came across my Californian table) take this doughy scone like object, smother it with gravy or god knows what else people put on it, and eat it with their dinner. To the English this is just wrong. I’m sure the Italians and Spanish also find this hideously offensive. But, when it comes to comfort food, there are scores of Americans that think the biscuit is tantamount to gourmet heaven (I’m not one of them, but I hold no judgment).

Then there are the cultures that simply jump out of the box and make the rest of us look like amateurs. Russians often partake in boiled beef tongue; The Chinese delight in their shark fin soup not to mention grasshoppers, assortment of bugs, and cow testicles; in the Filipino culture fertilized duck eggs are commonplace. And apparently in Peru, it is not rare for people to eat Guinea pigs (dear god, make it stop). 

The Japanese go one better and have a dish called Shirako. It is the male genitalia of fish – wait it gets worse. And essentially it is a sack that contains seminal fluid that is served at most sushi bars. I love sushi and am pretty daring when it comes to Japanese food, but even that pushes the boundary of where I’m willing to go. 

And yet, food is a lot like entertainment – there is something for everyone. One man’s ‘forget about it,’ is another man’s culinary delight. The irony of course, is the longer you spend in a culture, the sooner you find yourself imbibing that very thing that used to turn your hair white (um, not me; I'm pretty stubborn when it comes to these things. There is not a chance a tongue, bug, or animal ball is going into my mouth). So next time you’re balking at what another country is eating, take a look at your own (Twinkie, I’m talking to you!), the foods your own culture ingests upon closer inspection could make your own stomach turn.
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