February 11, 2016

12 Bizarre Foods That People Actually Eat

One of the things that sets us human beings apart from other animals the way we make eating such a big deal. We think about our food, analyze it, get creative with it, take pictures of it, write books about it, and invite others to our homes for ritualistic sharing of it. Other animals don’t do that. They just get food, then eat it. End of story. And yet for all our sophisticated terminology, our “molecular gastronomy” and our “amuse bouches,” we still eat some weird stuff that, to some of us, doesn’t even seem like food at all—stuff that we find hard to believe humans still consume in this culinary age of pasteurized everything and organic boneless skinless chicken breast. So here are some examples.

12. Squirrel Brain

Surely you’ve seen TV shows or movies where they make jokes about mountain folk eating scrappy little forest creatures, but I bet you’ll take those jokes more seriously now. What’s really amazing about this clip is the fact that people are taking squirrel-eating so seriously. I mean, I get the appeal of comfort food, but do we really need to make woodland rodent cuisine high-end?

11. Escamoles

Mexican cuisine is quite diverse and varies by region. And in some regions you will find a love for a traditional delicacy called escamoles…which are ant eggs (larvae). They are harvested from the roots of agave or maguey plants and cooked up real nice with herbs and spices. Sometimes, they’re served in tacos with guacamole. But they’re always pricey, at $50-$70 a kilo. This video isn’t the best, but it is accurate and informative. Mmmm bug eggs!

10. Hormiga Culona

In Colombia, as everywhere, people like a crunchy snack now and then. Yet whereas you probably go for something like popcorn or potato chips, many northern Colombians will reach for the toasted aunts. They call them Hormiga Culona, which literally means “big-butt aunt queens.” They roast ‘em and pop ‘em like candy. Weird, but, honestly, I’d give it a shot.

9. Lutefisk

Lutefisk is just a Scandinavian dish made of white fish that is dried and then soaked in lye. What is lye, you ask? Just a corrosive alkaline substance commonly known as sodium hydroxide and found—in harsher, more potent versions—in many household products, such as drain opener and over cleaner. The lye basically dissolved the proteins of the fish, turning it into a clear, gelatinous goop. This goop is then cooked and eaten. Incredibly, despite having been stripped of all its natural food-like properties, this “food” is actually quite popular in North America in areas with large populations of Scandinavians (for example, Minnesota or British Columbia).

8. Raw Seal

While raw seal definitely does not appeal to our delicate Western appetites, it seems that, if you were starving, there are worse things to have to eat (um, see below). Of course, the Inuit today do not have to eat raw seal because they are starving. It is tradition and, as you can see in this video, they find it quite tasty. Especially the eye balls. Yum!

7. Fried Tarantulas

Well, I guess that’s one way to overcome Arachnophobia.

6. Kopi Luwak coffee beans

If you’re rich and looking for a way to impress your coffee-loving friends, this stuff is for you. Kopi Luwak coffee beans are the most rare and, therefore, expensive coffee beans in the world. The only thing is, they aren’t rare and expensive because this particular type of coffee tree is rare, or because it only grows in very rare agricultural conditions, or anything normal like that. No, Kopi Luwak coffee beans are rare because you can only get them from the poop of a little forest animal in Asia called a Palm Civet. Yep, these raccoon relatives eat the fruit off of coffee trees (called cherries) and then excrete the seeds of that fruit (coffee beans). People go around scavenging for Palm Civit turds, collect the beans, and sell them to rich white people thousands of miles away. Some coffee nerds say the taste is unique and exquisite, mellow with a distinct nuttiness…I say yeah, there’s nuttiness alright.

5. Casu Marzu

Casu Marzu is cheese. It is from Sardinia. And I know what you’re thinking: “yeah, sure, some cheese is pretty stinky, but come one, how bad could cheese really be?” Well, this cheese is bad. Like, riddled with live insect larve bad. To attain a level of fermentation that looks and smells more like decomposition, the makers of this fine dairy product add the insect larvae on purpose. When eating the cheese, it’s your choice to either leave the larvae in or brush them out. But be warned: when disturbed these little bugs jump up to six inches. For obvious reasons pertaining to public health, the government has tried to outlaw this nastiness; however, passionate supporters have been able to get around these attempts by having the cheese declared an official “heritage” food, not subject to standard hygiene regulations.

4. Igunaq

Igunaq is an Inuit delicacy. It is raw, year-old, decomposing and fermenting, partially frozen walrus meet. They kill a walrus in the warm summer months, bury a hunk of its meat in the ground to age over the course of the winter, and then dig it up the next year. It has to be eaten immediately, before it thaws out, or else it “goes bad”—although, at this point, exactly what it means for food to “go bad” seems to be more a matter of opinion than science. As for the taste? Well, in the video one of the Eskimo gentlemen describes certain parts as more pungent than blue cheese, and other parts as simply inedible for the white TV host doing the sampling. So, yeah, rotting meat is an acquired taste.

3. Seagull Wine

Here we have yet another strange “food” from the amazing Inuit. Seagull Wine, one must imagine, was born out of a kind of bored anguish the likes of which most of us have never experienced. I mean, everyone feels the “need” for a drink now every now and again, but have you ever been so desperate that you caught seagull, killed it, stuffed it in a jar with some water, set it out in the sun to ferment? Didn’t think so. Then again, you don’t live above the Arctic Circle, where they had to grow accustomed to raw seal and decomposing walrus meat just to meet their basic nutritional needs. Come to think of it, next time you complain about the new Facebook layout, just go ahead and slap yourself in the face.

2. Balut

Balut is what they call it in the Philippines, but this tasty treat is also popular in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian nations. What is it? Why, just a fertilized duck egg containing a nearly formed duck fetus, incubated about 17 days, which is boiled alive and eaten right out of the shell. They are pretty much always sold cooked, not raw, by street vendors, who keep them in a bucket of sand so they stay warm. In Vietnam they like their duck fetuses about 2 – 3 days older, when they look even more like baby ducks and have developed bones that add an extra chewy texture to the snack.

1. Baby Mouse Wine

This is seriously a real thing. The stuff comes to us from rural Korea, where it is believed to cure just about anything that ails ya. And here’s the good news everyone: you can make this stuff for yourself right at home! All you have to do is get a nice bottle of rice wine (the Japanese call it “sake”), throw in a handful of baby mice (about 2 – 3 days old), put the bottle in the cellar, and, in about a year, you have a delicious bottle of Baby Mouse Wine! Why baby mice you ask? Well, you wouldn’t want a bunch of nasty mouse hair in your rice wine, would you? Baby mice are hairless! And how does it taste? Well, if you have to ask, this is probably not the magic elixir for you, my friend.