Monday, December 27, 2010

How Could They EAT That?!

After seeing multiple examples over the past couple of months of people in other lands eating (to me) truly gruesome, disgusting or downright nauseating 'traditional foods', I have developed a theory.

The grosser the food- the more recent hardship that culture has endured.

I was talking to the kids one evening about how my family has a recipe for Ox-Tail soup that has survived 50 years. And how grandparents used to eat sweetbreads, to which I got a great big "ooohgross!" I remembered that Sweetbreads made a big comeback in the U.S. during the Great Depression, which led to this theory.

I thought of Chinese eating fried scorpion on a stick.  And some Vietnamese who drink liquor seasoned from snake bile, then eat the heart and the meat.

And I thought of other cultures that partake of insects, jellyfish, rats and various reptiles as if they were delicacies...

and I realized these are starvation protein foods. Over time they have evolved into cultural delicacies.

Alcohol too is not exempt. Like Kvas, "The Russian summertime beverage made from fermented cubes of stale black or rye bread is just as widespread as vodka, the country’s other brew of fame."

Stale rye or black bread (the poorest bread) made into liquor reads making the best of extreme hardship to me.

So  the next time you see a show about a place or visit somewhere that has strange eating habits - you probably can bet that place has suffered an:
Rotten Soybeans - Asia

A. Extended War or armed conflict

B. Long term natural disaster such as drought

C. Economic disaster

D. Any combination of the above.

After all, any source of edible protein to extend life is better than none.

How many children nibbled on Rotten Soybeans -perhaps from fields ruined by flooding- because they were starving? And now to them it is a comfort food of childhood. "This kept my brother and myself from starving to death when the bombs were dropping and the rains flooded our villages." Ditto boiled snake or fried crickets or bulls testicles.

Think about it.

We have even been known to munch on each other in extremity. Fortunately this is still culturally unacceptable everywhere or travel could be a bit more interesting.