My husband, Dov, and I love to travel and we love to eat. In fact, we will pretty much go anywhere and eat anything…well, almost anything. Dov once ate what he thought was a blue caterpillar in Zimbabwe (it was actually a well-known delicacy known as Mopane worms). I took a pass on that one.
Sometime later, the first year that foreign tourists were able to travel independently, we went to Guilin, China on the beautiful Li River. As we wandered along the main street, we noticed that all of the restaurants all had little buckets and cages out in the front filled with different types of edible creatures: snails (not the garlic-butter kind), rats, eels, and snakes. We ate Korean in Guilin.
The exotic foods of Laos
In Laos, we took a small bus from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. On the way, somewhere in the highlands, the driver stopped at a local food market because he wanted to buy a badger (that’s right, a badger) for his family’s evening meal.
The market was filled with different types of dead animals for sale. Yeah, I know, we have dead animals in our markets, too…but with the exception of whole fish, they don’t usually look like animals. These did.
There were tiny song birds in full feather, bats, a variety of small mammals, and yes, there was a dead badger, complete with its fur, that our driver bagged for his family dinner.
On our trip to the Mekong Delta of Vietnam, we ran across a menu as big as a billboard (as shown on the right). It was advertising a variety of animals available for lunch.
Please note, the sign did make it clear that turtles and snakes were no longer on the menu. Turtles because they are protected, and snakes because they eat mice and that is a good thing for the farmers of the region.
Are those really what I think they are?
Now, it’s one thing to hear about people eating dog and quite another thing to be roaming around an open-air market in the hill country of northern Vietnam (Sa Pa, to be exact) and come across dog paws and horse hoofs prominently displayed next to their meat. Interesting, yes? Distressing, no. To the indigenous hill people in this area, eating dog is lucky and eating horse is, well, tasty.
If I could have described to them how the average American eats, they might look askance at some of the stuff we call food and chow down without a second thought. For example, processed sugar coated cereals, filler-fortified hamburgers, high fructose corn syrup sweetened yogurts, soft drinks that are a mixture of chemicals and sugar, and just about everything else.
People in the hill country are a practical and thrifty sort. Nothing goes to waste and everything is put to good use. This is to be admired in today’s throw-away society.
Now, I am not ready to consider having my big black lab, Sherman, for dinner, but I am ready to be much more open about what I eat and what I don’t. Food for thought?
I would love to hear about the most exotic food you ever ate….or had the chance but didn’t!