Trying local food is a major part of any travel experience. But what happens when the local food falls under the ‘extreme cuisine’ category? Do you look upon the experience with relish and fascination? Or do you, like me, make up all the excuses under the sun not to try it?
To be honest, I’m simply not all that adventurous when it comes to food. But just because I don’t want to eat it doesn’t mean I’m not fascinated by what other people are willing to eat. I’m always more than happy to be an observer. I’m always keen to go to the Wild Foods Festival held in Hokitika, New Zealand every March. But not to chow down. I go just to wander around, take in the atmosphere and watch others enjoy the experience of eating grasshoppers and grubs and drink bulls semen and other outlandish concoctions.
I’ve even been known to watch Fear Factor and other televisions shows that encourage the eating of what many would call ‘extreme cuisine’.
More recently, I’ve been reading a new book by Lonely Planet called Extreme Cuisine. Written by Eddie Lin, it invites the reader to challenge their idea on what is good eating. The small, pocket sized book features 50 of the world’s most interesting and bizarre foods from around the world.
Some might argue that not all of the 50 items are that extreme. After all, marmite is a staple diet for New Zealanders and Australians and Haggis is fairly common place for the Scottish.
But most of the foods listed really are pretty extreme. Take for example Casu Marzu from Sardinia. Literally translated, it means ‘rotten cheese’. More accurately, it is maggot-infested cheese. Thanks but no thanks!
There’s also tarantulas, stingrays, bull penis, and cow’s udder. Plus raw chicken, pure pork fat, and fugu for those with a death wish.
But what’s even more extreme, at least to me, is that author Eddie Lin, obviously an intrepid and fearless eater, has sampled each and every one of these foods in the course of his search for extreme cuisine. And, I might add, he has lived to tell the tale.
Each food is given two pages. One page features a huge, technicolour picture of the specific food and the opposite page provides a colourful description, explaining what it is, where you can find it, and how it tastes (and smells and looks). It makes for very interesting reading. But, be warned, the vivid pictures and text are not for the weak of stomach.
On the other hand, Extreme Cuisine would make the perfect Christmas stocking stuffer and conversation piece for the adventure traveller and food lover in your life. If I didn’t already have a copy, I’d sure be adding it to my Christmas wish list.
(Disclosure: Lonely Planet Extreme Cuisine was provided free for review)