Thursday, October 30, 2008

New Frontiers in Grossing Me Out

Let me start off by saying that, when it comes to food, it takes an awful lot to really gross me out. I love food, and usually this is an uncomplicated emotion. It feeds me, gives me yummy flavor to enjoy, and because I am not hungry, I am happy. Actually, let me clarify: it's not that I love eating all food, it's more a case of being willing to eat all food. Having said that, I really do enjoy good food. Nothing makes me happier than going to a lovely restaurant, or tucking into a homemade lasagna, a delicious chocolate cake, or a beautiful bottle of wine. In the best of all worlds, I am doing all of those things simultaneously. In other places, at other times, however, I am quite content with whatever is available, which normally goes just fine. Nothing wrong with trying something new, or eating something less-than-fantastic. However, it doesn't always go so smoothly. Occasionally I have eaten things that made me lose my hair, curl into a fetal position, and cry in my sleep.

Like for example, one time I was leading a tour group of American teenagers in the Amazonian rainforest and in a house visit at a little ribereƱo community I was offered a local delicacy: fat white tree grubs deep fried in palm oil. Having just given the kids my speech about accepting hospitality and being polite, I couldn't very well plead off, so I picked one off of the plate and popped it into my mouth, smiling gamely as I chewed away.  They are surprisingly rubbery, but the heads crunch when you bite into it.  It was, in a word, revolting, but at least I got to wash it down with hot coca-cola. Gah.  

Or have you ever eaten sea urchin? I was at a seafood festival in Chile when somebody offered me a bowl of gelatinous lumpy baby-poop-brown stuff. What is it? I asked. Sea urchin, was the answer. Careful, it's a love-it-or-hate-it kind of thing. Well, tally ho! I thought. Who doesn't love gelatinous lumpy brown sea urchin? Me. It turns out: me. I don't like it. In fact, I almost vomited in my mouth, and for the first time in my life, I actually spat out something I was eating. Gah.

Or god, this one time in Argentina Umulu and I were on one of our EPIC BIKE RIDES that we always inadvertently stumble into. We honestly thought the whole thing wasn't going to take longer than 2 hours, but 40 miles into it, as we laboriously pedaled our creaky rented mountain bikes up and down mammoth hills, we had to face facts. We were shaky-kneed with hunger and still another 10 or 15 miles from town. Luckily, around the next corner we found a guy roasting chorizo (sausage) out of a charcoal brazier set up in the trunk of his car. Oh, yum! We thought. Not so much, it turns out. First of all, the whole thing just tasted a little bit off. Then at one point I looked down at my sausage and realized I was looking at something that was either a tooth or a substantial piece of pig hoof. That was enough for Umulu, who, having found similarly disconcerting things in her sausage, promptly chucked it. But I was hungry, so I picked out the offending items and gamely munched on. Then I bit into something strangely cartilaginous, and pulled a recognizable piece of pig snout out of my mouth. Or or maybe it was an ear? I'm still not sure which, but gah, gah, gah. That did it. It was years before I could eat sausage again.

Then of course I have your average run-of-the-mill food hatreds like any normal person. Peas, for example, particularly when canned or frozen. Ugh. And anise. Just the smell of black licorice makes me run screaming for the hills. And naturally, there have been times when I drew the line and just refused to eat something on the grounds of Are You Fucking Kidding Me. Like when my friend GNO and I were eating Vietnamese food in this dingy little restaurant in Austin. We were eating some huge bowl of soup, we'll just call it the Weird-Meat-O-Rama. I had pretty much identified most of it. Heart, liver, kidney, etc, but there was also these big cubes of gelatinous dark brown material. It kind of looked like tofu, but the wrong color. GNO called a passing waitress, held the suspicious item up on his spoon where it quivered like jello, and we asked her what it was. "Oh that?" she asked. "That's congealed pig blood." No. Way.

Yesterday at lunch time, for the first time in a long time, I extended my limited repertoire of Food I Will Not Eat Ever Again. I went to the archive's cafeteria for lunch at about 2pm, having gotten lost in the papers and forgotten the time. Almost all the food was gone, and I was offered a choice between a chicken taco with the ubiquitous Latin American cabbage salad (imagine cole slaw), or spaghetti that looked like it had boiled in water for 30 to 40 minutes, and then sat in sauce for several hours. No contest, right? Chicken taco. Oh, my god, was that a bad decision. See, "taco" here means, well... Let's just say that when they handed me my plate I had a sudden flashback to Inigo Montoya saying to Vizzini, "I do not think that means what you think it means." What they served me was a little bit of charred and dessicated chicken wrapped in a corn tortilla and then deep-fried so hard that even the tortilla burned. Then it cooled off, so they microwaved it for me. The texture was something between dry plywood, shattered glass, and wet sponge. But the worst part was this. On top of my deep-fried-spongy-crunchy-burned-chicken taco and cole slaw, they had squirted unbelievable amounts of ketchup and mayonaise. I tried.  I really, really tried, but I couldn't force it down. I fought mightily just to eat one bite, but I cannot describe how repellent that combination of taste and texture was. Chalk it up, kids. One more food Amazing Cheastypants will never ever eat again.  Gah.


Alison in CO said...

Now I know what not to fix for you should you ever visit Colorado. Guess I'll just have to stick with lasagna, chocolate cake and some great wine.

Darn. And I had just found a recipe for chorizo with a side of tree grubs that I've been wanting to try. Oh well.

(I'm so glad that I can be a finicky eater sometimes. I would have hurled if any of those foods had passed my lips.)

Evan Ross said...

Sea urchin is so delicious. Try that with a raw quail egg on top at a good sushi spot, and you've got the biggest snot orgies your mouth could ever handle. Yummy! In Taormina, Sicily, our local friend came up from the water with a live sea urchin in her hand. She cracked it open and we ate it right there, water up to the knees. Yummy. Guinea pig in Ecuador was alright. The only stuff I really didn't groove on too much: Chuchi frito stand on 116th Street on the East Side of Manhattan. Sauteed pig ears are not kosher for a reason.

Kate said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you my dear inspirationpants! I have REALLY been needing to lose some weight, and you have effectively destroyed my appetite. You should write a book!

Cheasty said...

alison - I just booked my ticket for colorado. chocolate cake, lasagna, and wine? you couldn't keep me away with a machine gun. guess you'll have to put that tree-grub-chorizo recipe on hold. :)

evan - I always knew you were gross. now I know why. erizo tastes like poopy boogers.

kate - glad to be of service!

Jennoit said...

I've had sea urchin and my reaction was pretty similar to yours. I think it's the texture that I really have trouble with.

Mr. Poopie said...

when I was a little poopie, there would be times that I'd come home from school and before even opening the front door I could smell the putrid odor of pan seared liver and onions wafting through the driveway. No amount of ketchup or Coca-cola would ever make me eat that disgusting rubbery viscera.

Lahrynn said...

Actually, my mom makes liver that's semi-edible. But I think I'll skip the sea urchin. Blick!

Cheasty said...

jennoit - yup, boogers. so disgusting! glad your'e with me on that one! ;)

mr. poopie - ew. i don't find liver disgusting on its own, but when you mentioned ketchup and coca-cola, i got a horrific mental image. oh, shudders...

lahrynn - yes, stay away! stay far, far away!