Heston and Gordon trying to shock TV viewers with gastronomic oddities has become quite flaccid. Just the other night Gordon feigned astonishment at the traditional slaying of a buffalo for a Cambodian wedding. A buffalo is little more than a cow with big horns, somehow they think this is ground-breaking television?
If they’re going to document the diversity in acceptable food produce maybe they could have the courage to actually show the extremes, the planet contains cannibals, put your cameras on them, some live in London! (a friend of mines ex-boyfriend once snuck a human liver from the hospital where he worked and served it up to eager guests, this is true. I have seen photographic evidence). It seems doltish to fall somewhere between that and some sanitised pre-watershed celebration of cupcakes presented by Gwyneth Paltry (did I spell that wrong, sorry I meant Gwyneth Poultry)
Food is an incredibly expansive subject and holds an expanse of a subjectivity. At several times a day, for our whole lives, the choices we make regarding what goes in our mouths is possibly the most common and consistent choice we make. Exploit it!
Some people eat purely as a means of sustenance, others to invigorate and refresh, others as an obsession. The variations in taste and acceptability of different foods around the globe is fascinating. Jewish people refuse to eat shellfish, as they consider it filthy, but Belgians thrive on them. Chinese folk will not touch anything dairy, but your average Greek chap accompanies most meals with yogurt. No swine meat is produced in India, but Italians make their bones on it. In Scotland they will not eat battered fish unless it’s the rare mythical ‘Mars bar’ variety only caught in Scottish waters. The list goes on.
Here are a few examples of ‘One man’s meat’ that I’ve indulged…
Whole caramelised baby crabs (Thailand)
Tiny crabs coated in a thin layer of burnt sugar. Perfect replacement for popcorn.
Donkey (Montpellier, France)
The butcher I bought my donkey steaks from during a seven month stay in France would give me a lollipop and lavish me with praise for being the south of France’s most adventurous Englishman. Horse and donkey steak is almost identical to beef steak.
Brain (St Petersburg, Russia)
Hannibal Lector has done little to advance the popularity of this delicacy. Nor does serving one whole on a plate with a blow-torched caramel coating. Food for "thought".
Fermented shark with Brennivin (Iceland)
A tradition with those beautiful loony Vikings. The shark is buried, whole, for 3 months, the local elders are invited to piss on it (this is to neutralise the poisonous uric acid present in locally caught shark) then it is hung to cure for weeks, then eaten in small pieces with a mouthful of Brennivin, the local moonshine.
Roast pigs head (My flat, Camden)
Apart from drinking a blister this is the nearest I’ve been to cannibalism. There is good reason why cannibals call Human meat ‘Longpig’ as the preparation of a pigs head is eerie. You brush its teeth, clean out its ears, shave its face and eyelashes, during which the evolutionary similarities to humans become apparent. After four hours of roasting in brandy, the tasty carnivorous feast serves to dissipate the thought of its lifeless beady eye and that you are actually eating long lost family.
Dog (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)
There’s plenty of meat on a dog, and plenty of dogs in Vietnam. It makes perfect sense to eat them.
Snake soup (Ben Tre, Vietnam)
Easy to skin, easy to cook.
Barbecued sparrow (Enfield, London)
A couple of years ago there was an article on the London news regarding the diminishing number of sparrows in the capital. A few days later I attended an ‘Allotment Barbecue’ with my then girlfriend’s Greek family. A great concept and a marvellous community atmosphere, her aunties and uncles pulled vegetables out of the earth and cooked them up…..and set traps to catch sparrows……which we then skewered and ate. They were too tasty to go ringing the RSPB.
Fried toad (Bankok, Thailand)
One minute it’s jumping around, the next, a five year old girl is cutting it up with scissors and throwing it in a wok. Great street food.
Roast pigs tails- (my flat, Camden)
A fine snack. Contrary to public belief, a pigs tail is actually straight, and once its been braised, seasoned and blast roasted is incredibly tasty. In addition, due to its form it has a natural handle. If you like pork and crackling sandwiches you will love pigs tails.
Cods tongues (Iceland)
Please appreciate that the average size of a cod in Iceland is about 6 foot. So the tongues are fairly big. They are marinated and sautéed and are delicious.
Moonfish (Mekong Delta, Vietnam)
Many villagers in Vietnam have natural ponds in the back garden, with fish, this pond often has a toilet, on stilts, in the centre, which, for modesty reasons, is generally used at night. The fish eat the ‘waste’. The villagers (and guests) eat the fish.
Barbecued snapper Head (Sri Lanka)
The snapper in Sri Lanka can be massive. The head is the size of a football and contains a nights-worth of finger picking entertainment for a pesce-phile.
‘Warm’ camels milk (Dubai)
This is camel’s milk squirted straight from the udder and into the mouth. Like a mammalian drinking fountain. Take your own Nesquik.
Live baby mice (Korea)
In England we have peanuts, pork scratchings, crisps. Over there, they serve a bowl of new born mice, one bite then swallow.
Live clam (San Francisco)
This is a funny one. The clams they serve are the size of your fist, they prize them open and you eat them whole. A clam is essentially one muscle and a ‘feeler’ which is still ‘feeling’ as you chew.
Bulls ear (Madrid)
An apt snack after a night watching the ‘Toro’.
Bone marrow salad (Smithfields, London)
Looks awful. Tastes sublime.
‘Face’ Tacho (Santa Barbara, California,USA)
Believe me an authentic taco does not resemble anything from Taco Bell. Sitting with my Mexican comrades I was treated to eyeball and face Taco. It felt like I was living inside a Pixies song.