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“Look! Salami—and lemon meringue pie—let’s eat breakfast!”
My cousin had just spotted the breakfast buffet at the Diego de Almagro Hotel in Puerto Montt, Chile. Ignoring the prosaic oatmeal, eggs or toast, she loaded her plate with cherry Jell-o™, pistachio pudding, salami and a thick slab of lemon meringue pie.
“I’d never eat this at home,” she murmured between bites.
There’s something about being away from home that affects our eating habits. Me, I seek out and gorge on ice creams in every country I visit.
Panama’s is the cheapest, Alaska’s the most varied, but New Zealand’s is my favorite: Hokey-Pokey, a gooey butterscotch concoction.
When you’re camping, just about anything tastes good—even olives, sardines and. . . vodka?
Deep in the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia, my raft group hauled out on the banks of the Katun River. After setting up my own tent, I hurried over to the laughter-filled dining tent where wonderful smells emanated from a roaring campfire.
While something meaty roasted on sticks, my fellow rafters—mostly Russians—were passing around a big bottle of vodka and trays of little pickles, olives, canned sardines and other salty tidbits.
They mimed that I should first chug a swig of vodka in one gulp then chomp a bite of sardine, olive or pickle. “Sardine is best,” advised Sasha.
I eyed the little fish askance but didn’t want to offend my hosts. I closed my eyes, chugged the vodka, chomped the sardine—and gagged!
My eyes teared with embarrassment, but everyone just laughed good-naturedly.
Slapping my back, Sasha said with a grin, “First time, not easy. Second time, easy. Third time, more easy,” and poured more vodka.
I guess he was right—after the third vodka, I don’t remember coughing. Come to think of it, I don’t remember much of anything. . . .
But lemon pie and ice cream for breakfast—even vodka and sardines--pale in comparison to my friends’ culinary experiments.
Bruce’s meals abroad would shame a “Fear Factor” contestant.
“In some village in far eastern India with tribesmen wearing loincloths and carrying arrows tipped with poison, I ate live poison beetles. That’s right, the same beetles that provided the poison for their arrows.”
What’s the etiquette for eating live poison beetles? “One or two are acceptable, but don't eat three. If you do, you might think you're a beetle and try to crawl under a rock!”
His philosophy for eating the exotic? "You are bigger than they are, so they won't kill you, but you may experience a 'kick' from them. But at my size, [over 6 feet tall] two did nothing and I probably could have handled four or even five. They tasted good-- like combination of vanilla, cinnamon and almond.” His blue eyes twinkle. “Wouldn’t that make a great Ben & Jerry's flavor?”
Tips for eating live beetles? “Close your mouth before they run out!”
He added, almost regretfully, “I was invited for a cobra dinner the next Friday, but, alas, was going to be traveling home then.”
Pete, a surgeon, was attending a Rotary International Surgical Camp outside of Manila in the Philippines. After hours, some of the doctors wanted to unwind in Manila.
“We were walking the streets after midnight, and you could hear street vendors calling out, ’Bal-o-o-t, bal-o-o-t!’”
The American doctors’ Manila host knew about baluts, which are soft-boiled duck egg embryos reputed to be a Filipino aphrodisiac. The host believed in sharing all aspects of Filipino culture with his guests.
They entered the restaurant and ordered a San Miguel beer, then a second beer and finally the balut. It came after the third beer.
“The blue shell was cracked like a soft boiled egg and the two halves were separated. My host held the two halves in his hands. The left hand held the little duck embryo— with little web feet-- and its attached yolk sac. His right hand held the amniotic fluid and uncooked white of the egg. He offered me the two delicacies.
“I chose the right hand first, took a big gulp and swallowed the amniotic fluid and liquid egg white of the duck egg. In the other hand I inverted the egg shell and the duck embryo—feet and all--and egg sac slid into my mouth.
“The soft warm yolk ran down the corner of my mouth. I crunched developing bones, web feet, duck bill and embryo—and needed another San Miguel to wash everything down!”
What unusual dishes have you tried?
When you think about it, to an Easterner, New Mexican tamales are an adventure!
c. “Follow Me!” Ruidoso and Alamogordo (NM) Daily News 2007.Used with permission