Monday, June 19, 2006

There are certain national generalizations that are safe bets such as never try out-drink a Russian and don’t talk politics with anyone from the Middle East. I have made both of those mistakes. I recently discovered another.

I am pretty proud of my adventurous nature when it comes to cuisine. Having grown up in the south of the states with a number of hunters in the family, I have eaten a children’s alphabet worth of god’s creatures (A is for alligator to Z is for Zebra). I can usually trump any bizarre culinary dish that a person comes up with. That is until I met the French. I was aware of the Gallic penchant for guts and offal. No worries, I’ve had hog maw and chitlins.

In conversation this is always a fun topic to bring out when chit-chatting with strangers. On this occasion the conversation naturally settled on differences in national dishes. I was feeling pretty confident and brought out some of my standards such as my experiences with Dorian fruit, chicken feet and barbecued squirrel. We all took our turns regaling each other with bizarre dishes but I knew I was out of my league when the owner of the guesthouse told of the Senegalese dish of meatballs that are spiced with chillis and then buried until they are good and rancid. They are then dug up and fried. Wild animals never disturb these meatballs as they age. She says it is due to the chillis. I thought it was more likely that there are limits to what even a scavenger will put past its canines. By the end of the night I was thoroughly humbled by the fearlessness of the French appetite. In hindsight I should have known better having encountered on a few occasions the breeze the wafts from the Frenchman’s cheese box or in their tongue “la boîte de mort”.

Here's a little dish we had in Paris. Waiter! My ice is infested.


  1. May I suggest you try competing with Koreans? They beat the French hands down for what they will eat! A popular bar snack in Seoul is something which looks, smells, feels and tastes like dead cockroaches. In fact, that's exactly what it is.

    My strangest meal there was a meal of small birds, the size of quail, which had been plucked, baked whole and then put, 3 or 4 at a time, onto sticks, kebab style, and served with rice and kimji. The birds still had their heads.

  2. That's just it. I can't compete. I have been humbled.