I’m not much of a world traveler. Outside of a dinner in Juarez and a week of giving speeches in Alberta, the only other country I’ve been to is Australia. The only thing foreign to me there was vegemite, a salty, bitter, wood-putty-like substance that they slathered on everything they ate. It smelled like a pair of gym socks that haven’t been washed in a month and tasted like what gets in your mouth when you work cattle with your mouth wide open.
On the opposite side of the world-traveling spectrum we have some friends who are always bragging about how adventurous they are, as if Scotland is the New Frontier and they are Davy Crockett or something. I’ve heard their story numerous times about how they survived a week in Croatia, surviving on nothing but food and water.
My friends are always off gallivanting all over the world, trying to eat a bigger slice of life than us homebodies. They have scrapbooks documenting how they had their stomachs pumped on three continents. The cosmopolitan couple brag about having eating zebra, fried cockroaches, lutefisk soaked in lye, boiled sheep eyeballs and stewed pig intestines all while trying to make me feel small because the most gutsy and dangerous foods I’ve ever consumed were my mom’s leftovers.
I have no desire to travel abroad or to eat the food the natives do. No thank you, I’ll stick to my good old mononitrate, monosodium glutamates right here in the U.S. of A. I’m not going anywhere, especially with all the terrorism going on around the world.
But my friends shrug it off and say, “But Lee you should have tasted the fried scorpions and grasshoppers we had in Thailand, the stink bugs we ate in Africa, the tuna eyeballs, wasp crackers and fried spiders in Japan, the witchery grubs in Australia, the silkworms in Korea, the congealed blood in Europe, the birds-nest soup in Vietnam and the deep-dish haggis in Scotland.”
“That sounds like real throat ticklin’ grub all right. I’ve never met anyone who enjoyed bad food as much as you two. But was any of that stuff any good?”
“Heck no.” admitted my friend. “It was the most god-awful stuff I’ve ever tasted. But those dishes paled in comparison to how bad the camel hump and sweet and sour yak was.”
“Not yuk. Yak,” said my friend. “I’ll tell you, traveling abroad is a great way to lose weight. Whenever my wife wants to shed a few pounds we go to some exotic locale, eat what the natives do and she comes home at least ten pounds lighter.”
“You may be on to something. Write a cookbook on the Foreign Food Diet and get rich. But seriously, what was the absolute worst food you ever tasted?”
“I’d say it was a toss-up between the deep dish dog, the refried locust larvae, or the rat we had in Laos.”
“Refried locust larvae? My Grandpa would have called that eatin’ the bait. That stuff sounds like it would kill a Duroc. How do you even eat it?”
“Well, in the case of the dog, rat and camel, the natives advise you to dig deep in the barrel because that’s where the biggest hunks of dog, rat or camel are. So we ate the broth off the top. But some foreign food is delicious. Like the Foi gras we had in Paris.”
“I make it a rule not to eat anything I can’t pronounce. Do you have any other advice for would-be world travelers who want to enjoy bad worldwide cuisine like you two?”
“There’s the “jungle rule” which states, “If you can’t peel it or cook it, forget it.”
“Was there ever any food that you just flat-out refused to eat?” I asked.
“Yeah, my mother’s fried Spam sandwiches.”
“Point well taken.”