Are you one of these? A brave eater? Maybe a better description would be the opposite of a fussy eater. I bet there are lots of moms out there who have (or had) fussy eaters. But a brave eater? In my mind this is the sort of person who wins challenges during Survivor when they have to eat something that would make most people want to throw up just thinking about it. But really, what they were asking these brave eaters to do was to eat something that other cultures think is a real treat. Like drinking cows blood mixed with milk. This is a staple for the Maasai Mara of Kenya and Tanzania. I couldn’t – I just couldn’t.
But you know there are things in my culture that makes that statement laughable. Like the fact that I love black pudding. Growing up in England where it was a staple I thought nothing of it. I never thought to ask my mom how it was made or what it was made of. It was a treat and that was that. It was only when I was older I realised that it is in fact blood sausauge. Ugh – mom – how could you have?
So if you are a traveller how do you cope? Are you a brave eater or are you a coward (like me!).
Probably the most difficult eating place I went to was Japan. I do like sushi and tepanyaki but it seemed that being part of a tour group we were taken to places where they wanted to “showcase” their foods and so several times we got served these very elaborate, very traditional bento boxes. What I would call real touristy food. There would usually be meat, raw fish and honestly some items I was not really sure about. Obviously I wanted to be senstive and appreciative of the meal that had been so beautifully prepared and served so I puckered up and did my best. I honestly had no idea of the identity of most of what I was nibbling on. Some of it was surprisingly good and some surprisingly bad! Some of it I had absolutely no idea what I was eating. I must add that when we were not being officially entertained we wandered the alleyways of Kyoto and found some of the best tepanyaki places ever! We had peered through the small slatted door to check it out only to be waved inside by an Australian couple who said “It’s OK – come in – the food’s great and the wine is cold!”
When it comes to travelling most people like to stick to “safe” options. But that is not always a good idea. Anthony Bourdain was fond of saying that with street food you get the best options – but check out the stalls first and see who has the biggest line up of locals. That’s the one to go to because as Bourdain explains, there is no way that this street food vendor is going to sell food that will make his regular customers sick. Makes sense really. Bourdain was also fond of saying that you should never “eat like a tourist”. Go where the locals go.
So I do try, now and then, to be a brave eater. While visiting Brisbane I actually ordered Moreton Bay Bugs from the menu as it is a classic from that area. Now I love crayfish and this looked to be a bit like crayfish. I was still hesitant and the sweet and patient girl serving me actually brought a raw one to the table so I could see that it was indeed quite like the crayfish I was used to eating in South Africa.
Well it does look a bit suspect here I must admit. But once it is cooked and served it looks a lot like a crayfish tail or giant prawns and with butter and garlic sauce – YUM.
And have you ever managed to eat a wee bit o’ haggis? My goodness, I don’t even want to know what is inside it but I do love a good haggis. You see, ignorance is bliss.
Maybe the trick is to just try a nibble – but don’t ask what it is you are eating. Let your taste buds decide if this is something you like. Not your culture or your preconceived ideas. You might be surprised!