If, like Woody Allen, you prefer your fodder deceased and departed, look away right now. Especially if you are fond of our furry and feathered friends.
On the other hand, if you’re just a tad ghoulish and, lets face it, most of us are, you may find what follows pretty fascinating. Disgusting perhaps, cruel and unusual almost certainly but, yes, fascinating.
In Korea and China, there’s a ‘health tonic’ that tastes like petrol and looks like the slaughter of the innocents. Without the human babies. To make
Baby Rice Wine, tiny newborn mice, less than three days old, are wrested from their distraught mummies and plunged into a vat of rice wine. Why so young? So that you don’t end up swallowing any fur. If a bit of crunchy beak and a mouthful of feathers doesn’t put you off you could try balut. This Filipino street food consists of duck eggs, carefully incubated until the foetus is nicely developed. Then it’s boiled alive.
At least they are not alive when you eat them. Unlike the unfortunate baby octopus in Korea. It doesn’t go down without a fight though and clings tenaciously to your chopsticks. Horrible as it sounds, it’s not that different from dropping lobsters into boiling water or eating oysters. On the other hand, the story that Chinese people eat a monkey’s brains from its skull while it is still breathing appears to be an urban myth. Great news for the monkeys – and for us.
Not extreme enough? Try playing Russian roulette with a fish. The notorious Japanese blowfish have been known to kill around 300 people annually, though some reports exaggerate the number wildly. Unless it’s prepared by a specially licensed chef, the lethal poison in the fishes’ organs can paralyze the muscles while leaving the diner fully conscious.
If you’d rather be mobile when you meet your maker, there are other ways to risk your life at the table. Sardinia’s infamous Casu marzu is riddled with the larvae of the cheese fly. Make sure to eat the cheese while the maggots are alive; when they’re dead they’re toxic. Mind you, they’ll get you either way. These athletic critters can jump up to six inches and make straight for the eyes. There’s also the little matter of intestinal larval infection; this is where they take up residence and bore through your internal organs. Nice!
Casu Marzu Image: Wikipedia/Shardan
Feeling a little squeamish? Perhaps what you need is a blood transfusion. The culinary variety. Our blood pudding seems tame compared to some dishes. The Maasai take blood directly from the neck of a living cow, mix it with milk then drink it. And not a vampire in sight. In the Philippines congealed duck blood, Tiet Canh, is a popular favourite. As is Dinuguan – blood stew with intestines, heart, ears and snout. It’s all bubbled together with garlic, chili and vinegar. Still, when it comes down to it, our blood pudding is not that different from Tiet Canh. I imagine oysters don’t enjoy being eaten alive any more than baby octopus do. It all comes down to a matter of taste and culture. Me? I’ll stick to sugar mice.