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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Fear Factor

As the Olympics Games kick off in Beijing there will be millions of extra people to feed. Traditional Chinese street vendor fare contains some items other cultures, predominately U.S. cultures, would be disgusted to eat.

I have eaten some things other people may find gross. I was raised on a variety of German and Southern American cooking. We also ate "game" meats as many family members and friends were hunters. Some of the "game" included deer, geese, ducks, squirrels, rabbits, and pheasants. I remember one time my father brought home two pheasants he shot and my brother and I called him a murderer. He didn't bring home any kills for a long time after that. I was 5 and had a pet parakeet so it was terrible to see pretty birds that my father had killed. I got over it as I got older and realized the values of conservation versus overpopulation plus they were delicious. (I can hear the howls of outrage from my PETA friends...)

Other things people might find weird are blood sausage, fried chicken livers and hearts, or pretty much anything in sausage form that definitely contained non-Kosher parts. I had friends in school who ate pickled pigs feet, chitterlings, tripe, head cheese, etc. I also remember my great-grandmother and great-aunt would eat scrambled calf brains and eggs. It sounds weird but is a fantastic source of protein.

A lot of our food prejudices come from how we were raised. Older generations grew up in a time when we raised and slaughtered our own meat. They had no problem swinging a cleaver to remove the head from a chicken then boil it to remove the feathers, take out the guts, quarter it and fry it up for a homemade fried chicken dinner, yum, yum. The advent of slaughterhouses and grocery stores have removed the common man from his food. Most people would not be able to kill or clean their own meat. Hell, most people won't even fish because they don't want to have to clean and prepare it before cooking. It is considered a disgusting and unclean practice but I notice that most people still have not turned to veganism. For all their hoity-toity ideals they still eat meat.

I have no problem eating meat. I don't have a problem eating veal or fois gras even though the practices of raising and feeding animals for those two products stirs up quite a controversy. I do have a problem with raw flesh and things with a rubbery consistency, which is why I never did like the taste of squid even when my friends tell me it was the best squid they have ordered so far. I love fish but only if it is not overcooked, flaky and delicious is the best. I also eat lobster and crab depending on how they are prepared, not rubbery is delicious. But back to Beijing..

Much of the fare at street vendors is eels, starfish, insects, sharks (seriously, they are just fish), all types of fish, snakes, dog (something Americans would be abhorred to eat when they spend thousands on pet treats, toys, and spa treatments for them each year), brains and intestines of various creatures, etc. For the people raised in the "Far East" these items are normal treats and delicacies. When you are raised on something you have no problem eating it.

Thinking about it, it goes back to the old Native American way of not wasting any of the animal that you kill. It is conservation and recycling at its finest. The original "green" way of life. Think about how much edible animal parts we throw away on a daily basis because we think it is gross. Enough to feed a small country.

If we ate insects, amphibians, and reptiles we could diversify to things that would be cheaper to farm than pigs, cows, fowl, and fish. If we could just get over the "fear factor" of eating other things we could drastically reduce farming expenses and maybe appease some PETA efforts to end herd animal cruelty. I have eaten sauteed meal worms and they didn't really have a flavor to them they were just crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. They would be a nice high protein, low calorie crouton substitute on a salad. Another thing that would be great on a salad is wasabi coated edamame. They have a spicy kick with a satisfying crunch and they do a great job at opening up the sinuses.

In effect we need to be more in tune with our food, where it comes from, how we get it, and its impact on the environment and economy. I have friends who grow their own vegetables when weather permits and have chickens for fresh eggs. It is a growing trend that may expand as grocery prices are on the rise. Be adventurous. You never know what you might like and it could help you win a reality show challenge in the future.


Anonymous said...

Those dead animals wouldn't be sold in grocery stores, and available to consumers if someone didn't kill 'em. So, don't kill animals. Put the abattoirs outa business. Quit the ritualistic slaughter in the kosher rites to specially killed beings, whether placed on this green earth for others' consumption or not. ('spect no one's gonna want to eat the old animals that fall over dead either.)

Raise soy and triticale in the fields. Yay!

Mmmm aburage, miso soup with tiny little cubed potatoes and spring onion garnish, aburage, and rice pockets--talk about fast, delicious food.

If want to contemplate something else, rather than focus on the food source, what about concerns with the cleanliness factor? I recall that my dad as an elementary school teacher eating a pile of cooked potato peelings in front of his eye-popped kids to make the point that exposing oneself to a little natural crud helped immure one against the ravages of a defunct immune system.


The Ole' Apothecary said...

You'll have to rename your blog "SLOW Food Pharmacy!"

Big 'N Tasty RPH said...

"Slow Food" is the reason I most like visiting my parents for. I can con them into cooking for me. If you grew up in a household without good "old South" and German cooking you are missing out and probably a lot thinner than I am! Mmmmm, better plan a trip home!