Down The Hatch…

food

“Ew, you ate what?”

It’s a virtual certainty. Go to a foreign country and eat the typical fare, and you’re bound to disgust somebody with your choices. Personally, I find eating to be one of traveling’s pleasures; but then again, I also have a perverse streak that pushes me to ingest unidentifiable regional dishes. Regardless of how slimy or dismaying a dish may seem, if a local tells me it’s delicious, I’ll eat it.

Given that, I got to thinking about the strangest things I’ve eaten around the world. Some are delicious, some are sort of squishy, and others may or may not have given me food poisoning. Ah well, here’s to new experiences, right?

1. Lemon ants

Yep, they’re a thing. These little ants live in the rainforests of Ecuador, existing in a mutually beneficial relationship with a particular tree. Break off a twig from that tree, split it open, and you’ll find teensy tiny brown ants crawling inside.

Now comes the fun part: lick the twig. That’s what my guide told me, so, with only a little hesitation, I did. Aside from the fact that it feels weird to have lemon drops scurrying around your mouth, they were pretty darn tasty.

2. Gold leaf

It seems like a piece of hyperbole: “He’s so rich he eats gold for breakfast!” But, truth be told, I have eaten gold for breakfast. Gold leaf swirled into Japanese sake. Apparently it’s a new years tradition: when you wake up on January 1st, you take a shot of sake with specially added fragments of gold leaf. It’s good luck for the new year. Obviously– because what other outcome could drinking metal confer?

3. Tripe

Or, in plain English, stomach lining. Have you ever thought about the lining of your stomach? I hadn’t really given it a lot of thought, but when I saw tripe in an Italian butcher shop window, I was taken aback by just how enormous it was. It looked like a thick, undulating piece of skin; I still don’t know how all of that surface area is stored inside of said sheep or cow.

So much for looks. Tripe sandwich was a Florentine specialty, so I entered the shop and ordered a “panino alla trippa fiorentina.” The shopkeeper glanced at me and raised his eyebrows. “Trippa?” He pointed to his stomach. “Stomach? Yes?” I laughed and nodded, and he grinned back at me and whipped up a sandwich. Really, it just tasted like meat. A little squishier than normal, but meat. Mmm!

4. Guinea Pig

Another meaty entree, guinea pig (cuy) is a South American delicacy. It’s pretty common to pass cuy street vendors in Peru: they’ve got their little carts, and a grill, and about five roasting spits with impaled guinea pigs turning slowly over the heat.

These aren’t American-sized guinea pigs, mind you. They grow a seemingly different variety in Peru, a type that’s big enough to have some meat on its bones, and cuy is an expensive and well-regarded dish at fancy restaurants. Out to a dinner with friends, we decided to take the plunge. Our cuy came parsed down the middle: four nice little sections, each with a tiny leg, a la chicken drumsticks. After that initial shock, we decided it tasted like a mix between white and red meat. The trick was really just separating the meal from my image of a pet…

5. A Grub

Of all the things I’ve eaten, this one still mystifies me: I was only told its general name. It was small, roundish, and black, and it came along with a plate of food I was served in the Ecuadorian jungle. Origin? Unknown. Species or insect class? Couldn’t tell you. Rubbery? Absolutely.

(photo of tripe courtesy of Vincenzo De Bernardo/ dreamstime.com)

Danielle Restuccia About Danielle Restuccia

Danielle Restuccia is a freelance writer in several industries, including education, healthcare, and insurance. She previously taught middle and high school English, and in her free time, she’s an avid runner and triathlete. You can follow her on twitter @DMRestuccia and check out her blog at www.daniellerestuccia.com

Danielle Restuccia About Danielle Restuccia

Danielle Restuccia is a freelance writer in several industries, including education, healthcare, and insurance. She previously taught middle and high school English, and in her free time, she’s an avid runner and triathlete. You can follow her on twitter @DMRestuccia and check out her blog at www.daniellerestuccia.com

Smiles For All