So. I really do love reference books. You never know what you’re going to find when you open one up. Like, when I opened up an e-book we have here at the library called They eat that? A cultural encyclopedia of weird and exotic food from around the world. I looked at its table of contents, and you know what first catches my eye? On their list of contents, a list of which foods they are going to be talking about? The chapter called “humans”. Humans. In the food section. I couldn’t even focus on the camel chapter, or the brains, or other such things I think were served in the dinner scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. But, let’s get back to that later. I think we all need to take a second and thank the food gods that most of the food from around the world is actually delicious and interesting, and not….monkey heads or humans flesh.
One place to find interesting and tasty foods would be the international food festival held yearly by USI`s International Club. You can wander the room, and find all sorts of great foods from everywhere from Germany to Saudi Arabia to Ethiopia. When I first went, some of the foods certainly gave me pause, particularly one dish made out of eggplant, hummus, and….some meat thing that I distinctly remember. It was amazingly tasty. But that’s not the only time the International Club gives students an opportunity to try some new foods from different places! They also offer culture nights thoughout the year, focusing each time on a different culture, and usually run by students from those particular countries. And yes, they usually offer food from said cultures.
Have you done all that, and now you’re interested in learning more about foreign food items? Lets get back to that book. I skipped right over to the “Humans” seaction, and it turns out its not a cookbook known as “To Serve Man”, its actually a history of cannibalism and its historical context in history and religion. Oh, and then they talk alot about the details of cannibalism, what parts people have preferred, and I am just going to stop there and skip over to the part where we hear about eating bone marrow and cactus and seal flippers. Because that all sounds incredebly appetizing. Alright, I might try cactus, that sounds kind of good. The foods listed range from creepy sounding, to actually pretty tasty, and no matter what, it’s all done in a way that is filled with historical and social context, keeping the book from seeming like it’s just pointing at the “weirdo foreign food” and laughing, and actually makes the foods sound, if nothing else, interesting. It makes you want to learn more about these foods, and the cultures they come from. People generally have reasons why they eat certain things (like Balut, a fertilized duck egg that has an almost completely developed fetus inside of it, which in the US was an eating challenge on Fear Factor, but in the Philippines is considered a tasty snack that is known to give people a big burst of energy in the middle of the day, having been eaten there for generations). The internet tells me that things like bats and camels are actually quite delicious if prepared right, and several cultures have been eating them for years. Weird food is all relative (I know people on the East Coast who are mystified by the idea of drinking sweet tea) and learning about the foods of other cultures can give you some ideas about the culture itself. Now, the foods served by USI`s international club events will probably not be quite that out of the box, but they are a good way to see what other cultures eat, and what that means to them. This is what I love both about college and reference books. You never know fully what you’re getting into, but if you keep an open mind, you can learn way more than you ever expected. So try something different to eat, and you may be surprised. Just, avoid the human handburgers. Just….no.