A great deal has been written on the world of cuisine, and there is a mountain of recent media devoted to the subject. However, I feel there is one glaring omission with respect to culinary origins. Perhaps because it is so patently obvious we have entirely missed this aspect of cuisine. I am referring to the macho dare. Throughout my life I have at moments here and there found myself at the table of the macho culinary dare. At its heart is the notion that by eating the most foul flavors, the most repugnant repast that you are more of a gastronomic bad ass than the p*ssy who is “chickening” out by not stuffing down their gullet some poached pork penis stuffed in an exotic buffalo bladder.
There is a whole show devoted to this which would be more aptly titled “I can’t believe he just ate that sh!t” TV. And no I am not talking about Fear Factor. I am referring to Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmerman, the corpulent and unfortunately pated personality who, and I am sorry, looks like he’s been shoving anything that won’t fight back down his throat since his mother probably tore him away from her (I imagine) devastated breasts.
The Wikipedia entry for this show describes it as focusing “on regional cuisine from around the world which is typically perceived by Americans as being gross, unique, or, of course, bizarre.” Well, I have traveled a bit and have a lot of friends from overseas and I can say that the victuals he is touting are pretty much reviled everywhere. It really only seems that they are enjoyed by moderately intoxicated men who are like, “Oh yeah, this is delicious! I love it…it’s got such a complex palate, and succulent undernotes.” In reality they are thinking to themselves, “I can’t believe this jackass is going to drink coffee that’s been sh!t out of a jungle cat. If I wasn’t so drunk I would think someone was making this up!”
And this attitude invariably pervades in the most male-centric of cultures. In Japan it seems they can’t help but stuff themselves with the most revolting of food stuff they can sieve from the ocean. Everyone is familiar with the ubiquitous cuts of raw fish. Its interesting that among the rednecks I grew up with, they jokingly referred to it as bait, but I have also seen them dare each other to eat that same bait. In fact, in Norwegian culture they think it’s lucky to eat your own bait before embarking on a fishing trip. A colleague of mine has worked on Japanese fishing boats where they subsist on not much more than soju (Korean rubbing alcohol) and fried fish sperm. I guess they have to sell the rest of the more marketable parts of the fish, but it still proves my point. A bunch of drunk men sitting around eating the parts no one with money wants to buy and telling each other how good this fried fish jizz tastes. Hell, I’d have to be drunk too, or at least have the taste buds of a scavenging rat.