When it comes to what people deem suitable for eating, tastes and standards differ wildly. Most sensible, sensitive folk will steer clear of bluefin tuna, beluga caviar and the endangered French songbird ortolan, which happens to be a delicacy in France. (Not that you can actually buy it anywhere.) But for other foods, the line between OK-to-eat and not-so-OK is blurrier. For instance, would you eat seal meat? Foods can be controversial either because they are a) Icky; b) Cute; or c) Man’s best friend. Taking into account that any animal can be raised or hunted ethically or not — and that we always aim to select those that are – here are 5 foods that might make you squirm.
Consumed across Europe, Asia and even in pockets of North America, horse meat is lean, sustainable and readily available. It was an integral part of the pioneer diet and, while most people cringe at the though of eating Seabiscuit (or Black Beauty of Artax from The Neverending Story… sniff sniff), doing so could be a solution for the country’s ongoing problem with wild-horse overpopulation.
File this one under “ick.” Balut is fertilized duck embryo, traditionally eaten whole in the shell, crunchy fetus bones and all. Considered an aphrodisiac and sold as street food in certain Southeast Asian countries, it can be found on a few restaurant menus in cities like New York and Los Angeles. It’s the idea of it that’s hard to swallow for many of us. OK, so maybe the look and texture are, too. But why should it turn our stomach so when we eat unfertilized eggs for breakfast?
You might think it unnatural for anyone to eat his best friend. Yet, in a number of countries where dogs are kept as pets, the animals are also killed for food. Is it wrong? Who is to say? In America, fast-food joints are filled with chunks of cow, utter sacrilege to 885 million Hindus. For that matter, the French consider corn on the cob to be pigs’ food and are appalled at the idea of humans eating it. Perspective is everything when it comes to politics of the plate.
4. Foie gras
The hot-button issue of foie gras is perhaps the most dividing of all controversial foods. A ban on its production and sale goes into effect in California in 2012. Meanwhile, in New York, chefs serve it with a fierce pride that borders on fervor. The debate, of course, is over the method of force-feeding used to fatten up the ducks or geese and their livers. Proponents say the practice is harmless; detractors say it’s barbaric. A shame we can’t ask the birds themselves.
5. Casu marzu
Why anyone would want to eat something dubbed “maggot cheese” is beyond most of us. Sardinians, however, would beg to differ. This sheep’s milk Pecorino gets infused with live insect larvae until it reaches a level of funk approaching rot. It puts any stinky cheese you can think of to shame. While some people remove the little white worms from the softened, decomposed cheese before eating it, others don’t. And you thought your raw-milk Brie was daring.
What’s the absolute weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten (and how was it?) Tell us in the comments below, we can probably one-up it.
More on weird eats from Food Republic: