Reading my latest Delicious Magazine, I was inspired by an article written by David Prior. The article was about Peru. Discussion of Peru was part of the inspiration for my recent post about potatoes. But what I found most inspiring was his idea of a ‘travel eater’. I find that an interesting concept. I imagine it would apply well to me too. He said “for a ‘travel eater’ like myself, there have been few places that have compared in terms of pure food adventure with my time in the cities, mountains, highlands and jungles of the country.” I too, have visited cities, mountains, highlands and jungles around the world and had some wonderful food adventures. When I travel I have a rule, I must try a new food every day. In Africa, that wasn’t always easy, because sometimes there wasn’t that much diversity on offer. But I have still had someone weird and wonderful food experiences. For example, I remember some surprising colour, texture and flavour combinations of Malaysian snacks, not all of which were good. In many ways it was a bit like Harry Potter eating Berty’s Every Flavour Beans.
I had incredible food experiences in China, none of the peculiarities we expect. I think this was primarily because I was in the North East and avoided the South East entirely (not deliberately), where Cantonese food is infamous for utilising any animal that once moved. Pig’s trotters were rife, a popular street food in fact, but I never partook. I avoided dog, cat, rat, and chickens feet with no effort at all. Well, that’s not entirely true, avoiding the dog took a little effort. There were a few interesting meals though. I went hiking with some friends one day, and we befriended a local organic apple grower. She invited us for a feast and promised a sheep. She and her husband were so lovely. It turns out they slaughtered a goat for us, and proceeded to feed us the whole animal. I recall a delicious skewer of meat cooked over the coals, but had less positive memories of a boiled goat foot that I was fed to ‘maintain my beauty.’ But I was most particularly unimpressed when the offal soup came, and I found myself coming face to face with an eyeball in my bowl. I have to say I drew the line there. But the hospitality they showed us was highly memorable.
I arrived in Uganda at the end of grasshopper season, and was very glad to try these little creatures. I was even gladder when they turned out to be quite delicious! The grasshoppers are quite a delicacy, but sweep through the country in swarms for anyone with the inclination to collect. They are blanched, dewinged and delegged. Then stir fried with the cook’s own recipe that usually includes diced onion and garlic, salt and lemon juice. They have a great crunch, but a relatively generic savoury flavour that is dominated by the flavourings they’ve been fried with. I love the ingenuity of the grasshopper hawkers though, making a great snack from a readily available (but seasonal) and free ingredient. They dish them out in home-made cones of recycled paper. Another great insect delight I tried in Uganda was flying ants. On our way through the capital to western Uganda, we befriended a fruit seller. When a hawker came past she recommended we try his wares. He dished out a cone (similar to those used for the grasshoppers) of live ants with huge wings. Would you believe they tasted like butter!? It was one of the most incredible sensations. I have no idea how it could be, but they truly did taste just like butter!