This is my close friend Jamie from Hackney, East London, and he will eat anything you put in front of him. Whole, raw jalapenos and Thai chiles, dubious Asian convenience store sandwiches at 3 am -- whatever it is, it doesn't bother him.
He once showed me a video from Thailand of him eating a snake. When I say "eating a snake," what I mean is, he paid a set fee, and the establishment he was patronizing took him into the kitchen and allowed him to film them breaking down the entire snake.
I've eaten some rattlesnake before. Tastes like chicken, goes the ubiquitous sentiment, but what Jamie experienced was something else. I can understand eating some of the fleshy meat, but this showed them disemboweling the snake, and he ate the raw intestines whole, contents included. He drank the raw blood in a shot glass. He ate the still-beating heart, skewered on a toothpick and offered up by his enthusiastic Thai chef. It was supposed to put a little extra tingle in his dingle, they said.
I can appreciate expanding one's palate, trying to explore the more adventurous side of eating, and certainly I'm all for conservative, sustainable food practices. There are some cultures which, for thousands of years, have eaten tip to tail because of necessity. Yet, we live in a shiny and modern era, in a time when there are some things just too grodie and weird to be eaten.
These little squigglies are some of the worst olfactory offenders one can encounter. When I lived in Korea, I ran into these things all the time. They are steamed silk worm larvae, and the smell coming off the street vendor's carts that serve them is something between a middle school boy's locker room and that weird, tangy-hot smell coming out of your heater when first turned it on after 10 months for one of those sweet, rare Houston chills.
I just couldn't bring myself to try it. Whatever stall that was right next to it invariably had skewered chicken, and right next to that handmade dumplings, all next to some rice cakes in spicy sauce.
Perfectly reasonable and not made of silk larvae -- I'll take one of each.
4. Excessively Fatty Meat
There's the obvious health reasons for avoiding incredibly rich, fatty food. It is terrible for you, and a diet high in fat undeniably contributes to any number of serious health complications, but for me, the actual taste and texture of things like pig snout or cuts of meet glistening with gristle just are not appealing.
Scientists have actually attributed certain taste buds as receptors for a "fat" taste. There's an obvious biological requirement for fat. It would stand to reason that this aspect of taste evolved out of a need for our early ancestors to recognize hard-to-come-by, precious calories, but we just don't require such rich foods anymore. We just aren't running around spearing small mammals or trying to cross frozen tundras. We are reading blogs and eating Chobani yogurt. Super-fatty meat is just unnecessary.
3. Anything You Could Very Likely Die From
In Japan, fugu is considered a delicacy. It's puffer fish, and if not broken down properly, contains a neurotoxin which can kill you within seconds. This rule also applies to any time you eat shellfish at a bar.
Why, I ask?
There are so many unbelievably non-life threatening, delicious types of fish. The appeal escapes me, truly. Then again, I am also not lining up for bungee jumping, sky diving or bull riding. I'm fine with a boring, banal death.
If it's in you, then go eat fugu, by all means. What's a few micrometers' loss in an already shallow gene pool?
2. Maggot Cheese
There is a type of Italian cheese for which maggots -- the larvae of a particular type of local fly -- are purposefully introduced to the cheese. This cheese ferments almost to the point of total decomposition, but, in the process, the fats of the cheese are broken down by the enzymes in the maggots' digestive secretion, giving it a supposedly silky and velvet texture.
Pirates ate biscuits with maggots in them because they didn't have anything else. Eating a maggot-ridden hunk of cheese is just a trifle much, even to Bloody Gordon Bloody Ramsay, you bloody wanker.
Cheddar is better.
1. Cinnabon Breakfast Sandwiches
I'm not sure if you've seen them, but Cinnabon has joined with Schlotzsky's, and some of them -- in particular the locations in shopping mall centers -- are offering breakfast sandwiches. They are basically Cinnabons split in half and stuffed with processed bacon/sausage, egg and cheese. It's like the McGriddle got impregnated by a bowl of Denny's ham and Waffle House griddle scrapings.
Certainly, it's difficult to imagine Cinnabon having its doors knocked down by people craving cinnamon rolls stuffed with breakfast foods, but I guess there is some sort of market for them. This one is less obvious than intestines, bugs or snake blood, but I still think it merits avoidance.
To put all of this into relative perspective, there are still indigenous tribes in the most remote corners of the world who engage in cannibalism, and our closest relative, the chimpanzee, engages in cannibalistic acts, as well.
Much worse things can ultimately happen than occasional ingestion of fat, larvae or offal, but I still think them unpalatable. Stick to cheeseburgers, ham sandwiches, Cobb Salads, Icees, nachos, Reese's Cups, P.F. Chang's and KFC. That's all I eat.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.