Monday, June 21, 2004

On delicacies and why they shouldn't be eaten

As much as I love food, I've had a few unpleasant culinary experiences in my life - experiences that go beyond the simple concept of 'bad' cooking. Most of these experiences relate somehow to 'delicacies' of various countries. It is a little known fact that the word 'delicacy' really means 'crap we won't eat but feed to tourists who visit our country so that we can laugh at them behind their backs.'

I was raised to be open-minded, both about food and other cultures, and was told that I couldn't prejudge any food without trying it at least once (so said my parents - of course I later realized they were hypocrites - my dad refused to eat the scorpion he was served in China.) As a result, there have been moments were I was forced to smile at the host/hostess while consuming delicacies that were clearly not meant for human consumption.

I recall eating a tripe and brain stew in Hungary. This was a combination of textures and tastes that was simply not meant to be. I also consumed a rooster testicle stew in Hungary - this was surprisingly bland and undisgusting, however, and can hardly count as a true delicacy since I've never heard of anyone else being served it in Hungary. The worst was in Japan, however, where I was served some sort of fermented/pickled uni (sea-urchin ovaries) from a tiny jar that cost about $70. It was a great honor to be presented this delicacy, and I am proud to say that I managed to suppress both my gag reflex and my facial muscles and lived to tell the tale. It was notable that none of the Japanese people present at the dinner were partaking of this treat, and that is when I began to formulate my theory on ethnic delicacies and the true definition of 'delicacy'.

A recent article on the BBC webpage linked to from Fark (see article here) deals with a creation by a Ukrainian chef attempting to create a new Ukrainian delicacy. The dish in question - chocolate covered pork fat:


This magnificent dish, so reminiscent of Catch-22's chocolate covered cotton, is scheduled to become even more popular as tourists flock to the Ukraine now that a Ukrainian won the Eurovision song contest (not making this up - see the article if you don't believe me.)

My final conclusion on this is that a) the recent Ukrainian case reinforces my hypothesis on the actual definition of 'delicacy' and that b) Ukrainians are delusional in thinking that they will have a massive influx of tourists. Between chocolate covered pork fat, Ukrainian mobsters and pockets of high radiation, I'd recommend staying far far away.


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