Tastes Like Chicken…or So They Say!
I think it’s important to preface this article by stating that I love food. I’ve never been a picky eater. Even as a child, there was not much I wouldn’t try at least once. So, when it came to traveling internationally, it’s safe to say that I’ve experienced my fair share of your not-so-average meals. From cow wtomach soup in Costa Rica, all the way to one of my most recent encounters with giant live cicada bugs in Peru, I’ve definitely eaten some questionable plates along the way.
How about we start off with the least gross and work our way up? From what I’ve generally found, if you walk into a new experience with an open mind (and taste palate), it’s easy to discover some really amazing food out there. More importantly, it is oftentimes food unique to certain cultures or places, that you would never be able to find back in your
home country. One of my favorite plates here in Peru is ceviche; raw fish cured in citrus juices, then mixed with different spices and served with sweet potatoes and giant corn on the side. This was the first meal I had in-country, and I honestly cannot get enough of it. Another traditional dish which I have a soft spot for is Aji de Gallina, essentially shredded chicken blended with peppers, garlic, onion, carrot, and a lot of other spices served over potatoes with rice and egg whites… aka delicious!
Now that we’ve covered some of the more “normal” plates available, let’s discuss the other side of foreign food. In my travels throughout Peru and Ecuador, I’ve eaten my fair share of Cuy… barbecued Guinea Pig. I know this sounds gross (the picture probably doesn’t help), and I have to admit that I was a little hesitant to try it at first, but it honest to God tastes like chicken! The dark meat of chicken, but chicken nonetheless. A few years ago, I could never have imagined that I would have tasted Guinea Pig on numerous occasions. However, I’ve come to realize that here this is just a part of the people’s diet, similar to beef or pork in our culture. Looking back now, I am very happy that I took the chance and tried this dish is so unheard of back home.
Moving farther down the “Gross Spectrum” I recently visited an indigenous community to set up an ecotourism program. The kids here where catching giant cicada bugs that were attracted to the light… and then eating
them. They must have seen the face I made at this, because they would not stop asking me to try some until I finally gave in. I took a small bite and it was actually not as horrible as I was expecting, but I can’t say I would try it again. Earlier this week, one of my roommates bought some Suri, which are fried worm larvae. Again, I couldn’t resist the urge to just try it. I won’t get into details on the taste or texture, but I can safely say that this was my least pleasant food experience I’ve had to date.Sometimes, a certai
n plate I’ve tried ends up being one of my new favorite meals that I bring back to the U.S. In other cases, that new food is something that I never want to taste again, but keep in my memory bank of new experiences. The fact of the matter is, either way at least I can say I’ve tried everything once. One of my favorite travel quotes of all time is, “It’s all a part of the experience,” and never is this a truer statement than when trying local food!