I love a lot of things aside from members of my family.
I love music, especially on the road. I love seeing art, especially made by up and coming starving artists. I love going to sporting events, especially when rivalry bragging rights are at stake. And I love food.
I've always loved food -- too bad my mom was such a bad cook! But since I started to travel, my appreciation for food has only been enhanced.
Like many travelers, I too watch Anthony Boudrain's No Reservations. (Although I have to admit that I have sadly not seen Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Foods.) Even my kids have started watching the food and chef shows.
Over the years of seeing and tasting the world, I have learned a thing or two about what to -- and what not -- to eat while traveling. Who needs a nasty case of Montezuma's Revenge, Sahara Stomach or Delhi Belly, right?
Far from being a picky eater, I will generally try anything once -- the good, the bad and the severely unrecognizable. I have eaten such culinary oddities as: blood soups, tongue, kidney, brain, eyes, testicle, penis; many reptiles, amphibians, rodents, worms, grubs and insects; and assorted bush and game meats and road kill specials of questionable species in some of the grandest Temples of Gastronomy and street stalls around the world. I have been in master chef kitchens that looked liked petting zoos. And yes, they will eat anything that is sautéed in China!
When traveling, for the most part, I try to employ a type of Don't ask, don't tell culinary policy. However, I readily admit to numerous memorable occasions when I knew better. When my eyes widening with a don't do it look! My mouth shut with a don't do it visceral reaction. Even my nose sniffed don't do it! And my brain screamed aloud just don't do it -- and that I actually did do it despite these blaring sensory alarm bells. Odds are, there was usually a 50/50 chance that I sincerely regretted the questionable gastronomical experience!
So, to aid my fellow travelers, here are 10 things I've learned about eating as I travel around the world. Call them culinary rules of thumb; better yet, employ them as deeply embedded survival instincts (I am still here after all!):
And from my global gross-me-out file, here are a handful of foods that if you ever come across are sure to be avoided. With my best advice being to simply say, "Oh, so sorry, but I have a severe allergy... Thank you very much!"
I am sure there are scores of worse things to eat out there (What say you?), but remembering these dishes is always a tricky emotional challenge for me as I have repressed my memory of more than a few gruesome events.
Finally, I can tell you this; if you ever find yourself in Borneo, New Guinea, the Congo basin or the deepest darkest Amazon, and if some nice local offers you Long Pig -- I'd start running right now because cannibalism is on the menu tonight!
Follow William D. Chalmers on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@wmchalmers