Andrew Zimmern, the jovial star of Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern," was all smiles at a luncheon this past spring in honor of his forthcoming children's book, "Andrew Zimmern's Field Guide to Weird, Wild, & Wonderful Foods."
If Zimmern behaves differently on camera than he does in life, it was unapparent that day. When he wasn't shuttling between tables and cracking jokes, he was personally carting over trays of desserts to tables apparently overlooked by the wait service. If it had been maggot-infested cheese on those plates and not brownies, Zimmern probably could have convinced diners to chow down.
Zimmern hopes to do roughly that for children with his field guide, which goes on sale October 30. The book explores the importance of different -- and sometimes bizarre -- foods to various cultures around the world. Filled with eye-popping graphics and clever illustrations, the material presents a more kid-friendly version of some items likely familiar to followers of Zimmern's TV show (who are usually men and women aged 25 to 40 with a median household income of $75,000, just for the record).
There's a whole section devoted to kopi luwak, the coffee made with beans found in civet droppings (season 1, episode 12); another on the aforementioned maggot cheese, called casu marzu (season 6, episode 21); and even a lengthy spread devoted to SPAM, which Zimmern admits to openly hating (season 3, episode 8).
But beyond introducing kids to the weird and wild, Zimmern wants to send a message about the importance of adventurous eating. The book, he said, has the potential to have a profound affect on the families of picky eaters.
"The point is that contempt prior to investigation is a really evil sort of way of thinking," Zimmern mused. "We end up practicing it almost by accident ... but if you introduce the concept of the 'new' early enough, kids don't know any other way."
Zimmern went on to talk about challenges with his own seven-year-old son. Getting kids to eat various foods can be a challenge, even for food stars with their own television shows.
"[T]here's no such thing as a lazy parent," Zimmern stressed. "It's the hardest job in the whole world. Kids don't come with an instruction manual."
"However, when our kid is a year-and-a-half and we're pushing them in the stroller ... and someone says, our relatives just got back from France. Someone served them kidneys or brains or whatever ... and the other couple goes, 'Oh, gross!' Kids hear the gross part."
Zimmern believes his book has the power to protect kids and their families from such pitfalls. At the very least, it presents an entertaining look at educational topics and serves as an appropriate starting point for fledging foodies.
Amazon.com is currently taking pre-orders of "Andrew Zimmern's Field Guide to Weird, Wild, & Wonderful Foods" for $13.49 (regular price is $19.99). For more information, watch Zimmern explain the tome himself in the below video.