If space aliens turned on a television to Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods, they would think that humans lived on a diet of bats, scorpions, brains, eyeballs and testicles. And most humans do -- just not humans in the United States. Which is why Andrew Zimmern is trying to change the perception of eating in the United States....one testicle at a time.
Bizarre Foods highlights Andrew's experiences around the globe as he explores the cultures and eating habits of everyone from sophisticated city dwellers to remote tribal members. We chatted with Andrew about his mission to encourage people to eat, well, bizarre foods.
New Times: You're co-creator of Bizarre Foods. What was the pitch? Let me travel the world eating bats and bugs?
Andrew Zimmern: What I wanted to do was tell different stories through food. One of the things I noticed during my culinary career is that you don't make your name doing the same dish as everyone else. I wanted to tell stories from the fringe. Going to Mexico and telling a story about tacos can be beautiful be interesting but that bores me, I've seen it before. I thought that telling stories about street food and talking about tacos lingua (tongue tacos) and tacos cabeza (brain tacos) and the story behind the tacos of people buying the calves heads at market at 3 o'clock in the morning would be a more interesting story.
There's a lot of uh, testicle eating on the show. Are testicles something that people around the world generally like to eat?
It's pretty simple. We're the only country in the world that takes the head off the shrimp and sells the piece that doesn't have the flavor. We neutered and streamlined our food to the point that we've even bred the fat and flavor out of the hogs. The fact is, that eating snout is reserved for only the poorest people that can't afford other cuts and the richest people that are riding the wave. People eat lamb chops here and in other countries they use the kidneys and lamb testicles - even blood for sausage. We've had the last 75 years of growth and prosperity so we've removed ourselves from eating for necessity. There's a great food movement. Chefs are making kidneys so maybe people are liking it and making it at home.
What foods would you encourage Americans to try?
I would encourage people to eat different animals. If people ate goat once a week ,and its delicious - goat is much milder than lamb which in America has a greasy taste, there would be less pressure on factory farms. Instead of overfishing tuna and shrimp, how about we eat more of the little fish that South Americans and Asians and Africans delight in? We just find it too messy. We're selfish eaters.
What's the craziest thing you've encountered in your travels?
You know I would have to say when I was in Tanzania standing in a cluster of tribal homes with the Maasai and we nicked the vein in a cows neck to have blood for breakfast and I'm standing in a pasture ankle deep in cow shit. That's about as crazy as it gets.
What's the best place you've ever been?
The places where I just got back from. I was in Brazil and Sardinia recently and they're just fantastic.
I just saw you eating wildebeest eyeballs in Namibia. You weren't too happy.
They were undercooked. I've had those eyeballs before and they're really good on a big animal. They're very soft and pot-roasty and delicious. These were not cooked the right way. They were cooked for too short a time.
You're going to be at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival at the Grand Tasting Village and The Best Thing I Ever Ate. Please tell me you're not bringing wildebeest eyeballs with you.
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No, I'm not bringing eyeballs. I'm going to be with Montaco. We have an incredible passion for street food at our show, so this is a no brainer for us. I'm also doing a big demo on Sunday at the Grand Tasting Village and would love for everyone to come out.
Watch Andrew eat that giant eyeball below and watch him eat more normal stuff at The Best Thing I Ever Ate and at the Grand Tasting Village on Sunday.