Yes, But Would You Eat It? “H” is for Haggis


Welcome to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge! Each day in April (except Sundays) I’ll be posting about unusual and exotic foods.

photo commons.wikimedia.org

I know some of you have eaten haggis. What did you think? It’s a Scottish dish, made of sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs, minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock and cooked, traditionally, in the sheep’s stomach. served with “neeps” (turnips) and “tatties” (potatoes), it appears on the plate like a crumbly sausage. It’s traditionally made with the sheep’s organs, but can be cooked with lamb, beef, pork, or rabbit.

Historically, the hunters would return with their game kill, and the organs that would go bad the earliest had to be cooked. The animal’s stomach was used to hold all the ingredients. You simmer it in a pot for hours, but you don’t want the stomach lining to burst, now do you? No, you don’t.

So, would you eat a hot steaming plate of haggis? And if you have, how was it?

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Yes, But Would You Eat It? “G” is for Gaebul


Welcome to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge! Each day in April (except Sundays) I’ll be posting about unusual and exotic foods.

photo from commons.wikimedia.org

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Yep, it’s actually called the ‘penis fish.’ It’s not really a fish but a marine spoon worm native to Korea, Japan, China, and Russia. The gaebul creates tunnels in the mud, where it traps whatever plankton and little creatures it can suck up.

In Korea, they’re often eaten raw with salt and sesame oil. In China, they’re usually stir-fried with vegetables.

SPOILER ALERT: Don’t watch this video if you have a delicate stomach. I’m serious. This is prepping the gaebul:

Ahem. So, would you eat the gaebul?

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Yes, But Would You Eat It? “F” is for Fugu


Welcome to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge! Each day in April (except Sundays) I’ll be posting about unusual and exotic foods.

photo courtesy of It’s commons.wikimedia.org

It’s called fugu in Japanese, but you might know it as a pufferfish. Fugu can be poisonous unless it’s prepared correctly. The toxic parts of the fish must be carefully removed. There are strict controls over the restaurant preparation of fugu, and only chefs who have undergone three or more years of difficult training are allowed to prepare the fugu.

The liver of the fugu contains tetrodotoxin, which is 1,200 times more lethal than cyanide. But it’s the liver that everyone wants! Qualified chefs prepare paper-thin slices of fugu sashimi.

photo from en.m.wikipedia.org

So, would you eat the fugu?

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Yes, But Would You Eat It? “E” is for Escamol(es)


Welcome to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge! Each day in April (except Sundays) I’ll be posting about unusual and exotic foods.

photo courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

Oh look! More pupae! Yes, escamoles are the edible larvae and pupae of ants. Native to Mexico, particularly Central Mexico, escamoles were a delicacy to the ancient Aztecs. The little eggs look like kernels of corn, or the Italian pignole. They can be fried for crunch, usually in butter with onion and chile, and served in omelets or tacos. How about escamoles salsa? Just mix up some ant larvae with serrano peppers, onion, roasted garlic, salt, epazote sprigs. Your tortilla chips will be surprised!

Escamoles can cost between $35 and $100 for a kilogram (about 2.2 pounds). so apparently they’re still considered a delicacy.

Tell me, would you eat escamoles?

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Yes, But Would You Eat It? “D” is for Durian


Welcome to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge! Each day in April (except Sundays) I’ll be posting about unusual and exotic foods.

photo courtesy of pixabay.com

It looks pretty, doesn’t it? This Asian fruit is known more for its stench than anything else. Food writer Richard Sterling has described the smell of durian as “turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away.” Enticing!

So smelly they’re actually banned on Singapore’s mass transit system, durians are nonetheless considered a “superfruit.” The durian is rich in iron, vitmain C, and potassium. A small durian contains 23 grams of dietary fiber (pretty much what you need in a day). But don’t rush out to gorge on durians. In 2010, a Malaysian politician was rushed to the hospital after he complained of breathlessness and dizziness. Seems he’d gone overboard on durians.

So, would you eat a durian?

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Yes, But Would You Eat It? “C” is for Chicken Feet


Welcome to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge! Each day in April (except Sundays) I’ll be posting about unusual and exotic foods.

photo courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

Chicken feet are popular in many countries, even here in certain regions of the United States. Served as a beer snack, a cold dish, or in soup. Actually, with bone broth rising in popularity, chicken feet make an excellent bone broth.

The Chinese use bone broth to strengthen the kidneys and help support digestion. You know the benefits of chicken soup, right?

Okay, broth made from chicken bones and tendons is one thing. In Hong Kong, the chicken feet are typically deep-fried, then simmered in a black bean sauce. In Eastern Europe, the feet are boiled then cooled, and the gelatin from the feet help to make an aspic. In Jamaica, the feet go into the aptly-named chicken foot soup.

So tell me, would you eat chicken feet?

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Yes, But Would You Eat It? “B” is for Beondegi


Welcome to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge! Each day in April (except Sundays) I’ll be posting about unusual and exotic foods.

photo courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

Street food is usually a great way to sample local specialties. In this case, head to South Korea and walk around the many food stalls. Now, inhale deeply. Ooh, what’s that enticing aroma? Tangy, a little fishy. Now you stop in front of a food stall offering beondegi. Take a look inside – hey, what is that?

Beondegi isn’t fish, or nuts, or vegetable. It’s steamed or boiled silkworm pupae, and very popular in South Korea! The outer shell gives you that desired crunch, while the inside is juicy. While the usual beondegi is savory, there are some that are candied and sugary. Yum!

Beondegi first became popular during the Korean War, although it’s admittedly an acquired taste. Your street vendor will offer you beondegi in a little cup with a toothpick. loaded with protein, you can also purchase beondegi at a corner market.

So…would you eat beondegi?

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Yes, But Would You Eat It? “A” is for Airag


Welcome to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge! Each day in April (except Sundays) I’ll be posting about unusual and exotic foods. 

photo courtesy commons.wikimedia.org

How about some AIRAG? Sometimes spelled ‘ayrag,’ this is the Mongolian word for fermented horse milk. The Russian word for it is ‘kumys,’ but this is letter A, so airag it is!

The milk is filtered through a cloth, then it’s poured into a leather sack. These days, a plastic vat may be used. Lactic acid bacteria plus yeast produces the fermentation, and the airag is stirred often, to make sure all of the milk is fermented equally. When the fermentation process is completed, it has about 2% alcohol. The beverage is a good source of vitamins and minerals.

If you visit Mongolia and are offered a bowl of airag, you should at least take a sip before passing the bowl back to your host. To refuse it outright would be very impolite.

Here’s a guy trying airag:

So…..WOULD YOU DRINK THE AIRAG?

 

Traveling through the Coronavirus


Image from Pixabay

Notice I wrote traveling through, not traveling with. Although I wouldn’t know if I have COVID-19, the Coronavirus. I haven’t been tested, I’m not showing symptoms, but yes, I could be infected. After all, I was in the midst of thousands of others this past week, at Boston’s Logan airport, Reykjavík’s Keflavik airport, Zürich’s airport, the train from Zürich to Fribourg. Then the markets and coffee shops and restaurants and stores in Fribourg. And, sadly, just a few days later, the packed train from Fribourg to Zürich, a flight from Zürich to Dublin, four hours in the jam-packed Dublin airport, six hours on the full airplane to Boston.

My little vacation and book research trip was cut short after president Trump declared Wednesday evening that, effective Friday, all travel from European countries to the US, was banned for 30 days. That’s what he said, what he supposedly read off a Teleprompter. (Yes, I know that Homeland Security later clarified it, but he’d already stated the mistruth.) I watched the speech, at around 2:00 in the morning in my hotel room, with a sense of dread. I was scheduled to be in Fribourg until Monday, 16 March. Under his directive, I would be stuck in Switzerland for another month. Now, you know I love Switzerland! But I couldn’t stay for a month. So, at 2:00 am Thursday morning, I began packing. I thought, just in case. I sent an email to my husband, letting him know I was awake and aware of the situation.

A half hour later, he called me. After a few choice words for Trump, he implored me to come home. “Do whatever it takes,” he said. “Don’t worry about the money. Just come home.”

By 3:30, I was dressed and packed. I sent messages to my friend Barbara, with whom I’d spent a lovely day on Tuesday, and to my friend Fabiola, with whom I was supposed to spend Saturday. I had friends sending messages to me. ‘Did you hear?’ ‘What are you going to do?’ ‘I’m worried about you.’

Fribourg train station
Thursday, 12 March 2020 5:45 am

I checked out of the hotel. Four nights unused, and although the guy at the desk said he’d look into it, I don’t expect a refund. I walked through dark and quiet streets to the train station (that brought back memories of my student days!), purchased a ticket from a smart machine, and rolled my bag up a ramp to track 3. The 6:04 train left on time – of course – and filled up at Bern, its next stop. Every time I heard someone cough near me, I pulled my scarf up over my nose.

I arrived at the airport by 8:00 and traveled up escalators to the departures area. When I inquired about where to find the Icelandair check-in desk, I learned that Icelandair doesn’t have a desk in the airport. (Note to self regarding discount airfares: sometimes you get what you pay for)

I was sent to FinnAir. I tried calling Icelandair and was told I was number 76 in the queue. After twenty minutes, I was number 72. I asked the woman at FinnAir if Swiss was flying to Boston that day. She directed me to another counter, where a very nice man looked up flights available Thursday to Boston. It was 8:30 in the morning. I was operating on zero sleep, one cup of coffee. I had last eaten at 4:00 Wednesday afternoon. He told me my best option was on Aer Lingus, Zürich to Dublin, Dublin to Boston. $1,397.00

I handed over my Visa card. The crowds at the airport, my understanding of exponential growth, and my intense desire to be home propelled me to the Aer Lingus check-in counter and down to the waiting area.

Both flights were full. Two women who had arrived in Prague on Tuesday and were flying back to Seattle, a nine-hour flight. “We had one day, yesterday,” one of them said. Four male college students on spring break, heading home early because their parents were “freaking out,” one said. When I defended the parents’ concern, they grinned and acknowledged it was the right thing to do. Most of the passengers, it seemed, were there because of the speech. Even the officials at passport control understood.

Only one time I was asked if I’d been to China or Iran. No one cared that I’d been in Switzerland, where there are nearly 650 cases and 4 deaths. That was on Wednesday. One day earlier there were only 500 cases.

I am home. My husband was at Logan last night to pick me up. I’d been awake for nearly 48 hours straight. I’m going to self-quarantine while I monitor myself. I hope others do, but many won’t.

Photo M. Reynolds

As for Fribourg, it’s been in my memory for over 40 years. It’ll stay there, even if some of those memories aren’t quite as sharp as they once were. And the book? It’s still going to be written. A self-imposed quarantine gives me plenty of time to write.

Everything Changes – Even in Fribourg


View from the Zähringen bridge
Photo by M. Reynolds

I knew it wouldn’t be the same, and I didn’t even want it to be. The first time I was in this medieval town was late September 1978, when I joined a few dozen classmates to spend a year abroad. Since then, I’ve returned to Fribourg a half-dozen times, so I’ve witnessed the evolution of this town.

Still, memory is a funny thing. Walking down the Rue de Romont, I can see in my mind’s eye the tea-rooms and cafes. A lot has changed.

Photo M. Reynolds

My favorite place on a Sunday morning, for a cafe crème and mille feuille has closed. Le Chasseur, famous for all-you-could-eat raclette, is gone. But there’s a McDonald’s and a Burger King. Indian, Japanese, Thai restaurants abound, a reflection of a more diverse population and the tastes of Fribourg’s newer generation.

Along the Boulevard de Pérolles
Photo M. Reynolds

I lived on the Boulevard de Pérolles, number 13, in a tiny closet of a room tout en haut. Most of the shops I remember from my daily walks are gone, with a couple of exceptions. The Rex cinema and tea-room are still there, the tea-room a throwback to a different time. And it still fills up at lunchtime.

I tried to retrace my steps to the Cafe Chemin de Fer, the gathering place for American students. It was popular because the owners, Marcel and Marie, welcomed us, as rowdy as we were. I turned down the Rue de Locarno, but couldn’t remember the way. How could that be? I should’ve known the route with a blindfold over my eyes. Well, forty-plus years later….

Anyway, I figured it out. Now, I knew the old cafe was gone. I’d heard there was an Indian restaurant there in its place.

Photo M. Reynolds
Photo M. Reynolds

Look at that! I’ll have to go there tomorrow for lunch.

Anyway, the Perriard and Le Chasseur may be gone, the Cardinal Brewery is gone, cars can no longer drive over the Zähringen bridge and there’s a new, modern bridge on the landscape. There are more cars, roundabouts, and still more building. But the cathedral stands, the Schweizerhalle is still operating, and Fribourgeois still wait on the curb for the walk signal, even when there are no cars in sight.

Photo M. Reynolds
On Grand’ Rue
Photo M. Reynolds