This is my sixth entry for the A To Z Challenge.
Vegetarians, and especially vegans, beware. This is not a blog post you will want to read. Unless you want to use it to insult me, and if that is the case, you are not welcome here. I won’t come on your site and insult you, don’t come on mine and insult me. We can have a nice discussion of course, but let’s leave the insults for the politicians and the media. We’re so much better than that.
I am now, and have always been, a meat eater. While I do not hunt my own food, I do partake in the bounty proffered to me by others. Yes, there is a lot of bad going on the industries surrounding food; but there are also very ethical methods being used as well, which seem to be swept away with one big brush. But I’m not here to talk about that as the focus of this post. This post, in all its yummy goodness, is about eating while on holiday. Or on vacation, depending on how you do things. Actually, if you go on a holiday, you probably don’t do the things I’m going to talk about. If you go on a vacation, you probably do. I’ll just leave you with the gravitas of that little comment.
I had a Canadian friend who I met while we both worked in Saudi Arabia, and he was lamenting how the final two days of his trip to Nepal were ruined by food poisoning. He was immediately ill after eating in a Western-style restaurant. His three weeks of eating local food had had no ill effect on him; but the Western food had. He reckons, and I think I concur as well, that the locals don’t really know how to cook the fancy foreign food in a lot of these places so they prepare it incorrectly. He has a point. And besides, what’s the fun of travelling half way around the world to simply order Big Macs every time you go out?
Everywhere I go, and it isn’t that long of a list but longer than I ever thought possible when I was a kid, I try and eat at least one local dish, but usually many more. These might just be a certain meat, a different way to eat potatoes, or on occasion, the rare delicacy of stick insects or deep fried spiders. When in Rome, right? Actually, in Rome you’re pretty blessed for food options that won’t scare you. Unless you hate pasta. If you hate pasta, then Rome might scare you. Unless you somehow visited ancient Rome and found yourself in the Colosseum. On the sand, not the stands. Then I think the pasta isn’t what you should be scared about.
And this desire to try something alien to me is a complete conundrum to what it was to be me growing up. I would eat nothing that I didn’t recognise, and I would only eat things a certain way. It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that I started to eat tomatoes; although I loved tomato sauce on pasta and pizza. Hated ketchup though; and I still do. I blame my older sister for that. Long story. I’ll tell it another time if I remember. I still don’t eat a lot of sauces on food, and I prefer my occasional salad without dressing, but I have been readily willing to sample something a little meatier. Perhaps it’s the “go big or go home” version of picky eating?
I have been to South Africa no less than six times. It is my happy place. Put me in a jeep on safari and you will meet the happiest man on the planet. South Africa is a meat eater’s paradise. It still surprises me every time I go there that the whole country isn’t morbidly obese. Must be all the sports they play and all the hiking trails. Plus they have some great beaches to stay in shape for. Yeah, it is a great place. On my first visit, back in 2008, I ended my tour in South Africa. By the time I had arrived there, I had sampled a wide variety of game meats that the region has on offer. In fact, on one of our nights in Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, my friend Chris and I went to a place called the Boma, a big open-air restaurant where the food is unlimited, they have dancers and drummers to entertain you, and you dress you in ceremonial robes and paint your face so you blend in. at the buffet table, where you can choose no less than 10 types of meat, you can also find a delicacy called the mopane worm. For those who know Bear Grylls – he’s eaten them. Except he found his own and had to cook them. The ones I ate were already prepared for consumption. I grabbed a small handful and tossed them in with the small salad I had gathered. A little crunchy but mostly chewy, they had no real taste. During that same feast I also ate crocodile, springbok and kudu (two types of antelope), and various cuts of steak. Before the end of the trip I had also sampled oryx and impala (another two types of antelope), and warthog. My mouth salivates just thinking about it.
In Thailand I managed to eat tarantula legs. I figured they’d be crunchy and little else – I was right. I couldn’t bring myself to take a chunk out of the body though. I thought that might be a little too gooey for my liking. Too much like sauce I guess. But even with an abundance of Western-style restaurants in the tourist towns, it is much safer and much cheaper to eat local. Even the street vendors, frying up rice and prawns on big metal sheets on the back of motorcycles produce some amazing food. And never once did I wish to eat at the luxury 5-star hotel we were staying at. The free buffet breakfast, yes. I’m all about the included meals too. I’m on a budget on most trips after all.
From reindeer in Sweden, to a skewer of meat in Cape Town that would not look out of place on Game of Thrones, you need to step out of your comfort zone from time-to-time to fully appreciate the world we live in. Okay, so meat is meat I hear you yell at me, and you’re right, it is. But preparation methods are different. Flavours and spices are different. What one country calls a small portion could feed half your family. And most of these foods, would not be found on the buffet table at the hotel you’re staying at. Leave the hotel. Explore. Set your taste buds free. Order the zebra steak after an appetiser of mussels. Get the massive selection of crocodile, warthog, impala, kudu and ostrich on the weapon they used to cut Ned Stark’s head off. You won’t be sorry. Well, you might be. Meat sweats is a real thing. Just make sure you’re going to do some form of walking the next day. Unless, unlike me, you have money left over when you return and can afford to buy a bigger pair of trousers.