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Take it off the menu

Zubin D’souza

I don’t know if you have ever segregated people mentally. The presumptuous and the pompous in one corner of my thought process; the intellectual and the gifted together, the annoying I reclassify as family and the spot for the absolutely deranged is usually populated by chefs.

Not that all chefs are crazy but in my humble opinion, being nutty helps in a major way when you are a chef.

Every chef worth his salt wants to at some point in time, travel the world and sample the cuisines on offer.

We may not agree with some choices but I am sure that we would like to try everything at least once before coming to a decision.

I am sure that each chef has somewhere built their own timelines as to when they would like to travel and savour the delicacies of the world.

This was the dream before the Covid-19 virus hit our streets and sent everyone scrambling for their lives.

Till then we had lived in a world of blissful apathy.

Very soon fingers were pointed and charges were levelled; the one candidate that couldn’t refute the charges for spreading the pandemic was found and displayed to the world.

The wet market of Wuhan was the perfect scapegoat and in the twinkling of an eye, a million chef dreams were shattered.

I don’t think that too many of my ilk would have cared to savour a pangolin or a bat. I personally can’t bring myself to eat most cute and cuddly creatures (bats fall on the other end of the spectrum which means that they are too disgusting for me to contemplate eating).

Wild food hasn’t always been the issue that it has developed into recently.

The biblical hero St John the Baptist is known to have survived on a diet of wild honey and locusts. Since locusts are the only insects considered kosher, every swarm since St John have been swiftly dealt with and eaten!

Thailand also loves their chirpy little insects. Their critter of choice happens to be crisp fried grasshoppers that are known locally as

Jing Leed.

Cambodians find that grasshoppers don’t have enough meat to excite them as compared to the local delicacy of fried spiders. They usually prefer tarantulas but in a pinch, they don’t mind choosing out of several varieties are specifically reared to end up in the wok.

In neighbouring Laos, a traditional soup called gaeng kai mot daeng is made by combining ant eggs and partial embryos of the white ant.

In the Indian states of Bihar and Chhattisgarh, red ants and their eggs are hunted so that they could be ground into a fiery chutney called chaprah.

In South Korea the mention of eating spiders is greeted with revulsion. Instead they prefer that you try their local specialty of beondegi which is lightly steamed or boiled silkworm.

Since there is not much meat to the bite there, the Koreans also have a health-giving watery stew called boshintang. The prime protein in this not-so-great smelling dish

is dog meat!

The Japanese seem to disagree. If the discussion is about meatiness, then it is never going to be sorted if you try everything except meat. Cherry Blossom meat is usually available at high brow sushi outlets as one of the prime delicacies. It is the raw meat of the horse. I don’t know about you but hearing a fancy name like that really threw

me off my game.

The Italians have traditionally eaten cock’s combs and the roosters have been mad at them ever since. To make matters worse, the French stole this recipe and twisted it and adapted it to several other local dishes.

But chicken comes as a welcome relief in this world where even cats have not been spared. The Chinese have a dumpling dish called siopao that is brimming with

feline goodness.

And if you think that Asians eating cats could be the source of the next outbreak then it will come as no surprise to you that the African practice of eating bushmeat which includes lemurs, apes and baboons are what created the original HIV and Ebola outbreaks.

Just in case fear is never a factor, you can try out a cobra heart in Vietnam. The snake is slit at the table and the still beating heart is yanked out and plopped into your drink.

Or you could opt for the crispy crumb fried rattlesnake which is available in the Southern states of the USA.

The Guolizhuang restaurant in Beijing goes a step further. Their specialty is roasted

yak penis.

With all these crazy options on offer, it has definitely been god’s mercy that we didn’t have the pandemic much earlier.

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