All Paris Hotels Blog

April 28, 2010

Strange and unusual ethnic foods

Food is much more than its aroma, taste and nutritional value. It carries home, country, culture and tradition in its preparation, presentation and consumption. What one person considers a gourmet meal may nauseate another.

Some traditional delicacies have humble beginnings. The national dish of Scotland is haggis, a delicacy made of lambs’ hearts and lungs, pork liver, beef suet and coarse oatmeal. It is spiced with black pepper, coriander and ginger, and boiled in a sheep’s stomach.

Originally Scottish peasants made haggis from the leftovers of the sheep and pig after the landlords had taken the choice cuts. According to a report in the International Herald Tribune, only the Scots can eat haggis without raising the cholesterol level in their blood.

In England plum pudding and kidney pie are eaten with great enthusiasm. Kidney pie is a combination of tough cuts of steak and beef kidneys, baked in a pie crust. Plum pudding comprises the fat from around the loins and kidneys of different animals mixed with flour and baked.

Italy has long been one of the culinary capitals of the world. In fact, the French learned their cooking from Catherine de Medici who brought her cooks to Paris with her from Florence when she married King Henry II. Yet, during the two World Wars the Italians survived on whatever they could find: salads made from rape, dandelions and thistles as well as wild songbirds caught in big nets and served with polenta-a sort of corn meal mush.

As the late food writer Waverly Root said so succinctly: “Polenta Coi Osei consists of polenta with a spit of songbirds, each wrapped in a band of fat for cooking. The whole spit is brought in, with its chaplet of little birds skewered together, their beady eyes fixed reproachfully on the diner, a sight known to indispose Anglo-Saxons.”

Though modern China carried out a vigorous campaign to exterminate rats, the people of Guangdong Province prize this rodent as a special delicacy. Rice rats are caught in bamboo traps, skinned, gutted, salted and left to soak in oil-giving the meat that shiny, waxed effect so well known in curing the famous Peking duck. The rats are then hung to cure in the sun, a common sight in the village of Hualong.

According to the Straits Times of Singapore those rats sell on the open market at twice the price of prime pork. Some would argue that the Chinese will eat anything, but eating rats is not unique to that country. Farmers in Thailand and the Philippines also relish the rice

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