He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.

-Jonathan Swift

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Image courtesy of diecidodici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Oysters … eeuurggh! I mean, just look at them. What do they remind you of?

I am going to stay literal. If you saw this snot in a shell on a plate, and you had no idea what it was, and nobody at your table knew what it was either – would you eat it? Some brave soul, with a huge amount of foresight, had to be the first person to say, ‘Hey, maybe this is edible and will become a sought after gourmet item.’

An oyster is not the worst thing I have ever eaten, although I still shudder and gag when I recall the slippery, salty, sliminess of the flesh sliding down my throat as I struggled not to regurgitate it and potentially embarrass myself.

Every culture has at least one food item that makes the rest of the world blanch:

  • Scotland – haggis
  • Middle East, east Europe, Turkey – khash (stewed feet and head of a cow)
  • Iceland – hakarl (rotting shark carcass)
  • Cambodia – fried spider

*If you want to find out more, this website is not bad – and it has pictures: http://www.hostelworld.com/blog/the-50-weirdest-foods-from-around-the-world/

While I haven’t eaten any of the above items, or most of the delicacies on the hostelworld site, I did spend three years in Japan and either ate, or witnessed the consumption of, a fine array of food which makes oysters look tame by comparison.

For some people, the idea of eating a slab of raw fish is outrageous. I love sashimi, but I do admit, the first time I ate it I had to push the word raw from my mind, chew it and swallow it really fast.

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

At the time, sashimi was the weirdest thing I had ever eaten, but now it is way, way down on that list when I consider:

  • natto (fermented soybeans – smells like vomit)
  • fish eye (reserved for the honoured guest)
  • yakitori (chicken skewers) made solely with chicken fat (that’s why it was cheaper!)
  • sea urchin (can’t eat that without gagging)

and the ultimate – fresh ayu. This beautiful whole river fish was freshly caught, skewered (while alive), quickly seared and brought to my table with its tail still flapping.

Someone, at some point, looked at each of these and dared to have a taste.

On a positive note, think of all the wonderful things we may not be able to tuck into today if it wasn’t for that first brave person giving it a go.

The other day, on Facebook, a post was put up inviting people to comment on the one food they would never eat. The answers were stock standard – brussels sprouts, peas, offal etc. I think I wrote peas – but in hindsight, and even with all the things I have eaten in Japan, I should have written steak tartare.

I totally support Mr Bean in his antics when served steak tartare in that posh French restaurant.

No meat should be eaten raw – least of all mince. I want to know who tried that for the first time – maybe someone who didn’t have access to heat at all and they were really, really hungry. I have been known to send back steak if it is pink in the middle; a quality chef should be able to cook a piece of meat to well done and not have it resemble leather.

Give me an oyster any day over a piece of meat that is still mooing!

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