Call it extreme foodie-ism. After centuries of mastering the ritual of civilized dining, renegade chefs and adventurous eaters have set out to explore and conquer the outer bounds of food culture. Above all, this “new” cuisine is marked by provocative and challenging ingredients, unconventional elements that often test the psychological, rational, legal and physical limits of edibility.
Gael Greene coined the word “foodie” in 1980. The term was used to describe a group of devoted fans of an untrained Parisian housewife who cooked in heels. Today, foodies are a like competitive birders; they obsessively document what and where they eat on food blogs, and post images (food porn) on content-sharing sites like Pinterest, Instagram and Flickr. And like those competitive birders in pursuit of the elusive Asian crested Ibis or Honduran Emerald, the more unique, rarified or outlandish a particular dish, the more the foodie likes it. The foodie revolution is so mainstream that the Los Angeles Times reported “a gourmet cult reaches now from the lavish Park Avenue apartments to the grass-roots split level homes of the Middle West,” and concluded by referring to the current movement as “the great delicacy boom.”
Eating live food has long been considered a delicacy. There’s no shortage of connoisseurs who believe that the meat tastes better if the animal is alive. Medieval chefs continually tried to outshine each other with the types of live animals they baked into dishes. In a 1660 book titled “The Accomplished Chef,” Robert May describes a number of spectacular (and surreal) concoctions served at feasts and banquets including: an exploding pastry ship complete with flags, streamers and guns; bleeding stags filled with claret; and pies containing live frogs and birds. May goes on to describe how the live animals would hop and fly about the room, causing squeamish diners to shriek or tumble over in their chairs.
As modern chefs look to experiment with food and “make it new,” animals and creatures long forgotten or never considered before are emerging as exotic and expensive dishes. Moreover, there’s a growing trend to use food scraps or foods commonly associated with poverty –“the organy, taily, brainy, nosey parts” –and recast them as elite. Whether you view them as exotic delicacies or cringe-worthy “discomfort” foods, here are 7 foods that are eaten alive around the world.
7. Grubs and Insects
Many cultures around the globe eat grubs and insects as a source of protein. According to The Daily Meal, as the world’s population approaches 8 billion people, eating insects is destined to become more common in the western world. Andrew Zimmern, chef, food writer and host of the TV show Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, often travels to far-flung destinations to highlight certain grubs or insects -say, the witchetty grub of Australian aboriginal cuisine –that he believes would be an innovative addition to mainstream global cuisine. Perhaps Zimmern is right. The Copenhagen-based restaurant Noma, which was ranked the best restaurant in the world by Restaurant magazine for three years in a row, serves an ant salad. The ants are chilled so that they move slower and taste like lemongrass, parsley, cilantro, and ginger, with legs.