I was listening to this American Life the other day, as Ira and gang meandered through an episode on doppelgangers. First up, (or should I say Act One) was a piece on passing off sliced pig rectum as…dum dum dum…imitation calamari. (By the way, pig rectum is officially known as BUNG a.k.a. funnest word ever.) Initially, yes, I was horrified, but when I stopped to think about it, I was really just horrified by possibly being lied to. NOT by the bung eating.
I’ve had this bung you speak of. And I liked it.
Maybe you know this, maybe you don’t – Chinese people think everything is edible. Like everything. Color the world in shades of cold jellyfish salad, braised chicken feet, sea cucumbers, swallow spit, fish eyeballs, congealed pork blood cubes, duck tongues on a stick, fish head stew, and spicy tripe casserole. On the less esoteric end, meat is always with bone in, fish with head on and everything with skin on. Growing up in a Chinese household, within the ethnic food buffet that is New York City and being lucky enough to do a good amount of global traveling, food has always equaled adventure without the defying of death and threatening of life. When confronted with a new, exotic dish, the question has always skipped right past the yes versus no to ‘is it good?’. If you’ve come to conclusion that this also called being greedy, you are so correct. Being overly confident in this particular sector of life, I thought there was nothing I could eat that would faze me.
Cut to the former M.Wells Diner in Long Island City, winter of 2011. We had a bunch of good eaters doing what they do best, with a table of raw seafood, escargot, foie gras, maple pie, and veal brains. Veal brains. They tasted much like what I had envisioned – silky like a slightly toothsome tofu, with an undefinable sweetness. In the moment, I felt fine about but for weeks afterwards I felt guilty and terrible, with a nightmare or two thrown in for a good measure. I decided that this was a food boundary I would not be crossing again. It made me a little sad, as I like to think of myself as a person who eats everything, but this particular food has quite effortlessly punched through my imaginary armor.
Which made me wonder, adventurous eaters, what’s your food kryptonite?
(Thanks to my cousin, Peter, for the in-action shot of pork blood/rice cake on a stick at a Taiwanese night market. Good job with the eating.)