Craig is a bit of a foodie, and as such, he enjoys watching TV shows about food and cooking. So it didn’t surprise me to see a show called Bizarre Foods show up on our DVR list. On this show, a guy named Andrew Zimmern travels around the world and shows viewers like you and me all of the weirdest stuff that people eat. Let’s just say that much of the show can really makes one’s stomach churn. But I have to give the guy credit – he does eat whatever he is offered, whether he wants to or not. And he is definitely respectful of his hosts while doing so; there aren’t any comments like, “You’ve got to be kidding me! I can’t believe you really eat THAT!”
It turns out that he recently did a show on Ethiopia, and that’s why Craig had added the show to our queue. The other day our DVR picked up a rerun of the show, and we watched it last night.
I will admit that some of what is featured on the show is SO not for the faint of heart. Zimmern showed a couple of dishes that made me wish I wasn’t eating my leftover tacos at the time we were watching, such as ox intestine stuffed with goat organs, which are then hung out to dry in the sunshine for a few days. And raw camel kidney. Yikes.
He did mention injera and wot and tibs, but just in passing. Those are the non-bizarre foods that we would find in an Ethiopian restaurant and that we’ll be eagerly sampling in Ethiopia. But, the name of the show is Bizarre Foods, afterall, so the pretty normal stuff is not what he’s going to feature.
Even with the incredibly unappetizing foods that were featured, I absolutely loved watching this show. Zimmern showed the main marketplace in Addis Ababa, which is apparently the largest market in all of Africa. He talked with vendors there and explained the various spices used in Ethiopian cuisine – namely the berbere and the clarified butter used in most food. He also visited two villages and talked a fair amount about dining customs in Ethiopia. He noted that Ethiopian food is generally eaten in communal style – everyone eating off the same large platter – and that you are supposed to only touch the food with your right hand so that your left hand is free for other things (like brushing hair out of your face or other things that wouldn’t be terribly sanitary for communal eating). He talked about how poor villagers can ferment the innards of enset (false banana) tree stalks to create a starch useful in many different forms. He also featured a coffee ceremony and explained the custom of taking a long time to prepare and savor coffee (as opposed to the quick, gotta-have-it-now way that we tend to want our coffee).
One thing that Zimmern noted that I hadn’t really thought of before is that Ethiopian cuisine is the only African cuisine that has developed a true international following. I suppose that’s right; I don’t ever hear about anyone going out to a Nigerian restaurant or a Zambian cafe.
Anyone who gets the Travel Channel might want to check it out! There are also a few clips from the show on the website. (But do be forewarned – the food featured is truly BIZARRE.)