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Interview: Taste-Testing Bizzare Foods

Ed Ames unlocks the studio door for me, as I enter the dimly lit corridor.

“Shhhh!” he says.  “Remember, we are not suppose to be here.”

“I know,” I mouth back.

I am at a secret location which is an old  movie and TV set. We continue down the hall until we reach the aging wooden stage. On the stage sits a lone card table with several glass bowls. We head up the three rickety stairs and towards the table. A single light shines down and highlights the bowls.

Ed points to them one by one and tells me whats in them, “Dish one: Balut, which is underdeveloped duck fetus in an egg….Dish two: Beetle larva…and dish three: casu marzu, or maggot cheese.”

“And these are all safe to eat?” I ask a little hesitantly.

Ed smiles, “Yes, of course. That’s my job, to research the most bizarre and grossest foods from around the world, test and taste them, and then recommend them to shows like Fear Factor, No Reservations, and Survivor…among others.”

Ed’s official title is Gross Stunt Taste Tester.

Me: So, how do you find this stuff? You know, the “foods” ? (I do air quotes, which I’m usually oppose to, but this was one of the few times it seemed super appropriate).

Ed: Research, research, research. We basically spin an old globe while dragging our finger on it. Where ever it lands we research the hell out of the native foods, traditions, and customs. More times than not, what we find to be a heavenly delicacy to them, probably belongs in the bottom of the garbage disposal for us. But hey, can’t knock it, until you have tried it is our motto…but for the most part, you can definitely knock it!

Me: So, do you ever come anything that is surprisingly good?

Ed: Rarely…but that’s the point right? For these reality shows, they want a spectacle. It has to not make the contestant terminally sick and the viewer physically sick all at the same time, yet keep them watching. It’s a delicate dance.

Me: A dance of the Vomit Fairy…

Ed: I get a bonus if the contestant vomits.

Me: (I put my head close to the maggot cheese.) Since you have to eat all this stuff first, how do you work past the smells, textures, looks, and in this case…maggots?

Ed: Well if I revealed that, then I’m giving away a trade secret. Did you decide which one you’re going to try? (Ed waves his hand over the bowls like a Magician’s Assistant at a 5 year old’s birthday party.)

balut

Balut! It’s no Cadbury Creme Egg!

Me: Not yet, but definitely not the Balut. I have a couple of friends from the Philippians who have offered that particular…just plain wrong dish to me before. I couldn’t get past the smell. By any chance…do you have any pasta? You know, with maybe an exotic white  sauce? Bowtie pasta maybe? Bowtie is a pretty exotic pasta…

Ed: No pasta is exotic…or daring…unless it’s Spaghetti-os. Now that stuff will kill you.

Me: You must have an iron stomach. Has anything you ever tried made you vomit, or sick?

Ed: Nothing has ever made me vomit, but I will admit I have had trouble with a couple of different dishes. Anything eyeballs gets  me, it’s the squirt when you bite into it…like a cherry tomato. If it has to be eaten alive, like larva or spiders, that can be a little  daunting at first. I will actually give you a secret there…if it’s a spider, eat it quick or it will wiggle around in your mouth looking for escape,  and if it’s a larva, try not to bite down on it. It’s best to swallow them whole as much as possible.

Me: (retches a little) Thanks for the tip, Ed. By the way, no more tips please.

Ed: Why don’t you try the maggot cheese. It tastes like a peppery Gorgonzola, only it has live maggots on it.

It's maggotly delicious!

It’s maggotly delicious!

Me: Yeah, only it has live maggots on it. No problem. Thanks, Ed.

beetlelarva Ed: Would you rather try one of these?

Ed reaches into the bowl of Beetle Larva and grabs one. He holds it up for me to see.

Me: Yeah….really nice. I bet it was a good year for bugs.

Ed: It’s not a fine wine.

Ed bounces the larva on the palm of his hand twice and then pops it in his mouth. He gives it four big chews and then  opens his lips and sticks out his tongue to prove to me that he has eaten it all.

Ed: It tastes kind of nutty.

Me: You look kind of nutty…um…and you got some….leg? …stuck in your teeth…

Ed: Thanks. Since you are being a wimp, try the casu marzu with some saltines.

Ed hands me a half package of saltines with the top of the wrapper twisted together for freshness I presume. I would hate the taste of my maggot cheese to be spoiled by stale crackers. I untwist the wrapper and take one of the crackers and pop it in my mouth. After four quick chews, I open my lips and stick out my tongue, just like Ed did.

Ed is not impressed.

Me: Fine. Here take your stupid crackers back.

I pinch off a piece of the cheese with the squiggly maggots on top and pop it in my mouth. The smell of gym socks hits my nose first, then a burning sensation on my tongue. It does taste like a piece of Gorgonzola cheese, but has been left under the refrigerator for a week.

Me: (coughing) Nailed it!

Ed chuckles.

Me: It’s…good. And by good I mean, not good.

Ed: Most of this stuff sucks. I don’t know how anyone eats this stuff or why it’s considered a ‘delicacy’.

Me: I think the word delicacy translates to: Get tourists to try disgusting foods and laugh at them.

Ed: I think you’re right.

We head out of the set and I stop at a vending machine to get some water, Listerine, and a vomit bag. Ed’s is a job I don’t envy, nor do I think I have the stomach to handle.

But then again, I also thought eating my Grandma’s meatloaf was a brave adventure.

—–

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About Christopher De Voss (132 Articles)
One Of The Hosts Of Podcast 42. Online Producer for The Over The Line Show. Voice over actor, writer on various websites, published author, should not eat cheese but still does. Follow me on twitter: @chrisdevoss

80 Comments on Interview: Taste-Testing Bizzare Foods

  1. NotAPunkRocker // January 13, 2014 at 10:32 am //

    I am a little afraid now to break into the hard-boiled egg I brought with me today.

    Like

  2. Reblogged this on Christopher De Voss and commented:

    Come visit me at Long Awkward Pause as I try maggot cheese…enough said.

    Like

  3. Ewwwwwww! I could not, would not, have put any of those three things into my mouth. I can’t believe this really happened to you! I would have run away while loudly reciting, “I do not like casu marzu. I will not eat it, and you’re gross ’cause you do!”

    …I imagine this leads to some interesting conversations with his partner before he’s allowed to kiss them after work.

    Like

  4. You wrote this whole post just so you could use the brilliantly brilliant line of “it’s maggotly delicious”. Didn’t you? Great read.

    Like

  5. I thought I ate some fucked up stuff. This is just disgusting.

    Like

  6. I ate gluten-free bread one time. It tasted like spit. The bug I ate on a dare in high school wasn’t that bad.

    Like

  7. The Chinese food I had last night? Ed would have had an orgasm.

    Like

  8. I pushed the like button today to show my support for you, but I kind of hate you a little bit right now. I am completely grossed out, and my face has been stuck in an “ew” position for at least five minutes.

    Like

  9. What was that Francis Bacon? quote that some books are not only to be read but digested? Anyway, this was fun to read, but hard on the digestive tract.

    Like

  10. Yikes. I almost vomited at the thought of eating any of that… Although if you gave me a million dollars my mind may change…

    Like

  11. Disgusting. I actually had to hold my hand up over the screen to block out that beetle larvae. I haven’t had to do that since that time I was googling my father and found a bunch of explicit images.
    Oh, and I watched people eat those fetal duck eggs in Cambodia. *shudder*

    Like

  12. Snoring Dog Studio // January 14, 2014 at 7:33 am //

    I can’t believe I read the whole thing. At 5:30 in the morning. You just gave my diet a boost. I’m going to drink coffee all day long.

    Like

  13. Oh my GAWD! You, sir, are a brave soul.

    Like

  14. Still gross…follow both of your blogs and to have these images twice in my in box was so gross!!

    Like

  15. What’s even more bizarre is that I read it all! Ugh, Eew and retch all in one. The beetle larvae reminded me of the Witchety Grub the Aborigines eat here and I haven’t tasted that either. i have it on very good authority that roasted they are ok and yes, nutty, but I would need to be nutty to eat it.
    Thanks for stopping by my very tame blog.
    I need something to take the imagined taste from my mouth 🙂
    Susan x

    Like

  16. It took me awhile to read this because I couldn’t even get past the pictures of this stuff without my stomach lurching. Excuse me while I go get some Pepto-Bismol.

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  17. He’d get a lot of bonuses with me around because I’d be vomiting all over the place!

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  18. Ahh what a job!! 😵

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  19. Ahh what a job!! 😵 I wpuld have had to start off with the vomit bag.

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  20. That would be quite a job, to be sure. I’ve had live octopus, but that didn’t taste bad at all. Maggot cheese…not sure if I would.

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  21. Your cracker trick would have been as far as I would have gone : ) You’re a braver man than I.

    Like

  22. This isn’t real… is it?!

    Like

  23. Bonus points for rising bile? I have unwittingly eaten maggots, and had dogfood and sour milk in a “bushman’s challenge race” but I’ll leave the rest for Ed, Fear Factor and Survivor. Thank for sharing Christopher!….not!

    Like

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