Food is a popular topic of conversation at my workplace. We have an even mix of ectomorphs (slim folks) and mesomorphs (solid, muscular people), vegetarians and carnivores, health nuts and gourmands. The most passionate and heated debate usually surrounds the question of “where do you draw the line” with things you’ll put into your mouth. Raw vs. cooked. Domesticated vs. wild. Local vs. imported. Kosher vs. cheeseburger. Cows vs. dogs.
A few months ago, I went to a restaurant on Dundas ominously named “The Black Hoof“, where I ate bone marrow (did not like – gelatinous, flavourless, icky) and raw horse (was okay, not something I’d eat every day). I texted a colleague and her response was “OMG RAW HORSE??!?! WHY?”.
Curiosity is the simple answer. I’m an adventurous gal, and I often like to say that, within reason, I’ll try anything once. I’ve got a pretty relaxed attitude towards what is edible, so usually when we’re talking about eating dog-meat (in the context of visiting a country where dog is part of the cuisine, NOT in the context of me coaxing Fido into my personal abbatoir so I can enjoy dog burgers on a Saturday night in Toronto – let’s be real) I’m the one nodding while others are gagging.
However, I have recently run into two experiences that are taking my “try anything once” attitude to the wall.
Dessicated what now?
So, the dessicated ox bile is a component of the evening digestive pills that form part of the “Innocleanse” 7-day cleanse that I thought I’d try out this week as a sort of personal challenge. There are the usual regimen of enzymes, purgatives and thermogenic (temperature-raising) ingredients in these pills – alfalfa leaves, sennosides, papain, cayenne pepper) but let me stress that this is emphatically not the crazy Beyonce cleanse where all you drink is spicy maple syrup lemonade. The list of foods you can eat is restricted, but you still have to eat.
The “NO” foods for this cleanse include wheat grains, fruit, caffeine, milk, carrots, tomatoes, pork, shellfish, yeast, oats, barley, potatoes, vinegar, sugar and margarine.
At first, looking at that list, all I could think of was celery sticks. But as it happens, if you’re willing to shell out about $150 in groceries at Whole Foods, you can eat a lot of things that are included in the “YES” food category, namely: yeast-free sprouted grain breads, lemons, limes, fresh cranberries, unsweetened almond butter, organic plain yoghurt, butter, eggs, herbal tea, sunflower seeds, vegetables, hummus, tzatziki, olive oil, garlic, onion, lean beef, chicken, turkey, all fish, beans, yeast-free grains (millet, quinoa, spelt, amaranth, brown rice, kamut, teff, buckwheat), unsweetened soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, and tofu.
We’ll see if I can last out the whole 7 days. Yesterday was day one and I had a screaming, eyeball-splitting headache all night from caffeine withdrawal. This morning my head is still hurting, but not as badly, but my upper arms feel like someone administered a series of clumsily-injected flu shots into them. Achey and heavy and sore. Apparently the first three days are the worst. I’ll keep everyone posted.
So, what was that about eating bugs?
There’s a surreptitous supper club in Toronto called “Charlie’s Burgers“. The idea is, you go to their website, fill out a survey about your food fantasies and they may (or may not) invite you to dinner. The mandate of this mysterious enterprise is to give great chefs “a blank canvas to create whatever menu they want, with no boundaries whatsoever.”
This month, they’re really pushing those non-existent boundaries by offering up an extravagant 9-course meal made up of… insects. Yes, for just $155, guest chefs Matt Binkley & Jeff Stewart will tantalize your tastebuds with tarantulas. Okay, not really (there are no spiders on the menu), but they WILL serve you crickets, grasshoppers, forest nymphs, scorpions, queen ants, water beetle, rhinoceros beetle, wax worms, meal worms, super worms and butter worms. See the complete menu if you dare! (or, if you want to know which wine goes with scorpions)
I have to make up my mind if I’m bold enough to eat these things before the dinner happens on Jan 24. If I’m honest with myself, I think I already know the answer. As an old-school nerd, the moment I think of eating worms, the image that springs to mind is of Riker staring down the parasite-infected Starfleet Admirals in episode #25 of ST:TNG, “Conspiracy”.
The valuable life lesson that episode taught me? If you eat bugs, your head may asplode.