Andrew Zimmern, the easygoing host of the Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods America, got philosophical recently about the fourth season of his try-anything-once series.
When asked about where the U.S. ranks in the echelon of bizarre foods, he replied, “I disagree with the premise.”
Zimmern explained that the foods on his show that seem strange often have cultural, geographic and socioeconomic roots in the communities that have been making them for generations. More than any element of the bizarre, Zimmern chooses his destinations based on the stories behind the foods.
“I think that the best stories about food are from the fringe,” he said. “But to the people cooking the food, making the food, and people like me eating the food, there is nothing strange about it.”
Just because your favorite restaurant doesn't use animal blood doesn't make the many uses that chefs all over the world have for it every day bizarre. (As a Hungarian, land of the blood sausage, I can attest to its virtues — as well as my American husband’s aversion.) And really, if you think about it, cheese that has to be squeezed out of a can is also a bit strange. Delicious, but strange.
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So if he had it to do over again, what does Zimmern think would be a more accurate title for his show?
“I had originally called it ‘Chew On This,’ but my pal Eric Schlosser had already been the first mouse to that cheese.” (Schlosser is the author of “Fast Food Nation,” and adapted the concept for younger readers into a book with that title.)
Despite spending a good portion of the year eating food from all places and cultures, it’s only every two or three years that Zimmern finds something he just can't stomach. Most recently, it was mock smoked mackerel at Los Angeles’ Vege Paradise in the fourth season premiere. Happens to the best of us.
So instead of judging a food as bizarre, open your mind. As Zimmern says on the show, "If it looks good, eat it!"
Bizarre Foods America airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on the Travel Channel. Find recipes, blogs and more on Zimmern’s website.