What Weird Food Does to You

Less busy to try strange foods. If you haven’t, make sure to try them now and then, food outside the traditional dishes served on everyday dinner tables. My mom never cooked food with coconut milk or ginataan, so the first time I ate food dishes cooked in coconut milk, they were something weird to me. I was used to seeing coconut milk mixed only with desserts and native sweets, not in a meal.

Why Would Anyway Eat Snails?

Another first were small snails in coconut milk—snails they caught in fresh water sources or in rice fields—like in the picture above. When I was a kid, I wondered why anyone would eat snails. I saw them in street canals and dump and dirty places. And then I saw them served in formal dinners when I was a teenager. The way they ate them took away all the formalities.

But my dad taught me to try eating weird food because it enriched your perspective of life, people and their culture. At first, I didn’t get that. But later, in college, I learned that a lot of friendships were formed and strengthened because of food, especially weird food popular in a region.

I remember one time in college, during sem break, when I spent 4 days in the house of a friend’s relatives in the province. Because I was from Manila, my friend’s relatives didn’t seem to be too fond of me. But when I started appreciating their kinilaw na dilis (fresh, raw, small, white boneless fish just soaked in vinegar with garlic and chopped onions) they started liking me, especially when I ate lots of it each meal. To some people, liking their weird food means liking them, their hometown and their culture.

Isaw

Grilled animal intestines (isaw) were best sellers. Image from primer.com.ph

What Not Eating Streetfoods Meant

Again in college when I was attending a university in Manila for the middle class, it was thought grossly improper for you not to eat streetfoods. You’d be condemned as “grotesquely choosy like the rich” (maarte or social) when in fact “you’re just middle class like us!” They’d add that you should be enrolled in an exclusive and expensive university, not in our university. So we all ate streetfood, which were really good and clean when sold near universities. Like deep fried one-day old chicks, kikiam (pork fat wrapped in flour and deep fried), barbecued innards (barbecued inner organs of animals), fried spring rolls, raw mangoes with bagoong (preserved small fish), fishballs, squidballs, and many others.

Lugaw and tokwa’t baboy (rice soup and fried tofu and pork) were also among the favorites because they were delicious, nutritious, cheap and perfect whether during hot or rainy days. You enhanced the flavor further by putting in soy or fish sauce, a squeeze of kalamansi, chopped onion leaves, and black pepper. Even with the advent of western fastfoods, streetfoods remained the best sellers.

Really Weird Foods

So far, what I have been mentioning here are not really that weird. They’re still tolerable. What I really want to try are snakes, field rats, wild lizards, crocodile meat, field beetles or salagubang, eels, ants, tree-trunk worms, and the like. Filipinos eat almost anything that moves. This is probably why Filipinos easily adapt to any culture in the world. We easily identify with the cultures by eating their delicacies, even weird ones. So most peoples like us. So we easily get employed abroad. So we survive.

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Snake dish. Image from FitDay.

I thought the weirdest food dish I’ve ever eaten was frogs and raw pig brain. But then one time I was eating banana with rice for breakfast, lunch and supper (at another time I ate only boiled camote tops and rice) and my friends thought it was really weird, weirder than frogs, snails and pig brain. “As long as it’s food, I eat it,” I reasoned.

As long as you’re alive, you’ve got to try a lot of things. Often, your lack of free time will prevent you from enjoying food-trip adventures. So you’d be confined to boring decent food dishes served in most restaurants. Or worse, all you’d have all your life are fastfoods.

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