I love Andrew Zimmern. Who else would say clotted tissue tastes like nuts? I heard that he's got new episodes of Andrew Zimmern: Bizarre Foods coming up on the Travel Channel this week, so I went and watched this teaser video. It's just two minutes long and already he's drinking fresh, WARM cow blood.....ulp. Be still, my stomach.
The guy will eat anything. Any part of any plant or animal, in any state. Anything. Even though I'm Filipino, and we do put a lot of things in our mouths that other cultures would throw in the trash, I am a culinary wuss. I don't like eating kidneys and liver and oxtongue (yes, I have tried these time and time again, I don't care for the texture) -- so I really admire his sense of adventure. I want to be like him and eat without regard for preconceptions and prejudice. Maybe it's not even possible. You know how Lance Armstrong is a superhuman freak when it comes to athletic abilities? Well, Andrew Zimmern might be one of those statistical outliers when it comes to digestive capabilities. Sometimes after he's eaten something particularly slimy and squiggly (live worms, anyone?) I expect to see some kind of gag reflex from him, but all he'll give is a thoughtful foodie analysis like "gamey" or "gelatinous".
But what I really love is how Zimmern respects other cultures and shows no hint of surprise or distaste or any hint of condescension towards the friendly people who are offering him a taste of their local cuisine. No wrinkling of the nose or involuntary shudder. No attitude of, "I'm an important American chef and I'm here to try your weird foods so I can show my viewers that I can eat anything". Just interest, and a desire to try new things.
Time and time again I hear people say "Do you know that people in China eat dogs? Ewwww!" or "Oh, I could never eat fish with the head still on it". Even, "Sushi, raw fish, yuck!" and "Rice for breakfast, how weird". I find comments like this a bit ignorant in this day and age, as though these people think that chicken and fish should only come in hygenic shrinkwrapped packages in the supermarket. Shows like Bizarre Foods are great because they show mainstream Americans how the rest of the world eats (albeit in a sensationalized way). You don't have to like everything people eat, but you have to make the shift from labeling things as "weird" (or "Bizarre", for that matter), to "different". Because different is okay.
It might seem like a big leap to go from food to politics, but this makes me think of Sarah Palin and the number of blank pages on her passport -- and more significantly, the number of people in this country who think it's no big deal for a potential vice president to have such a passport. I think that being open to new cuisines is a great first step towards becoming more open to new cultures and new ideas. In politics, like food, wouldn't it be great if we tried different things from different countries (Would you like to try some live worms? Or how about a nationalized health system?) Maybe we could learn a thing or two, and maybe get rid of some misconceptions and prejudices. And maybe even find something we could use back home. So all you potential politicians, take a page from Andrew Zimmern's book and go on your own journey of travel, discovery and learning!