I grew up on an unsophisticated diet of heavily processed foods. And despite the preservatives, additives, and whatever-ives, I came out okay. Don’t get me wrong, there were also plenty of potatoes, carrots, and MEAT, but I grew up mostly in the two-parents-at-work era and that meant it usually had to be quick, easy, and non-exotic. So say what you will about macaroni and cheese intermingled with cut up hotdogs as a proper meal for a growing boy, but IMHO not only will this leave your taste buds dancin’ but your belly happy too. To my moms, big ups!
Now I’m an adult of course, and as I’ve gotten older and done more traveling my taste buds have gotten more and more adventurous. When I moved to Asia, fuhgeddaboudit, everything went out the window. Ketchup used to be a spice, and “shit on a shingle”—basically ground beef, cream of mushroom soup and maybe some onions spooged down upon a piece of toasted Wonder Bread—was a rare and appreciated change-up. Perhaps a delicious dessert of half a Hostess fruit pie, carefully cut down the middle by my loving matriarch, might follow this culinary delicacy.
Today I eat more mussels and clams and prawns and fishballs than I could have ever imagined. Don’t get me wrong; the food here tastes the best, the best! But sometimes I swear the philosophy is “if it looks weird and has a weird texture but tastes okay, throw it in!”
So in my year abroad my stomach has been faced with some major change. Staples such as bread and cheese were largely replaced with rice, noodles, and prawns, mussels and fishballs. For the most part, my system seems to appreciate it. But once you cross a certain threshold, once you leave the comfort food confines of casseroles and fruit salads and PB & J’s, it’s like you can’t stop. When it’s put in front of you, described as “quite nice,” or available only for a short stopover in Vietnam, you want to eat it!
I think this adventurism is, overall, a good thing. I have discovered many delicacies. But I have also discovered there can be a stiff fine: food poisoning. And I’m here to tell you that food poisoning? It’s a bitch, yo.
Now obviously food poisoning isn’t an Asian thing—far from it. Nor does it necessarily result from adventurous eating. But in my case it came from adventurous eating in an Asian country, so that’s good enough for blogging.
Ugh! This sucks! For three days now my stomach has felt simultaneously crushed from the outside by a sumo and like there’s a melon ball scooper randomly at work inside. My stool (sorry) is bloody and runny. And the malaise! I’d tell you not to get me started, but I’m not startin’ shit (because of the malaise!). My head aches, my back aches, and I haven’t had any tasty mussels or clams for three whole days!
The culprit? A buffet (notorious for food poisoning) boasting lots of shellfish (notorious for food poisoning), exotic soft cheeses (notorious for food poisoning), and Carpaccio (not sure, but it seems to lend itself to food poisoning). Perhaps surprising for you, dear reader, if you didn’t catch the Carpaccio hint, is that this buffet was Italian. It’s just that it was the fancy pants, anti-pasta side of the Italian spectrum. And I’m here to tell ya, those Italianos eat some hardcore crap, at least before the main course. My Moms cooked Italian too—a simple prepackaged noodle, bottled and preservative-laden sauce, maybe an added onion and a little salt, some uncontroversial cheeses, and voila, lasagna.
It’s enough to make me want to go back to the old country (the US, and at least for dinner).
Anyway, be careful what you eat people. If it seems undercooked, don’t eat it. If you suspect it wasn’t handled properly, don’t eat it. If it’s been sitting out a long time, don’t eat it. Take it from me. Food poisoning? It’s a bitch, yo.