Fare enough: It’s not just the Chinese who eat strange things, so do lots of other people


One of the side effects of the coronavirus pandemic, which is wreaking havoc on the world’s physical and economic health and which supposedly originated in bat meat which some Chinese eat, has given rise to what might be called food racism.

Some are blaming China’s dietary preferences, which they find weird and revolting, for the cause of the virus. This isn’t quite fair. Or fare.

People all over the world eat things which other people might shudder at.

The French, who pride themselves on their haute cuisine, relish snails (escargot), frogs’ legs, and horse meat. Upper-class Brits are partial to their Stilton, a mouldy cheese which when sufficiently aged is sometimes called ‘walking cheese’ because it is crawling with maggots. And the food department of Fortnum and Mason, London’s landmark store, famously boasts chocolate-coated ants’ eggs among its other delicacies.

In the Australian outback live witchetty grubs, like fat, wriggly caterpillars, are billed as a tourist treat. The Japanese prize the fugu fish, which has a poison sac which if not removed with due diligence can kill the person eating the fish.

The Koreans celebrate special occasions by eating dogs, and halfway across the world in New Orleans ‘gator-on-a-stick’, which is an alligator meat sausage, is a local speciality. I tried it once, years ago, but found it too fishy for my taste.

Vegetarians might turn up their noses at the disgusting things non-veg types eat. However, the perfectly vegetarian durian fruit, so beloved of many in Southeast Asia, is said to smell like a public lavatory, and many hotels put up signs prohibiting guests from bringing it into their premises. And wasn’t there an austerely vegetarian former Indian prime minister who was given to imbibing the byproduct of his own kidneys?

So let’s not resort to food racism. But the next time someone exhorts you to try some exotic titbit, assuring you it’s to die for, don’t. Because it might, quite literally, be just that.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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