Sunday, September 09, 2007

Jellied Moose Nose

One of the cable shows I've come to enjoy is Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern on the Travel Channel. Andrew is a chef from New York who likes to travel, and feels that the best way to appreciate a culture is to eat the traditional local cuisine.

As part of his Alaskan adventure, Andrew experienced 'jellied moose nose'. The primary ingredient is the meat from the snout and head of the moose which is spiced with cinnamon, cloves, coriander, chilis, allspice and mustard seed. The meat is cooked with the spices and then put into loaf pans with collagen from the animal. It kind of sounds like head cheese except with a bunch of spices, and moose meat instead of pig or cow.

The first time I saw this show was about a year ago. Andrew went to a bunch of different places in Asia and highlighted some of the strangest foods I'd ever heard of. While most of the bizarre food he focuses on can be classified as 'fauna', one vegan appropriate highlight was the Durian fruit. Typically found in Malay, this stuff smells so bad that hotels have signs in the lobby prohibiting guests from bringing the fruit into the establishment.

While I'm no shrinking violet when it comes to trying new foods, the appeal of the show isn't exactly the foods. I am not likely to try to cruise the Internet to find a source for Nutria meat or deep fried bats. Then again, if someone offered me some of his fare, I would probably try at least a bite.

The appeal of Bizarre Foods is really Andrew and the places he chooses to visit. He is a very upbeat and adventurous guy. And, even if he doesn't fall in love with the food he tries, he is always gracious to those who served it to him. He also goes to a lot of places that I'll probably never visit, and thus makes the world a smaller place for me.

Another Travel Channel show we like to watch is Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. Like Andrew, Anthony travels around the world looking to experience foreign cultures through the food. Bourdain does not shy away from the 'bizarre' either. But to him, that's secondary. He is more interested in finding the best and most representative food of a locale. If it happens to be deep fried alligator or some animal's testicles, then he'll dig in happily. Bourdain recently did a show about his home town: NYC. Andrew, another NYC boy, joined him for a segment. They went to a kebab cafe in Queens run by an Arab immigrant where they ate heartily of "beef shank with cow's foot, sweetbreads and brains cooked with caper sauce and lemon, testicles cooked with portobello mushrooms, hibiscus tea, calf's liver and lamb hearts."

The Travel Channel isn't just for travel junkies fantasizing about the trips they might take. It offers those of us who are not fond of travel a chance to get to know other cultures and see the world through different eyes. ... And on Andrew and Anthony's shows, maybe watch him eat something's eyes (Note: Bourdain ate raw seal eyes last season. Yum).

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