THE BIZARRE TRUTH
BY ANDREW ZIMMERN
Review by Barb & Ron Kroll
The Bizarre Truth
(Broadway) ISBN 978-0767931298 0767931297
If weird food fascinates you, then The Bizarre Truth will show you where to find unusual food like buffalo marrow, feet and skin stew (India), shark's head (Singapore), bull scrotums (Chile) and porcupine (Botswana).
Andrew Zimmern's book is an experiential guide to global cultures through their cuisines. Once you start reading this part-food, part-travel book, you can't put it down.
Entertaining and educational, this 271-page guidebook to strange foods does not intend to shock people. Instead, Andrew Zimmern wants readers to understand how unusual foods reflect history, traditions and humanity. His first-person culinary experiences inspire you to venture off the beaten track to discover traditional cuisines.
Each chapter of The Bizarre Truth shows you the different ways the author conducts his culinary anthropology: traveling to the most remote place in a country to eat, visiting local markets and documenting disappearing cultures.
A black and white photo of Zimmern on his international food trips introduces each chapter.
During his Bolivia travels, Andrew Zimmern describes an apthali, or Andean picnic. He explains how cholitas (Bolivian women who wear bowler hats) prepare sweet, nut-flavored quinoa dumplings, which they serve with homemade farmers' cheese and pan-broiled llama. The apthali also included delicious Lake Titicaca trout and ispis, tiny salted and fried fish, which are an indigenous Bolivian snack.
He helped prepare chunos (rotten, black potatoes, left on hills to freeze and thaw) by removing the skins with his feet. The animal feces on the hills made even the thought of eating the steamed chunos repulsive.
La Paz witch market
Some traditional foods are entwined with religious festivals. During Zimmern's Bolivia trip, the apthali concluded with a traditional limpia, or cleansing ceremony. A shaman burned a llama fetus and said prayers for better weather. Almost miraculously, the rain turned to sunshine.
The author describes the Mercado De Las Brujas, a witch market in La Paz, Bolivia. Indigenous Bolivian people come to this market to buy llama fetuses for limpia ceremonies, dried toucan beak to cure illnesses and wax candles, incense and coca leaves for black and white magic treatments.
Not all of the unusual foods in The Bizarre Truth are revolting. Andrew Zimmern describes his favorite fruit, which he discovered in Yacapani, Bolivia, near Santa Cruz in the Amazon region. The pale orange and brilliant red achachairu fruits were so delicious, he couldn't stop eating them.
Enclosed by a thin, leathery skin, the achachairu (also called Bolivian mangosteen or purple mangosteen) tastes like a combination of sour and floral flavors.
- Last Stops on the Subway (Going to Extremes)
- Modern day Vikings –
Puffin hunting in the land of fire and ice
- The most dangerous game –
How I almost lost my life tracking down Samoa's elusive giant fruit bat
- Journey to the source –
Why the shortest distance from sea to plate makes for amazing meals
- Muddy waters –
Ugandan lung-fishing can be messy
- The last bottle of Coke in the desert –
A day in the life of Tobago Cox
- Saving Huatulco –
Free diving for octopus
- Death match 2009 –
Can a matador save Madrid's historic tabernas?
- Forgotten foods –
Juicy cheese worms are making a comeback!
- Paris –
Best food day in my life?
- Welcome to Wazwan –
The meal that nearly killed me
- Mary's corner –
The quest for the best laksa in Singapore
- Simple foods –
Noodle houses of Guangzhou
- Eating my words –
When the most obvious choice is the best
- Fish heaven –
Finding perfection in a Ginza basement
- Lamb alley –
Dining nose to tail in the Djemaa El Fna
- Nature's candy –
- Pleasant surprises –
- Sweat, tears and blood –
Rituals around the world
- Ritual royalty –
The Kalahari trance dance of the Bushmen
Andrew Zimmern is host of Bizarre World and Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern on the Travel Channel. He is also a food writer, chef and restaurant critic.