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The most frequent question I get asked is, “How the hell can you eat that?!” I’ll admit my taste in food is broader than the average person.  Next to the people I know, who are the most fastidious bunch of eaters—no meat, no wheat, no dairy, no berries, no nuts, no seeds, no fat, no weeds—I’m a human garbage can with a flip-top lid.

One friend said she felt nauseous when she read this post.  Another flew into a fit of hysteria when she read this one.  The same post resulted in a voicemail from another, mostly serious about never speaking to me again.

My answer to all that is—these foods are “normal” to somebody. You might be surprised to know that when I’m not eating brains and rotten eggs, I’m a flexitarian. I know that sounds pretentious but I have a point. I don’t eat for shock value, I do it as a way to learn about people and cultures since I don’t travel as much as I’d like. And frankly, the world is running out of food, so we all better get used to eating things we would normally turn up our noses at.

Fifteen years ago, people wouldn’t have dreamed of touching lips to raw fish.  Now sushi is available at the grocery store.  Some people consider Tofurky exotic.  Why is it okay to eat plants and not animals?  I happen to like plants.  A lot.  Don’t they have a will to survive as much as we do?  The New York Times thinks so. So what is “adventurous eating?”

Offal is making a glamorous comeback on menus everywhere, when it is in our very origins as hunters and farmers to consume ahem, everything on the animal.  We are, after all, animals too.  In places such as Oaxaca and Cambodia, insects are part of the regular diet because they are abundant, healthy, low-fat and high-protein.  I’ve tried grasshoppers but I do have to admit, I won’t be trying that again.

Did you know that because someone decided to set his pet lionfish free, this non-indigenous species has now decimated coral reefs from North Carolina to South America and all the baby fish that go along with them?  But don’t take my word for it.  Ask Barton Seaver.

Right now, there is an overpopulation of cownose rays which prey on Chesapeake oysters and scallops because the finning trade is killing off sharks, their natural predators.  Think about that before you dive into that bowl of shark’s fin soup.  So “Save the Bay, Eat a Ray” at Mie N Yu.  Though I wish Mie N Yu didn’t actually serve the ray…with an oyster.

Before you decide that cownose rays and lionfish don’t sound so appetizing, chew on this: Chilean sea bass is really called Patagonian toothfish.  What a difference a name can make, huh?

Not that I condone eating now-overfished Chilean sea bass.  Sometimes I eat unusual things, but I do try to stay away from non-sustainable foods.  Sigh.  There are many foods that I miss.  I don’t know what I’m going to do about oysters.

As people fight and die over food in Mozambique, can we be afford to be picky?  Where’s the line between ethical eating and taking food for granted? What some may consider adventurous eating is simply our natural role in the food web.  As top predators with higher consciousness, we can help restore order to the global ecosystem, simply by eating.  How great is that?  All I’m saying is, keep an open mind about food.  You might find something that you like.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  How do you make your food choices and why?

Photo: Wayfaring Travel Guide