Modern . . . Odd Foods

Anyone ever watch Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel? My husband loves it. I enjoy it for the gross-out factor and the interesting places he goes, but David . . . he actually thinks most of this stuff looks good. We’re talking intestines stuffed with . . . stuff. Every kind of creepy-crawly you can imagine . . . things fermented in the ground for three years. Yeah. Yucky.

It occurred to me when watching one night that most of these foods are well capable of scaring normal folks off. Which led to a “mwa ha ha” moment in the book I was working on at the time. My heroine was trying to scare off my hero (to avoid another heartbreak at his hands), so at one point in the story she resorts to a truly bizarre menu that would make Andrew Zimmern proud.

This scene has the distinction of making one of my critique partners question my sanity (waving, Carole), another alternately laugh and ew on every line (that would be Stephanie) and the third put questions like “Are you sure you’re okay??” in the margin (Mary;-). Their reactions just made my mwa ha ha all the louder.

To research, I started on the Bizarre Foods website, went to the forum, and followed the links to the different recipes posted. And let me just tell you, there are some mega weird and disgusting foods posted. Truly disturbing in some cases.

My character settled on an appetizer of dung beetle dip (where we got the line, “Just think of them as peanuts. Really big, crunchy peanuts. With legs.”) followed by a first course of calf-head (cooked with the heart and lungs of course), and the main course–fruit bat soup. Which is bad enough in name . . . just wait until you have to shampoo those little critters before you cook them. (Can’t skin ’em until they’ve stewed for a while.)

Grossed out yet? Yeah, me too, lol. In spite of what people might think when they read that or see the show up on my television, I am the Queen of Boring when it comes to food. I eat my salads with nothing but shredded cheddar and Ranch dressing, my burgers with nothing but ketchup, and mac & cheese still ranks as one of my all-time favorite meals. But hey . . . if we can’t explore new foods in the pages of a book (when our tastebuds are safe from the experience, lol), where can we?

Bon appetite!

Modern . . . Health Nuts

I am not a health nut. I’ll confess that up front. Sure, I’ll eat healthy things–if they taste good. 😉 I’ll exercise . . . when I start to get unhappy with how I look. But I don’t do any of those things for the sake of themselves.

Now, my parents have decided virtuously to be healthy. My aunt is a nutritionist, personal trainer, and nurse practitioner. My mother-in-law went through this phase before David was born when she was all about keeping everything that entered her body “pure.” (She describes herself as a step removed from crazy with it at the time.)

So naturally, I decided that in my WIP I need to have a character who torments the heroine with this sort thing. =)

The heroine in my work-in-progress is the third of five children, and the rest are all boys. (Fun, huh?) Her oldest brother is my Health Nut, and he moves back from California at the beginning of the story and invites himself to stay at her house. Throughout the story, he drives her nuts by interfering with her diet and “forcing” her to exercise (no, my family would never do this, lol).

But he also makes her realize something–that foods are good for you not because of what they DON’T have, like fat and calories and preservatives. But because of what they DO, like vitamins and minerals and nutrients.

I came to this realization one day when I thought, “Well, I’m ruining my salad by putting a full-fat dressing on it.” Then I thought, “No I’m not. I need the salad because of what it has. Not just because it’s a better alternative than pizza.”

My heroine then takes it a step further and applies it to people. So often we judge ourselves on what we’re not–on our failings. But wouldn’t we rather define ourselves by what we are? Maybe I’m not in good enough shape, maybe I’m not patient enough, maybe I’m not . . . all number of things. But you know what? There are a lot of things I am too. And they’re a whole lot more important.