Entomophagy is the term coined for eating insects. All over the world, people eat various species of bugs from larva to grasshoppers. It’s a concept that both terrifies and fascinates me, especially considering that back in 2013, when I took my first solo trip, it is fair to say I was afraid of food. I visited cities and countries known for their food; Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, the list goes on. Although I dabbled in new experiences, my go-to restaurant was McDonald's.
Yes, I am rather ashamed to admit it, but the Quarter Pounder does not change depending on the country you are in. Thankfully my days of even having a “go-to” are long behind me. I may not quite be at the eating bugs stage yet, but I have come a long way from my Quarter Pounder days.
You learn at some point that travel is all about trying new things, experiencing culture and life far beyond your comfort zone. That is why I’ve come up with a sample of the quirkiest foods I’ve tried from around the world - for the foodie in all of us:
Norway is known for its beautiful people and even more beautiful fjords. Food may not be the first thought on anyone’s mind when they think of Norway, but hopefully I can change that today.
I won’t sugar coat it, food is expensive in Norway. A garden salad, for example, set me back $20. But, if you find yourself in Oslo, make a trip to one of the city's markets because you are in for a treat.
Reindeer pizza, reindeer sausage, reindeer pasta, reindeer steak are all available to purchase and eat. The taste is not what I would describe as unique or life changing, but the appeal is all in the experience.
Don’t worry, Santa won’t be lacking on his Christmas Eve sleigh ride. There are plenty of reindeer both in the wild and domesticated in Norway, keeping with the centuries old herding tradition of the Sami people.
Taste: 3/5 Experience: 4/5
Australia is known for its white sand beaches and attractive accents, but don't forget the unique animals native to Australia that allow the country to make my list.
We’ve all heard about kangaroos. Foreigners see them as a cute and funny marsupial, but native Australians, especially farmers, see them as a giant pest. This, coupled with the fact that they are downright delicious, is a reason kangaroo meat is a must-try. You can get kangaroo hamburgers (try one at their very popular burger joint Moo Burger), kangaroo sausage (cheap at their local grocery store), or chow down on a kangaroo steak under the stars at the Sounds of Silence dinner at Uluru, also known as Ayer's Rock.
Another delicious item to make my list is emu, the unofficial national bird of Australia. The bird makes a better steak than any other meat I’ve tried. Tender and soft, my mouth is watering just thinking about it now.
However delicious they are, kangaroo and emu aren’t on every Australian or tourists “must-try” lists. Australia is one of the only countries to eat the animals on their coat of arms, which makes it a taboo food to some. However, Aborigines have been using both animals as a food source for centuries and only frown upon hunting for pleasure, rather than for necessity. So if you ever find yourself Down Under, make sure these two foods end up on your plate.
Taste: 4/5 Experience: 5/5
The final item to make my list is based primarily on the tradition than the taste itself. For more than 600 years in Holland, raw herring has been a staple on the menu.
Herring are caught in the North and East Sea from May to July - when they are at their fattest - before being sold at a variety of street vendor’s carts. This isn’t the Dutch having their own take on sushi – pleasant and appealing thin silences of raw fish. There is an art to eating this fish and I had the pleasure of experiencing it with my Dutch aunt who was showing me around her city a few years ago.
To eat it, you take it by the tail with one hand, holding it above your mouth and take a bite – onions, slippery fish and all.
Taste: 2/5 Experience: 5/5
As comforting as a beef burger may be, there are far better choices out there, whether for taste, or simply to experience the beauty of culture and tradition. I may not be ready for bugs yet, and maybe you aren’t either, but I assure you that dabbling in entomophagy is a much shorter leap from raw herring than it is from a Quarter Pounder with cheese.
-Emily Wilson is still relatively new to the wonderful city of Medicine Hat, having moved here in May 2016. Born and raised in Ontario, she lived in Australia for a year-and-a-half and has travelled to 31 countries.