Three students weigh in on their most bizarre food experiences while abroad.
Emma Alquist (Sydney): Australia doesn’t really have any intensely different cuisine from the states, but there are several different foods that I have tried here.
I think the strangest food I have had so far is a kangaroo burger. This was a bit weird for me to try because I have seen some cute kangaroos while traveling, so I tried not to think too much about what I was eating. I’d always heard kangaroo was good and very lean meat so I decided to give it a try. When the burger was brought to my table, it looked like any beef burger, but I could taste the difference. It almost resembles venison in taste. I don’t think I prefer it to a regular burger, but maybe sometime before I leave I will try a kangaroo steak.
I have yet to try vegemite, mostly out of the fear that I will hate it (like everyone I know does). Vegemite is the Nutella of Australia, but it seems only Australians are actually fond of it. However, the country is home to some chocolate-covered cookie-like snacks called Tim Tams, and they are amazing. They call me a Tim Tam addict in my house because every time I come home from the store, I always have a new box. They come in a variety of flavors, but I’ve found my favorite to be caramel. The best description of it is that it is very much like a Twix.
Overall, Australia doesn’t have anything too crazy. Its Asian food is much better than anything I have had in the states, likely due to the country’s proximity to Asia. But other than caramel chocolates, noodles and more fresh fish, my diet hasn’t changed much from what it was at home.
Askar Salikhov (Grenoble): Oddly enough, the strangest food I’ve had in France was my first. I landed in Paris on Sept. 10 after spending 8 sleepless hours on a plane, and hunger occupied me for most of my flight. After dumping my luggage at my hotel, I searched for a restaurant that would offer both quantity and quality. The local creperie was not too far from me, so I settled for the family-friendly eatery.
They served me a wrapped buckwheat crepe, which is a lot like a pancake but much thinner and drier. The crepe was shaped like a square with a hole in the middle. An over-easy egg projected from the middle and cuts of sausages were hidden inside. I poked at the yolk with my fork and it burst on contact. Wow. I did not hesitate to bite into it. The odd combination of textures—a crusty crepe against a juicy egg—surprised me the most. The food was bizarre, but tasty. However, I’ve mostly eaten things resembling American food ever since.
Emily McCoy (Milan): The strangest thing I’ve eaten while abroad has been grilled polpo, which is Italian for octopus. Growing up in West Virginia, I haven’t been exposed to very much seafood. I have heard of people eating octopus, however, and when I saw it on the menu, I thought I would give it a try. My friend assured me I would love it because it was fresh from the Mediterranean Sea.
I’m not sure exactly how I expected my dish to be served; maybe I imagined cut slices or chunks resembling chicken nuggets. I’m sure my face was priceless when the waitress handed me a plate with two octopus tentacles on a small pile of something similar to mashed potatoes. The full tentacles, suckers and all, were just lying there on my plate. I wasn’t sure exactly where to start, so I cut off a small section from the thickest part. There wasn’t much of a taste, but the texture was spongy and chewy.
After forcing down a few bites, I decided that I would just finish the potatoes. Thankfully I didn’t order the bigger portion where a whole octopus is served on a plate. This was an interesting experience, but I think I’ll stick to pasta and gelato from now on.