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Bizarre Food Fair: Weird To Americans, Delicacy To Others

The Bizarre Foods Fair opened my eyes to other foods that seem strange or exotic but are totally normal in other countries and cultures.

Noni Fruit

Photo: beautifulcataya (flickr)

One of the presenters said she has been taking Noni fruit for years to treat her allergies.

I walked into the Mathers Museum at Indiana University expecting to see a bunch of undergraduates shuffling their feet and looking uncomfortable around some durian fruit.

How wrong I was!

Students from the IU Anthropology Department’s “Bizarre Food” course, taught by Dr. Sonya Atalay, presented information and materials on a wide variety of bizarre foods and food practices from around the world, including dining on road kill, miracle fruit that changes your taste buds, bugs of all sorts, Noni, 21-day old duck embryos, cow water, kava, and more! These students were engaging and knew their topic very well. It was evident they worked hard on their projects and were eager to tell everyone what they had learned.

Some of the groups had items to taste (I highly recommend the sweet aloe), while others had brochures or recipe cards.

Kava Root

Kava Root

Photo: prilfish (flickr)

Kava Root is used in a celebratory drink from the Southern Pacific and Oceania regions. Similar to alcohol, it reduces inhibitions and makes people more sociable. It has also been historically used as an herbal aphrodisiac. It also relaxes muscles, calm nerves, and creates a general feeling of well-being.

Cow Water

cows walking by water

Photo: bernardoh (flickr)

Cow Water - which is really cow urine - is used medicinally to treat skin disease, cancer, heart disease, arthritis and more. Most popular in India, it is sometimes used to "cleanse the lower castes." Recently it is being used in the Indian soft drink Gaul Jal, which is destined to become the national soft drink of India.



Photo: luxurypov (flickr)

A balut is a fertilized duck (or chicken) egg with a nearly-developed embryo inside that is boiled and eaten in the shell. Popularly believed to be an aphrodisiac and considered a high-protein, hearty snack, balut is mostly sold by street vendors in the regions like the Philippines.

Road Kill

raccoon road kill

Photo: MSVG (flickr)

Self-explanatory really! Eating animals found on the road - some do it out of necessity, others to live off the land. The most shocking part of eating roadkill? PETA endorses it! They call it "Meat without Murder." This group also had samples to taste, but I declined. Sorry PETA!

Noni (aka The Survival Fruit)

Noni Fruit

Photo: beautifulcataya (flickr)

Noni fruit is high in carbohydrates and dietary fiber. It has vitamin C, niacin (vitamin B3), iron and potassium. Noni is used in modern medicine in the U.S. as a "cure all" super fruit. It's used in treating everything from acne to cancer. This group also had a sample to taste, which I did. They first warned me that it tasted like "cheese whiskey" and it totally did! It takes some getting used to I am sure.

Sara Conrad

Sara is an eternal student. Currently studying Tibetan Culture at Indiana University, she loves to cook with fresh, organic, vegetarian ingredients – but also has never turned down fake mashed potatoes in a buffet line.

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