Building friendships anywhere

I came across an interesting article today about food and the nature of disgust.

"Don't judge" is a nice kind of platitude to throw around.  The true test comes when one is far from home. A large part of my ability to work successfully with people from around the world involves forming bonds of friendship that transcend barriers of language and culture. A fun way to form those bonds is with food.

Cow tongue is decent boiled in a lemongrass & rice soup. Rats, mice, dogs, and crickets are fairly routine menu choices here in Vietnam.

Snake wine is everywhere - people only buy it for display though. They make homemade "wine" (with an alcohol content closer to whiskey) out of almost anything else. 
Garlic wine is rough. I board with a Vietnamese family and the dad loves that stuff.  Good for the health and all that.  I have to drink it fairly often and try to like it. Strawberry and banana wines are about what you'd expect - delicious. Lin Chee mushroom wine is amazing - delightfully aromatic. 

I tried all kinds of food when I first got here - goat, duck blood mousse, pig brain, pig ears, eel, frog, and a bunch of stuff where I just didn't ask. The only thing I've seen on a plate which no one actually eats are chicken heads.

My favorite out-of-the-ordinary food so far is crocodile. Apparently crocodile is a popular dish. Consequently there is a problem in the countryside with crocodiles escaping from farms. Anyway, I went to one place where they brought a little fella out. I held him. He was pretty squirmy. 

 And no wonder, because they then slit his throat, drained the blood, and took him to the kitchen. 

We grilled the meat at the table and drank the blood cut with vodka. That was some strong drink. I hoped it was safe because of the vodka. 

Grilled crocodile with okra tastes great. Much better than rattlesnake. Crocodile soup, not so much. I'm told the reason they kill the crocodile in front of you is so that you will know the food is fresh. Just like lobster.

My takeaway from the article that motivated this missive is that in a foreign country, acceptance of the food signifies something deeper, an acceptance of the people and an embrace of their culture.  Eating anything that is put in front me is a good way to build trust and foster relationships. And to have fun. People here get a kick out of putting the strangest delicacies on the table in front of me. I've had to demure on occasion, to my great chagrin.  I've also eaten things that really put my gag suppression skills to the test. But in every case, I get tested in an entertaining way and I try to rise to the challenge. We have fun. And I never know. Sometimes, contrary to all expectation, what I'm eating turns out to be delicious.

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