I stared down at the slimy-looking, battered enigmas in front of me. At only sixteen, I was sitting in my French class in high school, and I was faced with a hopping dilemma: frog legs. They were like chicken wings, except a little bit smaller and a little less aesthetically appealing. I’d never eaten an amphibian before, and the thought of consuming something which once lived in a swamp made me gag a little bit. The legs looked so slimy and veiny, and I wasn’t really sure how they would taste or if I would be immediately put off by them. Not only that, but WHAT KIND OF NORMAL PERSON EATS BATTERED FROG LEGS?!
This was gross. Too gross. I couldn’t handle the sight of them, staring at me, their blue-tinted veins showing through the thin layer of batter. This was once a frog, hopping around a pond on lily pads, croaking at everything it sees. It ate flies and algae and breathed through its skin. I imagined someone grabbing that frog, dumping it in batter, and sticking it on a frying pan. I shuddered. Ew.
But, on the other hand, these frog legs would not be sitting in front of me if someone hadn’t tasted them before. Frog legs couldn’t be that bad if my French teacher had brought them in for a class of 16-year-olds to try. Someone eats these on a normal basis, I thought, and I couldn’t eliminate the possibility that this dish could actually be, well, delicious.
After about fifteen minutes of debating with myself whether I should eat the frog legs or throw them away, I realized something crucial: I’ve eaten worse. In the Philippines, we have eaten balut, a half-developed chick inside a boiled egg, and dinuguan, a pig’s blood dish. I’ve also tried escargot, a gourmet French delicacy of snails dipped in butter sauce, a much slimier choice than the frog legs at hand. Among some other strange foods I have consumed are roasted eel, durian, raw octopus, and fish eyes. Taking this perspective made me realize that people eat these foods every day, and while they may not seem outright appealing, some of them actually taste pretty good.
I smiled a little bit, picked up one of the frog legs, closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and tasted it.
Not too bad, I thought as the slightly chicken-like flavor filled my mouth. Of course, not one of the best foods I’d ever eaten, and naturally it was a little weird because it tasted like chicken with the texture of fish. But it certainly wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. My only regret was that I’d waited too long to taste it, and it was no longer warm.
What I learned from this awkward and unusual story is that food has given me a tolerance that I couldn’t have acquired in any other way. To try a strange food is to put yourself in a mindset that is not at all your own, consuming something that you may not have normally consumed, and taking the risk that it could taste like heaven, but it could also taste awful. As a traveler, there are few things more important than being open to tasting new foods. In the end, food will always be one of the best ways to get to know a new place. It’s something that all of the locals share, and something that you have the opportunity to share with them.
From that day on, I began trying everything I was offered whenever I traveled. Some foods were delicious, some were alright, and some were downright disgusting. But what was important to me was that I tried them, I gave them a chance, and I didn’t discriminate. I opened my mind to the possibility that food which seemed outwardly inedible could actually be the best food I have ever tasted. So now, whether I am in a five-star restaurant or a street food cart, I always make it a point to taste new, local, and unfamiliar things. After all, finding new foods is like making new friends, the more you come in contact with it, the more life-changing it becomes.
Have you ever had an experience with food that changed your perspective on it? Tell me your story in the comments!
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