Mmmmm, goat. Yummy!
Growing up in deep in the white-washed yuppie-mecca of Orange County, California, I always found it amusing how many of the locals found your standard Americanized Chinese or Mexican fare like lo mein, General Tso’s chicken, tostadas, and chimichangas to be such incredibly exotic cuisine, though to be honest, my palate for most of my childhood never got more exotic than Thai food. It wasn’t until I went off to college that the cuisine I considered to be home cooking began to take on an air of trendiness.
So while many of my university classmates were experimenting with the wildly “exotic” Thai cuisine, I was moving on to Japanese, Mediterranean, Russian, Lebanese, Ethiopian, Vietnamese, and Indian. Nowadays, all of that is pretty much standard fare for the urban university student and expat businessperson, but I still encounter many an American or European that could never get beyond your basic meat & potatoes.
In 1994, I moved to Thailand for the first time, and my entire culinary paradigm shifted. I stopped thinking about exotic foods in terms of cultures and nationalities, and more in terms of animals and body parts. Working for a boss whose idea of rewarding good work was treating employees to a dinner of goat brain curry, cubed bull penis, and deep fried bat, I learned to eat things the very thought of which tends to make most people flinch. Pigeon brain? Pig snout? Baby octopus? Fish eyeballs? Sure, bring it on. Rattlesnake; tastes like chicken. So do frog legs. Don’t care for snails, and deep fried cricket leaves a scratchy taste in my mouth. The latest escapades of Fear Factor were a semi-regular part of my diet 10 years earlier.
The whole inspiration for this blog came yesterday, when I popped into Tops Supermarket to grab a bottle of Pepsi. As I passed by the frozen meat section, I couldn’t help but notice that it had a regular section for ostrich and crocodolie meat, the first which is an increasingly mainstream meat that was always one of my favorites, the second being yet another meat that tastes like chicken (and goes well when cooked cajun-style). But what really stuck out was the sign on the freezer door: “New arrival: goat meat.” Sure, I’ve had the brains, but never the meat. Guess what’s for dinner?