Friday, January 10, 2020

Bizarre Foods: Collection 2 Review

Food shows have been popular for quite a while now, to the point that morning news shows frequently invite chefs for demonstrations and non-Food Network cable channels develop their own epicurean programs. Most shows focus on having a good time eating or entertaining guests. Iron Chef, a Japanese delight that pitted guest chefs against some of the top chefs in Tokyo, combined cooking with American Gladiators. However, not everyone is interested in posh, hoity-toity endeavors or combative cooking, so some shows take the "Ripley´s Believe It or Not!" route.

The Travel Channel´s Bizarre Foods follows host Andrew Zimmern around the world as he looks for "out of the ordinary" cuisine that are found in specific locales. The show began life as a one-time special (featuring frog sashimi and a still-beating frog´s heart) that received strong ratings every time that it was re-played. Therefore, the Travel Channel developed Bizarre Foods into a weekly program.

Bizarre Foods Collection 2 is a collection of ten episodes, primarily from the show´s Season Two. The first episode, "Best Bites", is a re-cap of Season One highlights mixed with previously unseen footage and previews of Season Two. Zimmern then travels to Iceland, St. Petersburg (Russia), Minnesota, Guangzhou (China), Beijing (China), Bolivia, Chile, Delhi (India), and Phuket (Thailand).

What´s refreshing about the show is that "rare" or "odd" foods are not presented as strange creations. Rather, Zimmern takes care to explain that many dishes are borne from necessity. For example, Icelanders eat a kind of rotten shark. The shark can´t be eaten fresh because of the high levels of acid in its muscles, so the shark has to be cured and left to hang for weeks to dry in the cold air before it can be eaten as fish jerky.

I´m a bit disappointed with Zimmern´s trip to Guangzhou. The Chinese people have a saying: "People in Guangdong Province eat anything and everything." There´s a soup called "Dragon Phoenix Tiger Soup", which is comprised of snake, fowl, and cats. Yet, Zimmern didn´t try this dish, nor did he sample any dog dishes. It is possible that his guides steered him away from "Dragon Phoenix Tiger Soup" and dog meat, but having broken so many culinary barriers, I was hoping that he´d break the one about eating what are considered to be beloved pets in the U.S.