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HN Issue 16: What's Ben Been Eating?! International Foodie Extreme!

WRITTEN BY MIKE PRINS.



If you’re used to saying “it tastes just like chicken,” then you’re not stepping far enough outside of your culinary comfort zone, says outgoing FH Canada President Ben Hoogendoorn. From roasted tarantula to lizard and porcupine, Ben will try anything. Over the past 14 years, he’s gained quite the reputation among international staff for his cultural sensitivity and resulting culinary courage.  (Keep reading to see some of his 'favourite' dishes!)

Ben enjoying...well, it's hard to say!

While travelling through the Middle East, Ben recalls one restaurant with a smirk, “The menu item was ‘Typhoid Ice Cream’ at the ‘Hep A Cafe’!” A naming gimmick to attract travellers, the dish was simply homemade vanilla ice cream. But it certainly caught Ben’s attention. 

On a similar excursion, Ben remembers being offered a special type of sweet yogurt. The creamy substance was kept out in the sun to dry and culture, which proved problematic during fly season. 

“Swarms of flies would rest on the yogurt and get stuck,” he recalls. “So before serving the yogurt, they’d wipe all the flies off, leaving their little legs stuck behind. The encrusted top of the yogurt looked like a brush!” 

His travel companions didn’t have the stomach, so to not offend their host, Ben took one for the team that day. 

“I ate their portions too.” 

Of course, not all his gastronomic adventures have been food fiascos. He’s unexpectedly found some new dishes he loves, like his personal favourite: BBQ rat. 

“It’s the best!” he says of the small rodents. “The meat doesn’t come from dirty sewer rats, but from field rats and bamboo rats—nice, healthy animals. It’s some of the best meat many developing communities have access to.” 

Sharing the unique cuisine of a culture is one of many ways Ben has built relationships with local families, leaders and international staff. 

So the next time you find yourself looking at a cultural delicacy that just might be looking right back at you, remember the wise words of a soft-spoken, practical traveler like Ben: “Hey, I didn’t die.”

Deep Fried Crickets or Locusts 
"These are quite good. Crunchy, kind of sweet and savoury, high in protein, not a bad aftertaste—you just have to get over the fact that you are eating a bug. Westerners often think it’s creepy, but it’s a great source of protein for many families." 

Quail & Quail Eggs 

“The quail was very tender and nicely roasted with lots of spice. There’s not much meat on these little wild birds, though. I ate it clean off the bones, while my hosts went a step further and ate the bones, too! The eggs can be eaten raw or soft-boiled and have a flavour that reminds me of duck eggs. They have a much stronger taste than the chicken eggs we’re used to.”

Bat Soup 
“In Southeast Asia we would often enter restaurants and see the live fare yet to be prepared. One day I spotted some really big bats in a cage, and I admit my first thought was, I hope we’re not getting that for supper. I then sat down to ‘kongri,’ only to find out it was bat. The taste was fine—sort of like spam—but the thought of what I was eating got to me that time.” 

Coconut Beetle Larvae 
“They brought out a live larvae as big as my thumb. It was then cooked in a frying pan until it stopped moving, and I was told to pop the whole thing in my mouth at once so it wouldn’t squirt everywhere. I wasn’t quite sure what would happen once it was in my mouth! But it was actually quite good; it tasted like coconuts since that’s all the little critter eats. And it turns out it was the first time they had a Caucasian person ask for seconds!” 

Slug Salad 
“It was pretty slimy, but I think they were at least boiled. Let’s leave it at that. It was not my favourite salad.“ 

THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED IN HOPE NOTES, ISSUE 16. TO RECEIVE A COPY OF THE NEXT HOPE NOTES, EMAIL INFO@FHCANADA.ORG!
HN Issue 16: What's Ben Been Eating?! International Foodie Extreme! Reviewed by Eryn on 10:24 AM Rating: 5
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