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Taste the Fear

October 25, 2016

Last night I was looking through Facebook and came across a blurb about an upcoming wine class at Lark + Lily. For those who don’t want to click the link, here’s the post:

We had a cancellation and now have 3 seats open at our Wednesday Wine Academy! The theme is keeping with Halloween is “Things we’re afraid to put in our mouths” and the menu is as follows:
• squid ink fettuccini and snails in a garlic parsley white wine sauce with Parmesan cheese.
• seared chicken livers, bacon, and onions with a pan gravy.
• housemade smoked head cheese with a pickled beet relish and crostini.
• “stuffed roaches”, dates filled with honey infused cream cheese and walnuts.
Accompanied by 10-12 wines.
We begin at 6:30. $40 + tax and tip. Join us! 518.463.2881 or

My first reaction was, “Wow, that sounds delicious.” My second reaction was a bit more thoughtful and now I want to talk about food fears.

What are you afraid of?

Okay, I can see how the foods on the above menu are out of people’s comfort zones. But none of that scares me. Which isn’t to say that I’m never apprehensive about what I put in my mouth.

Just yesterday I was at the Asian supermarket at Central Avenue. Instead of eating lunch, I had run some errands. And by the end of them, I was desperately hungry. So I mustered up my courage and ordered one of the steamed buns filled with meat and vegetables.

While there is nothing inherently scary about a steamed bun filled with meat and vegetables, I haven’t had any prepared food from the grocery since my friends at Hong Kong Bakery left the premises. The place isn’t looking that clean, and I had no idea how long the bun may have been sweltering in its damp case.

The good news is that I don’t seem to have dysentery. So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t experience a moment of terror. Okay. Terror might be strong. Still, there was a deep level of discomfort, concern, and trepidation.

I’m also kind of afraid of casu marzu. I’m not sure I could eat it. That’s the cheese which contains live insect larvae.

Disgust and fear are interesting, because clearly most people have lines, but they aren’t that easy to predict or explain. For example, I had no interest in eating grilled scorpions or other skewered members of the insect kingdom when in Beijing. However, I’m really looking forward to trying the cricket tacos now available in Albany. And while I’ll joyfully snarf down a bowl of cold jellyfish salad at Ala Shanghai, I shudder at the thought of taking a bite into another McRib.

Sometimes, I suppose, it matters who is making the food. For example, while I might hesitate to get steamed blood pudding at a random dim sum parlor, if a trusted chef was making a blood sausage, I’d be first in line to give it a try.

Sweetbreads, I’ll eat.
Brains, I might pass.

Raw milk cheese, absolutely.
Raw milk dairy, probably not.

Chicken feet, I enjoy.
Pig’s feet aren’t my jam.

Generally, I’ll go for tripe over intestine.
But I’ve had some great intestine at an Oakland taqueria.

Raw beef? Sure.
Raw chicken? No thanks.

Tongue, with pleasure.
Heart, with hesitation.

Surely, there’s a lot more frightening food out there. Heck, my friend Andy documented an amazingly horrifying meal many years ago. Really, you shouldn’t click on that link. Ever. But it’s there for the morbidly curious.

For what it’s worth, I’m actually truly excited about John’s menu at Lark + Lily. It’s great to push people out of their comfort zones. And he tells me they are offering the squid ink pasta and the chicken livers all week.

I’ve got a packed schedule, but maybe I can sneak away for a plate of chicken livers. It’s been a long time, and they were prohibited on the old diet. Man, I’ve been longing for liver. Although, now that I think about it, I did have Josh Coletto’s chicken fried chicken livers at the second to last Rock N Roll brunch.

Man, those were fantastic. Being brave has its rewards.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 25, 2016 10:12 am

    I bet they plan to swap in real roaches at the last minute, bwahaha.

    I am with you on brains and raw poultry. The latter is just unsafe, the first I’m scared of because I know what it will taste like if I put it in my mouth.

    What do you have against pigs’ feet? (Other than that they’re not exactly Kosher.)

  2. -R. permalink
    October 25, 2016 1:36 pm

    Insects (or their larvae), arachnids, things based primarily around gelatin (sorry head cheese), organs of the digestive tract (seriously, why eat an organ designed to filter toxins from the body?), and tripe for the most part is simply gross. Weird parts of nearly any animal (feet, reproductive organs, eyes, brains, etc). Oh, and lutefisk (or anything that stinks to the point of inducing vomiting – I make exceptions for stinky cheeses however).

    Tongue is actually quite tasty and I’ve had some exquisite blood sausage in my time. I’m OK with bone marrow.

    Since we are blessed to live in a society with such an abundance of quality food, just because you can (or had to) eat all the parts of everything doesn’t mean you need or ought to. Just my 2¢.

    • Dave permalink
      October 25, 2016 3:14 pm

      Yes, just throw all of that valuable protein right in the garbage!

      • -R. permalink
        October 26, 2016 10:57 am

        Well, your goodness is my offal. Feel free to raid my trash can anytime.

  3. October 25, 2016 4:18 pm

    There are a number of things in the meat case at the Asian supermarket that make me shudder. Does that make me culturally prudish or unaware? Probably, but the idea of eating, say, pork uterus makes me a bit squeamish.

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