Why Fish Fart and Other Useless Or Gross Information About the World

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9781585427574: Why Fish Fart and Other Useless Or Gross Information About the World

From the author of the New York Times bestseller* Why You Shouldn?t Eat Your Boogers and Other Useless (or Gross) Information About Your Body: the be-all and end-all compendium of odd, quirky, and otherwise nauseating information.

H ere is another thoroughly distasteful yet utterly compelling book from the author of the New York Times (extended list) bestseller Why You Shouldn?t Eat Your Boogers and Other Useless (or Gross) Information About Your Body. In Why Fish Fart and Other Useless (or Gross) Information About the World, Francesca Gould sifts through the world?s most unpleasant creatures, diseases, physical deformities, culinary delicacies, ritual practices, and hideous torture tactics to uncover every horrifying and stomach-turning fact under the sun. This book is full of questions you never thought to ask?and perhaps will wish you?d never had answered?including:

?What exactly is maggot cheese?
?How did anal hair help to lead to the conviction of the Great
?Train Robbers?
?What is the job of a ?fart catcher??
How exactly do ?crabs? cause such intense itching around one?s private parts?
?The real story behind why the toilet is often referred to as ?the john.?
?Why you might want to steer clear of some coffees. (Hint: If poo isn?t exactly your idea of appetizing . . .)

Why Fish Fart and Other Useless (or Gross) Information About the World is sure to delight any and all hard-core fans of the obscure, esoteric, and?last but not least?grotesque.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Francesca Gould is the author of the New York Times (extended list) bestseller Why You Shouldn’t Eat Your Boogers and Other Useless (or Gross) Information about Your Body and Why Fish Fart and Other Useless or Gross Information about the World. She lives in Bristol, England.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One—Obscene Cuisine

What is 'dancing-eating'?

'Dancing-eating' or, to give it its proper name, 'Odorigui', is the Japanese practice of eating live animals. One common odorigui dish is a small, transparent fish called 'shirouo', which is served in alcohol, and washed down with sake. More adventurous diners prefer to feast themselves on live octopus. To prepare this dish, the chef will remove the live octopus from a large tank, slice off one tentacle, and then simply serve it on a plate with some soy sauce. Apparently, the limb continues to writhe and twist on your plate, and when you eat it, the suckers attach themselves to the roof of your mouth.

However, the Japanese are not alone in their taste for very, very fresh meat. In China, there is a popular dish called 'drunken shrimp', which is also eaten live. When the dish arrives, it comes swimming in a bowl of sweet alcohol, which is supposed to help make the shrimp a little less feisty and, because it's effectively in a drunken stupor, prevents it from escaping. The shrimp should be left to swim in the alcohol for about five minutes, before being eaten. The normal way to eat drunken shrimp is then to remove it from the bowl using chopsticks, and put in on a plate. The diner then removes the shrimp's head with their fingers, before munching on its twitching body. The Japanese also enjoy a similar dish called 'drunken crab'.

However, both these practices sound quite bland when compared with the extraordinary dish served at Pingxiang, on the border with Vietnam. Diners here buy live monkeys at the market, and then take them to a local inn, to have them prepared by a chef. This preparation consists of forcing the monkeys to drink large amounts of rice wine, until they pass out. Then, the chefs bind the monkey's limbs, chop open its skull, and scoop out the brains into a bowl. Apparently, the test of a well-prepared monkey brain is that the blood vessels should still be pulsing when the dish is served. The brains are eaten with condiments including pickled ginger, chili pepper, fried peanuts, and coriander. It is said that monkey brain tastes like tofu, which rather begs the question—wouldn't it be simpler to just buy some tofu?

Which dish, properly prepared, should contain just enough poison to numb your lips?

The answer to this is the Japanese dish, 'fugu', which is also known as the puffer fish or blowfish. Fugu is regarded as an exceptional delicacy in Japan, and many liken the taste to chicken, although it is eaten more for the thrill than the taste, as fugu contains one of most powerful poisons found in nature. The fish's traditional nickname is the 'teppo', which means the pistol.

In its natural environment, fugu is a peculiar-looking fish, that can puff itself up into a large, round ball when threatened by predators. Beyond this, its main form of defense is the lethal poison contained in its internal organs, which is called 'tetrodotoxin'. One blowfish contains enough tetrodotoxin to kill 30 adult humans.

Consequently, fugu chefs need to be exceptionally skilled and precise, to ensure that all the poisonous parts of the fish are removed before serving. In Japan, fugu restaurants specialize in its preparation and the removal of the fish's deadly poison. If the fish has not been prepared correctly with all of its poison removed, the toxins can destroy the nerve tissue inside a person's body, paralyzing the muscles necessary to breathe, and causing death within about four to six hours. The most poisonous part of the puffer fish is the liver, which should be completely removed during preparation. Apparently, a skilled fugu chef will leave just enough poison to numb your lips. Even so, it's probably best not to annoy the chef.


Why is civet poo coffee so expensive?

The world's most expensive coffee is an Indonesian specialty called Kopi Luwak, which is believed to be the best in the world, and is very popular in Japan and America. Bizarrely, this coffee is made from beans which have been eaten and then excreted by the common palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphrodites).

The palm civet is a small, bobcat-like mammal, which lives in certain rainforest regions of Indonesia. The palm civet's main diet consists of berries, insects, and other small mammals, but it also enjoys eating coffee beans. However, not just any old coffee beans will do, the fussy civet chooses only the reddest and ripest beans. These beans then pass almost unchanged through the palm civet's digestive system, before being pooed out, and then harvested by unfortunate plantation workers, before being sold for ludicrous sums to wealthy coffee fanatics. To buy just two ounces (57 grams) of Kopi Luwak coffee, which is only enough to make one cup, costs around £25.00, making it a very expensive way to start your day!

But what is it that makes Kopi Luwak taste so good? There seem to be two main possibilities. The exceptional flavor may result from the effect of the civet's digestive juices on the coffee beans. Alternatively, these digestive juices may have no real effect, and the answer may simply lie in the civet's fastidious pickiness, in only selecting the very ripest, reddest coffee beans.


Which is the world's tastiest insect?

For centuries, many cultures around the world have been eating all sorts of insects and bugs. The practice even has a posh name—'entomophagy'. In some respects, insects make quite a good meal. They are widely available, easy to cook, and highly nutritious; caterpillars, for example, are chock-full of protein and iron. Bugs that are commonly munched around the world include flies, beetles, dragonflies, grasshoppers, cockroaches, butterflies, moths, mosquitoes, beetles, ants, and even bees and wasps. In fact, there are over 1,400 species of edible insects.

For example, in Nigeria, people enjoy snacking on crickets, which are disemboweled and then roasted over open coals. Grasshoppers are also popular, and people working the fields will often eat them raw. In China, a nice warming bowl of earthworm soup is believed to help treat fever. On the coast of Macau, you can buy a bag of fried cockroaches. And on the streets of Bangkok, in Thailand, fried grasshoppers are sold in much the same way.

In fact, people in Thailand eat a wide variety of insects, including cicadas, locusts, mantises, deep-fried crickets, grasshoppers (usually fried), and bamboo borers (these are small grubs, which are sometimes described on menus as 'fried little white babies'), steamed giant water bugs, weaver ants (which are eaten raw or rubbed with salt, chili or pepper) and their eggs (these can also be eaten as a paste), dung beetles, moth and butterfly pupae, wasp and bee larvae, termite soup, and even the revolting-sounding grilled tarantula.

Meanwhile, in South America, tree worms and various stingless bees and wasps are widely eaten in Brazil. They are apparently known for their pleasant, almondy taste. In Columbia, culonas ants are also enjoyed for their nutty flavor. These winged ants are collected with large sweeping brooms, placed into boiling water, then taken out and dried on the grill. And in the United States worker ants of this species are often dipped into chocolate.

Nor are Western countries immune from this kind of bizarre behavior. One company in California makes products such as the 'Cricket Lick-It', which is a tasty, sugar-free lollipop with, you've guessed it, a real cricket in the centre. Perhaps you'd prefer the Scorpion Sucker, which comes in an array of colors and flavors, such as blueberry and banana, and contains, predictably enough, a scorpion. If you're not feeling that adventurous, how about a tasty snack of worms? These come in a variety of flavors, including barbecue, cheddar cheese, and Mexican spice.

Other products include the Antlix, a peppermint flavored lollipop, which contains real farm-raised ants—apparently, they taste similar to chili peppers, and are said to be good for giving you an energy boost. The Tequilalix is a tequila flavored lollipop, which contains a real worm.

The Vodkalix is a vodka flavored lollipop, which also for good measure contains a scorpion. The scorpions are said to be heat-treated, to remove any toxins, to make sure they are safe to eat.

However, if I had to choose which insect would be the most delicious, I think I might plump for the Australian honey ant. This insect is greatly prized by the Aborigines, who call them by the rather appetizing name 'yarrumpa'. This insect stores so much of a sugary fluid in its body, that its hind end swells up into a ball that is big enough to eat. People bite the bug's end off to savor the sweet stuff found inside. They say it's just like eating honey, only crunchier.


How do you make 'bird's nest soup'?

The Chinese delicacy 'bird's nest soup' is one of those rare dishes which sounds incredibly gross, but which is in fact far, far worse. This dish has been highly esteemed since the Ming dynasty, and it is said there is no higher honor one can bestow upon a guest than to serve them bird's nest soup. The soup is prized for its rich nutrient content and purported health benefits. This rare and expensive soup is made from the nests of a certain type of swifts that live in caves. The nests themselves are made from the bird's saliva, and are formed high up in caves around Southeast Asia. This saliva sets into a solid, rubbery substance, which helps to glue the twigs to the cave wall.

Collecting the swiftlets' nests from the bat-filled caves is a very ancient and very dangerous job. Nest collectors have to climb very high, and use long bamboo poles to remove the nests, which are found stuck to the roofs of the caves.

To make bird's nest soup, chefs simmer the nests in chicken broth for hours, until they become rubbery. Once cooked, the nests are said to be chewy and fairly tasteless, which is why flavorings such as chicken stock are often added. One reason why this culinary delight is so highly prized is because it is believed to be an aphrodisiac, as well as being beneficial for lung problems. For centuries, the Chinese have encouraged their children to eat the soup, believing it will help them to grow.


Who eats tarantula omelets?

Despite its frightening appearance, the tarantula spider is regarded as a delicacy by a number of cultures around the world. For example, roasted tarantula is eaten by the bushmen of central Africa, while people in northern Thailand reportedly like to strip off the spider's legs and roast the bodies. The Piaroa Indians of Venezuela enjoy eating the big, hairy, bird-eating 'goliath tarantula' (Theraphosa leblondi), which has a leg span of 25 centimeters (10 inches), and an abdomen the size of a tennis ball. The whole thing is the size of a dinner plate!

The Piaroa hunt for tarantulas and when they've caught one, they bend its legs backwards over the body and tie them together, so it can be taken back to camp. To prepare the tarantula, a leaf is used to twist off the abdomen (to avoid touching the hairs, which can irritate the skin) and the spider is then rolled in a leaf, and roasted in hot coals. Once it's cooked, the spider is eaten by picking out the bits of flesh, rather like eating a crab. Apparently, tarantula tastes a bit like prawns. Bits of the meat can get stuck between your teeth, but luckily the tarantula's long fangs make excellent toothpicks! If the Piaroa manage to catch a female tarantula, they will squeeze the eggs out from her body, wrap them in a leaf, and roast them over a fire, to make a tarantula omelets.

The eating of spiders is also very popular in Cambodia and Laos, where they are commonly toasted on a bamboo skewer over a fire, and served whole with salt or chilies. Alternatively, some people prefer their spiders fried in butter, with a clove of garlic.


Why did Nelson's navy eat their biscuits in the dark?

In the 1700s, under Horatio Nelson's leadership, Britain had the most powerful navy in the world. However, conditions on board were truly disgusting, and Navy discipline was harsh. Floggings were frequent, the pay was low, hygiene was poor and the food was often infested with bugs.

Before setting off, ships would be loaded with food, including fruit, vegetables and live animals, but once the ship departed, it wouldn't be long before all the animals had been slaughtered, and the remaining food had rotted. As bread rapidly became moldy, the sailors instead ate 'ship's biscuits', also known as 'hard tack', which were made with flour, water and salt. These biscuits would often contain weevils or maggots, so the sailors would tap the biscuits on the table, to try and knock most of the bugs out before eating. For this reason, many sailors would wait until dark to eat them, so they wouldn't have to see the maggots crawling inside.

The sailors' diet also included salted meat, which was so hard that it was practically inedible, even after being soaked and then boiled for hours. The meat was so dark and hard that some sailors developed a weird new craft—they would carve objects out of the meat, and then polish their sculptures. Cheese was preserved by dipping it in tar, which made it taste disgusting. One of the main constituents of a sailor's diet was a healthy ration of a gallon of beer a day. Although beer did not keep aboard ship for very long, it was drunk as a safer alternative to water, as water on board the ship would quickly become green and slimy. A ten year-old boy who served at Trafalgar wrote this letter home about the food:

'We live on beef which has been ten to eleven years in the cask and on biscuit which makes your throat cold in eating owing to the maggots which are very cold when you eat them, like calvesfoot jelly.'

However, there was of course some fresh food available from the surrounding waters, such as fish, dolphins, sharks, and birds. Tortoises and turtles were also highly prized, as they could be kept alive for many weeks in the hold, without food or water, providing another source of fresh meat for the later stages of a voyage.

And God forbid that you should fall ill. According to Tobias Smollett, a ship's doctor during this time, the sick berth on board was more likely to kill than cure. He wrote that patients were kept far below decks, deprived of daylight and fresh air, and breathing, 'nothing but the morbid steams exhaling from their own excrement and diseased bodies, devoured with vermin hatched in the filth that surround them.'


What is the 'King Of Fruit'?

The durian is a peculiar looking, disgusting smelling melon-like fruit, which is nonetheless considered a delicacy by millions of people in the Far East. In Indonesia, Malaysia, and especially Thailand, it is affectionately known as the 'King of Fruit' and, despite its disgusting smell, it is widely sold in Southeast Asian markets.

The durian fruit can weigh as much as ten pounds, and has a hard green shell studded with spikes. The fruit grows at the top of durian trees, which can reach up to 50 meters in height. As if this fruit were not unpleasant enough in its appearance and odor, it also presents a physical danger, as it has been known to drop from the branches and kill people below.

A...

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