Wild Food

This started yesterday with a thread on Twitter about the wildest game you had eaten. Now, this was more of a challenge than I would like thanks to the stupid lightning. There are 5 or so areas of cognition, and in testing I still come in above average in all. That said, there is one area where there are issues, which include fun with short term memory, issues working through things when there are distractions, and the fact that memories and data are scrambled. I’ve been told that most of them are still there, but that it will be three years before the brain heals and we can fully access what, if anything, has been lost. I’ve likened it to reaching for something in the drawer where it used to be, and it not being there.

So, the challenge has allowed me to do some exploration and I’m delighted with some of the results. I grew up eating venison, love quail, not so fond of dove, brown and rainbow trout, and have had bream, perch, and a variety of fish. I’ve eaten elk, bison, kangaroo, wild boar, octopus in various forms, squid, whelks, eel, alligator, rattlesnake (I think), goat, lamb, mutton, squirrel, rabbit, snail, brains of various types, and I know I am forgetting some. Now, for some fun.

I’ve always been a foodie, and even worked in a nationally rated restaurant for a while to learn more about cooking. Long before the Food Network existed, I watched cooking and food shows on PBS, which led me to two excellent restaurants in Seattle when I first visited there. I can’t remember the names, and it is frustrating because at one place my compliments earned me a standing invitation to eat at the Chef’s table in the kitchen.

I can still remember that table, and a bit about the layout of the kitchen. I also remember that when you ate at his table, there was no menu. Instead, the Chef and his line cooks prepared things based off of what was fresh, etc. It might start with a golden mouthful of deliciousness or three, or be a larger portion. No set number of courses, and everything was delicious. Sadly, I also seem to remember that the restaurant is no longer there as the Chef passed away.

Seattle was the site of several tasty adventures. The Athenian in Pike Place Market was amazing. When I traveled, I tried to avoid eating at the same place twice. After my first breakfast there, I went back the next day — it was that good. Not only tasty, but huge portions and great coffee. I didn’t feel like eating again until dinner. When I arrived that next morning, I was disappointed to see a reserved sign on the booth where I had eaten the day before, as it had a great view of the harbor. The waitress who had waited on me just smiled, told me not to worry, she had known I would be back and had reserved it for me.

Some of the best Russian food I’ve had outside of Russia was at Kaleenka in Seattle. The best Russian food I’ve had in Russia was at Podvorye in St. Petersburg. I had my driver and translator join myself and a young lady, and we feasted family style there, trying many different things. My inner Hobbit was delighted at the Russian love for mushrooms. Pity I’ll never be allowed to go back to Russia, as would not mind eating there again.

I had heard that it was one of Vladimir’s favorite places, and then either Anthony Bourdain or Andrew Zimmern went there and ate for their show. While I enjoyed both shows, it seems that I’ve gotten more good steers from Mr. Zimmern. I love him for introducing me to a cheese monger in Paris, though my wallet continues to curse him every time I go there. Yes, I did indeed meet Anthony Bourdain. The man had his demons, and I ask you to pray for his soul. I can’t remember the name of the cheese monger, but pretty sure I can look it up if needed, and that I may even remember how to get to his shop.

Paris. Ah, Paris. Two quick rules for eating well anywhere in the world. First, if the restaurant has a busker, run. There’s a reason they don’t have repeat business. Second, follow your nose. I’ve had a number of excellent meals in Paris that came from myself or a companion going “That smells good” and tracking down the source of the smells. I remember one night doing that and ending up sitting at a counter watching the mad ballet that is restaurant cooking and having the chef working about two feet away from me. We got to talking and he gave me his list (sadly lost) of the top ten places to eat in Paris.

His name and the list got me into Le Pantruche for lunch the next day. Absolutely the best sweetbreads I’ve ever had. Would love to eat there again one day. The best mussels I’ve had were in Paris. Again, can’t remember the name of the place though I do remember quite well how we ended up eating there. The rule against buskers does not apply to having a companion all but tackled by a member of the restaurant staff because they are wandering around Paris with an antique film camera and the staff member is a photography buff. After a nice discussion on photography, we decided that we would just eat dinner there. Mussels with a bleu cheese sauce was my choice, and they were delicious. Best mussels I’ve had in the U.S. were in Baltimore at a place called Bertha’s.

I also have to admit that one of the worst restaurant meals I’ve ever had was in Paris. I have no desire to remember the name of the place in question, since the meal was not only not good, I had to go back to where I was staying and brush not only my teeth, but my tongue, cheeks, etc. to get the taste out of my mouth. Went to a good place and had oysters from Brittany to have a last good meal before leaving Paris that time.

I remember a LOT of good meals on the local in Iraq. Both embeds saw me eating on the local a fair bit, from Ramadan feasts to one of the most amazing Christmas dinners I’ve ever had. An Iraqi family had adopted some of our troops, and told them that since they were giving up their homes, holidays, and families that they would give them their holidays back. I’m told Thanksgiving had no turkey, but great food. I was invited along for the Christmas dinner, and have photos of the feast in one of my photo books. Pro tip: If in the Middle East, don’t drink three cups of the concentrated coffee and eighteen chais and expect to sleep anytime soon.

Japan was an adventure. When traveling somewhere, I try to learn to say please, thank you, and ‘what would you have’ in the local language. In Japan, I also had to include no shellfish as I am unfortunately allergic to shrimp, crab, and lobster (actually the iodine in them, makes imaging contrast fun). In Tokyo, I wandered into an area that didn’t see many tourists and found my way into a restaurant where if they could get it on a skewer, they would grill it for you. We went from ‘we don’t get many tourists (gaijin) here’ to ‘oooh, try this’ in near record time.

At another establishment, also well off the tourist path in another city, I had either the strangest fowl I’ve ever had or roof rabbit (cat). I decided I didn’t really want to know, and instead focused on the fact it was tasty. Don’t know what it was marinated in, but the smell when it cooked on a small grill at my place was amazing and it delicious. The owner spoke zero English, and my Japanese was/is limited, with a fair bit of it technical from working a joint American/Japanese shuttle mission. Probably for the best.

I also did something on that trip I didn’t think was possible: I unagi’d out. Unagi is a sushi featuring grilled/smoked eel. I probably ate my body weight in it while there. I have not eaten it again, ever, since that trip.

The final restaurant adventure I remember from Japan was eating sushi at a place not too far from the conference where we were presenting papers. The sushi chef was a character, with being grumpy a trademark. Challenge accepted. As soon as he could, he moved me from the side to directly in front of the fish case. I would point and hold up one or two fingers, to indicate how many pieces I wanted. Sometimes, he would shake his head, and point to something else in the case and hold up one or two fingers. Not a clue what they were, but his suggestions were amazing. By the time I was done, he had his hand up more than once to cover a smile.

Best Korean I’ve had was at the much missed Seoul House in Chicago. A nice older Korean couple ran it, and she admitted to me that they served American-Korean until they got to know you (or you were part of the Korean community). Once they knew you, and they knew you could handle it, you would get Korean-Korean. As she put it ‘When we open, we fixed Korean-Korean — customer never come back. We make American-Korean, much business.’ I can’t remember the name of the dish, but it was fire meat with pickled veggies and marinated buckwheat noodles. Seem to remember that there was an egg in there too.

Best Mexican, so far, was at the Cafe Florida in Juarez, Mexico, many, many years ago. It was my first taste of real Mexican cooking, though my real (not official) godmother could do a great job cooking Mexican.

Most interesting food I’ve had recently was at Smoke’N Ash BBQ in Arlington, Texas. American BBQ, Ethiopian cuisine, and some amazing fusions between the two. She’s from Ethiopia, he’s from here, and between them they do some truly amazing food. Highly recommended.

Best pulled pork barbecue is Bar-B-Cuties in Nashville; best ribs belong to Fresh Aire barbecue in Jackson, Georgia; and, honorable mention to Fincher’s Bar-B-Que in my hometown of Macon, Georgia who saw it’s work fly in space as the late Sonny Carter’s special meal. Not sure about now, but back in the day the astronauts got to request one meal per flight, and Sonny wanted Fincher’s — and got it.

Best Indian I’ve had was in Pitlochry, Scotland at a mom&pop place who’s name I can’t remember. Best German is split between two places in/near Landstuhl, Germany. Best Greek was a mom&pop who’s name I can’t remember in Salt Lake City. If you ever head to Normandy, can recommend a couple of places near/on Omaha Beach.

This has been fun, and while not remembering all the names, I’m delighted with how much I do remember. Thinking back on this has made me smile more than once. Good way to start the day.


If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, feel free to hit the tip jar in the upper right or the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo. Getting hit by lightning is not fun, and it is thanks to your help and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.