Author: Joshua Burns
Food is the staple of every culture. When travelling, one of the most thrilling experiences is trying the culinary delights of whatever country you’re visiting. However, as we all know, cultural tastes can vary.
Take, for example, the Canadian dish, poutine. This slightly strange feast emerged in the late 1950’s and is made from chips (or French fries). So far, it’s a normal dish that people would eat the world over. In Quebec, however, people then decided to start putting cheese curds* on top of the chips, followed by a thick, dark meat-based gravy*.
This strange combination quickly attracted attention from outside the region. People from Quebec were originally mocked because of their love of poutine. But, in the end their pride won through and today it is considered to be quintessential Canadian food. It has spread beyond its Quebecois home, with annual poutine celebrations in cities all around Canada.
Deep Fried Mars Bar
Moving now from the slightly odd to the artery clogging*. Take a Mars bar, the thick chocolate treat made from caramel and nugget. Just 51g of this bar come in at 228 calories; so, from the beginning it’s a pretty heavy snack. Now, imagine covering this dense, calorific food with batter and deep-frying it. If you do this, you have over 600 calories worth of a famous Scottish treat.
It began almost as a joke; it was a relatively unpopular novelty item* that became a large news story after it was discovered by media. In Britain, Scotland has often come under fire* from the other countries for being particularly unhealthy. So, in the 1990s, when the media discovered the dish, they used it as a commentary on Scottish eating habits – even though it wasn’t a mainstream item. This media popularity, in turn, helped popularise the snack, and now it’s seen as a controversial staple of Scottish cuisine. Well, sort of – it’s mostly eaten by curious tourists.
One of the most famous aspects of this British foodstuff is its marketing campaign. People either ‘love it or hate it’, as the ad goes. And it’s true. This thick, dark paste divides anyone who tastes it into these two groups. In fact, it was such an effective marketing campaign that ‘marmite’ has entered the general lexicon to describe an issue that polarises a crowd.
It’s made from yeast extract, which is a by-product* of brewing beer. That should give you an idea of the product – imagine a concentrated smell of beer but without any alcohol. It’s salty and powerful, eaten mostly on toast or sometimes with cheese.
This is another one of those famously disgusting food products. Originating from Iceland, Hákarl is so strong that simply describing it has the potential to turn your stomach. It’s made from the rotting carcass of a basking shark, which is then buried in a shallow* pit. Stones are placed on top to drain any of the poisonous internal fluids before it is hung up to dry.
The resulting product is so strong the smell tends to stop people from even tasting it. Essentially, you’re eating rotten fish – that tells you everything you need to know.
While it may not be as instantly off-putting as rotting shark meat or as heavily calorific as the deep fried Mars bar, whatever you do to cheese to make it come out of a can means there must be something weird going on.
It was first manufactured in 1965 and was marketed as ‘Snack Mate’ until 1984. The product claimed to be ‘instant cheese for instant parties’, and, somehow, it took off. But, despite its popularity, it’s not the healthiest food on the planet. In 2006, wired magazine did an article, exposing the different ingredients in the ‘cheese’, which include, canola oil, salt, sodium citrate, sodium phosphate, calcium phosphate, lactic acid, sodium alginate, and apocarotenal. Maybe it would be best to just stick to normal cheese.
Cheese curds: the first stage of the cheese-making process, when the milk is separated into curds (solid lumps) and whey (the watery liquid).
Gravy: a type of sauce for meat
Clog : to block
Novelty item: something you enjoy just because it’s new or different
Under fire: been attacked (not in a military sense)
By-product: Something that is made by accident as a result of making another product
Shallow: not deep