For my beloved Brother who introduced me to the art of cooking, who taught me how to taste and truly love food. Without him I'd never be able to be where I am today.

December 18, 2011

To Each His Own

I've eaten some pretty weird things in my life. Taking into account that I've lived four years in Vietnam and travelled  across most on South-East Asia, I feel that I can say 'been there done that' to eating most insects, eye bolls and other less appetizing foods. Best of all, I've learned not to knock it until I've tried it. And I'm happy about that. It would be a shame not to give my taste buds some very exotic and bizarre excitement ever once and a while. Then again, I won't lie and say that I loved eating eye bolls when I was eight years old, but that is a question of taste and preference…As in Swedish "smaken är som baken" (literally: the taste taste is like the bum) - there's no accounting for taste. Eyebolls might be someone favorite food! But when I encountered locos for the first time, I seriously had to pause before putting the thing in my mouth.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present to you: Locos - strange little creatures of the sea, I must say. Thanks to Wikipedia I can offer you a more descriptive definition:  "Concholepas concholepas, common names the Chilean abalone or loco in Chilean Spanish, is a species of large edible sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusk." Apparently, locos are only available in Chile and Peru and there people eat them like tuna. Or something. Now you might wonder why I, physically located in Southern Sweden, managed to get a hold of them. Well, it's a pretty funny story.

Me and my boyfriend were walking home late on a Saturday night after a nice meal accompanied by some nice wine. Even though we were completely full, both of us had a sweet tooth for something. Luckily, we live in a very un-Swedish area in town and noticed that there were many small Oriental grocery shops still open. One shop had a sign saying "Chilean specialities" so picked that one as my boyfriend has been living in Chile and wanted to see what they had to offer. We entered and found all kinds of funny "specialties", all from ahi pebble sauce to mate. As we headed toward the counter, our shopping basked was filled with the most random items. We thought it was hilarious, of course. The wine had probably something to do with it. We were about to pay for all the nonsense we'd most certainly regret buying the following day, as my boyfriend got very excited and grabbed a tin can from the shelf behind the salesman. It was canned locos. At that point I was already completely lost with all the products I had never seen before, but this was beyond all comprehension. The salesman started to eagerly promote the product by explaining that "it's very good for men".  Oh haven't I heard that one before. In Vietnam they made the Western men eat almost anything by guaranteeing "it's good for men". Usually it was just a funny practical joke to see how the idiot tourist would seconds after swallowing puke is brains out because of the nasty thing he just ate… My boyfriend got so convinced that he took two cans. Turned out locos were not just "good for men", but also worth a fortune. Kindly, without a word, he paid for his locos and turned to me and said: "They better be amazingly good!".

Three months later, the locos were still sitting put on the shelf where we had placed them that night my boyfriend spent a fortune on  some weird sea snails. I knew that we had to start packing all our stuff in boxes in a couple of days because our current rental contract is about to come to an end. It was a perfect deadline for eating the slimy delicacies. We decided to serve them as a side snack for the welcome toast I'd do for our Finnish pikku joulu (little Christmas) party the next day. Glögg and locos - the combo of the year - would definitely bring our party to an excellent start.

Minutes before our friends came over, I opened the can of locos. As soon as I saw the creatures in their juice and took a closer look at them, I knew there would be a risk of me I not being able to appreciate them in the way I probably should. It happened to me once preparing a whole goose. When you yourself are the one doing all the sometimes a bit nasty preparations, you end up not being able to block those images from your thoughts and end up not being able to enjoy the end result. Well, that happened to me this time. I simply couldn't get over the fact that the locos very accurately resembled something I'd rather not eat… You can make your own judgement based on the photo.

Although I wasn't going to enjoy it fully myself, I proudly presented the little pre-appetizer snack to my guests. But because of my rather bawdy humor, I simply had to crack a stupid joke. I couldn't help myself. See I served the locos cut in smaller pieces so it wasn't that obvious what they had looked like before. Turned out, I ruined the tasting for some, but made it even more enjoyable for others. Fair enough.

One shouldn't argue on matters of likes and dislikes, even though someone not liking something as delicious as garlic or mushrooms might seem almost like a blasphemy for a foodie. Neither should you knock it until you've tried it, may I add in defense. Even though the locos look a bit shady, they actually taste rather good. I'm sure that when freshly prepared, they're even better. When I'll one day travel to Chile I'll definitely have another go, I swear. To each his own!

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