Friday, 21 January 2011

Dog food 'n' chips, please!

As well as the 31,000 kilometres and all the Open University courses I need to pass, friends are setting me other challenges for this ride. My favourite one so far is to try something I've never eaten before in each country I cycle through. I assume this refers to food rather than, say, dog shit or traffic lights.

I had a similar experience on a previous ride when, as part of a list of 28 tasks, my girlfriend Nina challenged me to hunt out morteruelo, a dish from the Castilla-La Mancha region of Spain. The closest literal translation I can find for morteruelo is 'pox death' but I'm sure that can't be right. On a menu it might describe itself as game paté but that oversells it to me. If you want to know what it tastes like imagine two Weetabix in a bowl, add lashing of hot milk and leave until the 'bix have gone soggy. Now stir in a tin of dog food. Yep, that's about it.

So in order to optimize my culinary adventure I thought I'd do a bit of research to find out what sort of interesting tasties might await me abroad. It's better to go into these things with your eyes open, like a sheep's head on a Norwegian dinner table.

France is known for its fine food but out of sheer curiosity I'm tempted by something that when cooked supposedly has the subtle aroma of urine and faeces. Yummy! This is andouillette, a tripe sausage stuffed with chitterlings, onions and pepper. I have to admit that it was Mr Google who told me what chitterlings are, or maybe what chitterlings is - I'm still not sure whether it's singular or plural. Apparently it's (or they're) the small intestine of a pig. Now, I've never liked tripe but I thought if it was combined with something even more disgusting then it might slip down more easily. It's the same principle that a quick visit to Basingstoke will make it easier to spend the rest of the afternoon in Slough.

But it's not all poop-flavoured treats. Ukraine actually sounds like fun. Salo is the name of its smoked and aged pig fat. So what, you're asking, loads of countries make greasy crap like that. But what makes it unique in Ukraine is that it's chocolate-coated. Genius! As someone who loves the combination of sweet and salty that sounds like heaven to me. Duncan Bannatyne's already organised a boatload as the centrepiece of next month's Scottish Health Week.

There are tons of other colourful things that might appear on my plate. In Hungary there's the delicious-sounding pig's blood and eggs - not a hundred miles away from a typical breakfast round at Fred West's gaff - and Poland's nozki or jellied cow's foot. In Italy there's even cibreo, a dish of cocks' combs. By the way, that's the flappy bit on a rooster's head and not a grooming aid for blokes with pubic lice. It's hard to imagine eating much of this without Ant and Dec standing by urging me on to win another dinner for camp.

The hardest part of the challenge will be finding something I've never eaten before in the UK. Maybe something that's not over-priced would be a good start, or a supermarket sandwich with the flavour of something other than soggy bread. It doesn't bode well that London's was recently voted the worst cuisine in Europe. Maybe I'll just have to settle for those traffic lights in dog shit sauce.

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