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Fierce Food    by Christa Weil order for
Fierce Food
by Christa Weil
Order:  USA  Can
Plume, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

We've all had the same problem. We're hungry, and we open the refrigerator - hoping for an inspiration - trying to make a decision: 'What should I eat?' The barbecue ribs that have languished for seven days (or has it been longer?) in the restaurant take-out container are a close second to the Stouffer's frozen lasagna in the freezer. Both are possibilities, but both seem so ordinary and boring (with no offense meant to Stouffer's).

Well, if you want a change of pace, get in touch with your sense of adventure by choosing something from Christa Weil's fascinating new book, Fierce Food. You can choose from 72 different foods (two-thirds of which the author claims actually to have eaten); however, you may have a tough time finding any of these foods in any restaurant or neighborhood supermarket.

In some of the most descriptive, informative, entertaining, and (occasionally) persuasive prose you are ever likely to encounter in a book about food, you will learn all you could ever want to know about some wonderfully unusual foods: Crickets, Dragonflies, Honeypot Ants, and Chapulines (Mexican snacking grasshoppers); Jellyfish, Geoduck Clams, and Barnacles; Snakes, Scorpions, and Snapping Turtles; Armadillos, Nutria, and Guinea Pigs. Then, if you're feeling rather bold, you can read about (and then dine on) Smoked Blubber, Sheep's Head, Dog, Fat-Tailed Sheep Tail, and Calf's Head. And if you really want to go where few diners have ever gone before, get ready for Live Monkey Brain, Bat, Fresh Blood, Balut (a fertilized duck egg that has been buried in the ground for a specified period of time), Casu Marzu (a rotting Italian cheese with guests), and many more stomach-churning morsels - some of which are too strange (and disgusting) to even mention.

Weil's alphabetical survey of unusual, exotic, and downright bizarre foods tells you 'what these foods are, where they're consumed, and how they're captured or foraged.' Readers will also learn 'how the foods are traditionally served and eaten, and, best of all, what they taste like.'

As an additional aid (and as a caveat emptor) to would-be diners, the author charitably provides a key by which foods are annotated as being spiny, revolting, messy, incredibly smelly, rather distracting (because of the eyes), pleasantly comparable to chicken, or downright dangerous (possibly leading to pain, disease, or death); some foods require special equipment or techniques, and the author kindly warns readers about those complications.

The book is plenty of fun (and occasionally shocking). And after reading the book - which comes across quite often as a macabre culinary adventure involving an unrelenting assault upon all of your senses - you'll be glad you have that frozen lasagna in the freezer. Even those barbecue ribs (which might be getting a little old and dangerous) will seem like a very good choice.

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