Let me explain: I think there is something beautiful about the mission of the show, which is to unite people of different cultures through understanding their food and it’s personal meaning. Our concepts of “gross” are cultural. This is the same notion that says our concepts of how we treat animals is cultural. (Dogs are cute! Pigs are delicious! WHAT!?)
While I of course do NOT advocate eating animals, it is sometimes interesting to see how people in present-day have no idea what a factory farm is, a processing plant, a kill line, a veal crate, a gestation crate, why “free range” is deemed important (*please view the comments on this post to find a link and explanation of why that term doesn’t even mean much of anything, though!), etc… For many people in the world, the way they find and use animals for food (again, NOT advocating it) is something Americans read about in history books.
Do I like the idea of animals used for food? Nope. But I have a much, much bigger problem with animals used for food that are mass-produced, drugged, and forced to live uncomfortable lives in absolutely terrible unsanitary conditions. While factory farms are ever-increasing to supply meat to parts of the world that traditionally never had it, there are still many parts of the world that don’t have it – a “hamburger” doesn’t exist, essentially. Something to think about.
Another interesting aspect of food that Bizarre Food highlights is how various cultures use food and nutrition for health, wellness, and medicine. I’ve learned about some plant and root concoctions for relieving cold symptoms, coffee that is support to cleanse your body, and the way hand-mixing ingredients can be a form of meditation.
So, WHY IS THIS RELEVANT?
About two weeks ago I caught an episode of Bizarre foods that focused on what children eat in other countries. It was a child-friendly episode, as American kids would be filmed asking Andrew questions (“Whats the grossest thing you ever ate? What food did you hate as a kid?”) and he’d answer and then move on to a segment about how in some places, kids snack on bugs instead of potato chips.
BUT THEN.. The most wonderful point was made, as Andrew essentially said:
“Don’t you ever think that some of the stuff we eat in THIS country is a little weird? To kids across the globe, imagine what they would think if you explained a hot dog to them?
A hot dog, something so common it can be seen as symbolic of something “All American”, but it’s kind of scary when you think about it. Take for starters the shape and color. Pretty weird. Then consider that it’s made with a bunch of scrap parts of animals, and 25% of hot dog ingredients don’t have to be listed on the package!
We eat jello – that’s another All American snack. But jello is made from ground up bones of animals!”
ISN’T THAT A GREAT POINT!?
I wondered how many people munchin’ on hot dogs at that very moment took a second to think about that. To me, this brought home the entire idea of cultural perceptions – we think eating hot dogs is NOT gross because we’ve done it forever. (And yet, TOFU scares some people? A little ol’ soybean? Really?)
A trailer/preview for a book by Author Melanie Joy that addresses this topic (warning: this may be disturbing, but it drives home this whole idea – I hope I don’t offend anyone!):
For me, as for many people who eat veg-diets, finding out about the horrors of factory farming and animal abuse (not to mention the tolls on the planet and health) was a shift in my perception of what food is.
In closing: I have so much respect for anybody that has identified their opinion because of self-education and firm reasons (even those opinions which are different from my own). Our concepts of food, health, wellness and compassion for animals are other issues to investigate, and then make choices we deem moral.
(A note: I tried to find ANY list of hot dog ingredients online and found nothing but generalities. However, TofuPups – vegan hot dogs – are only 60 calories each and you can pronounce and identify so many ingredients! Three cheers for dried tofu, beet powder and tomato pulp!)