You’re Going to Eat THAT?

Is it weird that the Food Network show “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern” is probably the LEAST veg-friendly food show, and I love it immensely?

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.


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!”


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!)

(As per Google, here’s a cute little photo of a pup named Tofu!)

*I also want to state that I do not love my non-veg friends and family any less, or think anyone “bad” because they eat meat. Ideally, we could communicate our differences of opinion with respect and kindness and if not change our own minds, at least have a greater understanding for others. We are all on different paths within our journeys, and they are best traveled with a quest for knowledge and an open mind!

8 thoughts on “You’re Going to Eat THAT?

  1. That show bugs me a LOT, mostly because he never seems to move away from that “oh look how ~weird~ this is!” mindset throughout the program (granted, I’ve seen about an episode and a half). I know it’s American TV and you’ve got to market/appeal to the lowest common denominator, but still.

    • Can the phrase” That show BUGS me” be taken as a pun? Heh. Bad joke.

      I think it satiates our appetite (wow I’m on a roll) for wanting to see a part of something weird and unusual, like a food carnival or something.

  2. I agree with you that cultural perceptions of food are a major problem in America (you should see the looks I get at work when I eat anything with rice noodles!) and certainly many things Americans take for granted as “normal” (like hot dogs that you mentioned, but even the hamburgers that many people eat at fast food places. . .the ingredients in those things, ACK!) is far from it.

    I wanted to point out, though, that “free range” is, for the most part, a myth. FDA standards state that in order for animals raised for food to be qualified as “free range” generally a window in the factory farm will suffice. the website has a ton of information about the misinformation being “fed” (bad pun, I know. . .) to the American public. By using misleading terms like “free range” or “grass fed”, omnivores can feel better about the suffering they contribute to everyday. As I know you know, the best way to avoid ALL of this hooplah is to simply go vegan! By simply making that choice, your carbon footprint is decreased exponentially.

    • Josh, thank you for mentioning that!

      I think what I was going for over here was the term “free range” as a buzz word that people are eager to toss around, when in other places they may have never heard of it. But you’re soo right…. just like “all natural” it doesn’t mean much of anything. Thanks for pointing that out, I’m going to edit in something about that now. Thank you for sharing that link, too!

    • Your best bet for truly ethical meat is going to be local farms. Places that let animals lead healthy, natural lives in open spaces, with clean and as-painless-as-in-nature deaths *do* exist. Going vegan is an alternative, but it’s not the only one. 🙂

      (Granted this is an issue that depends on what’s near you, geographically speaking, so for some people going vegan will be the “better” option, but I think out here in the Valley there are plenty of humane farms to be found! Perhaps that would be a future Save the Kales! entry? For local omnivores who want to be as ethical as possible.)

      • Hmm… I do see your point, and of course “ethical meat” is SO MUCH better than factory farming. Though, I do want to keep this blog focused on plant based diets, as that’s what I’m most familiar with and that’s what I’m studying and work is about. I want to continue to advocate veg-diets.

        But Katherine, you’re right, and I do know there are other local blogs and writers that have covered this topic, and include info about local farms. I hope that folks, especially local readers, can seek those out and learn more about the topic!

      • Katherine, I think the major difference here is that you see animals as food, and I simply don’t. With that inherent difference, there is little chance we will see eye to eye on this issue. By using animals for food (whether or not you believe that source to be “humane”) you are perpetuating the idea that animals are ours to use for food/health & beauty products, etc. and continuing that market. That’s why I don’t partake at all.

        The fact of the matter is that happy, little magic farms full of smiling cows and chickens will never feed America’s hunger for flesh/dairy/eggs. It’s not realistic.

      • To clarify, I’m not trying to be a jerk here or anything. I just think it’s unrealistic for omnivores to source their meats only from local farms. That would mean living vegetarian (or vegan) at all times unless preparing that food at home. No trace animal ingredients, etc. Every person that I’ve met that purports to support only local animal products does not do this. They will happily eat meat at a restaurant, etc. That’s why I believe veganism is the best way.

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