Saturday, May 31, 2008

Jalapeño Jelly

You know those translucent red cinnamon candies that don't taste anything like cinnamon and instead have the flavor of solidified corn syrup with some capsaicin added to account for the "spiciness" factor? Perhaps they were originally called jalapeño drops because that's exactly what this jalapeño jelly tastes like. So sweet it'll make you gag and just spicy enough to make you reach for that glass of water, I really don't see what this stuff could be used for.

I'm a spicy food addict but even I don't want to venture beyond the few samples I've had so far. To be honest, it's not the idea of jalapeño jelly itself nor is it the spiciness that puts me off, it's the sweetness. This stuff is pure corn syrup and that, in my book, makes it pure disgusting.

jalapeno jelly

* An uninteresting footnote: those jalapeños in the photo were grown by yours truly in a plastic plant pot on the front doorstep.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Snickers Charged

Everybody is jumping on the hyper-caffeinated bandwagon. You've got endless varieties of "energy" drinks (more aptly called stimulant drinks in England), pills, powders, mints, jelly beans, and now candy bars. The cafe in my office building sells little caffeinated "chocolate" chews (I doubt there's any cacao present at all) that taste like one of those Tootsie Rolls with the cream filling except in this case the cream filling is a crushed up aspirin. The result is a horrid combination of a sugary sweet and a disgusting bitter aftertaste.

Snickers Charged, the caffeine infused version of the best selling chocolate bar of all time, suffers the same fate. It tastes just like a regular Snickers (which are not that nice in the first place) sprinkled with a crushed up caffeine pill. Because the Snickers is much larger than the little chew I had, the caffeine's bitterness is better masked but lingers longer than the other flavor components of the bar.

These things are labeled "Limited Edition" meaning Mars knew they were horrible enough to never catch on and most would be purchased by idiots like myself. The upside of its inevitable unpopularity is that you can probably find them on clearance. I love caffeine and routinely abuse the stuff but I think I'll stick with the delicious brews that contain it naturally.

snickers charged

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Paradise Papaya

I apologize, but I was lacking any other options at the time of purchase so this will be the last time I use the "wow, that's a big fruit" criteria for inclusion, particularly when the ever-so-common watermelon is much larger than a papaya. But hey, at least it's non-standard in Western society and somewhat exotic.

Papayas are called Pawpaws in Australia... a very early memory of mine involves watching a handful of fruit bats (frighteningly large creatures indeed) devouring the sweet fruit of a pawpaw tree.


Anyway, this particular cultivar of papaya I purchased was a "Paradise Papaya" and in this case paradise means pink. Most papayas have a golden yellow/orange flesh but this one had a more pinkish hue (okay, so my white balance is a bit off in the picture, just believe me when I say it was pink).

According to Wikipedia, the seeds are actually edible but I assure you they are far from palatable. So, after scraping them out and slicing away the rind, you're actually left with a disappointingly small amount of flesh. There will actually be more meat attached to the rind but it's rather bitter so only take the soft flesh.

The flavor of the Paradise Papaya and all papayas in general is fairly unique. There is a definite similarity to cantaloupe in texture and a slight resemblance in the taste but papayas are incredibly sweet and have a slightly unnatural note to them, as if they're artificially flavored with chemicals created by men in a laboratory as opposed to chemicals created by a tree on a farm. I don't mean to say that the flavor is unpleasant, on the contrary it is rather nice and will beckon you to devour the entire mass of extracted flesh in one or two sittings.

papaya open

Grab a papaya if you're looking for something a little more exotic than the run-of-the-mill melon but be prepared to toss the bulk of it away (onto your compost heap, of course).

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


The rambutan is an incredibly strange looking tropical fruit from the southern regions of Asia. The rind is soft but textured and covered in little "tentacles" that look as though they've evolved for the distinct purpose of getting stuck in the throat of any poor creature who ventured to swallow one whole. It is very closely related to the lychee (which I actually mistook it for until doing further research) and looks very similar except for the spines covering the rind.

hold rambutan

Peeling the outer skin reveals a veiny white flesh again resembling that of a lychee. The fragrance is very sweet and struck me as having hints of magnolia and melon. The flesh has a texture and appearance much like that of a large peeled grape but a bit firmer and creamier.

rambutan macro

It's been a while since I had a lychee so my memory of the flavor is dim but I believe the rambutan tastes incredibly similar except without any hint of sourness or tartness that I seem to remember being a mild characteristic of the lychee. The rambutan Very sweet (but not overbearing) with a creamy mouth feel and tastes of flowers. There is also a large, almond shaped seed in the middle that is not meant to be eaten but has the lovely flavor of sweet wood when left in the mouth before disposal.

rambutan macro

The presence of the nut means and the rind means the amount of flesh found in the rambutan is quite small but that suits the rich flavor. However, I was almost charged $6.50 for just one of these little fruits and somehow ended up paying a buck so beware of the price when reaching for these fuzzy tropical balls of flavor.

rambutan peeled

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Canned Octopus

canned octopus

I've eaten plenty of cephalopods throughout my years but it was the packaging that caught my eye on this one. The picture, misleading as they all are, seemed to indicate that the can would contain intact tentacles and I simply couldn't pass up that photo opportunity. Much to the dismay of my visual cortex, gripping the pull-tab and peeling back the lid of the can revealed several mini-filet looking slices of tentacle. So, being the complete weirdo that I am, I worked with what I had and set about trying to reconstruct a whole appendage out of the pieces.

canned octopus

Photographic activities aside, I thought the taste of the octopus was going to be ruined by the oil it was packed in but, after a quick flash, much of the oil came off and helped cook the outer flesh.

canned octopus

Octopus is a very rubbery meat, much like chewing on fish flavored twizzler. I was rather surprised to find that the quality of this specimen was rather high with the texture of a fresh catch and the natural smokey flavor that can be found in good octopus and squid.

canned octopus

While I don't plan on getting this again because the portion was rather small for the price, I'd recommend it to anyone needing some good cephalopod as a minor ingredient for a dish in regions where fresh caught seafood is out of the question.

canned octopus

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Boar Sausage

As I mentioned a few posts ago, a coworker of mine went on a boar hunting trip. I again received some of the kill from a different co-worker, this time in the form of a sausage.

Do you like spicy Italian sausage? Well, I'm not usually a big fan since sausage is all too often saturated with excessive amounts of fat. However, this is not the case when the beast being ground and tubed is a lean boar. Far better than any pork based snag I've had in the past, this mammoth-sized wiener was packed with flavor, protein, and just enough fat to round off the flavor and keep the meat moist.

Really, I ought not tempt anyone with delicious strange food that can't be found at local stores or eateries but if there is a place by you that sells boar in any way, shape, or form I'd strongly recommend buying some and cooking it in anyway you like, even if you're not a pork fan. This is some lean, tasty meat.

boar sausage

Saturday, May 17, 2008


When I decided on a whim to start this diary of disturbing victuals (what was I thinking?) I was actually hoping to encounter situations like this.

Quince is the ugliest looking abortion of a pear/apple-esque fruit I've ever seen with its odd, lumpy shape and seemingly standard blemishes. Its saving grace is the pleasant green color and stunning aroma. Think of the nicest apple fragrance you've encountered and make it sweeter, lighter, and more flowerlike. The quince smells gorgeous.

quince in tree

There's a hard nut in the middle but I was unable to open the fruit without chopping straight though it. The insides resembled that of a pear except for the pit that I had just sliced into quarters. So maybe I should read more about the food I choose to sample before sticking it in my mouth because this thing was completely unpalatable. Apparently you're not supposed to eat these things raw... apparently it's rather impossible to do so and, to my horror, I found it can be quite dangerous:

ELIZABETH, N. J., Oct. 2J.-Eating a raw quince which he had put in a bowl of milk caused the death of Henry Reetz. a young artist, early this morning: at his home, 820 Grove Street. He had been ill only two days. He plucked the fruit from a tree in his garden, and, nutting the quince, soaked it in the milk. He was attacked with violent pains In the stomach tour hours after he had partaken of the dish, and suffered intense agony. He had been married only four months.

A quick google search will link you to that obituary in the New York Times. I have no idea if that kind of reaction is standard but that puts me off experimenting any further with this fruit. Other articles taught me that quince can be rather delicious if cooked and made into jam or added in small amounts to apple sauce and pies for flavor enhancement. According to Wikipedia, the word marmalade originally meant quince jam as the Portuguese word for quince is marmelo. So, while this fruit is technically edible and therefore qualifies for inclusion in this blog, I'm going to have to advise everybody to avoid sticking this thing in their mouth. Maybe one day I'll try making a jam out of quince but for now the only use I have for it is as an air freshener.

sliced quinced

As an aside, if you're going to be cooking with quince or committing suicide with a raw specimen, make sure to use it shortly after slicing as the flesh deteriorates rather quickly, as demonstrated below.

decaying quince

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sweet Pickled Watermelon Rind

"What is this garbage?" I thought to myself. Fully supporting the idea that we not let any food go to waste, I was still rather disturbed upon encountering the jar labeled "sweet pickled watermelon rinds." Watermelon rinds, as far as I knew, are completely unpalatable and no amount of soaking in vinegar and corn syrup could change that.

sweet pickled watermelon rind jar

Watermelons are well known for being low calorie and high in fiber so I was further shocked upon reading the nutritional facts of my strange new purchase and finding out that just two cubes pack a whopping 70 calories and 12 grams of sugar. With nine servings in the bottle, this is one jar of "fruit" you don't want to finish off in one sitting... or ten.

The disgust only intensified as I brought the embalmed rind to my lips but quickly dissipated once the taste signals hit my brain. Not bad... certainly not good but not bad either. These things should really be in the candy aisle as they taste like a super sweet but slightly tangy gummy treat. Rendered soft and gelatinous by the pickling process, the texture of the sweet pickled watermelon rind resembles that of boiled broccoli stalks soaked in syrup (sorry, I thought long and hard about this one and couldn't come up with anything better).

sweet pickled watermelon rind

It's strange food items like this that inspired me to write this blog for you, my audience of zero (hey, even I don't read this babble) and I'm happy to have found and tried this abomination of food processing. And even though the experience was positive and the taste strangely appealing, I'm still left wondering: who on Earth eats this crap?

Friday, May 9, 2008


A coworker of mine went on a boar hunting trip and gave some of the flesh to another coworker of mine so that she could make a filipino caramelized pork dish with it. I was fortunate enough to receive a couple pieces but because of the caramelized sauce I can't really comment on the full flavor of the meat.

I let the pieces sit in my mouth a while so that most of the sauce came off and I was able to taste the flesh itself a bit better. As is typical with wild meat, the boar was far leaner than a factory farmed pig and didn't have the unsettling greasiness of pork. Also like most game meat, the boar had a bold flavor that could be described as gamey.

I'd love to try boar again without the sauce as it seems to be a tastier and leaner alternative to pork (the inherent greasiness of which usually puts me off). I guess I'll just have to convince my coworker to slice me off a bit the next time he goes hunting.

boar flesh

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Red Pummelo

Sure, the red pummelo isn't really too odd but one must admit that the gargantuan size of this citrus fruit does land it in the strange category.

O. Pummelo Head

Native to Southeast Asia and aptly classified as either Citrus maxima or Citrus grandis, the pummelo/pommelo/pomelo visually resembles an overgrown grapefruit and even emanates a strong grapefruit-like odor from its spongy rind when handled. Although it may dwarf the grapefruit as a whole, the flesh inside is roughly the same size. It is also incredibly similar in flavor yet noticeably lacking the characteristic bitterness or tartness of its counterpart.

pummelo face

When it comes to citrus, I'm a peeler. I like to maximize my consumption of a fruit's flesh and with citrus this usually means I spend a great many minute tackling the task of picking away at the tough outer skin, all the while making a mess and getting covered in limonoids. The pummelo, again like the grapefruit, may be better approached with a knife and a spoon as the rind is particularly thick, velvety, and hard to remove. Regardless, I enjoyed devouring the beast hidden within but it wasn't special enough to warrant shelling out the two bucks it cost for any future consumption.

pummelo flesh

Monday, May 5, 2008


When deciding on another wild meat to try at Clark's Fish Camp I was steered away from the rattlesnake by the waitress who said it was mostly bone and the majority of people who ordered it complained so I'll have to save that for another day. We decided to go with something exotic yet not too strange and mammalian seemed a safe bet. I've already had rabbit, venison, buffalo and kangaroo so that left antelope.

The antelope was tougher and drier than the ostrich but with a slightly fuller flavor and more natural salt concentration. The texture is very similar to that of dry, tough steak which is more pronounced due to the complete lack of any fat. The flavor is, as one can imagine, similar to venison but I can't really compare the subtleties as it's been over a year since I last tried deer.

So if you like lean, "gamey" meat and don't mind the toughness, antelope is a good beast to try.



I tried ostrich at an incredibly strange restaurant here in Jacksonville, Florida. Full of stuffed wild animals, real live alligators, and (even more frightening) hordes of rednecks, Clark's Fish Camp offers a variety of "wild" meats as appetizers or meals. And by wild they really mean "farmed but weird".

I had attempted to try ostrich earlier in the day at another restaurant but they didn't serve it during lunch so, to stifle my sobs, my wife took me to this house of oddities. Overwhelmed with options, we decided to try the ostrich and the antelope (I'll get to the antelope in the next post).

I was expecting something resembling chicken or turkey based on my prior experience with bird flesh but what we got looked more like steak and I was immediately struck with an attack of paranoia and thought the restaurant was trying to trick us into believing this beef came from a big, flightless bird. However, as the first bite melted in my mouth so did my fears of a culinary conspiracy. The flavor did resemble that of steak or bison but there was definitely a note of turkey in there. Many would describe the meat as being "gamey" but that simply translates to "has flavor" in my book. The texture was also quite different, much more akin to its fowl relatives. They only offered the meat fried or charred so, wanting to experience the most flavor and the fewest calories, I chose charred which meant the meat was a little dry but still easy to chew. There was a notable lack of fat which is apparently typical of ostrich meat; less fat and more protein than chicken, turkey, beef, and pork. Overall, ostrich is a very tasty and nutritious meat.

Now I know what manner of beast I'm going to raise if I ever have a farm... but then again I haven't tried emu yet so, being Australian, I'll have to hold off on that decision until I sample some of my own native brethren.


Thursday, May 1, 2008

Ugli Fruit

Although I've seen far uglier produce, the giant, rotting grapefruit-like appearance of the ugli fruit more than justifies its name.

The ugli fruit was originally found growing wild in Jamaica and is a natural hybrid between a grapefruit and a tangerine. It's roughly the size of a grapefruit or pomelo but the flesh inside is only about as big as a large navel orange. The thick skin is colored with an uneven blend of yellows and greens giving it a sickly or rotting appearance which is accented by the occasional brown blemishes.

Betraying the nauseating impressions of its facade, the innards of the ugli fruit are surprisingly tasty. The initial rubbery texture and bland flavor of the outer covering quickly gives way to succulent juices with a mildly sweet and tangy blend of the best characteristics of its direct ancestors.

They're typically not too expensive due to the look of decay so snatch a few up if you can find them. Here are some ugly pictures of me doing just that. I'll post some better shots if and when I get a hold of some more of these hideous-yet-delicious mutants.

ugli fruit ugli fruit