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JPTV: What I'm Watching (But Not Eating)

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Bizarre Foods - TIME
Travel Channel
Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern

Andrew Zimmern makes a stop at a barbecued-lamb market in a Moroccan alleyway. The stalls in the alley are arranged in descending order of price; at the beginning, you have the prized luxury cuts, and as you walk on, you move on to body parts that were far more highly valued by the sheep itself than by the humans who will eat it, ending with the head. Zimmern makes a beeline for one of the roasted heads and digs a nugget of meat out of it. “MMMMM! That’s good!” he murmurs. “There are no words on Earth that can describe the texture of a roasted lamb’s eyeball to you.”

And thank God for that. This is pretty much what you sign up for when you watch a show called Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern. The show airs originals on Mondays and repeats throughout the week on Travel Channel, which began out-fooding the Food Network a while ago with Anthony Bourdain’s fantastic No Reservations. In each gross but engaging hour, Zimmern travels the world in search of its most unappetizing food. (To Western palates, anyway. I bet you could make a Chinese or Japanese equivalent in which a host travels the U.S. and Europe to see the disgusting things we do with fermented animal milks.) In the recent episode on Morocco, he went on a tour of animal offal ranging from testicles (ew!) to pancreas (ick!) to tongue (um, actually, I can get that at Katz’s Deli).

I’m a decently adventurous omnivore myself, but I was a vegetarian for about seven years, and the show reminds me of one of the more convincing arguments for vegetarianism: the foods we are most grossed out by are parts of animals. I have yet to see Zimmern try to skeeve us out with a really disgusting potato or lettuce leaf. I suppose that’s because, evolutionarily speaking, we needed to be steered away from suspect, dangerous meats. But that’s what TV does: it takes visceral reactions developed over millions of years and turns them into entertainment.

And while Bizarre Foods may lean a little heavily on the exoticism of what those crazy foreigners will put into their mouths (I’m half Moroccan, on my mother’s side, and I’ve never gotten near most of the anatomical tidbits Zimmern discovers), it’s definitely entertaining. Just don’t make the mistake I did and watch it off TiVo during lunch.

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