HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >

Discussion

Your experiences with obligatory eating? Eating 20 guinea pigs in Peru

Last week I was in northern Peru interviewing groups of organic fair trade coffee farmers. Our small team had four groups to work with on the first day. We arrived after a very early two hour drive at the first community. Before we could get started, the group had us have breakfast that they had prepared: rice, boiled potatoes, boiled and then fried yuca (cassava), and fried cuy (guinea pig). Delicious! Really great! We went on and arrived mid-morning at the second community, did the second participatory group interview, and were then promptly sat down to have an early lunch of--rice, potatoes, yuca, and cuy—plus rompope (or caspiroleta), a drink made of aguardiente (locally distilled cane liquor), whipped egg whites, beaten yolks, evaporated milk, honey, vanilla, and beaten egg yolks! Eat and drink all again. The third group also had us sit down to eat and drink: rice, potatoes, yuca, cuy, and rompope! Believe it or not, the fourth group was more of the same-- rice, potatoes, yuca, and cuy, and another fresh batch of rompope!! Happily eat and drink again!!! Four meals of high cholesterol cuy and sweet egg-based aguardiente in six or so hours. The next several days were very similar! But this is the way fieldwork is and has to be done. What have been your obligatory eating experiences?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. Shortly after I proposed to my wife, we went to a Buddhist temple in the country to get a blessing for our marriage. Apparently American visitors were extremely rare, and possibly even rarer, one who entered the temple, kneeled, and bowed to Buddha in respect to their religion, and I was treated to what must have been a weeks worth of food for the monk and attendants in a single meal. The food was simply prepared and very moderately seasoned compared to the Korean meals I had been introduced to earlier in the city of Gunsan. Rice and fresh vegetables, simply steamed or stir fried, and some type of fish dish. Mild water kimchi instead of the fiery napa variety, and the rest of the banchan was of the fresh namul or wild types. Very simple and very, very good. The women who cleaned and maintained were very attentive and curious, as was the master.
    I learned one very important lesson there when it came time to leave. I bent over to put my shoes on and the master rapped me none to gently on the arse with his staff. With a huge grin he pantomimed and got the lesson across - Never show your arse to Buddha.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hannaone

      Buddha could care less about the ass. But sharing food is very Buddhist!

    2. I haven't had any obligatory eating experiences such as yours, Sam, but if you tire of them let me know. I might be persuaded to fill in...

      1 Reply
      1. re: Will Owen

        Will, wish you had been along. Two of my partners were from Vermont--a 70% and 98% (ate meat if culturally required, as in what this thread is discussing) vegetarian. The driver and I had to have even more!

      2. I've already mentioned this in and earlier thread, but when our son got married in Korea, we were invited to the family farm to meet the in-laws and celebrate the union. We were feted with a 21/2 day dog feast, from soup to ribs with stew in between. Still can't look our Lab straight in the eye. And before the wedding was my sons' challenge to eat the live baby octopus. So Ju help me through that male ego self-inflicted challenge.
        When I worked in Norway, a very shy, wonderful 4th grade boy invited his favorite teacher over for a whale of a dinner. What could I do? Hurt his feelings?
        And roundup time on my students' ranch in New Mexico when I was in my twenties. Not only was I challenged to eat the Rocky Mountain Oysters, but to pull the scrotum taut, cut the end off, pull out the testes, cut them off and toss them in an old Mayo jar for later consumption. Dehorning, injections and branding followed. That's when I started hunting again. If I were to eat meat, I wanted to do the killing and slaughter myself, not pay someone else to do it and buy meat plastic wrapped and sterile looking.
        Enjoy the cuy. I used to enjoy it in Bolivia. Found a place on Roosevelt Ave. in Queens, NYC that serves it, but is quite pricey. Go eat some chuno for me will ya and wash it down w/ chicha.
        Cervichely yours,
        Marco el Rojo

        7 Replies
        1. re: Passadumkeg

          Now see, eating dog is where I'd draw the line.

          I've done my share of obligatory eating, but I think there's a point where it's okay to ask your host to respect your cultural taboos. I wouldn't expect a Hindu to eat beef or a Muslim or observant Jew to eat pork, just because I spent hours preparing a traditional Southern BBQ of ribs and brisket for them. Furthermore, I think it's patronizing and culturally imperialistic to imply that while I am sophisticated enough to understand and accept the taboos of other cultures they aren't sophisticated enough to understand and accept mine. When it comes to something I just find weird or unappetizing, though, then I do my womanful best.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            If your a mother and a father and this is you son's new family in a foreign country & culture literally half a world away and you are in an isolated farm w/out knowledge of other food options with a severe language barrier (my son was not there.), you shut up, eat dog, smile and pretend you enjoy it.
            Do you feel the same way about pork, a much greater taboo food?

            1. re: Passadumkeg

              Pork isn't taboo to *me* so I don't personally feel that way. But as I specifically mentioned above, I would respect people who do.

              I've never been faced with dog, but I'm pretty sure I couldn't knowingly eat it without throwing up -- I have a rather sensitive and suggestible gag reflex to begin with. After a rather embarassing obligatory eating experience where I gagged repeatedly on a piece of tripe (I can usually handle tripe, but this was a small piece I had spooned up unknowingly and then had trouble chewing and swallowing), I think it's better to make some kind of excuse than offend your hosts even worse by vomiting up the food they offered.

              Furthermore, I'm not sure it's good to get off on a dishonest foot with your in-laws or anyone else you're likely to eat with again in the future. If they ever realize how you felt, they'd probably be horrified -- wouldn't you if the situation was reversed? -- and as I know from another obligatory eating trauma, if you pretend you like something you're likely to be served it again!

              But you did what you thought was best at the time, I'm sure. I hope your son appreciated it.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                In Korean culture, saving face is paramount. I'm pretty sure P's son's future in-laws would have had a heart attack if they said anything about the dog incident. P did the correct thing by just gulping down the dog.

                That said, I agree with you about having the hosts be culturally sensitive to the people they are hosting. For example, I never make beef if I'm having a Hindu friend come over or make pork if the person is Muslim.

                But sometimes people can get too sensitive -- to the point it becomes ridiculous. I was having dinner at my ex's family's for the very first time. As an Italian-American family, they were having things like brasciole, meatballs, antipasto, etc. His mother thought I wouldn't be able to eat anything (in spite of my ex telling his mom that I was born in NY and that I ate all foods) and insisted on picking up some "Asian" pears for me.

                1. re: Miss Needle

                  " they were having things like brasciole, meatballs, antipasto, etc. His mother thought I wouldn't be able to eat anything (in spite of my ex telling his mom that I was born in NY and that I ate all foods) and insisted on picking up some "Asian" pears for me."
                  ____________

                  wow, miss n, what a trade-off (as much as i love asian pears!)
                  ;-D

                  1. re: alkapal

                    Ha ha. I also love Asian pears but would rather have all those yummy items his mom was having. Well, I did end up proving to her that I did love Italian-American food (as well as proving to her that all Koreans aren't short, as her perception of Korean people was based on the two women she knew at her corner Korean deli).

                2. re: Ruth Lafler

                  I agree to disagree with you. No regrets.

          2. How about a lunch in a palace in Saudi Arabia of bustard brought back from a hunting trip by the Prince. Followed the next day with many trips to the porcelain throne.

            2 Replies
            1. re: mexivilla

              I had to wiki "bustard". The funniest bit: "They were renowned by the ancient Arabs for being unnaturally stupid." So how was it prepared and what were you doing in the prince's palace?

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                When I checked on bustard I found out it was a scavenger and that it had probably been hanging on the side of his Range Rover while they continued hunting. I assume it had been roasted.
                If you want to sell something there it's essential to have an influential representative who often is a Prince. There are lots of them with different levels of ability and interests. Unfortunately we were successful but that's another story.

            2. Nothing exotic, but just visiting my parents. I would tell them not to make anything for me as I would visit them after coming back from something food-related, but they never listened to me and prepared a whole bunch of stuff. I didn't want them to feel like unappreciated, so I would painfully force myself to eat their food. I eventually learned to come home on an empty stomach.

              8 Replies
              1. re: Miss Needle

                you need to pass on your technique. i still can't leave my parents' home without waddling, every time. it's actually pretty terrible. on a recent visit, i explained to my mom how stuffed i was and her reply was, quite literally, "no, but you HAVE to eat this!!!" luckily it was a short visit and the overindulgence put me in a food coma for the flight home...

                1. re: cimui

                  When I was in high school, my girlfriend's (first generation Italian) mother took it as a personal offense that I was 5'10" and 110#, even though I ate everything in sight and was probably cranking down 4,000 calories per day.

                  I'd go over after school, hoping to spend a little quality time studying or, um, whatever, but would be dragged unceremoniously to the table and informed that I was far, far too thin to be healthy. Whereupon delicious food would start to appear, accompanied by a repeated mantra of "Eat, eat, and grow fat--then I will be happy."

                  Obligatory eating, yes, but it still brings back fond memories. And if only Mrs. Pepito could see me now. Three decades and 100 pounds later, she'd be downright ecstatic!

                  1. re: alanbarnes

                    in addition to growing you into a real man, i suspect mrs. pepito may have stuffed you too full for you to engage in non-gustatory after school activities!

                    the really scary thing is that i think i might have inherited this gene. i hate that my mother force feeds me like she's going to make me into foie gras because i'm "too skinny" ... but i have to admit to having a similar desire to foist my cooking upon people i consider under or poorly nourished. an old buddy of mine has been surviving on twinkies and meat for as long as i've known him. i really, really perversely enjoy sneaking veggies into his food when he comes over for dinner.

                2. re: Miss Needle

                  went to visit grandmother. "i didn't know if you would want ham or roast beef... so I made both" talk about obligatory eating ("are you sure you don't want more dessert? I made it just for you")

                  1. re: Miss Needle

                    Cimui, I wish I knew how I did it. I was a lot younger back then, and had the ability to stuff more food down my stomach. Just about a month ago, DH and I were out in California eating really richly at French Laundry, Cyrus, etc. and dropped by DH's grandmother's house before we went to the airport. We went to a Chinese restaurant and she ended up ordering an 8 course banquet for us all! That was tough. Real tough. Even though we flew back business class and they gave us meals, we just couldn't touch it.

                    KM -- yes, some family members really know how to work that guilt angle.

                    1. re: Miss Needle

                      oh no... i'm just shaking my head in recognition and empathy. honestly, sometimes you just have to head off those crazy dinners. arrange to meet at a tea shop with minimal food on offer, perhaps?

                      the only solution i've ever figured out for my mom is to have her visit me, move once a year so she needs some time to figure out where the grocery store is in my new nabe, and take her out for dinner a lot, and keep her entertained during the day so she's not venturing down to chinatown to pick up ingredients to make a second dinner when we get home from our first. :)

                    2. re: Miss Needle

                      Interesting comment. Recently my son was home for a brief visit from college. It was Sunday morning, so I made pancakes for him. Because that's what we did Sunday mornings when he was growing up...just like I always had pancakes on Sunday morning. But this normally always hungry young man didn't finish his pancakes...and they were pretty good, too! Finally I asked him if he was feeling ok. "No, Mom....the truth is, I just don't like pancakes that much." Me, somewhat in shock: "But you always wanted them on Sunday mornings growing up!" Son: "well, Mom, that was because it was what you always wanted to cook for me...."

                      1. re: janetofreno

                        Hahaha...I had the opposite reaction. I use to take my mom's cooking for granted. Before I left for college I'd eat a burger outside with my friends and ignore her cooking...she'd often yell at me to eat dinner while I had my face planted in the sofa sleeping...and I wouldn't move.

                        When I came back during the winter I was sleeping on the sofa and she walked in and said dinner was ready and was ready to yell. Apparently I just got up and went to the table and ate everything.

                        My mom asked me if something was the matter. I told yes, the food at college was really, really, really, really bad...repulsively bad. She just smiled.

                    3. Campaign season takes me across the country every other year where I often get to know the local community over their food and drink. At times these are successful meals of hearty soups and passable sandwiches. Other times they become challenges to down the local specialty: the Garbage Plate in Rochester, Hotdish in Minnesota. At worst, it can be a waist-expanding endeavor in scary Americana (i.e. neon green jello moulds), but it is still a welcome opportunity to take a break from the otherwise unending rotation of Domino's, Pizza Hut and Jimmy John's that makes up the primary foundations of the political diet.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: JungMann

                        I started hating pizza with a passion after working too many campaigns. My palate is just now starting to recover...

                        Hotdish is awesome, btw -- at least as a general category of food. There are some really, really good renditions out there!

                        1. re: cimui

                          The worst part of working at HQ is that you're tied to your desk between 8 am and 1 am, so unless you were smart enough to stop by the market before coming in for work, you are obligated to join in the pizza delivered for the volunteers and interns. And if you're away from HQ and posted in the middle of nowhere, pizzas probably the only thing you'll be able to eat anyway! I don't think I started eating pizza again until just before the midterms.

                          1. re: JungMann

                            either that or a heckuva lot of granola / protein bars. a lot cheaper in iowa than they are in nyc.

                          2. re: cimui

                            "hotdish is awesome"
                            despite my handle, i do not believe i have ever typed those words in succession until this very moment. :D

                            1. re: azhotdish

                              sounds like perfect bumper sticker material to me. :)

                              what's AZ (arizona?) hotdish?

                              p.s. if you like cassoulet, you like hotdish. pretty much the same idea, right?

                              1. re: cimui

                                have you ever had cassoulet made with a cream-soup base and topped w/potato chips? i sure haven't - but i do get your point.

                          3. re: JungMann

                            Ohhh JungMann...so sad to hear that eating Tahou's Garbage Plate was a challenge...I miss them so much!

                            1. re: HungryRubia

                              Tahou's was hardly difficult (can't say the same about hotdish, though). The real challenge was when a 280 lb. local volunteer baited the visiting 155 lb. Manhattanite to a Garbage Plate-off. I went home 158 lbs., brimming with electoral victory and eat-off success.

                          4. I work for the Dept of Defense, I recently visited Seoul and Taegu Korea, I was a guest of the Korean Army and dined at the officer's club at the Korean "Pentagon" in Taegu. The banquet menu consisted of: Five Kinds of Cold Dish, Shark's Fin Soup w/ Crab Meat,
                            Braised Sea Cucumber with Seafoods, Fried Beef with vegetables, Braised pine mushrooms with Abalone, Braised Prawns in Chili sauce, Chinese breads with green peppers and Beef, Noodles with Soy bean Sauce and Fresh Fruit. I was the only American female at the table so with the help of lots and lots of Soju I tried everything except the Sea Cucumber's (just couldn't eat them). I really enjoyed the Shark's Fin Soup. I was fine the next day, but I had a whopper of a headache but I "saved face". I brought the menu back to the states so I could show my co-workers and family the things I ate for my country:-)

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: kpaumer

                              All of you above are confirming what I thought: Asia, Asian families, volunteer work ("They aren't getting paid so the least we can do is stuff them until the fall over"), weddings/Asian weddings, business deals--all come with required eating and drinking.

                              1. re: kpaumer

                                That sounds pretty much like what my husband was served when he met with their computer security division - was it followed by many rounds of obligatory drinking and singing? Mt husband will eat and drink anything, but the a capella karaoke just about killed him.

                              2. Sam, I've got nothing but admiration for that. To many coffee growers, that spread is a big deal and you're right, you can't say no.

                                When I was running trade shows there were many evenings where I might have to do a least two dinners and a couple of cocktail hours. Boring stuff comparatively. I gained 22 lbs in the year I worked in Mexico doing deals to develop trade shows. Huge lunches hosted by trade associations and huge dinners entertaining visitors from the home office. But that too pales in comparison.

                                It wasn't until I did a two month gig in Bulgaria working with another expo group that I thought I might die. But it wasn't so much the food. It was the constant drinking. It's like the law there that you need to down a rakia with every shopska salad you eat. And my host was not the type to stop at just one. He also wanted to make sure I tasted every single bottle of every single wine produced there over those two months (and they make some fabulous wines!).

                                The first full day I was there I was treated to just about every national renowned dish in the country, including the aforementioned lunch of shopska salad, kavarma a bottle of rakia and a pizza with pickle and corn topping. This two hour lunch was followed by three hour dinner that included tarator, braised brains (there were a lot of brains to be eaten during my stay, including as a pizza topping), two servings of fresh roasted lamb and tolumbichiki with copious amounts of wine and vodka.

                                Luckily the food activities started to return to normal after the first three or so days. But the drinking didn't. Ivo, my host and the company president, thought I was just the greatest thing... an excuse to not go home and spend the evening getting sloshed.

                                But as that was five years ago and I still send him Christmas cards, I must've enjoyed it.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Panini Guy

                                  PG, thanks! As a researcher, I'm new to working with the private sector (albeit we all have been trying to establish real public-private working relationships for a long time). In the Peru case, I was with people who represented/were associated with buyers. The result was that I felt very uncomfortable receiving and (happily) eating a significant chunk of peoples' food security.

                                  1. re: Panini Guy

                                    I was in a dance troupe touring Denmark. We stayed at people's homes. My host wouldn't let us leave the breakfast table without a good drink or two or more of Gammeldansk. It's heady stuff and I was fully off balance as we finally got up from the breakfast table. Early afternoon performances were always a little shaky!

                                  2. After I had been living in Japan for 4 years (and had successfully managed to avoid some of the really icky things I never wanted to try: baby bee larvae, roasted crickets), my parents' friends came over for a visit and invited me to join them for a few days. The husband is a doctor; he had hosted several visiting docs in his lab in San Francisco and now they were returning the favor. The wife came along for the adventure, but definitely not for the food. All she could handle was a daily dose of KFC fried chicken.

                                    So, since I was the long-timer who spoke the language and appreciated the culture, and since the wife wasn't likely to try anything, while the husband wanted to try everything, I was also expected to eat it all.

                                    The doctors spared no expense - I still shudder to think how much money they spent on entertaining us. They served us the most expensive, impressive seafood I have ever seen in my life. Too bad I'm not a more ardent seafood lover... (but it all looked amazing).

                                    The crown jewel of our lunch was fresh uni. I wanted to like it but, gag! It was really hard for me to swallow. The husband soldiered on - he seemed to enjoy it, so in a macho way, I had to been seen to like it even more. Lucky wife sat there with a big plate of fried chicken and a relieved smile on her face...

                                    For dinner the same night, they did it again. 'Since you liked the uni so much at lunch, we ordered more for dinner!' Ha ha ha, what a funny joke.

                                    I haven't touched it since.

                                    Your story about the guinea pigs reminded me of the uni. Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing (let alone too much of a bad thing!) Aside from the uni however, it was one of the more enjoyable and memorable experiences of my time in Japan.

                                    1. I can't think of any obligatory dining experiences, but I've certainly had obligatory drinking experiences here in Japan. My husband and I are among a small handful of foreigners in our northern city, and we tend to be pretty involved in the community. I took part in a ceremony for people whose ages are considered terrifically unlucky; as the youngest unlucky person, I had to give a speech -- in Japanese, which was pretty rudimentary for me at the time. In the hour or so between the ceremony and the speech, however, people kept lining up to chat with me and refill my glass, even if I hadn't drunk whatever the person before them gave me. So, I had to take a swig, proffer my glass, and get a refill, over and over and over.

                                      The speech went well, though. ;) Then people from our neighborhood went to nijikai (round two), and the drink/chat/refill/swig line started all over again. For lots of reasons, including the endless drinking, that day ranks as one of the best days I've had here.

                                      1. In the course of my 2-day initiation as an "hermano" by my 13 Mayan brothers at a jungle retreat in Cozumel, apart from feasting on a huge redfish baked in the earth in authentic pebil style, I was required to eat a foil pack of baked trigger fish livers. The oil they secrete while cooking makes cod liver oil taste like Mountain Dew.
                                        I'll have my brother image the photos of the event so I can post them here. Amusing...

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Veggo

                                          veggo, i'd love to see your photos!

                                        2. I was a burgeoning foodie when I got a job in marketing at a pretty prestigious high-end restaurant group. My first big foodie challenge was frogs legs, which fortunately didn't have feet on that occasion, and were quite tasty. Over the course of my time there, I never quite figured out if I'd get fired for not eating seafood, so I choked down any number of fishy meals that pretty much made me queasy - raw scallops being one that I remember quite well. I did learn to eat half of anything that was put in front of me without outward signs of distress. I'm probably one of the few people to sit at a chef's table with the restaurant owner wishing desperately that I could leave!

                                          The worst thing I had to eat in the course of business, though, was petit lapin en aspic. (Forgive the bad French).

                                          Baby. Bunny. Jello.

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: cyberroo

                                            Mine is so tame by many standards but it's what I got. I hate all filter meat, just cant handle it and gag when I start thinking about it, well I'm in the wine business and travel to France and Spain fairly often. My last trip to Spain I was in the region where they make sherry and was treated to dinner by a few sherry houses....first up, a baseball sized hunk of cold foie gras...went south from there.

                                            1. re: bubbles4me

                                              What is filter meat, and why is incredible, delicious, fatty goose liver one?

                                              1. re: applehome

                                                Meat from organs that are filters in the body....like the liver, no matter how delicious most think it is I just cant get past it and trust me it is served to me all the time!

                                                1. re: bubbles4me

                                                  Oh how offal. Those terrible people serving you organs all the time! Do brains and sweetbreads count? They don't filter anything. Muscle fibers actually filter the oxygen and glucose out of blood. Given that people eat everything from pigs uterus to the intestines as casings, to say nothing of stomach linings, filtering seems like an arbitrary dislike.

                                                  1. re: applehome

                                                    "Filter meat" is just the nickname I gave them, above and beyond the "idea" I don't like the flavor therefore not at all arbitrary. I am fully aware that those feeding me these goodies are trying to do a nice and gracious thing sadly it does not make me like the taste any better, so just as asked by the OP that is what I eat out of obligation.

                                          2. sam, you might appreciate this

                                            soon after moving to hawaii, as a freshman architecture student, some of my classmates decided to take da haole fishing. so one night we went down to sand island where they proceeded to catch a hammerhead shark. by that point the shark was not the only thing that was hammered - i think it is illegal to fish in Hawaii without a cooler full of budweiser within 30 feet. anyhow, they found out I had never had sushi and proceeded to filet the hammerhead. after two more buds, what the hell... never mind it had been swimming in Honolulu Harbor. 30+ years later all i can say is YIKES

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: KaimukiMan

                                              Funny, in 1961 the neighbor kids and I made me a spear gun like theirs, used clothes hanger wire for spears. Very clever actually. The first thing we got in Kaneohe Bay was a baby hammerhead. Can't remember what we did with it, however. Think the adults ate it.

                                            2. My entire Italian upbringing is based on obligatory eating experiences!!
                                              Maybe there was more music and booze, but a typical holiday with my aunts, uncles, cousins, etc was pretty much meal after meal like yours... I'll bet we were collectively LOUDER too, but maybe not.

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: Boccone Dolce

                                                BD, I thought that this thread would open the doors to Eastern Europeans, Asians, Italians of course, and all others who grew up in families where eating is massive, central, and obligatory. My training in two extended families of Japanese left me well prepared for the part of my my professional life that is socially mandated eating and drinking.

                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                  I don't get it... why is this bad?

                                                  ;-)

                                                  1. re: applehome

                                                    As you know, not bad at all. I drink too much at home so can do my part in the field when it comes to drinking. As far as food, I love 20 cuys in a row. My aging body, however, complains that on such working trips, I'm not only getting much less fiber and much more meat and much more oil and much more salt, but much less exercise as well. This last trip I arrived home really happy about the work, happily sated with new and great food adventures, but also clogged up and in need of my kitchen, the gym, and my running shoes.

                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                      Yeah - I guess I can understand the business/social side of this. Vendors taking me to Peter Lugers or to an Izakaya in NYC is a situation I never considered an obligation - no matter how dull and uninteresting they might have been. But I do remember large off-sites with get-to-know-one-another type dinners set up by people meaning well. Lots of boring talk with mediocre food. The last one was in Brooklyn, and as we gathered at the hotel bar in preparation for going into the dining room, I excused myself (after the 2 scotches I made sure was put on the tab), walked down a couple of blocks to Junior's Deli, had a decent brisket dinner, with a plateful of their delicious full-sour pickles, walked back, hitting the Popeye's on the way and picking up a couple of pieces of chicken for a midnight snack in the room. I understand I missed out on some wonderful steaks at the hotel and of course, scintillating conversation.

                                                      But when it comes to family gatherings - we're the type of family where the Turkey and all the trimmings on Thanksgiving were almost an afterthought - yes, it was all there, but with the roll-your-own sushi, with a huge bowl of sushi rice and tons of incredible neta - sashimi - about ten kinds of fish, and tamago... a huge pile of roasted nori sheets, plus usually a beef wellington or a chicken gallantine and maybe a plate of grilled kalbi and enough tsukemono (including my mom's ubiquitous nukazuke)... and then, some oden floating in a pan of incredible tsuyu...

                                                      Obligation? To be fair, my wife just couldn't understand it - I don't know if she ever took it as an obligation to eat, but growing up with her dust bowl southern baptist parents, such feasts were totally unheard of - even though they had enough money by the time she was growing up, and had plenty of large family gatherings - but they still treated every piece of food as a treasure, not to be abused.

                                                      Us? We abused... and abused... if we weren't overfeeding, it just wasn't a social gathering worth noting. If anyone there ate out of a sense of obligation, I hope it was an obligation to the gods of food to not let anything go to waste!

                                                  2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                    "open the doors to Eastern European"... Russian Orthodox Easter! Started with a 3 am breakfast after the very lengthy midnight service. Then the easter feast, a symbolic 12 courses, kolbasa, ham, decorated eggs, home made horseradish, paska, easter cheese., a bottle of vodka, encased in ice in the middle of the table, grand parents, aunts & uncles & bratty cousins and my grandmother chanting, eat, eat, eat. Fond memories.

                                                2. Maybe enforced not obligatory may be a better word, but eat C-rations in the field for months in Nam was a trip. Sorry Sam, no Spam ever again! By comparison mess chow didn't seem so bad.

                                                  1. While in Beijing in April, our english speaking company rep took us on the usual tour of the Great Wall / Forbidden City / Birdsnest. It was a rainy, cool and pretty miserable day out by the end of which we were all soaking wet. She started half-heartedly telling us about the Peking duck dinner they had planned when I suggested given our state a hot pot dinner might be a better idea. She and the driver both brightened up over the prospect of getting out of an "obligatory" duck dinner and tucking into something they really wanted. Needless to say, the hot pot was grand.

                                                     
                                                     
                                                     
                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Scrapironchef

                                                      That looks sooooo good!

                                                      One of the first times in Bejiing I was by myself and found a little side street off of Tiannamen that served steamboats (the tin ones with the charcoal and chimney in the middle). It was cold out and that dinner was memorable and cheap and delicious to excess, and included Tsing Tao beer which was cheaper than bottled water. Unfortunately, that street was long ago torn down--first to make way for the first McDonald's in Beijing and then McD's was torn down to make way for something else. I regret that the dingy old bare lightbulb places and their prices are long gone In any case, you were indeed lucky to eat well and not have another duck fest.

                                                    2. I don't how you do it Sam. Here's my story. My husband's family is Irish. Whenever a family member comes to the States for a visit, they're told repeatedly by their parents that if a Yank offers them something to eat and they're hungry, they had better say yes right off. Because in America, no means no. Not so on the Old Sod where you will be asked if you want something to eat or drink sometimes up to 10 times in a very short period of time. It's just the way they do it. "Will ya' have some now?" "Ach, will ya have a wee bit now?". "Ah, fer f*ck's sake have a wee taste". They think eventually you will break down and admit that you would like something after all. Once, you accept, it's on, and be prepared to be hammered with offers of everything else in the kitchen. Unfortunately, as much as I love them, no one in my husband's family is a good cook. So unless it's a Guiness or a glass of single malt, it's kind of a bummer. I feel guilty just writing this.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: southernitalian

                                                        "Will ya' have some now?" "Ach, will ya have a wee bit now?". "Ah, fer f*ck's sake have a wee taste".

                                                        Pricelessly hilarious!

                                                        1. re: southernitalian

                                                          Was there anything in Ireland we didn't eat? After choosing our B&Bs by the breakfast menus on their websites (if there wasn't a breakfast menu, it was right out) and then making sure that we hit any farmers market that was operating when we passed through various towns (not to mention cheese shops, produce stands, bakeries, delis, "oooh honey! Lisdoonvarna! Smoked salmon! Stop the car! Stop NOW!"), my vow to eat fresh seafood every day, incredibly superb pub food, mixed in with dinners prepared for us by locals we met ("Sure, you want more lamb, so!"), we weren't sure if we were touring Ireland for itself or if that was a sidelight of eating our way through Ireland! And then there was the discovery of the many and varied delights of Irish Whiskey ("Don't know if ya still have family here? Ach, yer related to someone! *pat, pat* Here, have another wee dram!)! And Irish beers beyond Guiness. The only obligation we felt was to make sure we got a daily hike or horseback ride in to justify the next day's food orgy and we still came back ten pounds heavier!

                                                        2. When I lived in Japan my host mother would make pasta with rice on the side. I felt it impolite (at first) to decline on her food and would just overload on the carbs. She would also make this stir fry with some wierd kind of rubbery, dark fish. I have NO idea what it is and it was bitter and chewy and awful. I used to eat around this mystery meat and when no one was looking, put it in the bowl of my 3 yr old host brother. Very mature of me. She would also give me chikuwa, which is a tubular fish cake and I just hate it (many people like it, just not me!). I would do the same give-it-to-the-kid technique. You gotta do what you gotta do, ya know?

                                                          1. I absolutely deplore and fear hard-boiled eggs. This phobia dates back to a childhood experience that is too lengthy and boring to discuss but the bottom line is they engage me in a gage reflex if I see or smell a hard-boiled egg.

                                                            Spin back to one of two of our wedding ceremonies in Malaysia in 1996. The Chinese are huge on eggs being symbolic of good fortune, abundance, yada-yada... Turns out my wife's family (Chinese through and through) wants and expects a traditonal Chinese wedding ceremony which involves both me and my soon-to-be wife eating not one, not two, but three hard-boiled eggs as part of the ceremony. Chinese wedding ceremony, fine. Eating three vomit-bombs - I love my wife - close my eyes - gulp - gag - gag. I really love my wife like no one that I've ever loved before - close my eyes - gulp - gag - gag - eyes watering, about to puke, cover mouth - swallow upchucked eggs - ears pop - hold breath - about to faint... Number three egg is laughing at me at this point. Breathing is heavy and labored as the thought of walking out and seeking non-Chinese wife might be life-saving and much easier than dealing with God-knows-how-many-other culturally related torture techniques that may be involved through my lifetime... Two 6-foot-plus future brothers-in-law dissuade me from walking out. Okay - laughing egg number three is grasped, peeled, and swallowed whole as I pound my throat and jump up and down to force the antichrist down the hatch. Closing my eyes and doing my best impression of a python swallowing a goat whole, I grab a teacup that was not meant for me, swallow the tea, and the orb of hell has been forced down my hatch and the torturous event that proved my undying love for my wife is now over. The following wedding banquet is a relative piece of cake - downing a shot of good cognac at each of 20 tables in celebration of our wedding. Do I love my wife? YES. Am I going to elope in my next life? DUH!

                                                            8 Replies
                                                            1. re: bulavinaka

                                                              hahahahah!!! great story, bulavinaka. maybe in your next life, you could try cadbury eggs?

                                                              1. re: cimui

                                                                You know me well... we must cross paths in our next lives!

                                                              2. re: bulavinaka

                                                                Hilarious. You win the prize, whatever it is.

                                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                  A guinea pig recipe?

                                                                  Bulavinaka - great post. I printed it off for my son, who also hates boiled eggs - warned him not to marry a traditional Chinese girl.

                                                                  1. re: applehome

                                                                    The hair is removed (except for the head, which is skinned) and the gp is salted and then fried whole with head, whole w/o head, halved either lengthwise or cross cut or quartered. How they get the hair off the skin--don't know because it didn't occur to me until just now. I ended up leaving the fried skin and somewhat thick layer of fat and eating just the meat, which is quite tasty. The ribs have little meat and must be carefully parted and sucked. Other than the cheeks, I couldn't crack the head open (on the one I was served with head).

                                                                    1. re: applehome

                                                                      applehome, you can order cuy at a restaurant on Roosevelt Ave. in Queens, NY, if ever down from Lowell. I can dig up the address if needed.

                                                                  2. re: bulavinaka

                                                                    LOL. I have hard-boiled egg phobia as well, and to combine elements of other stories above, I was on a dance-troupe tour of Romania (back in 1976 when cultural exchange behind the Iron Curtain was a big deal), and we spent a night being hosted by families in a "peasant village." We were served something that was basically a round cake of meatloaf frosted with mustard, which I loathe. Gulp. Okay, down it goes. Thanks, so delicious! Next morning, the meatloaf makes a reappearance (this, after we'd seen it sitting on the shelf surrounded by the same flies buzzing around the outhouse), along with hard boiled eggs. Oh, the eggs were from the hens raised by the young daughter. Sigh. Down they go with big gulps of milky coffee (which I also don't like, but was definitely the lesser of several evils). As I said, I've done my share of obligatory eating.

                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                      OMG - the partially-eaten mustard-frosted fly-infested meatloaf reappears the next morning surrounded by the feared putrid orbs from Hell? My experience was tame compared to yours... BARF-O-RAMA!!!

                                                                  3. Trendy restaurant in Georgetown with high-placed, er, intelligence personnel. Young snotty reporter. Intelligence man orders a French brain preparation. Gosh, I've never had brains. (Insert joke here.) He was so cultivated and gracious that he forked over nearly one-quarter of a brain. Because of what they cost and because I was depriving him of them, I had to eat them all. Yuck.

                                                                    1. My experience was at the age of 13 when my exposure to certain foods was non existent. I ended up in Ajaccio, Corsica by myself staying with the family of family friend's "au pair" (the kids were 11 and 14 and she was a companion, French instructor) The family I was to end up with was not to arrive for several days. Since I was "American" and the friend of their daughter's employer who had given the daughter many opportunities, I was treated like royalty. Tiny apartment with several generations living in it. The first meal almost killed me. First they served me a martini (and another and...) because of course that is what Americans drink. I had NEVER had alcohol before. But I could feel all eyes upon me for approval. Everyone else was drinking red wine from the place where you take the 5 gallon jug to get filled up every week and water down according to age. Then I noticed that only I had meat on my plate, everyone else had fried eggs. It was thin and light colored and very very chewy. Again the eyes were upon me. It was not that it was not tasty, but that I was the only one getting the special meat that made me feel strange. The bread was wonderful and the pasta bake (like baked zitti) was lovely, but they kept giving me the "good stuff" and keeping the carby lovelies for themselves! Things got even worse when the Austrian family showed up to reclaim me. They delighted in fresh goat or sheep cheese (in a ricotta style) in the morning sprinkled with sugar. I had to eat my portion and tried to pursuade them not to make mine the biggest one....I just kept eating the bread that was kept in a large cloth bag to sort of "wash" it all down. The older girl adored strong flavors and kept trying to feed me the best bits of cheese wrapped in leaves, rolled in course pepper, etc. I adapted a "swallow without tasting" technique. Perhaps the worst was the fish market. Oh my- a giant hall, wet floor and stall after stall of whole fish just off the docks. I had never seen anything like this outside of Marineland (home of Flipper kind of place). When they got all excited and made a big boil up of shrimp, fish, mussels, etc and got ready to dig in, the little black balls of giant shrimp eyes almost put me over the edge. Luckily they were in such gustatory heaven they did not notice I was just eating bread with butter. Today of course I realize what I missed and I love all that stuff. I would like to go back but fear it may have changed too much.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: torty

                                                                        It might just be me, but stinky cheese and seafood? count me in (: also, I LOVE sucking on shrimp heads. Good thing you know what you missed and you appreciate it now.

                                                                        A few years ago I went to Uijeongbu, S.Korea to visit my grandparents bc I hadn't seen them in almost 10 years. From what I remembered when living there in middle school, my grandmother was an amazing cook. Unfortunately things went down hill after that (due to the age I'm sure). One of the first meals she made for me was daengjang chigae (equivalent of miso soup) for breakfast. I love the stuff, but it honestly tasted like she added a spoonful of dirt and sand to the stuff. It was horrible, but I choked it down because she was watching me the whole time and I felt bad. Even my mom said it was bad, but we ate it anyways.

                                                                      2. My husband hates fruit... acts like a freaking five year old when I try to offer him fruit at home, calls it "poison." My grandparents are proud growers of various fruit trees. Every time we go over to their house my grandma will cut and peel fruit for us to eat while we visit with them. I have to admit that I cackle inside when I see my fruit-hating husband choke down oranges, apricots, peaches and persimmons under my grandma's watchful eye.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: spkspk

                                                                          Occasionally I see someone mention on one of these threads that they (or someone they know) hate fruit. That just seems so weird to me. I can see hating one fruit or another for a specific reason (I'm not fond of many tropical fruits, my BIL hates bananas, etc.), but fruit in general? Fruit is just about the most innocuous thing there is: it's sweet; with a few exceptions (those tropical fruits!) it doesn't have any funky or off notes; it can have a variety of textures, at least one of which should be inoffensive to anyone. It doesn't come from an animal -- nothing even has to die, not even a plant! Can someone please explain? And do people who hate fruit hate the fruits that we generally think of as vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, squash)? Or is it just the *concept* of fruit that they hate?

                                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                            For my husband, I think it's the concept of fruit he hates. I don't really get it either... as I said, he reverts back to a 5-yr old when *confronted* with fruit and all he'll say is that it's "poison." I think part of it is that he hates things that are tart in any way and he's come to think of all fruit as being tart, even ones that aren't at all - like watermelon or asian pears.

                                                                        2. When I was sixteen my parents moved from a big city to a small village in the countryside (how I hated them for that). My Dad, being a sociable sort, and with a daughter who was very keen on learning French, became president of the local twinning committee (it was very common in the eighties for English towns/villages to "twin" with their European counterparts). Our twin village was near Le Mans, in the Sarthe region of France and we ended up going over there a lot. The French villagers were much more keen on the whole idea than the Brits, so every time we went over there were a lot more French families who wanted to host than there were British families. So we would be "shared" out among the community.

                                                                          Which meant that we'd go to one house for an enormously rich lunch with three or four courses + aperitifs and wine, and then, a couple of hours later, we'd do our duty at another house with yet another four-course French meal with all the trimmings. I lost count of the amount of deliciously fatty rillettes (a speciality of the region) we consumed on those trips. The teenage me was skinny as a rake and just discovering proper food and drink. I was in French foodie heaven, but I remember several mornings that my father looked distinctly green, and one in particular when he spent the day throwing up after too much wine and cognac the night before! My mother, not a foodie and a Francophobe to boot, hated the whole thing with a passion!

                                                                          1. Well, no dog, guinea pig or innards but a few sort of odd ones.

                                                                            Icelandic national dish (a casserole of rice, corn, cheese) at a grad school potluck dinner. Not bad, but bland...chased by a bottle of Black Death (Brennivín). A few people "refunded" afterwards due to the alcohol. There was also a game of "kick the burrito" (wrapped in foil) after the Black Death.

                                                                            Roast pig outside at a Mexican fiesta. I was working on an environmental justice project in the Central Valley and we were invited. They dressed the pig near by and had its head on a stake. I thought it was totally bitchen...the greenie, hippie-types who I was with...not so much, although another guy was into it. They looked genuinely terrified and wanted to leave. I kept thinking...roast pig, excellent. There was a little struggle about staying and/or leaving. A conversation about sharing a meal would be community building settled it. We stayed for a bit. Driving back the greenies were pissed/mortified but couldn't say anything. I have no doubt we should have stayed and drank beer.

                                                                            Home cooked Afghani meals at fiancee's parents house. Had no idea what I was eating at the time but I knew I had to eat it all. It was all great and there was stuff I've never seen since...bone meal in stew, stewed tomatoes, orange colored rice pilaf. Back story...the engagement didn't work out...to put it nicely.

                                                                            1. Several experiences in Japan, none of them having to do with the specific food being offered - I'll pretty much try anything - so much as the quantity.

                                                                              Case in point. My wife's Aunt, who is burly and tough and runs a capsule hotel in Ueno, wanted to take me out for some Ramen in the area. Fair enough - I'm always game for ramen, and have averaged about 9 or 10 bowls per two-week trip for years. After having the large-size bowl at a tonkotsu joint, she suggested somewhere nearby, a cafe, for some dessert. Had a few tiny but filling pastries, some tea. Fine. Then, what the heck, a nightcap a few blocks away. The nightcap turned out to be about 30 pieces of sushi, which was then followed by a whole fish and other assorted tidbits. I had to throw my hands up at this point, draw my line in the sand, and say no. My wife's Aunt merely looked confused, and motioned to the waier for more food. The next day, the Aunt told my wife that I don't eat enough. I should mention that, on every trip, I average about 4 and a half meals a day, and gladly.

                                                                              For the most part, I'll give her credit, she knows her food and almost always steers me right. My most obligatory meal with her, however, was at a horrid, so-called "healthy" buffet place in Ueno. She must have placed about 20 plates of stuff in front of me in less-than-a-minute's time.

                                                                              In 7 trips to Japan, and 3 to Korea, I've had many similar, if less extreme, experiences with members of my wife's family, who are all food-lovers and solicitous of my dining experiences. They want me to experience that part of their culture. In the case of my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law, who weigh a combined 120 in damp clothing, it's always kind of ironic when they try to shovel mounds of food down my throat. But I've never taken it as anything less than love. And, being a food lover, I'll take it.
                                                                              P.

                                                                              1. 10 year old kid in the Philippines. Went with dad to a business friend's banquet celebration. I was starving hungry and was asked early on if I was and affirmed. I already had a rep for being a fearless eater willing to try anything. Soup course shows up and has loads of cilantro. I hate cilantro. As an adult, I can tolerate it now and be polite. As a kid, I'd spit it out, make gagging noises and not touch it at all.

                                                                                Naturally I get a big bowl and dad's business friend who liked me made sure I got a nice helping. I make a polite face but know better than to make a scene. This is dad's friend and there's business involved. I dutifully choke down the bowl with a smile. Dad and friend are talking away, I'm thinking mission accomplished, bring me the damn meat. Next thing I know friend looks over, sees the empty bowl, knew I was hungry and insisted I get the last of the soup from the tureen,

                                                                                Despite all my protests, he insists and gives me another full heaping bowl with lots of cilantro. Then compliments my dad on how well he raised his kid for being polite and refusing food even when he knew I was hungry, that I exhibited good manners by not acting like a pig.

                                                                                I had to choke down another bowl with the whole table watching. Yeah, I scored lots of brownie points with dad that day and worked it for quite a few treats the next few weeks.

                                                                                1. I feel a bit wimpy for admitting this, but I can not even think about eating soft shell crabs without getting nauseous. The idea of eating the whole crab was (is!) just awful. The rest of my family adores them, so when I put my foot down and refused to eat them they all took on a gleeful "more for us!" mentality and I was safe.

                                                                                  Years later, one of my first sous chef jobs was at a highly regarded seafood restaurant where fresh soft shells were a very popular menu item. The process of prepping live soft shell crabs is one of my only kitchen nightmares. I don't want to get too graphic here, but I know Chow posted something about it recently -- and no, I couldn't even bear to read it. The memories of holding onto those little critters while you . . . ahh! Can't even go there! Point is, I'll cook almost anything, but I don't torture it first.

                                                                                  Fast forward to last weekend when a much-loved client asked me to her home for dinner with their family. I accepted with much anticipation (you'd be surprised how many people are too intimidated to ask a chef to dinner). For that reason, if no other, I always try to be the model dinner guest. I eat everything, I compliment the cook, and I help clean up if they let me. Please, I'm not trying to sound condecending -- sharing a table with others is one of the great joys of life, and I appreciate it even more since I'm often the one standing in the kitchen while others enjoy.

                                                                                  But on this occassion the first course was -- you already know this -- soft shell crabs! I dug in with apparent relish (never realizing that I was such a good actress), and ate 3/4 of what was on my plate before I ran out of steam. The flavor was fine, so I concentrated on that rather than the texture and refused to think about anything else other than the conversation. Now my only concern is accepting another dinner invitation from the same host for fear that they'll think I liked it so much that they'll serve it to me again!

                                                                                  But I survived it once, and the conversation and companionship was more than worth it. Sometimes you've just gotta eat what you've gotta eat!