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Jan 26, 2010 07:14 AM

Maybe Andrew Zimmern isn't so bad after all?

I happened to watch Zimmern of Bizarre Foods last night, the episode in Sicily. It actually was a great show! Learned a lot about the foods of Sicily, and it was the first episode of BF that I would have tried anything he ate. I think he is at his strength when he is *not* eating bugs, worms, et al. As for the tuna sperm, why have American foodies not taken this up as the latest, greatest?!...

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  1. I don't mind him that much, his show is good for a chuckle sometimes.

    1. I think they have changed the shows format a bit. Seems to me that they are going away from the shock value of eating bugs and just trying to focus on exotic locations and less known food.

      I too have found the show interesting lately. Previously I never watched it because of the reasons mentioned.

      10 Replies
      1. re: hudsonvalleyfoodblog

        He's done some good shows recently, and I always found him bearable in small doses. He seems like a genuinely humble and curious guy, who somehow got talked into the "bug-eating" format. I like that he struggles to convey how disgusting some things are without offending his hosts. He did a great show recently on Appalachia and I tend to like his shows based in the U.S. better because there's not the "yuck, scary foreign food" vibe.

        1. re: newhavener07

          I don't have a problem with him, per se, but I don't like how he reacts to things he doesn't like. He'll eat bugs and testicles and things like that, but during the Malaysia episode, he actually spit the durian out of his mouth -- the farmer who owned the durian farm looked apalled. In a country where people are big on manners and very careful not to offend their hosts, I found his behavior to be unacceptable.

          Bourdain has a completely different approach. Even if he doesn't like something, he will be polite about it. In other countries, that's the diplomatic way to do it without offending anyone.

            1. re: boogiebaby

              As if a durian grower didn't know about it's controversial nature with foreigners (and locals, as well). I've seen enough of Zimmern to note that he's a respectful guy and in this particular episode (I didn't read the grower as being "appalled") he was just reacting naturally.

              I don't assume that foreigners are naive individuals. Those who enjoy dishes that are not especially mainstream appreciate that there is either an acquired taste or cultural gap in introducing it to those who are unfamiliar. If you recall the episode in Africa with the palm leaf pulp that was fermented in the ground for months he was not exhibititing disrespect in his reaction, he tried something that very few outsiders would attempt and tried to put in in teh context of his overall experience. To read so much into a single edited scene in a TV show is not especially fair.

              1. re: boogiebaby

                Come on, durian is famous throughout Asia as having a terrible smell -- you can't even bring it on planes! The farmer can't have been surprised at a foreigner's reaction.

                1. re: newhavener07


                  Its been banned by public transportation hubs, hotels, and various other public places.

                  1. re: newhavener07

                    terrible smell, yes, but once its in your mouth its a different story. Can't see why you'd have to spit once you got it past the sniffer.....

                  2. re: boogiebaby

                    I know I am replying to a post from four years ago. I found that scene to be phony. The supposed bad smell of durian is exaggerated. Yes the smell is unpleasant, but it isn't strong. You really need to get up close to it and take a big whiff. The taste is actually mild and good and not at all like the smell. It is not, by far, the most unpleasant thing he has ever eaten. Yet he rarely spits things out. So that scene really annoyed me, aside from being impolite. And BTW, I am not Asian. I'm your basic middle-class, middle-aged American who didn't know any foreign cuisines until my late 30s.

                    1. re: Just Visiting

                      How can YOU say it's not the most unpleasant thing he's ever eaten? Determining what might be the worse thing he's ever eaten is not up to you, you don't have his taste buds. What you might consider tastes good or not is your perception, not everyone else's. Every person is individual. I'm sure there are foods you don't care for or might think may be the worse things you ever put into your mouth but to someone else, like Zimmern, those same foods might be delicious.

                    2. re: boogiebaby

                      i love bourdain. but i have to disagree with you on bourdain's approach to foods he does not like. he may smile but then he will do the snarky voice-over later. at least zimmern will give his critique "to face", and i think, in a very respectful way. the durian thing is an on-going thing with him. it is one of the few things he cannot eat.

                2. I have always liked his positive outlook and attitude and willingness to try anything. He is curious just like me so I enjoy his shows. He is unpretentious, down to earth and refreshing. As a traveler it is interesting for me to see him go to many places I have been to - it is a joy to re-live trips and experiences.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: chefathome

                    I also like that unlike Bourdain, he will actually say if something is disgusting.

                    1. re: reiflame

                      Personally, I think it is more important to show respect to his hosts. I hate the ugly American stereotype that can happen, especially with a "famous" t.v. personality spitting out food. Especially in very poor countries where food is a very precious commodity.

                      1. re: nvcook

                        I"ve never seen him as disrespectful, just honest. He explains why he couldn't eat something, which is important.
                        Disrespectful Ugly American would be Jessica Simpson and her gal pal wretching at the sight of bugs in Asia (can't remember where). I mean, just say no! Instead, they made a scene which was so embarassing.

                        1. re: monavano

                          And honestly, when you feed a westerner durian, do you really expect him to like it?

                          1. re: reiflame

                            Well, I just hope they taste what I taste, which is creamy, custardy, sweet goodness. If not, then well...more for me. :o)

                            I actually hate Andrew Zimmern. His whole personality and just the general concept of the show is a little too "Wow, look at what these crazy, backwards people eat and now I'm going to eat it too! Look at how brave and awesome I am because I eat this crazy stuff that people living here just view mainly as an everyday part of their culture/cuisine!" It all comes off as so condescending to me 95% of the time. I actually grew up on a lot of the foods he showcased on the show, so I might just be a bit biased and insulted due to that...

                            1. re: yfunk3

                              Well, you can look at it that way or as I see it, he is speaking in the voice of the audience they are trying to pull into the show. Don't get me wrong, I think he does a bit too much complaining but if you think about who is watching the show: those who are thinking along that way too, he is actually softening some of the their stance against the so-called bizarre foods. I noticed that he really proselytize to the culinary conservative by gushing over how great what he is eating is tasting to him.

                              1. re: Phaedrus

                                Yeah, sometimes I get the good vibe from him and think, "Well, maybe he's not THAT bad." But then he almost always does or says something that rubs me the wrong way. It's probably more me than him, though. I am pretty sensitive to things that sort of thing, but it means the show just causes me more irritation than pleasure.

                                I also just find it seriously funny that he's disgusted by spam and durian, but he's eaten the testicles of every domesticated animal known to man. I've had testicles from a couple of animals before (no jokes, please! LOL) and...I'll be diplomatic and say that it's not my cup of tea, nor is it the most pleasant texture I've ever encountered. So on that count alone, I personally find his judgment questionable! Heh.

                                1. re: yfunk3

                                  personally I liked the "Rocky Mountain Oysters" I've had, but then that just means for this occasional viewer that plate's a yawner.

                    2. Andrew Zimmern has always respected the country he visits and their foods & their cultures..He will try anything and for him to not like something says alot. What was he supposed to do with a mouthful of something even he couldn't swallow? How many people who criticize him are willing to eat 90% of what he tries? Just by reading the chowhound boards, most people won't try simple things never mind "exotic".

                      It's not disrespectful to remove something from your mouth that you don't like...These boards never cease to amaze me...

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Cherylptw

                        To me, there's a difference between removing the item (durian in my example above) from his mouth, and saying "OK, I can't eat this" as opposed to spitting it out and acting like someone is trying to poison him. There was a polite way to do it, and a offensive way to do it, and he went the offensive route.

                        Disclaimer: I'm quite familiar with durian -- my extended family is in Malaysia and I've grown up around durians. Hated them until I was about 20 years old or so, then slowly developed a liking. They have a unique smell -- not gross, but different. It's strong though, hence the warnings not to take durian into enclosed places.

                        1. re: Cherylptw

                          Plus, he really tries. I remember when he had an ant pie in Mexico, which he clearly didn't like, but he ate some and said "I can honestly say that is the best ant pie I've ever had." :o)

                        2. I like the show, and most of the time now,can stomach most of what I watch him eat. But will someone PLEASE tell the man to stop smacking his lips?It's bone-chilling gross...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: KCBarbieQ

                            I was looking for someone to mention the smacking of the lips thing! I mean really - you're taught not to do that as a child. I like the show - but please stop with the lip smacking!