5 Totally Hardcore Foods That Could Get You Arrested (Or Killed)Posted on by Tasanee 'Taz' Hermans (lessthanthree)
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Here's a quick quiz for you. What's green, comes from Jamaica, and is illegal to import into the USA? If you immediately thought "marijuana"...well...err...you're right, actually. Crap. But you see where I'm going with this. The title of the post probably tipped you off. Some of the delightful entrees that follow will only get you stopped at airport checkpoints, but others can be a threat to your very life. I assume that eating them is like an extreme sport for the kind of people who have food blogs on the internet. Either that or it has to taste really good. Like "angels have descended from heaven to dance upon my taste buds" good.
By the way, the real answer to that quiz question that would have gotten you points* was "ackee," which is the national fruit of Jamaica, and also contains deadly alkaloid toxins which can kill you. "Lolwhut," you say? Now read on....
*This Or That would like me to emphasise that there will be no actual 'points' awarded per se; only my undying respect for you as a human being. Congratulations to you if you are basking in that warm glow right now.
Yes, it really is the national fruit, and combined with saltfish it forms the national food, the imaginatively-titled "Ackee and Saltfish." As recently as February 2011, there have been deaths due to ackee poisoning reported in the Jamican press.
Everything you see is poisonous, except for the little white part around the seeds. (Image via TNT Island)
The fruit is cleaned to remove the seeds and pith, which contain the toxic amino acids Hypoglycin A and Hypoglycin B, leaving the (supposedly) edible aril. However, problems occur when the fruit has not been cleaned properly, or is under/overripe. Consumption of improperly-prepared ackee can lead to the aptly-named "Jamaican Vomiting Sickness" and then eventually death by...low blood sugar?
Yep, too much Hypoglycin will leave you with Hypoglycemia, so the best advice when faced with a case of ackee poisoning is to eat a lot of sugar, fast. Or, you know, not eat it in the first place. I would also like to submit to the board of whoever decides what the national fruit of Jamaica will be that they change it to Passiflora Edulis (aka the passion fruit), another indigenous Jamaican fruit which has a much more tourism-friendly ring to it. Passion, rather than poisonous pith, methinks.
Unlike ackee, this fruit from Southeast Asia won't kill you, but it may induce vomiting just the same. You see, durian fruit smells bad: so bad that it is banned from most public places, offices, and airlines. I have smelled it, but rather than trying to come up with a description, I have culled the following from a list of Yahoo answers:
- "a bit like feces"
- "a combination of rotten meat, sour milk, old gym shoes and maybe a touch of dog doo"
- "it also smells like my armband for my iPod after a week of hot and sweaty workouts"
- "Onions, dirty socks, garbage, dead animals, dead fish, gasoline all mixed together"
And my personal favourite...
- "smells like cat pee, tastes like egg custard."
Having had the opportunity to taste it myself, I must shamefully tell you that I was unable to rise to the challenge. These guys, however, have chronicled their adventures with the durian fruit for all of the internet to see and have frankly made me quite glad that I couldn't get past the smell.
Even if you are a durian aficionado, you better be careful where you crack 'em open. Durian is not prohibited from planes under international aviation guidelines, but it is prohibited from some cabins. Eating durian in public places such as offices, subways, and malls is banned in many South East Asian countries.
In the running for "world's stinkiest food" is surströmming, or Swedish rotten herring. Yes...rotten. Legend has it that a group of sailors found that they didn't have enough salt to preserve the fish they were carrying, so they sold it to some unsuspecting island rubes. However, when they passed that way again, they found that the islanders loved their tasty treat and asked if they had any more.
Nowadays, all the salted herring is exported to Jamaica so that they can eat it with poisonous fruit, leaving the Swedes with the rotten stuff. I jest, of course, but the question remains...who would eat rotten fish if they didn't have to? You have to be of a particularly dour Baltic temperament, I suppose. These days the fish is pre-rottenised, left out in the sun for several days before it is packed into barrels to ferment and then tinned. I'm pretty sure that hell must smell like a surströmming factory on a hot summer's day.
This Swedish 'delicacy' is banned by most major airlines, but not because of the smell. The fermentation of the fish inside the tin makes it highly pressurised, and it has been classed as potentially explosive and dangerous. I don't know how much damage a tin of exploding herring can really do, but I'm sure the smell alone could really put a damper on an 18-hour flight. Worse than being surrounded on all sides by crying babies with constant diarrhoea by a long shot.
Most people are already familiar with Fugu, the poisonous Japanese blowfish that has to be prepared properly or...err...you die. Thanks for playing. Easily the most dangerous food on this list, the liver, skin, and ovaries of the fish contain tetrodotoxin, a potent neurotoxin for which there is no known antidote.
Tetrodotoxin kills you by paralysing your diaphragm, leading to respiratory failure and I assume leaving you just enough time to think "Maybe I should have gotten the California roll instead." In non-lethal doses, it can leave you paralysed but conscious for several days, giving you even more time to regret your food decisions.
Scientists have speculated that the pufferfish acquired the toxin through eating poisonous foods, rather than being inherently poisonous themselves. Apparently a lot of toxic fish are toxic because they have symbiotic micro organisms which make the poison for them: fish clones without contact with normal fish grow to be non-toxic.
This has led to a breakthrough in non-toxic dining; when the fish are fed only mackerel, they grow to be non-poisonous. Some onsen (Japanese hot spring resorts) are petitioning to serve the liver, usually the most deadly part of the fish, as a sensational new dish.
I dunno...surely the fear of imminent death is what makes it fun?
1. Casu Marzu
The crowning glory of this disgusting buffet is definitely Casu Marzu (or "crazy larval death-cheese," as I call it), a Sardinian cheese that contains live maggots. Until recently it was banned by the EU under food hygiene regulations, but has since been classified as a "traditional food" and is exempt from these regulations. Now everyone can eat their maggots in peace. Until they develop enteric myiasis, that is.
You see, the larvae used in Casu Marzu can sometimes pass through the digestive system unharmed by stomach acids. This means that they quite happily live in your intestines, dreaming their little maggot dreams and causing abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea.
Tell that to these happy Sardinians:
I don't speak Italian, but some of those people don't sound too thrilled at the prospect.
After many hours of dubious internet "research," I thought I'd learned all there was to know about cheese with maggots in it. I was just about ready to go be sick in a bucket, when I stumbled across this little gem from ilovecheese.com:
"One final note of caution, some people wear eye protection when eating Casu Marzu: the maggots are known to jump as high as six inches and straight toward the eyeballs with exact precision. At a minimum, make a maggot sandwich and shield your eyes with your hand as you take a bite."
Oh the horror...the horror.