Escargot on the go in Fes, Morocco
Ahhh, nothing is more certain to turn someone’s stomach than another culture’s eating habits. But that turn can be for the better or for the worse.
Take this nice fresh batch of snails, for instance . . . moving so fast they seem to blur! Vendors with pushcarts and boiling pots of escargot, no doubt greatly influenced by French culinary preferences, quite frequently pass through the 1700+ twisty lanes in the old walled city of Fes. It is eye-popping to think of buying a bag of snails and snacking on them like candy. We tried and tried to work up the courage to eat a few but there must be something deeply ingrained in the American psyche against the idea of the snail as fast food. Neither I, my wife, or my two kids would take the leap.
On the other hand: camel and, for that matter, goat. We went to a somewhat famous restaurant in the same souq called Clock Cafe. Their main attraction is the Clock Cafe Camel Burger. Both of my sons were pro-burger, talking a big game about ordering one and eating it. They were hungry. They like burgers. It was a no-brainer for them. Yet, just below the cafe, in the street, we encountered butcher-shop row. Here my sons (and wife) were confronted — in the sort of close proximity the souq forces on someone — with an actual camel head, freshly severed, its tongue and brains probably a delicacy. Their stomachs rose up in rebellion and I, as dad, had to eat and describe the very good/lean/spicy taste of the camel’s processed flesh.
Vendor selling goat heads (and hearts), Fes souq.
Yet, who are we as Americans/westerners, to try to mandate an idea of ‘good food’ on the rest of the world? How would we explain to a Moroccan, for instance, what we readily devour when we eat Chicken McNuggets or Potato Chips or Bratwurst? How would we account for the minimum levels of acceptability for insect-particles and rat/mouse feces mandated by the FDA for many of our packaged cereals? How about cotton-candy, fried bread, fried cheese sticks, fried ice-cream, skyrocketing levels of salt?
Mind you, traveling carts of escargot are certainly well within the limits of Not Quite Right. But so too, when I return to America, I hope to think of dear old Coca-Cola (with acid levels high enough to dissolve gristle off a hambone) in the same category of disgusting gustation.