Salmorejo and Strange Foods

Morcilla de burgos
Yummy blood sausage.
This week in my classes we are focusing on food. The class begins by thinking about one of our human rights, the right to food, and how people in countries all over the world don’t have enough. In fact, yesterday morning, as I checked cnn.com before my classes, I was surprised to see that this very issue was the main article of the morning: Federal Report: US Hunger Remains at Highest Level in 15 Years

I had my students think about things that people must eat when they don’t have many other options. Often, the foods that people eat in difficult times are less than desirable, although many times they become traditional favorites that are eaten despite of the economic situation in a country. Some Spanish examples: snails (a favorite here during the summer), boiled blood with onions, and pig fat (lard) which is eaten in many ways, including in the Spanish Christmas sweets “mantecados.”

After a quick review of food adjectives, the students were shown pictures of many such “strange” foods from around the world, including: llama steak, dried lizards, fried crickets, chicken hearts, roast guinea pig, poisonous pufferfish, fried whole sparrow, duck blood soup, and barbecued bullfrogs. Yummy, right?

The students liked it and it also made me think of the many “strange” foods I’ve tried in my life, especially here in Spain. Of the list above, I’ve tried llama steak in Argentina and chicken hearts at the many Brazilian BBQs I’ve been to in Massachusetts. Both are quite good! Other foods I’ve tried here in Spain are blood sausage (morcilla), snails, pig fat in many ways, menudo (a garbanzo bean stew made with intestines and other strange cuts of meat), kidneys of some animal, and fried fish egg-sacks.

Other foods that some Americans might consider strange, although I do not, are whole prawns (shrimp/prawns in their shell with the head and “vein” etc.), squid and octopus prepared many ways, the persimmon and cherimoya fruits, and the cold soups: gazpacho, salmorejo, ajo blanco etc.

For those of you who hesitate to eat a cold soup, I once did too. I still don’t love gazpacho, which is similar to V8 and usually drank in a glass (update: I now ADORE gazpacho, recipe here!). It’s quite liquidy and more similar to a juice in my opinion. But I love Salmorejo (still do, recipe here!). I started to really like it last year, after only previously trying it once or twice, when someone told me to imagine it as a salad instead of a soup. It worked. The next time it was in our fridge (sent from Ale’s Mom) I was on the verge of heating it up (a cardinal sin and probably quite disgusting as well) when I took a few bites cold. It was amazing. The mixture of the rich and creamy tomato puree, the bits of hard boiled egg, and slices of cured ham are amazing, healthy and filling!

I’ve now learned to make salmorejo from Ale’s mom, and this last time it came out great! Here are some pictures and here’s the recipe for those of you who dare. My advice is try it a few times before saying that you don’t like it. And don’t think of it as soup!

salmorejo recipe
Salmorejo is one of my favorite Spanish foods.

What do you consider strange foods where you are living?

To really experience bizarre foods in Spain, join the Madrid Food Tour Bizarre Foods Tour!

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