National Dishes
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Avoidable National Dishes

Epicurean adventures for the culinarily curious

Kelle Paca Corba, Istanbul, Turkey
Known colloquially as 'trouser-leg soup', this broth marries cleaved sheep's head(the brain is generally removed to bulk up an accompanying salad) and trotters. The result is a steaming bowl of grey trench-water, polka dotted with opaque fat spots. From its depths poke the odd unidentifiable bone, festooned with wobbly sinew bunting, like the mast and rigging of a wrecked miniature galleon. While reported to be the definitive hangover cure, if you can look at a bowl without bringing up last night's excess(never mind getting a whiff of it) your hangover really can't be worth worrying about.

Squirrel brains, Kentucky, USA
Among the hillbillies of Kentucky a popular pastime is hunting squirrels with a twelve gauge. Ignoring the threat of contracting CJD they then go on to shuck their brains. According to an article in The New York Times by Eric Wiseman, after the kill, dinner proceeds something like this: 'someone comes by the house with just the head of a squirrel and gives it to the matriarch of the family. She shaves the fur off the top of the head and fries the head whole. The skull is cracked open at the dinner table and the brains are sucked out'.enough said.

Balut, Manila, The Philippines
Balut presents itself innocently enough, sharing the same aesthetic purity as that great English picnic staple, the hard-boiled egg. The difference is that this egg not only belongs to a duck, but contains a duck - albeit as a foetus. After 14 days of simulated incubation and a ten minute boil, the embryo's feathers, beak and feet are developed enough to 'crunch' in your mouth, what's left of the eggs white has taken on a 'cheesy' texture and the remaining amniotic fluid is begging to be slurped. Keeping in step with many other stomach-churning foods it's also reported to be an incendiary aphrodisiac.

Capybara, Venezuela
The Good Book has it that on the seventh day of creation, God rested. Peeled aren't so sure, preferring the idea that he used his time off to have a little fun by planting seeds of doubt, that would later flower, in the minds of Darwinian evolutionists. For evidence look no further than the Capybara. It resembles the offspring of an amorous encounter between a guinea pig and a hippopotamus. It's an aquatic rodent the size of a Shetland pony, and packs a salivatory 145 pounds of flesh(best roasted, but dry or salt cured Capy meat is also popular). It seems Venezuelan's just can't get enough, so much so that the Catholic Church magnanimously declared it a fish(it spends a good part of it's life in the water) in order that it could be eaten throughout Lent.

Rigatoni con pajata, Rome, Italy
The district of Testaccio sits hugged by a kink in the river Tiber in Rome 's southern quarter. To Romans it means one thing, the Mattatoio, or slaughterhouse. Traditionally at the end of a days' butchery the workers were given the leftover offal, which they then handed to local chefs, who set to work dressing it up. They came up with rigatoni con pajata. The rigatoni is harmless: thumb-sized flattened pasta tubes, ribbed like miniature sheets of corrugated iron, it's the pajata that gets stomach's churning. Baby lamb's intestines, still dripping with their mother's milk, are deftly looped and tied into Lilliputian offal doughnuts, before being sautéed in lard and garnished with julienned celery and diced parsley.

Lutefisk, Oslo, Norway
In Hunger, the Norwegian novelist Knut Hamsun's treatise on the dynamic between suffering and creativity, the narrator finds his creative juices flow best on a profoundly empty stomach. Faced with a plate of Lutefisk, starvation would be getting off lightly. A fortnight or so before Christmas Eve, in pantries and cellars across Norway, thousands of dried cod are plunged into kettles filled with potash lye(caustic soda to the layman) until they take on the consistency, and translucency of jelly. On the up side this leaves 364 days of the year when they don't have to touch the stuff. On the down side it can be murder trying to remove the tarnish from your finest silver cutlery as this corrosive fish bites its way through your family heirlooms(never mind what it's doing to the insides of your stomach).

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