These are a few of the strange things I have eaten here thus far. Let me explain the pickles. I honestly thought they were cucumbers because of the way they were cooked and the dishes they showed up in. There was always something strange about the way the little chopped up green vegetables tasted in the stir fry dishes my host mom cooked. Normally, I would just throw some hot sauce (a garlic, fish oil, and chili pepper mix that makes any dish taste more like the sauce than anything else, a real life saver at times) and munch away. Recently, the stir fry was a little undercooked, and I was feeling adventurous and decided not to use any hot sauce. A few bites helped me discover that the cucumbers were pickles.
In a similar way, I discovered that I had eaten congealed blood. My first host mom would cook up a variety of dishes in which there would be little brownish squares that soaked up the flavor of whatever they were cooked in. I thought it was brown tofu... Coincidentally, the day that we learned about pain and injuries in language class, I asked about what it was that I was eating. Bad call. The answer was straight to the point, "that's cow blood." I smiled, a nervous what-did-I-get-myself-into smile and then remembered that I'd been happily eating the stuff for a few weeks so there really wasn't any reason to pick around it now. I will admit that I stopped specifically searching it out with the spoon though.
The fish heads were a recent phenomenon. Trying to make conversation at dinner, I asked a question that no one should ever ask, "do you eat the fish's head?" Again, my Khmer host brother treated me to the same matter of fact answer, "yes, eat." Wow, keeping my mouth shut would have been a much better call in both cases. Twice since then, I've crunched through all the cartilage that is, a fish's head. It kind of reminds me of eating shrimp tails in Chinese food. Having had the choice to eat or not to eat, I can't really explain that one away.
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