I've subjected my stomach to both the pleasure and pain of foreign cuisines here and there. The winners were epic and unforgettable (warthog ribs in South Africa, prosciutto and melon in Italy, and tamarind shrimp in Vietnam). The failures were cringe-worthy and
forgettable regrettable (black pudding in Scotland, winter melon tea in Vietnam, and tako poki in Hawaii). I've also put my liver to many a test. Here is what my liver thinks about the rest of the world:
- South Africa. Wine country in South Africa makes my liver swoon. It cried tears of sweet, sweet joy while processing the bubbles at the Graham Beck winery. It declared it's undying, eternal love to Lynx's Blanc de Noir. And the first touch of Amarula liqueur sent it frolicking into the lush, green hills chasing rainbows with a gaggle of puppies and kittens. Quite frankly, I'm afraid my liver is going to defect to South Africa.
- France. The home of champagne. The motherland of the tiny, beautiful bubbles that turn my liver into Tickle Me Elmo. In France, my liver's inner child comes out to play on the see-saw, race across the monkey bars, and revel in youthful delight.
- Germany. The dark, glorious complexity of German beers make my liver want to don a smoking jacket and retire to the library with a cigar and a feeling of utter contentment. The hefeweizens and doppelbocks have the ability to convince my liver that it can aspire to be The Most Interesting Man in the World.
- Vietnam. The "happy water" in Sapa turned my poor liver into a terrified child cowering in a corner in the fetal position. By the end of the night, it was wide-eyed and crying, "No more, please, no more!" The beer was Budweiser-ish, but with Asian names such as Tiger and Bia Ha Noi. Trying to convince my liver that this was beer is akin to eating turkey bacon and vainly hoping that the stomach and brain won't take notice. My liver shook its head in shame at my consumption of such inferior alcohol.
- Cambodia. Once again, my liver had to tolerate the consumption of southeast Asia's version of Miller Lite. With each new bottle, it would roll its eyes, sigh, and say to me, "Again?". But it gained a new appreciation for these beers after I gave it it's own version of eletroshock therapy - garlic-infused vodka. It breathed a sigh of relief when I went back to the good ol' Angkor beer.
The (almost) Ugly
The (truly) Ugly
- Egypt. My liver had a fit when it realized it had to spend 10 days in a predominantly Muslim country. It's life flashed before it's eyes with visions of withering away and dying. It fell to its knees in joyous thanks when it realized that I was staying with friends who were experienced expats - with a fully stocked liquor cabinet.
- India. Once again, my liver was up in arms at the prospect of 10 days in a country that frowns upon its nectar. But it was rescued a second time by understanding expat friends that had plenty of provisions on hand. And, I daresay that the nearly barren state outside of the expat compound gave it a new appreciation for cheap brews - it actually welcomed the ice cold Kingfisher beer that I fed it. I must say, I was rather proud of my liver for learning to appreciate some foreign culture.
- Botswana. My liver has already informed me that if I so much as think about going back go Botswana, it will declare mutiny and go into hiding indefinitely. The shot of Klipdrift (which, granted is made in South Africa, but my liver associates it wholly with Botswana) knocked it to the ground, twitching and screaming in pain. It had barely recovered when it was hit with yet another poison - Chibuku. Chibuku can best be described as a stale, fermented corn milkshake laced with a bit of moonshine. Alcoholic gruel. This was more than just an offense to my liver - it was a crime against internal organs (including my stomach). I think my liver even tried to call the UN to report me after it regained consciousness from its violent reaction to the Chibuku. It's scarred for life, and I think it's writing a book.
- South Korea. My liver left South Korea in a haze, wondering what kind of circus it had just been forced to partake in. First, it was drowned in soju, thoroughly convinced that I was attempting some form of waterboarding for my internal organs. Then I nealy gave my poor liver frostbite and sugar shock from a slushy pina colada concoction that came in a ziplock bag with a straw and a smiley-face sticker. It dusted off the glitter, Engrish, and Hello Kitty (not that it remembered where any of it came from) and wandered off into the night hoping that someday, maybe, it will all make sense.