One of the great pleasures of travel is trying local food and in doing so, stepping into a local culture. For me in the Ukraine, that meant accompanying my beer with spicy pigs’ ears. I can confidently say I will never touch them again and it wasn’t because they tasted bad.
I like all food and when I don’t, it messes with my mind. Take andouillette, the French take great pride in this Troyens speciality made from pigs’ intestines, which is a gustatory form of Russian roulette. When well-seasoned, most mouthfuls are a pleasant, vaguely meaty experience, but then you get the one with the ‘bullet’ and suddenly your mouth feels like a farmyard. It doesn’t take much stretch of the imagination to guess where the flavour actually comes from. The French love of andouillette, or for that matter, geziers and fromage de tête seems to come more from their attachment to their peasant roots than to the taste. Even so, I occasionally give it a go when popping across the English Channel. I like all food so surely, one day I will come round.
However, eating pigs’ ears was crossing a boundary. Whilst chewing one of these softly-cooked moist nibbles, my brain issued a warning. Human.
The taboo which prevents us from eating our own species, despite having a burgeoning population, kicked in. There was no way in hell I was going to eat this. Who would? More to the point, why did the dish come with two forks?
I asked the waitress what she thought of pigs’ ears. She told me she wouldn’t eat them and didn’t know anyone who did. They had only just starting serving it as something to satisfy the ‘macho’ types.
With my next beer, I went for the real taste of Ukraine – sunflower seeds.