For Human Consumption

Bangkok, Thailand – April 1992

My sister points at a roadside stall. “Look. Deep fried baby birds. They put them on a stick. Guess how they eat them. They bite the heads off and suck out the guts!”

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I stare at the little pile of desiccated carcasses, but instead of revulsion, I feel only a blasé curiosity. Under the stench of rancid grease is an odor that brings back memories of high school biology class. It’s the smell of something ready for dissection, something that’s been kept in fluid. It smells no worse than the other culinary wares that I’ve seen in the markets of Bangkok. Piles of unidentifiable marine detritus. It seems to be more suitable for bait. But Pebby assures me that it’s all for human consumption.

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Pebby has given me a tour of the squalid labyrinth that is Bangkok. She has lived here for a few months. She is part of the Great American High Dive Team which performs at the Safari World theme park. People sometimes approach her and shyly say, “You’re Miss Penelope.” She smiles and nods, but scurries away as quickly as possible. She’s fed up of the attention. She is only nineteen years old.

Images of the day replay through my mind – the festering sewer of the klong, the legless leper grasping his tin cup with fingerless hands, the packs of mangy stray dogs, the fat old white men sauntering down the street with an entourage of young girls.

Pebby has made sure that I was prepared. Sweet, soft smoke cradles my agitated brain. A glorious, though artificial, calm has taken hold. I went without food so that I could save up for this trip. That’s how desperate I was to get away from my life. I savor each sensation of this foul metropolis, for all too soon I will have only myself to consume.

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20 thoughts on “For Human Consumption

    • When I think about it now I get grossed out, but you know what I read today? Apparently deep fried tarantulas are all the rage now over there. This one blogger I read picked out a plump one to eat thinking it was meaty, but when she bit into it, a bunch of baby spiders fell onto her chin! I think I’m traumatized just for reading that!

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      • Yes, that’s not good. I saw some of that in the south. I liked the hill towns in the north, very laid back. This was in 1996. Seeing what’s changed and what hasn’t would be interesting. I’ll still pass on the deep-fried baby birds, though.

  2. Ahhhh bluebirds! My little birdies! I have to say, that I guess if it is part of a culture, it’s probably acceptable not to be revolted by something like this. I guess it’s not that far off from chicken, is it? (: Lovely post, and cool picture of your sister diving from that far up! As someone afraid of heights, I don’t think I could ever do something that extreme! ~ nerdwithtaste.wordpress.com

    • Hi there- Thanks for visiting. I try to not be too judgmental of another culture’s culinary delicacies. I could never dive from that high (30 meters!), either. It was scary enough just watching! Cheers!

  3. Thailand is on my list of places to visit. I know a few people who are there now. I’m not sure about fried baby birds. However, my sister recently returned from a trip to Peru and told me that the “favorite protein treat” was guinea pig. Maybe I’m just a squeamish American. That is awesome about the Great American High Dive Team. What an answer to give someone when they ask what career field you’re in.

    • I’ve had a few guinea pigs as pets and even though I think they’re so sweet and could never, ever eat one or watch anyone eat one, I can understand why people in poorer countries eat them. They are so plump! The funniest thing about the Great American High Dive Team is that half of the divers weren’t American!

  4. I’ve tried those birds, they are so crunchy and it was just fine for me but when I saw those crispy roaches? eeewww…. and yes your story above about the tarantula is yikes! 😀 hahahahha

  5. Bangkok is the next stop on our world tour, and I definitely WILL NOT be biting off baby bird heads. Blech. It’s only pad thai and green curry for me, thank you very much! 😉

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  7. Might be meant for human consumption, but if there are eyes staring back at me I am not eating it! :))

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