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Eating Weird

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” - Hunter S. Thompson

Things have gotten out of hand with Dr. Manny Alvarez and me. It was innocent enough when we first ever tasted fermented soybeans for their health-enriching enzymes. And we ate durian ice cream too, made from a supposed aphrodisiac tropical fruit that smells just like rotting garbage. But driven by our own hubris and bravado, we ate fried fish sperm. Yeah, fish sperm. And not just any fish sperm, but that of the deadly puffer fish. We don’t mess around.

For a few months we basked in the glow of having gone for a dare, and met it head on. But you’re only as good as your last horrid little stunt, and so we determined to top our personal best in weird foods. And yes, we did in fact do exactly that. Just a couple of weeks ago, Dr. Manny and I went too far, and caught it all on video. We sat down at d.o.b. 111 Vietnamese restaurant on St Mark’s Place in New York City, and ate brain ravioli and penis noodle soup. Really.

Brain Food

The brain ravioli, as prepared by Chef Michael, was a delicate dish. He started with a bowl of fresh pig’s brains, put some oil in a frying pan, and added just a sliver of butter. Chef Michael took the meninges (outer membrane) off the brains, tossed the brains into the skillet of hot oil, and quickly stir-fried them with some soy sauce and spices. He spooned the brains out of the pan when done, and put a dollop into the center of a wonton square. He folded the wontons into ravioli, tossed them into boiling water, and let them cook for a minute. He then served the brain-filled ravioli with lemongrass and a pungent shrimp head sauce. Voila! Brain ravioli.

Manny and I ate the ravioli, and Manny also shared some with his friend the mysterious Frenchman Jacques, who declared the dish tasty as I did. Manny looked like he was going to hurl. I thought the brain filling tasted a lot like a rich melted cheese. In any case, I liked the ravioli.

So a burning question- is there any redeeming or nutritive value to eating brains, or was this just a prank? As it turns out, brain tissue contains a concentration of healthy agents. The most significant factor in brain tissue composition is DHA or docosahexanoic acid, an Omega 3 fatty acid absolutely essential for proper brain development, formation and function. It is correct to say that consumption of brain tissue, rich in DHA, promotes healthy brain function.

Cerebrosides are sphingolipids, also occurring in brain tissue. Studies suggest an anti-cancer role for these fatty compounds. Another group of lipids, phosphatidylethanolamines, are believed to function in proper blood coagulation. So amazingly enough, Dr Manny and I had a legitimate health reason to consume brain ravioli. Fine. But what about penis noodle soup?

Merits of Penis

Chef Michael showed us a twenty-four inch schlong previously owned by a luckless head of cattle. It was long and shiny, and Dr. Manny looked ill at the sight of it. Chef Michael had previously chopped such a member into short pieces, and cooked them in a richly-seasoned broth with ox tail for five hours. As we watched, he cooked some rice noodles, and made us each a bowl of noodles in broth with sections of well-cooked penis. Ah, what’s for dinner?

I have seen alarm on Dr. Manny’s face a few times, but this was a tough situation. I mean, it’s strange to eat the penis of an animal. But before us sat bowls of penis noodle soup, and we knew that all our bravado had led us to a moment of culinary doom. I popped a piece of penis into my mouth, and found it quite chewy. Dr. Manny, with some coaxing, did the same. After the first piece, he looked decidedly uneasy. Once again Jacques the mysterious Frenchman sat down, and tried the dish. He found it superb, which seemed outright suspicious to me. But there we were, eating penis with noodles, and daring the devil on his own cooking grounds.

It almost seems silly to ask if there is any health value to munching on the penis of a ruminant animal. Why, yes there is. As it turns out, penile tissue is rich in Glycosaminoglycans, which are building blocks of cartilage and joint fluid. Consumption of Glycosaminoglycans may help to reduce the pain of osteoarthritis. In fact, two osteoarthritis drugs, Rumalon and Arteparon, are based on Glycosaminoglycans. Admittedly, eating penis is not standard treatment for osteoarthritis. But it may help.

The nagging question is, where do we go from here? What culinary frights await Dr. Manny and me around the next corner? I shudder to think. Eyeball skewers? Sauteed duck testes? Whatever is on the other side of that rainbow, I’m not sure that Dr. Manny and I want to know.

Medicine Hunter Chris Kilham
For Fox News, June 2010