Canada: Where the Vikings Landed

At l’Anse aux Meadows stands a grass covered building, with multiple chimneys sprouting from the earthy roof. This is the only confirmed Viking settlement in Canada. There are no confirmed Viking settlements in the United States, and certainly none in Mexico. The nearest confirmed Viking settlements are in Greenland, a place with an even lower population than Canada.

L’Anse aux Meadows is a place that everyone in Canada can be proud of. But, according to the Viking sagas, it wasn’t the only place in Canada they visited. The sagas list three places were the Vikings landed; Helluland, somewhere in the far north, Markland, a forested area, and Vinland.

Where exactly were these lands located? And have we found any of them?

Helluland
There is seems to be no doubt that Helluland was in Canada. It was recorded as the first place, west of Greenland, that the Vikings stopped. A land of flat stones’ that Leif Erikson, leader of the traveling Viking, deemed too inhospitable to make a permanent settlement it.

Dr. Patricia Sutherland believes she may have found Helluland. Where? On Baffin Island, part of Nunavut, the fifth biggest island in the world. It all started when Sutherland went to the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and noticed, among the museums collection, several strands of yarn, found on Baffin Island.

Why was something as simple as yarn such a big deal? Because the people native to the island had never made yarn. Instead they made strong cords out of animal sinew. So how had this yarn wound up there?

Sutherland traveled to Baffin Island, and began digging. There she found whetstones, designed to be used on metal tools, and rat dung. There are no rats native to Baffin Island. No rats native to the Canadian Arctic.

So where had the rat dung come from? Analysis confirmed that this was the dung of an European rat. A rat couldn’t have swum across the Atlantic alone. Analysis suggested the dung was from 1000 AD. Which could only mean one thing; around 1000 AD a group of Europeans had arrived on Baffin Island, and stayed long enough for rats to escape their ship.

The yarn found proved to be made from the fur off an arctic hare. Which meant that these Europeans had stayed long enough to catch or trade for a hare, and spin it’s fur into wool. Long enough to damage their tools enough that they needed sharpening.

This is the farthest north that evidence for pre-Columbian Europeans has been found. Almost all researchers agree that Helluland was the most nothernly land the Vikings found. So is this Helluland?

Well, there’s one little problem. The Vikings arrived in Helluland around 1000 AD, but like I said before, they didn’t stay for long. Not long enough to make yarn out of hare fur. Which begs the question — who was on Baffin Island?

My theory? The Irish. Tales have been told for over a thousand years of the Irish sailing west, over the Atlantic, and discovering new land. There has been speculation for years about what land the tales might be referring to. Iceland? Greenland? Or a land that existed only in the minds of the Irish?

There isn’t enough evidence to come to a conclusion. But there is no doubt that, many, many years before Columbus arrived a group of Europeans stood on the cold shores of Baffin Island.

Markland
Most scholars agree that Markland was located south of Helluland, but north of Vinland. It’s described as a heavily wooded land. Leif Erikson gathered lumber from Markland and brought it back to Greenland, a place with a severe lumber shortage.

It seems Vikings were still harvesting lumber from Markland three hundred years later, when records from Iceland mention a ship bringing lumber from Markland to Greenland.

Many believe that Markland was located somewhere on the Labrador Coast, a place covered by taiga, also known as boreal forest. Sadly, no hard evidence has been found. Yet.

Vinland
I grew up believing the story that Vinland could be translated as ‘Wine land’. I was wrong. What Vinland actually means is ‘land of meadows’. Disappointing, I know. Who doesn’t like the thought of a bunch drunk Vikings naming the land they’d discovered ‘Wine land’, after their favourite drink? Alas, it was not so.

Most researchers believe we’ve already found Vinland, none other than l’Anse aux Meadows, the only confirmed Viking site west of Greenland. The evidence seems to be everywhere — even in l’Anse aux Meadows name.

The word ‘meadows’ is not, like the rest of the name ‘l’Anse aux Meadows’, French. The site was originally called ‘l’Anse aux Médée’ — Jellyfish Cove. Then the Englush moved in, and corrupted the name as ‘l’Anse aux Meadows’, influenced by the fact l’Anse aux Meadows is full of, well, meadows.

The Vikings described Vinland as a land of many meadows — a description that matches the meadows of l’Anse aux Meadows perfectly.

The question that fascinates archaeologists — was l’Anse aux Meadows the Vinland or just a part of Vinland. After all, butternuts, hundreds of years old, were found at the site. And wild butternuts don’t grow in Newfoundland, where l’Anse aux Meadows is located. The nearest place where butternuts grow is New Brunswick.

Someone picked those butternuts and brought them to l’Anse aux Meadows. The question is, who? Were the butternuts picked by Vikings, journeying inland? Or did they somehow get them through trade?

Add the size of l’Anse aux Meadows — it’s not as big as one would expect a permanent Viking settlement to be. Could it be that l’Anse aux Meadows is merely the entrance to Vinland, a place where Vikings stayed during winter, when it was too cold to explore safely? A place where longboats landed and reloaded?

If that’s so, if l’Anse aux Meadows really was just the tip of the iceberg , how far into North America did the Vikings go? The St. Lawrence river? The great lakes? Maybe even America? No one knows — yet.

In Closing

Learning about the Canadian Vikings is exhilarating — we know so much more than we once did , but countless mysteries still remain. I’ve considered becoming an archaeologist before, but decided against it. Helluland, Markland, and Vinland make me want to reconsider that decision.

In the meantime, Canadians can be proud of l’Anse aux Meadows — the only confirmed Viking settlement west of Greenland. The site America wishes it had.

Sources

Viking Settlement on Baffin Island

Nunavut Viking Settlement

Leif Ericson and the Vikings in Canada

Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia

Advertisements

Vanishing Vaquitas: Panda of the Sea

The world’s smallest porpoise, the vaquita, lives in small area of ocean, surrounding the area where Mexico meets California. They have other names, like desert porpoise, cochito, or gulf porpoise. Some call them ‘pandas of the sea’ because of the dark black patches surrounding their eyes. Vaquitas are little more than a meter long, the size of a human child.

There are less then 30 live vaquitas remaining, and the numbers are going down fast.

Vaquitas are amazing creatures. There size isn’t the only thing that sets vaquitas apart from other porpoises. For instance, the vaquita, unlike most porpoises, is not what you would call social. It’s incredibly rare to see more than one at a time, and when more than one is seen, its often a mother and her calf.

Vaquitas, perhaps due to their small size, hunt in shallower waters than other porpoises, like lagoons. Vaquitas aren’t picky; they’ll eat almost any animal they find. Crabs, lobsters, octopuses, squid, various types of fish — the vaquita will eat them all.

A certain fish lives in the same area as the vaquita. It’s called the totoaba, and is considered a delicacy in China. The most common method for catching totoaba? Gill nets. Many, many gill nets.

Gill nets are the main threat to vaquitas. Why? Simple: bycatch. The nets are supposed to catch totoaba, but they catch many other animals as well. Like vaquitas. In fact, the gill net is the biggest threat facing vaquitas. If people stopped using gill nets, there’s a chance the vaquita could be saved.

There have been attempts to breed vaquitas in captivity, safe from the danger of gill nets. That way, when the danger of gill nets has dried up, the captive raise vaquitas can be retrained and released into the wild. The problem? Vaquitas, like most other porpoises, do not do well in captivity.

The most recent captive breeding attempt, lead by a team from VaquitaCPR, an organization dedicated to saving the vaquita, failed. It was an act of desperation. Porpoises do not do well in captivity. So much so that, if the vaquita weren’t so desperately endangered, it’s doubtful anyone would’ve taken the risk of capturing one.

No aquariums were prepared for the attempt— that would be to stressful for any porpoise. Instead a sea net was set up, and the hunt for vaquitas began.

The first vaquita caught and brought to the net was a juvenile. Within a few hours, it became clear that the juvenile was dangerously stressed. The team had no choice but to release her.

The second caught, an adult female, died soon after being placed in the sea net. The cause? The female’s fear and stress were so great upon finding herself trapped, that she gave herself a heart attack.

There are less than 30 vaquitas remaining. The loss of even one is a devastating loss.

The team had no choose. A sea net was better than an aquarium. But it wasn’t good enough. They couldn’t risk killing another vaquita. The attempt was abandoned.

Many fear the vaquita may soon join its cousin, the baiji, in extinction. You may not have heard of the baiji, might think the name refers to a long dead ancestor of modern porpoises. It doesn’t. The baiji, or Chinese river dolphin, was the smallest dolphin in the world. In 1979, the Chinese government recognized the baiji as endangered. In 2006, a group of researchers took action to save the baiji — a six week expedition up the polluted Yangtze river to find what individuals remained.

What did this team of trained, determined people find? Nothing. Not the slightest glimpse of a baiji, not even a floating lump that could possibly be a baiji. It was too late. The world’s smallest dolphin had gone extinct, at exactly the moment people were ready to save it.

Hearing about the vaquita made me want to do something. But what could a girl in the middle of Canada do about a porpoise in Mexico? I did what I often do when I have a question; I began to research.

Spreading the word is the simplest way of helping. There are over seven billion people on the planet. Odds are that at least one of them has an idea or plan that could save the vaquita. Not to mention that spreading the word puts pressure on gill net fishing. It’s not much, but its something.

Avoiding totoaba is another thing you can do. I’ve found no evidence of restaurants or stores serving totoaba in Canada. However, if you find yourself in the US, be careful. Some US restaurants will serve totoaba, disguised as white sea bass. And if you wind up in China, the country providing the demand, be twice as careful.

In fact, any seafood caught using gill nets should be avoided. Double check your tuna cans for the dolphin friendly sign. Don’t risk buying if you even suspect gill nets may have been used. Look up restaurants online, see whether or not they’re getting their seafood responsibly.

Even though the baiji hasn’t been seen for over ten years, some people still hold out hope that the baiji is still out there, and might someday return. Last check, vaquitas weren’t extinct. Yes, they are in an extremely bad position, but they are still around. There is still hope.

Sources and Links

Last Chance to Save the Panda of the Sea

More on How to Help

the Sounds Vaquitas Make

Attempt to Save the World’s Smallest Porpoise Ends in Heartbreak

Rescue Plan Abandoned

Scientists Plan to Save Vaquita Goes Terribly Awry

Vaquita, Wikipedia

the Basilisk and Other Legendary Snakes

One thing I love is learning about mythical monsters. Just picturing these creatures stirs my imagination, and sometimes brings a smile to my face. Lately I’ve been learning about legendary snakes, and, wow, have I been enjoying myself.

I hope you, too, enjoy learned about these amazing, mythical creatures.

Basilisk

The basilisk is one of the most well-known mythical snakes, mostly thanks to Harry Potter. Stories have been told about the basilisk for centuries. Various people, like Pliny the Elder, and Leonardo da Vinci, have written about it. Even Shakespeare paid the basilisk brief tribute, in his play, Richard III.

The basilisk’s appearance has evolved through out the centuries. According to Pllny the Elder’s Natural History, written around 78 AD, the basilisk was a snake, with a crown-like crest on his head; almost all future authors kept that feature.

Some people insisted the basilisk looked like a rooster, with the tail of a snake. Can you imagine how weird that would look? If I meet a basilisk that looked like that, I would either scream in terror or die laughing.

According to Leonardo da Vinci, the basilisk was twelve fingers long (27 centimetres), a far cry from the massive creature that would later appear in Harry Potter. He, too, mentioned the crown-like crest. Apparently, when other snakes heard the basilisk coming, they would flee in terror.

Both Pliny and da Vinci claimed that the basilisk’s worst enemy was the weasel. Leonardo wrote that weasels would seek out basilisk dens and urinate on them. The smell of the weasel urine would kill any basilisk that smelled it. I have to wonder how a basilisk would’ve handled skunk urine …

One thing has remained the same in all basilisk legends since Pliny — the baslisk’s poisonous nature. Pliny claimed the basilisk was so poisonous that it could kill plants just by breathing on them, and burn grass just by touching it. According to da Vinci, a man on a horse killed a basilisk with his spear. The basilisk he’d killed was so poisonous that, even though it had bitten neither man or horse, both died immediately afterward.

Quite a few people nowadays believe that the basilisk was based on the king cobra. Like the basilisk, the king cobra has a crown shaped mark on it’s forehead. Although it’s nowhere near as poisonous as most writings say the basilisk is, the bite of a king cobra can easily kill a grown man.

Not only that, but the mongoose, a creature that looks a lot like a weasel, will often hunt and eat the king cobra. However, the mongoose kills with its teeth — not by urinating on the cobra.

Python

You might be a bit puzzled by the title. Pythons are real, aren’t they? You can see them in most decent zoos, and they’re a favourite for documentaries. And thats true — pythons are real snakes, but they got their name from a mythical serpent known as Python.

According to legend, Python lived in Delphi, which the Greeks believed was the centre of the Earth. An early account refers to Python as a female, but later accounts refer to Python as male. Nowadays, it’s known that some snails can change from male to female — maybe Python was related?

When the goddess Leto got pregnant by Zeus, god of thunder and the sky, Zeus’ wife, Hera, got jealous. Hera decided she would like Leto better dead, so she sent Python to kill Leto, preferably before she gave birth.

Hera’s plan didn’t quite work out. Leto ran away from Python, and managed to find a place where Python couldn’t get her, and gave birth to twins — the goddess, Artemis, and the god, Apollo. The twins aged fast. When Apollo was only four days old, he decided to take revenge on Python for what the serpent had put his mother through.

It would have made more sense to for Apollo to kill Hera, since she was the one who’d sent Python after Leto, but I suppose newborns have never been that logical.

So, young Apollo, who by four days could already walk, went to Hephaestus, the god of metalworking, and asked for a weapon he could kill Python with. Hephaestus made him a silver bow with golden arrows.

Apollo took the bow and arrows, and went after Python. Most newborns couldn’t kill a fly, let alone giant serpent, but apparently Apollo was different, because Python died during their confrontation.

Zeus was not happy, possibly because Python’s mother had been Gaia, which would make him Zeus’ uncle. Just a few days old and Apollo had already pissed off daddy. To make amends, Apollo started the Pythian Games, a competition of musical and martial skills, named in honour of Python.

To summarize, Python the serpent was Zeus’ uncle, sent by Zeus’ wife to kill Zeus’ lover and killed by Zeus’ son. Any questions?

Lindworm

The lindworm is not as well-known as the basilisk. It’s described as a giant serpent , able to breathe either poison or fire. The lindworm moves by dragging itself with its two arms, which, in many accounts, are its only limbs. Some stories add wings, giving the lindworm a wyvern-like appearance.

Stories of the lindworm were first told by the Norse. One such story is the legend of Fafnir, a dwarf turned lindworm through a mixture of cursed gold and greed.

As the story goes, Loki, the Norse trickster god, accidentally killed one of Fafnir’s brothers. Fafnir’s father demanded Loki repay him for the loss of his son with gold. Loki came up with the gold, and gave it to Fafnir’s father. The gold happened to be cursed, but Fafnir’s father, apparently unaware of Loki’s reputation, accepted it.

The sight of the cursed gold corrupted Fafnir, who killed his father to take it for himself. But cursed gold can have nasty effects on humans, and it turns out dwarves are no different. Within months, Fafnir had transformed into a lindworm, one with very poisonous breath.

For the next who-knows-how-many years Fafnir basically just lay around on his pile of gold. His poisonous breath kept most visitors, and potential thieves, from coming anywhere near his treasure.

Regin, Fafnir’s sole surviving brother, wanted the gold for himself. Apparently the thought of becoming a lindworm didn’t disturb him. Anyways, Regin decided to send the hero, Sigurd, to kill Fafnir.

Sigurd succeeded in killing Fafnir, and then, as Regin had instructed him, cooked Fafnir’s heart. Sigurd was supposed to serve cooked heart to Regin, but was warned that Regin was planning to kill him. After foiling Regin’s plot, Sigurd decided to keep the heart for himself. He cut the heart in half, and gobbled up one half.

The other half, Sigurd kept, and later gave to his wife, Gudrun. Talk about a romantic gift. I can’t imagine his wife was thrilled.

For any women readers: If your husband gave you a shrivelled, dried lindworm heart as a gift, what would you do?

In Closing

Snakes — especially legendary ones — are amazing. Writing this article was surprisingly fun — I especially enjoyed writing about lindworms. If you had as much fun reading this post as I did writing it, then I know you had a good time. Merry Christmas!

Sources

Lindworm, Wikpedia

Fafnir, Britanica

Basilisk, Wikipedia

Python, Britanica

Leto, Wikpedia

Anticipating the 2017 Doctor Who Christmas Special

Warning: May not make sense if you haven’t seen the more recent episodes of Doctor Who

Before the year twenty-seventeen breathes its last, something amazing will happen — the Doctor Who Christmas special will air! To say I’m excited would be an understatement. Season 10’s cliffhanger will be resolved, and the Thirteenth Doctor will finally show herself.

I have several hundred questions. Will Bill come back? I mean, she wasn’t exactly dead at the end of the last episode. more another species. I hope the Doctor learns she survived — we all know what the death of a companion can do to him.

And what’s with the First Doctor, just showing up like that? Is it really him? Or is it all inside the Twelfth Doctor’s head?

Will we ever see Nardole again? Just a cameo would be nice.

And, of course, the biggest question of them all; what will the first female Doctor be like? When I first learned the Thirteenth Doctor would be a woman, I was somewhat worried. Why was BBC doing this? Because they’d found a great actress who’d make a brilliant Time Lord? Or was it a cheap publicity stunt, a desperate grab at better ratings?

The first images released — Whittaker approaching the Tardis — did not inspire my confidence. Whittaker was a nice looking, fashionably dressed woman. Probably a good actress, but she did not look like Doctor material. The Doctor is never fashionable. Just look at his previous selves — fezzes, red bow ties, celery, scarves, sand shoes …

I’d never seen Jodie Whittaker act before. Could she really portray a madwomen in a box?

The next images — Whittaker dressed as the Thirteenth Doctor — restored my faith. Whittaker looked like a Doctor — overalls, a stripped shirt, a slightly alien expression on her face … Yes, that was the Doctor we know and love.

What will Thirteen’s personality be like? Grumpy, like Twelve? Childish, like the Eleventh? Tragic and fierce, like Ten?

That’s the part of the Christmas special I’m looking forward to most — seeing the Thirteenth Doctor in action for the first time.

I believe that the Christmas special will be amazing. I hope BBC proves me right.

Christmas and Saturnalia

Saturnalia was an ancient Roman holiday, dedicated to the god Saturn, celebrated long before Christmas was even thought of. At first Saturnalia was only celebrated on December 17, but, over the centuries, the celebration was lengthened, until it lasted nearly a week. The poet Catullus called it ‘the best of times’, while Pliny the Younger, a senator, hated it.

Some of Saturnalia’s traditions have continued on, to the modern holiday of Christmas. But many other traditions, for better or worse, have been forgotten.

One tradition that doesn’t seem to have survived is the sacrifice of piglets. Can you imagine, gathering to watch as a tiny piglet was killed? Nowadays, no one in Canada or America would dream of killing a piglet. Some people make a living from killing grown-up pigs (bacon doesn’t grow on trees), but no one would harm a piglet.

It was also traditional, on Saturnalia, for masters and slave to swap roles — temporarily. Slaves could say whatever they wanted about their masters, without being punished or reprimanded. At least, they were supposed to be. I wouldn’t be surprised angry masters found ways to punish the more talkative slaves once Saturnalia was over.

Gambling, usually taboo, was permitted. Saturnalia was the only time when you could legally gamble all your hard-earned money away. This tradition doesn’t seem to have survived. Gambling is no longer restricted to December. You can legally flush all your cash down the casino toilet anytime you want.

Nobody shouted ‘Merry Christmas’ during Saturnalia, although the phrase ‘Io Saturnalia’ was used in much the same way. But ‘Io Saturnalia’ wasn’t used just for greetings. It was also used as an exclamation of triumph (I win! Io Saturnalia!) and sometimes to end a joke (The chicken crossed the road! Io Saturnalia!).

The King of Saturnalia was yet another tradition. During Saturnalia, households would elect one person to be ‘King’. This person could be anyone, a genius or an idiot. Whatever the ‘King’ ordered had to be obeyed — like ‘dress as a lady’ or ‘pee on him’. Can you imagine how fun it would be to be King of Saturnalia? Can you imagine how awful it would be if you weren’t?

Then there was the gift giving, a tradition that we have kept. Saturnalia gifts could range in price from toothpicks and dice, to exotic pets … or slaves. Wax figurines, called sigillaria, were especially popular as gifts. Sometimes poems were given along with the gifts, similar to how cards are given now.

With a only a few changes, like stockings, or the absence of slaves on the gift list, this tradition has remained intact.

Some of these traditions don’t sound like any fun. Who’d want to kill a piglet? Others sound like they could be very fun. The best tradition of all, the gift giving, is the one that has survived the longest, and practically defines Christmas. After all, it’s about the giving, not the getting. Just ask the Grinch.

Sources

Saturnalia, Britannica

Saturnalia, Wikipedia

Did the Romans Invent Christmas?, BBC

the Story of Canadian Thanksgiving

Everyone knows how American Thanksgiving began. The story of the pilgrims and the Native Americans enjoying a feast has been told so many times it’s almost become a myth. With Canadian Thanksgiving fast approaching, I’ve begun wondering — how did Thanksgiving start in my beloved homeland?

Unlike America, there was no single event that lead to Canadian Thanksgiving. Instead, Canadian Thanksgiving was the result of many traditions combining into one.

Days devoted to thanks have existed for a long time, starting when Noah made his thanks offering after leaving the Ark. One of the earliest recorded Thanksgiving traditions started in Port-Royal, where, at the suggestion of a man known as Samuel de Champlain, the Order of Good Cheer was formed.

Port-Royal had just undergone a hard winter. Many people had become ill with scurvy. Some had died. As a result, morale was very low. The Order of Good Cheer was formed to combat this. To this end, the Order of Good Cheer used was hosting public gatherings.

The first of these gatherings took place in November, 1606. It could be described as Canada’s earliest recorded Thanksgiving. Nearly every white man in Port-Royal joined in, as did many of the Mi’kmaq people.

These gatherings took place weekly, from winter to spring, stopping briefly during summer and fall, before being taken up again in winter.

A century later, Canada was flooded by Loyalists, who brought their own Thanksgiving traditions with them. This is why our Thanksgiving traditions have much in common with American Thanksgiving — turkeys and pumpkins being a few examples.

The first official Thanksgiving day was declared in 1872, during November. I was surprised by that fact. For those who don’t live in Canada, Thanksgiving here is celebrated in early October. American Thanksgiving is in November. Every year, I get cards from my American cousins, wishing me a happy Thanksgiving a month too late.

Even after a lifetime of receiving these cards, I’m still slightly startled when I realize that, for Americans, Thanksgiving hasn’t come yet.

How did our Thanksgivings transfer from November to October?

The answer, like much of Canadian history, is annoyingly simple.

For a while Thanksgiving was on the closest Thursday to November 11. Eventually, the government just moved Thanksgiving to the eleventh. The problem was, November 11 had just been made home to another official holiday — Armistice Day, celebrating the end of World War I.

I’m not sure how people where supposed to celebrate both these holidays at the same time. Perhaps they were supposed to be thankful for the end of the war?

In 1931, Armistice Day was replaced by Remembrance Day, and Thanksgiving was booted to the second Monday in October. Thanksgiving hasn’t changed dates since. Like I said before, annoyingly simple.

If this were America, the story of how a national holiday changed date would doubtless contain more fireworks, and possibly a museum or two.

Nowadays, Thanksgiving is celebrated throughout Canada. Of course, Canada is a big country, and there is a lot of variation between provinces. In B.C., Nanaimo bars often form an important part of the Thanksgiving feast. Butter tarts are associated with Thanksgiving in Ontario, and in Newfoundland, Jiggs Dinner (similar to stew) often replaces roast turkey.

Soon the 145th Thanksgiving since 1872 will take place. National, provincial and personal Thanksgiving traditions will come into play. Delicious food will be cooked and served. For that, I am thankful.

A Note

When researching this article, I was unable to find any information about First Nation autumn festivals or days devoted to giving thanks. If you happen to know anything about that particular subject, please let me know.

Sources

Recipe for Jiggs Dinner
Canadian Thanksgiving, the Canadian Encyclopedia
Thanksgiving, Wikipedia
Mi’kmaq, Wikipedia

Four Bizarre Foods

The world is full of bizarre, strange, and weird foods. Frog legs, squid and escargot, to name a few. Everyone has a different opinion about how these foods taste. Some claim these foods are the most delicious things they have ever tried. Others are so grossed out by the very idea of these foods, that they would rather starve than eat them.

Here is a list of some of the world’s bizarre foods, when people started eating them, where they are popular, and, in some cases, opinions on how they taste.

Escargot

People have been eating snails — known in France as escargot — since prehistoric times. In Ancient Rome, snails were considered a delicacy and were rarely served.

When snails are served as escargot, they’re usually taken out of their shell, cooked, then put back in their shell with sauce. I can’t help thinking that escargot looks like something made by a sick dog.

In many parts of the world, snails are such a popular food that snail farms have sprung up. These farms sell snails for escargot, and snail eggs for caviar.

I would try any food, at least once. The only exception? Escargot. Just looking at photos turns my stomach.

But if you, personally, want to try escargot, there are multiple recipes online. Sadly, I don’t know where to get the snails.

Frog

Cuisses de grenouille — the infamous French delicacy, known to English speakers as frog legs. But frog isn’t only eaten by the French. It’s eaten all across Europe, throughout China, in the Caribbean, and, surprisingly, in some parts of the United States.

In some areas, the demand for frog legs has become a problem. See, most edible frogs are caught in the wild. Which means, that if to many frogs are caught, the wild frog population could become dangerously low.

This is especially a problem in the Caribbean, where a species of local frog, named ‘mountain chicken’, has been classified as critically endangered, thanks in part to being caught, cooked and eaten.

Two members of my family have tasted frog. One is my grandpa, and the other is my dog. The frog my grandpa ate had been cooked. The one my dog ate was not cooked; in fact, it was rotten.

According to my grandpa, frog legs taste like chicken. He says that if he hadn’t known he was eating frog legs, he’d have honestly thought it was chicken. I’d be willing to try meat that tasted like that, even if it did come from a frog.

Squid

It’s hard to imagine someone pulling a slimy, tentacled creature out of the sea and deciding to eat it, but apparently it happened … more than once. Squid is eaten all over the world — from Europe to Asia, to Central America. Pretty much any place touching the ocean.

Cooked squid is known by various names, such as calamari, san ojingeo, kalmar tava and adobong pusit. One can buy squid steaks, squid jerky, and enjoy stuffed squid. In Italy, squid are often put in pasta.

I once tried the salt and pepper squid at a Chinese restaurant. It was flavourless, but went down easily. I ate several, then brought the rest home for my dog.

With a different sauce … squid could become delicious.

Fugu

Most people have heard of fugu — also known as blowfish. The poisonous fish that the Japanese love eating. If cooked right, it tastes — according to the Japanese — delicious, and causes absolutely no harm at all. But if one mistake is made in the preparation … you die.

It’s hard to imagine the ancients deciding to risk squid. Blowfish doesn’t look as strange — I can see some poor fisherman deciding it was safer to eat than squid. But I can’t see them doing that again, even if they survived. There is no way that the first fugu eaters knew the proper recipe.

Even today, with the proper recipe, twenty people per year die from eating fugu, and many more are hospitalized.

When I first began reading about fugu, I suspected that it became popular as a way of poisoning political rivals, or as a samurai dare game.

I was wrong on both counts. Fugu has been eaten for 2,300 years, since the Jōmon period. There is no evidence it was ever used for assassinations. The last shogunate in Japan banned fugu, but fugu returned as soon as the shogunate was gone. Today, fugu is the one food that the Emperor of Japan is forbidden from eating — a precaution to keep him safe.

In my opinion, fugu is not a food. It’s Russian roulette on a plate.

In Closing

If you had no choice but to eat one of the above foods, every day for the rest of your life, which one would you choose?

Sources

Wikipedia

Recipe for Escargot

Recipe for Stewed Squid

Recipe for Frog Legs

Mountain Chicken