73. Exotic Cuisine

Being a missionary kid can be both a blessing and a curse. MKs are privileged to enjoy all sorts of experiences unavailable to most kids, but they also suffer all sorts of difficulties most kids never have to endure.

For most MKs, the local cuisine can be either a blessing or a curse. Some exotic foods are awesome. Some are awful.

Regardless of whether or not they like international cuisine, missionaries and their children hold to a sacred missionary proverb: Where God leads me I will follow; what God feeds me I will swallow.

From the jungles of Ecuador to the suburbs of South Korea, I’ve been blessed to enjoy (and cursed to endure) all sorts of exotic foods. Fried leaf-cutter ants, stir-fried tapir meat, squid jerky, grilled squid, red bean ice cream—the list goes on and on.

If pressed, I’d probably name maracuyá juice as my favorite exotic fare. Maracuyá, also called passion fruit, is an ugly, often shriveled pomegranate-like fruit the size of a tennis ball. Despite its drab outer appearance and sour flavor, it makes an exquisite juice when prepared correctly.

My least favorite exotic fare might be kimchi, a popular dish in South Korea. I recorded my impression of kimchi in my novel. Here’s an excerpt:

The only thing I didn’t like was kimchi, a pungent dish consisting of cabbage soaked in some strong liquid (I suspected sulfuric acid) and fermented until its alcohol level equaled that of vodka. Had any of the kimchi fallen to the table, I would not have been surprised had the tablecloth caught fire.

While many MKs get to experience a vast range of unusual dishes, they miss out on a lot of treats most Americans take for granted: marshmallows, root beer and peanut butter cups, to name but a few. When my brothers and I were young, we viewed the United States of America not so much a country as the source of all the treats we couldn’t get in Ecuador.

There have been, I admit, certain exotic dishes I never had the opportunity to sample. I never tried cuy, an Andean specialty consisting of roasted guinea pig. I also missed out on chicha, a manioc- or corn-based alcoholic beverage popular in the jungles and highlands of Ecuador.

Someday, perhaps.

3 thoughts on “73. Exotic Cuisine

  1. I have just begun working for an international ministry that will involve a lot of travel, some international. I am terrified of international foods. It looks like Korea might be on the list for this fall, I expect that the Kimchi nightmares will be starting soon.

  2. I just wanted to let you know that tapirs are endangered and you should not eat them. The world would be a sad place without them.

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