Myths, Legends and Exotic, Unusual Foods from Around the World

A journey into the unknown in search of myths, legends, exotic and unusual foods from around the world.

Dear Reader,

Who are you? What are you looking for? Are you a teenager in search of "weird stuff" to impress the girls? A college student looking for information about exotic cultures to add to a term paper? A mom of twins taking a much needed coffee break surfing the web? Or, a retired couple getting the feel of their new computer?

You all have landed on the "right planet." We have something to please everyone. We will make you gasp at the bizarre, smile at the ludicrous and scratch your head and say: "It's hard to believe that...."

My name is Claudette Comeau. I am a 75-year widow who has spent over 20 years in researching and documenting facts about food and food related topics. I especially enjoy finding unusual material and international, ethnic recipes and methods of preparation.

For your enjoyment and edification my research team and I have devoted countless hours to bring you material that will be of interest. We will journey to places you may not ever have heard of in search of unique foods, cultures and lifestyles.

Let us not delay, our balloon is primed and ready to go. We will first travel to the bayous of Louisiana. Here the U.S. shrimp industry was born in the late 1800's and early 1900s. Today, shrimp plants use huge peelers that pinch off the shrimp's head and shell, but it wasn't always that way.

Imagine a platform in Manila Village, Louisiana, in the year 1900. The platform, which measures 300 by 400 feet, is built on pilings over the water. On it is a circle of Filipino men, their arms on each other's shoulders. They are chanting Tagalog folksongs, shuffling their burlap-wrapped feet rhythmically atop a pile of sun-dried shrimp. This is "dancin' the shrimp." The idea is to dance them out of their shells without damaging the flesh.

In the golden age of shrimp dancin', 75 platforms were scattered along the marshes and bays of the Mississippi estuary alone. The dancers were a melting pot of Filipinos, Chinese, Mexicans, Spaniards and Cajuns. Manila was the biggest of the platforms, supporting a community of more than 300 Filipinos and Chinese.

Fishermen brought their boats to the platforms and unloaded their shrimp in wicker baskets, each basket holding 110 pounds. Once the baskets were on the platform, they were transferred onto a large wagon on rails, then pushed by men, women and children into a boiling shed. There, they were emptied into a cauldron and cooked for 15 minutes, then removed in wheelbarrows and spread onto the platform, where they were allowed to drain and dry for approximately 12 hours, depending on the temperature. (If it rained, the shrimp were covered by tarps.)

When the shrimp were judged dry enough, the dance began. After the heads and shells were danced off, the tails were packed in barrels for markets, mainly in the Far East. In 1929, 5 million pounds of sun-dried shrimp were exported from platforms along the Gulf. Canning and freezing eventually took over as methods of preservation, although Manila Village operated until Hurricane Betsy finished it off in 1965.


Next, our journey takes us to the Philippines. The northern region of Cordillera is the ancestral domain of the Igorots. It is comprised of the six provinces of Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, and Mountain Province plus the lone city of Baguio. The Igorots are grouped into six ethno-linguistic groups:

•The Bontoc (Bontok) live in Central Mountain Province and speak Bontok. They live on the banks of the Chico River. It used to be a group that was known for its head-hunting practices. Present day Bontocs are a peaceful agricultural people who have, by choice, retained most of their traditional culture despite frequent contacts with other groups. The Bontoc believe in the "anito" - spirits of the dead who must be consulted before anything important is done. Ancestral anitos are invited to family feasts when a death occurs to ensure the well-being of the deceased's soul.

•The Ibaloi (Ibaloi/Nabaloi) live mostly in the southern part of Benguet. An agricultural people cultivating rice in terraced fields, they have some affinity in language with Pangasnan, its southern neighbor. Baguio City, the Cordilleras lone city and dubbed as the "Summer Capital of the Phillipines" is also situated in Ibaloi country. The Ibaloi's major feast is the Pesshet, a public prestige feast of the wealthy. It could last for weeks, involving the butchering and sacrifice of dozens animals. One of their more popular dances is the Bendiyan Dance that could be participated in by as many as a hundred men and women dancers.

•The Ifugao (Amganad, Ayangan, Kiangan, Gilipanes, Quiangan, Tuwai Ifugao, Mayoyao, Mayaoyaw) The country of the Ifugao in the southern part of the Cordillera region is best known for its famous rice terraces, which in modern times have become one of the big tourist attractions of the Philippines. The Ifugaos' highest prestige feasts are the "hagabi" for the most wealthy, and the "uyauy", a feast for those immediately below the wealthiest.

•The Isneg (Isnag, Dibagat-Kabugao-Isneg, Apayao) inhabit the banks of the Apayao River and its northern Luzon. Like most erstwhile head-hunters, they are slash-and-burn farmers - dry rice farmers. The male head of a household annually clears a fresh section of tropical forest where his wife will plant and harvest their rice. Isneg women also cook the meals, gather wild vegetables, and weave bamboo mats and baskets. The men cut timber, build houses, and take extended hunting and fishing trips. Often when a wild pig or deer is killed, its meat is skewered on bamboo and distributed to neighbors and relatives. Nearly all Isneg households also harvest a small grove of coffee trees since the main cash crop grown is coffee.

•The Kalinga (Linimos, Limos,Limos-Liwan Kalinga) Inhabiting the drainage areas of the middle Chico River in Kalinga Province, the Kalingas are noted for their strong sense of tribal awareness and the peace pacts they have made among themselves, thereby minimizing traditional warfare and head-hunting. They are divided into Southern and Northern groups; the latter is considered the most heavily ornamented people of the northern Philippines. The Kalinga society is very kinship oriented and relatives are held responsible for avenging any injury to a member. Regional leaders who listen to all sides impose fines on the guilty party.

•The Kankana-Ey (Northern Kankana-ey, Sagada/besao Igorot. Western Bontoc, Applai) inhabit the Western Mountain Province. Like most Igorots, they build sloping terraces to maximize farm space in the rugged terrain. Two famous institutions are the dap-ay, the men's dormitory and civic center, and the ebgan, the girl's dormitory where courtship between young men and women take place.

Rice and sweet potatoes are the staples of the Igorot diet. Pork and chicken are the preferred meats. They make tapey, a rice wine that is served to visitors in the home. It is also drunk in volumes during public festivities and celebrations. Another rice wine, the counterpart of our white wine, is served at dinner. It is called sabeng.

Some interesting dishes include: Innasin/etag, dubbed Igorot Ham by foreigners, is a fatty piece of pork that is salted and smoked. Pinikpikan is extremely popular in the Cordilleras. It is a chicken and innasin/etag dish with vegetables. Binaod, a delicacy of salted pig intestines aged for years, is traditionally prepared just after the pig manure has been dried and collected and just before it is delivered to the fields to be used as fertilizer. Ground rice is made into a dough, wrapped in sayote (the fruit of a climbing plant readily available) leaves and stuffed with slices of intestine. Then the packets are boiled. There is no mention that the pig manure is used....Boiled rice with vegetables, called kinal-oy, dates back to the days when rice was considered as food for the rich and therefore extended with leafy greens, such as camote (sweet potato) shoots or bean leaves.


On to London, England, where medical researchers have been successfully treating cancer patients with an eggplant extract. It's a cure, straight from Royal London Hospital's records on a double-blind study. Meticulously kept records show success in 80,000 cases dating back to the 1980's with zero return of the cancer and usually in less than 3 months. Using a form of eggplant extract called BEC5, doctors have been treating both invasive and non-invasive non-melanoma skin cancers effectively - both squamous and basal cell cancers. Microscopic analysis consistently shows death of all cancer cells. Best of all, BEC5 does not kill any healthy human cells. With microscopic precision, it selects and eliminates only the cancer cells. Healthy cells are not affected in any way by the treatment. It is so safe that it can be used cosmetically - to eradicate age spots, sun spots and "pre-cancers" called actinic keratoses. And, it's non-invasive, non-toxic and so easy to use that you can do it at home. Simple as smoothing on skin cream. More than a million new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year alone. So, if you are one of the unlucky ones to be diagnosed with this type of cancer, tell your dermatologist to look up Dr. Jonathan V. Wright, M.D.'s report "The Astonishing Eggplant Cure For Cancer." You'll be glad you did!


And you think brewery reviews are boring! Think again! Our balloon is touching down in Lake Mills, Wisconsin, the home of the Tyranena Brewing Company, a great place to enjoy Native American folklore and modern-day microbrews.

The legend of Tyranena (pronounced Tie•rah•nee•nah) began long ago, in a time before history was written. Legend tells of a foreign tribe that built a series of stone structures and effigy mounds on the edge of a lake they called Tyranena.

Today, these structures lie preserved deep under the waters of Rock Lake. No one knows for sure who built them, the purposes they served, how and why they are now submerged, or even the meaning of the word Tyranena.

We invite you to develop your own theories while enjoying one of the new legends of Tyranena, the Legendary Wisconsin Beers of the Tyranena Brewing Company.

They have a retail outlet and an observation window. Visit them at:

Beers Produced at Tyranena Brewing Company Include the:

•Bitter Woman IPA - Lest we forget Aunt Cal, an early resident of Lake Mills. Local history remembers her for blindly running into a hitching post and saying, "Excuse me, Dr. Dodge!" It was said that she was an old sweetheart of the famous American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. And she still had the love letters to prove it! Sadly, Aunt Cal never wed. We brewed our Bitter Woman IPA the way we imagine Aunt Cal may have been, very fruity and intensely bitter. So lift up a pint of Bitter Woman IPA and toast Aunt Cal and the bitter woman you know. Cheers! Bitter Woman IPA is our Wisconsin variation of an India Pale Ale. This beer is intensely bitter with a mighty hop flavor and aroma.

•Chief Black Hawk Porter - In 1767 a great Sauk leader was born. His name meant "the black sparrow hawk." He came to be known as Black Hawk. Strong beliefs, independent thinking and an unwavering commitment to his family and his people earned him a reputation as a man of integrity and courage. In 1832, along with 1,200 of his people, Black Hawk was driven from his ancestral home during a war that bears his name. We celebrate this Sauk leader and his courage with our BlackHawk Porter, the kind of beer that make you say, Ma-ka-tai-she-kia-kiak! The Black Hawk War was the last armed conflict between Indians and European settlers east of the Mississippi River in the Old Northwest Territory. Its resolution spawned rapid development enabling Wisconsin to achieve territorial status in 1836 and statehood by 1848.

•Fargo Brothers Hefeweizen [Seasonal] - The Fargo brothers arrived in Lake Mills in 1845, armed with a strong collective will and a pioneering spirit. The Fargo family became leaders in commerce, industry, agriculture, civics and religion. Through the years, these hard working men and their families shaped the character and very essence of our beautiful hometown. Their legacy endures in the buildings and businesses they built and the civility they brought to this city. In this same pioneering spirit, we brew our Fargo Brothers Hefeweizen to honor this "first family" of Lake Mills. Enoch and Lyman opened the Fargo drygoods store in 1845. In 1851, Enoch purchased the mills which helped provide Lake Mills with its name. In 1868, Enoch and Lyman organized the first foundry east of Milwaukee. Enoch also maintained interests in a grocery store, a farm and dairy, and the Lake View Hotel. Robert worked for his brothers in the store before becoming a telegrapher. Lorenzo homesteaded 500 acres and had 500 sheep was was a renowned philanthropist. Isaac served a pastor of the newly organized Baptist Church. Joseph built the city's first jail. The Lake Mills Fargo family legacy is remembered to this day in the L.D. Fargo Library (donated by Lorenzo D. Fargo), the Fargo Mansion Bed and Breakfast (home of Enoch's son), Crepaco (founded by Enoch's sons and one of Lake Mills largest employers), the Bank of Lake Mills (founded in part by the Fargo family), the Fargo Mercantile, Fargo Street, and the city's electric company (founded by Enoch's sons). Fargo Brothers Hefeweizen is brewed in the tradition of a Bavarian-style weißbier with a clove-like flavor and aroma with banana undertones and no bitterness. The unfiltered yeast makes this beer cloudy.

•Fighting Finches Mai Bock [Seasonal] - "The Finches will get you if you don't watch out!" In the early days of southern Wisconsin, falling into the clutches of the "Fighting Finches" was the ultimate threat. Moses Finch fathered 21 offspring whose most notable talents were stealing horses and robbing stagecoaches. From their stronghold in the impenetrable marshes west of Lake Mills, the Finches raided the farms of local settlers and held up the early travelers between Madison and Milwaukee. The Finches are long gone, but their legend lives on. So enjoy a pint of our Fighting Finches Bock... or you better watch out, 'cause the Finches are gonna get you! Fighting Finches Mai Bock is a deep golden traditional German-style Maibock. This medium bodied beer has a rich malty flavor and aroma accented with the subtle flavor of noble hops.

•Gemuetlichkeit Oktoberfest [Seasonal] - Gemuetlichkeit translates from German as "the fondness of feasting, drinking and merry company." This is true of most everyone in Wisconsin, especially those of us at the brewery. Each September in the nearby city of Jefferson City, Wisconsin, thousands turn out for Gemuetlichkeir Days, a celebration of the area's German heritage. We invite you to celebrate the spirit of Gemuetlichkeit with us. Don your lederhosen, kick up your heels with a polka and raise a stein of our Gemuetlichkeit Oktoberfest with a friend. Ein Prosit!

•Headless Man Amber Ale - The ancient peoples that inhabited Wisconsin are known for building numerous celestial stone monuments and earthen effigy mounds to serve as symbols of their culture and their beliefs. Unfortunately, most of these structures have fallen victim to the farmer's plow over the past 150 years. Not far from the brewery, lying preserved on the floor of Rock Lake, are two effigy mounds - a Headless Man and a Turtle. Legend tells us, as the Turtle can survive on both land and in water, its spirit helped guide the Headless Man into the afterlife. May the Turtle's spirit guide you to happiness with a Headless Man Amber Alt. The Headless Man is brewed in the "old way" of a Düsseldorf-style Altbier. A unique cold lagering process gives this amber ale its smooth taste.

•Shantytown Doppelbock - The sun barely breaks the horizon, the arctic winds bite, and snow blankets the land. It's winter in Wisconsin! Throughout the area, you'll find armies of fisherman, clad in blaze orange parkas and snowmobile suits, dragging their crudely built ice shanties onto the frozen lakes. While they vary in size, shape and color, each shanty contains an enthusiast braving the cold; spinning their tall tales; staring deeply into that hole in the ice; and, of course, enjoying a Legendary Wisconsin Beer. Brewed in the fall to help you survive our Wisconsin winters. Shantytown Doppelbock is brewed in the style of a German strong Doppelbock. Brown in color with malty sweetness and a full body.

•Stone Tepee Pale Ale - The legend of Tyranena began 3,000 years ago, with a group of pyramids and effigy mounds constructed in a remote valley formed by a vast, slow-moving glacier. Today, these ancient "stone tepees" lie 60 feet below the surface of Rock Lake in Jefferson County, Wisconsin. No one is certain how or why they were built, but many have speculated on their origin, purpose and the people who built them. We invite you to develop your own theories on the legend and mystery of Tyranena while enjoying a Stone Tepee Pale Ale.


As we approach China, our guide tells us: They "eat anything that has four legs and is not a chair and anything that flies and is not an airplane." This is a common saying in northern China about the Cantonese. Buying and eating rare animals is a common way of showing off. China's growing wealth means more lavish banquets, which means more exotic wildlife on the menu, like pangolins (which resemble armadillos), bear paw, snake and tiger. In Chinese restaurants, people often use code words to order the endangered species.

Chinese police have seized hundreds of bear paws and dead pangolins smuggled into China where they are prized as an expensive culinary delicacy with uses in traditional medicine. For example, the police made 20 arrests in a smuggling ring in the south-western province of Yunnan, seizing 278 bear paws and 415 pangolins which had been brought in by lorry or train from Yunnan to three neighboring provinces between December 2005 and January 2006. But the market for these illegal animals is so great that the law only catches up with a small percentage of what is consumed.

It is not an unusual sight in many areas of China to see live deer in a pen or crocodiles in a tank in a restaurant. In the wet markets, there are sections which look like petting zoos for exotic wildlife - but you have to be in the know to get access to them. In Southern China, for example, rare meat is known as ye wei (wild taste) and people believe eating exotic food can endow you with bravery, long life or sexual prowess.

The fat, skin, paws, bones, claws and other parts of bears, both from farmed bears or bears poached in the wild, is used in folk medicine as well as the basis for meals in expensive restaurants. Bear paws are used to treat everything from cancer to "general body weakness" to arthritis to impotence. The meat of the pangolin is considered highly nutritious, and its scales are prescribed to breast-feeding mothers, and for arthritis, asthma and to stopping infants drooling. One application is for prostate cancer and another for hemophilia. Pangolin urine is also believed to have medicinal properties.

Traditional Chinese medicine is undergoing a revival, as people turn to old-fashioned methods of healing as an alternative to the country's under-invested public health system. Among the unorthodox cures, by Western standards, are golden turtle's blood, which is used as a cure for cancer; sea horse to treat asthma, heart disease and impotence; rhino horn to stop convulsions; pickled turtle flippers for longer life; and fresh snake blood, a potent aphrodisiac. Eating owl is supposed to be good for the eyesight.

As well as their paws, bears are prized for their bile, which is used in 123 different kinds of Chinese medicines. Bear bile and gall bladders are used to treat a host of ailments, from burns to liver ailments. In the 1980's, China set up bear farms to extract the bile from the gallbladders of living bears, but even though the original intention was to help preserve the animals, farmed bears have a short life expectancy - around 4 years as opposed to 25 years of life in the wild. Conditions for animals kept in the bear farms can often be horrendous. The bile is extracted from the living bear through a steel tube inserted into the bears body.

As we continue our pilgrimage through this exotic land, someone is sure to ask: "What's for dinner?" McDonald's.


Let us now travel to the Land of the Midnight Sun in search of Juustoleipa. A word that is new to the American vocabulary and a cheese that is new to the palate. Pronounced HOOstah-lee-pah, this specialty cheese of Finland, Sweden and Lapland is becoming popular in the United States, especially in the Dairy State of Wisconsin.

Juustoleipa originated in East Bothnia, a province that follows the Bay of Bothnia from the Swedish border in the north to Finland. The name juustoleipa is derived from the Finnish language, juusto meaning cheese, and leipa which translates into English as bread. These two words are clues to the distinctive character of the cheese. A sweet caramel crust not only coats the cheese but helped to name it. A baking or grilling step during the cheese making process produces juustoleipa's trademark flavor and appearance. Path notes, "To our knowledge, it is the only cheese in the world manufactured using this process, although Scandinavian immigrants to the United States currently produce a similar homestead cheese called 'squeaky cheese.'"

You can serve juustoleipa cold or warm, for breakfast, snacks, or desserts, and in Finland it is often accompanied by cloudberry or lingonberry jam. (You might want to try cranberry jam in Wisconsin!) Juustoleipa isn't a finicky cheese, you can store it in the refrigerator for several weeks, or frozen, for months. You can warm it in the oven, or briefly, in the microwave.

We suspect that juustoleipa will find a niche in Mexican cooking. It resembles several Mexican style cheeses, although they are usually manufactured, refrigerated and the buyer follows with the cooking step.

In Finland, juustoleipa is a commercial cheese with extremely attractive packaging. You can find it easily since it fills a reasonable amount of shelf space in every food store. Finn producers of the cheese note that it represents 1 to 2 percent of the total cheese production. However, in Finland they only bake the product to an internal temperature of about 140° F, which means the shelf life is only 7-9 days - a major drawback.

At Fennimore Cheese, in Fennimore, Wisconsin, they have modified the manufacturing procedure of juustoleipa and are able to bake it at a much higher temperature, over 200°F. This effectively creates a more microbiologically stable cheese. Currently, they are expecting a 60-day shelf life, refrigerated and possibly 1 year frozen. The cheese is also produced by K&K Cheese in Cashton, Wisconsin.

We sincerely hope that you have enjoyed our journey. It has been great fun for us. We thoroughly enjoyed having you on board.

My very best regards.

Claudette Comeau

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