Gastro Obscura: A Food Adventurer’s Guide

Cecily Wong and Dylan Thuras. Workman, $40 (448p) ISBN 978-1-5235-0219-6
Like a cross between Larousse Gastronomique and Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, this sprawling, encyclopedic odyssey is crammed to its “air-breathing monster fish” gills with weird delicacies, lost histories, potent potables, bizarre bazaars, and circumspect rituals of consumption. Culled from submissions by the editors and readers of the travel oddity website Atlas Obscura, the brief entries lift the veil on the sport of haggis hurling in Scotland, the medicinal use of Soviet-era blood candy (for “treating low levels of iron”), and the importance of camel jerky in northern Somali wedding ceremonies (it can make or break a groom’s reputation). Chapters are arranged geographically, leaving almost no cave, mountain, or seabed unexplored for readers to gleefully browse at will. A modern-day oyster vending machine in France shares a page with cocaine-laced wine of the late 19th century, as do a cow’s head barbecue in Texas and a potato doughnut from Utah. Elsewhere, a write-up of the Chinese city of Gaoyou, known for its double-yolked duck eggs, comes close on the heels of a thumbnail history of China’s rou jia mo, the world’s first sandwich (circa 221–207 BCE). This compendium is a must-have for those who like their pickles brined in Kool-Aid or crave the chewy texture of Inuit blubber cubes. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 06/11/2021
Release date: 10/01/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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