The best part about strangeness is it is completely relative, a matter of perspective. Nothing is really strange, just maybe strange-to-you, similarly to how aspects of your daily life might seem bizarre to someone from another culture. This applies to food as well.

The day I arrived in Venice, Italy I wanted my first dinner to be something authentically Venetian. At the suggestion of a well-traveled friend, I went cuttlefish ink pasta with cuttlefish, an officially strange-to-me choice. The only ink i’ve ever known is from printers and pens, and I’ve definitely never eaten it. My first impression, as might be yours when you look at the photo below, was wow… well this just looks like a straight up plate of worms, doesn’t it? 

cuttlefish

Photo via Sarah Freeman

After admittedly just kind of looking across the restaurant while I took a bite I was extremely relieved at the definitely-not-worms taste (not that I know what worms taste like, FYI, or that I might not eventually try them someday in some culture that calls for it). Truthfully it tasted like tomato sauce (there were lots of tomatoes involved) with seafood in it, plus a little something else. And for me the cuttlefish tasted somewhat similar to calamari. Not so strange indeed. I’m glad I tried it and I’m sure I’ll have it again next time I’m there.

When you travel, coming across strange-to-you food is inevitable because there are simply different resources and culinary traditions around the world, you should (almost) always say yes. It’s okay to be unsure and even a little uncomfortable, but what is important to remember is that your host culture has been dinning on its traditional cuisines for a long time and they’re still kicking, and plus they might make a similar face of shock and despair when they find out what you eat for lunch. Food is something that, in every culture, connects people, brings them together and allows them to share, and it highlights a universally common need for not just surviving but enjoying that survival. So jump in and get strange.

Have you tried cuttlefish ink pasta?

American by chance, but Roman by choice, Sarah is currently feeding her adventurous soul with expatriatism and pizza. Her finest moments are always on the wrong bus with a backpack and an upside down map, waiting to see what the world’s got for her next, so long as she can blog about it. She likes writing more than talking, dolphins more than humans, old movies more than new, and Rome more than anything else.

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