Growing up, I took good meals for granted. Cooking was technically in my blood (my father’s first jobs were in the kitchen of my grandfather’s restaurants) but creating nor eating food were ever primary passions of mine. At the dinner table, I was often too distracted by a TV show or video game to focus my food. I ate like a bird and snacked on junk while my parents were always at the ready with delicious food and new recipes. It wasn’t until I started cooking for myself that I realized how good I had it.
Though I’ve graduated from only cooking pastas that include powdered sauce packets and instructions on the box, I still maintain some of those bad habits from my youth. I can still be picky. I tend to stick to the same food over and over again. So what better time than now to tackle some of these issues?
DRINK RAW EGGS:
I’m a full blown germaphobe. I’ve been known to use Purell immediately after washing my hands, and I’ve gotten pretty good at using every part of my body other than my hands to stabilize myself on the subway. I also tend to overcook everything in fear of disease. I’ve already gone through two meat thermometers in the past year out of extensive use. I’m hoping to avoid the hat trick.
Once again, I looked to pop culture and took a cue from the Italian Stallion. Though I didn’t plan on running through the streets afterwards, I hoped to win some manly points by drinking the original protein shake, made famous by Rocky. And yes, that’s a picture of guinea pigs playing table tennis on the calendar behind me. One manly step at a time, people.
I felt like I had a stone in my stomach and obsessed about Salmonella poisoning the rest of the day. But I worked through it and felt back to normal the next day. I still think I’ll stick to sunny side up.
EAT BULL PENIS:
It’s rare that I’ll try something different at a restaurant on a repeat visit. I tend to find an item I like and stick with it. I’ve gotten less picky than I was even a couple years ago, but I’m by no means an adventurous foodie. Despite living in a culinary capital, I still have a soft spot for the chain restaurants of my surburbia youth. But seriously, what chance does anyone have against Olive Garden breadsticks? They’re chemically engineered to be delicious.
In order to introduce a little danger to my palette, Q and I ventured to Kenka, a Japanese restaurant in East Village. We were the only non-Japanese people there by my estimation, a sure sign of an authentic eatery. The food was delicious, the sake selection was extensive, and the cotton candy that completed our meal was a delight. But I was there with a particular agenda: to try bull penis.
Among the more exotic menu items at Kenka, such as the maggot fried rice or the turkey testicles, the bull penis stood out the most in all the Yelp reviews I read. It smacked of a Fear Factor challenge, but some of the reviews hinted that it could be an enjoyable experience. Only a few short minutes after we ordered, the waitress arrived with the bull penis on a plate of lettuce, doused with an orange dressing.
Now that I’ve had a chance to gather my thoughts, I can say that the bull penis tasted like a bland sausage. It was slimy, but the sauce was sweet and tangy and overpowered most of the other flavors of the dish. The texture was unpleasant but manageable. It’s not something I’d pay for again, but if someone bought me a bull penis at Kenka, I’d probably partake. Though maybe just the tip this time.
HOT PEPPER CHALLENGE:
I don’t shy away from spicy foods. But I can’t help but feel emasculated when I order a spicy dish at a Thai or Indian restaurant and have to qualify it as “hot, but not Thai/Indian hot.”
Maybe I could handle Thai/Indian hot. I mean, probably not, but in this great man journey of 2013, it’s at least a venue to be explored. I enlisted the help of Drew, the intrepid photographer from the Stick Shift challenge, as a fellow participant. Drew is a spicy food fan as well, though he’s never done anything like this before.
We brought out a plate of Jalapeño, Serrano, Thai Chili, and Habanero peppers. Each pepper is exponentially hotter than the previous one, as verified by the Scoville scale, which measures the hotness of chili peppers in quantifiable terms. We allowed ourselves milk and Cheerios to offset some of the heat because we’re not masochists. That’s Jenny’s voice you hear behind the camera, my MANtor from the Stick Shift challenge, who I think takes a bit too much glee in seeing me and Drew suffer and squirm.
Out of those who have already seen the video, there’s been two schools of thought: either our taste buds were burned off by the time we got to the Habaneros, or their neon green color means that they hadn’t ripened yet, falling short of their full hotness potential. Either way, this one’s in the books as far as I’m concerned.
ON THE MAN SCALE…
None of the eating challenges made me feel intensely manly, nor did they affect my eating habits in a big way. However, they did force me outside of my comfort zone, so maybe the lessons learned will have a lasting effect. In any case, I just want the breadsticks at Olive Garden to know that I love them and nothing will ever come between us.
Raw eggs: 2.13; Bull penis: 1.87; Hot peppers: 2.36.