Illegal Foods and How to Eat Them

Sometimes traveling abroad means engaging in certain activities that might be considered illegal back home. Nothing very serious, mind you, like smoking a Cuban cigar for example (if you happen to be American).

The alluring of that which is forbidden seems even stronger when it involves food. This, of course, makes crossing international borders to place contraband in your mouth all the more exciting.

Flirting with the Forbidden, a recent article in Travel and Leisure, discusses the attraction of such culinary adventures. The article kicks off with an illegal dinner in New York in which a dozen ortolan were smuggled into the country and consumed whole. Ortolan are small, endangered songbirds which bring a $10,000 fine if one is caught hunting them in France.

Ortolans are illegal to eat regardless of where they are consumed. Flirting with the Forbidden, however, mostly focuses on food which is prohibited in certain parts of the world but which can be consumed legally in other parts. Foie gras, for example, is becoming increasingly difficult to buy in America as various states have begun prohibiting its production and sale.

Foie gras is just one of many delicacies that foodie Roberto Badin sheds big crocodile tears over. New legislation in the States has recently been preventing a whole host of exotic foods from entering our mouths; beluga caviar, wild mushrooms, live lobsters, Brie de Meaux, jamon iberico, and even unpasteurized milk. Badin even laments over the impossibility of buying a hamburger in the United States cooked rare as many regional health ordinances require the patties to be heated to 160 degrees at the minimum. “Every week, it seems, another menu item–from foie gras to Chilean sea bass, trans fats to organic spinach–is ostracized as unhealthy, environmentally destructive, morally shameful, or downright lethal.” Badin comments. And it’s true.

So what steps can a foodie take to indulge in such culinary contraband? Smuggling is one option slyly suggested. In fact, Badin goes so far as to actually confess his contraband of choice: mangsteens. I sure hope that’s a pseudonym, Mr. Badin! Otherwise customs is going to have some fun with you the next time you return next from Thailand.

America has a lot of silly and also a lot of very legitimate food laws that should be honored or broken depending upon what they are. We here at Gadling certainly don’t suggest you go smuggling in your favorite unpasteurized French cheese next time you fly home, but we do suggest that you travel abroad to exercise your food rights and chow down on all those goodies you can’t have back home in America.

Just don’t sue us if you get sick.