Foreskin for thought: Andrew Zimmern comtemplates cannibalism at circumcision

You just can’t make this stuff up. Our friends at The Huffington Post have published a highly entertaining, albeit controversial, narrative by the host of the Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern.” As the name of his show attests, Zimmern travels around the globe, hanging with the locals and chowing down on the most freakishly weird/unsavory/downright disgusting foods imaginable. You might recall that Gadling’s Mike Barish memorably interviewed Zimmern last April.

Zimmern and his wife are in Madagascar, and while taping an episode of his show, he recently found himself in a position to put his reputation where his, ah, mouth is. It seems they were staying with a family in a remote village at the island’s southern end, and said family was celebrating the circumcision of their five-year-old son (to quote Zimmern, “Don’t ask…that’s just when they do it.”). It is traditional for the paternal grandfather to consume the foreskin afterward, or give it to an honored male guest (in this case, Zimmern).

Understandably, Zimmern is wondering if he can get past our Western taboo of consuming human flesh, especially at the risk of offending his gracious hosts. The foreskin is passed to the boy’s uncle, who places it upon the tip of a banana, as tradition, er, dictates (I promise to give the puns a rest, really). Eventually, the whole shebang was given to the maternal grandfather, who, Zimmern says, “scarfs it down like a hungry drunk at a hotel hors d’oeuvre buffet.” Cue Zimmern heaving big internal sigh of relief.

Zimmern’s a hilarious storyteller, and my synopsis doesn’t begin to do him justice. But the point he ultimately makes in this piece is that cultural differences are what make this big planet of ours such a fascinating place, and that we are enriched by these experiences if we approach them with tolerance and respect. As Zimmern says, “…I (also) live by a creed of acceptance and exploration, curious about everything and trying to experience life and translate that experience for my viewers.”