15 things every man should have eaten before he’s 35

Lamb Zarb

Cooking doesn’t get more primal and exciting than this. For centuries, the bedouins have been burying hot coals and meat in the desert sand and letting it cook, slowly. What comes out of the hole many hours later is the most seductive aroma and tenderest lamb imaginable. But you also get to learn an ancient lesson in cooking, hospitality and survival in one of the world’s harshest environments.

Sushi that isn’t off a conveyor belt

Strictly speaking, conveyor belts are for factories and airports, not restaurants. True, conveyor belts brought sushi to the masses, which is a good thing.

 

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But to appreciate the sheer skill and artistry involved in real sushi, you have to visit a proper sushi restaurant. You’ll begin to understand the delicate balance between nature, texture, temperature and flavour that makes real sushi a genuine art form. And you won’t feel like you’re in a factory.

 Caviar

You’re at a dinner party among esteemed guests. They start discussing caviar. You’d like to join in the conversation, but you’ve never had caviar. You feel embarrassed. How could you get to 35 without trying one of the world’s most coveted luxury foods? If you had, you’d be part of the cultured elite who know that the excruciatingly expensive sloppy black fish eggs taste like salt – a lot of salt – that’s been kept for a month in a trout’s pocket.

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A meal cooked by a Michelin-star chef

Whether they’re a genuine mark of excellence, or just a glorified backslapping exercise, Michelin stars are what set the René Redzepis of this world apart from the Ronald McDonalds. Standards of service, hygiene and culinary artistry will almost certainly be as high as the bill. At the very least, it’s a chance to see what all the fuss is about and brag to your friends.

Something you’ve killed yourself

Most proud carnivores would kill for a juicy steak. Or would they? The uncomfortable truth about meat is that somebody has to slaughter it. So why shouldn’t it be you? You don’t have to bring down a wildebeest on the plains of the Serengeti or wring the neck of a chicken in your backyard. Catching a fish will do. It’s edifying for a man to know he has the guts and respect to kill what he eats.

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Real Wagyu beef

There’s no steak like the heavily marbled, intensely flavoursome meat of the Japanese Wagyu breed of cow. Much of it is reared in Australia and the US, but to experience the knee-bending pleasure of genuine Wagyu, you have to go Japanese. Look out for the Kobe, Matsusaka or Ohmi varieties, which all benefit from the unique terroir and intensive care of Japanese farms. Only then can you say you’ve had the best beef in the world.

Cassava

It’s estimated that over half a billion people around the world rely on cassava as a staple food. Unlike other staples such as rice, potatoes or maize, there’s a reason why you rarely see it in restaurants – it’s not very nice.

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Often bitter or woody, it must be prepared carefully to remove toxins. But it keeps people alive. You should try it so you know what they have to put up with.

100 per cent cacao chocolate

Your idea of pure chocolate might be a Snickers cake with a Cadbury’s creme egg on top, but believe it or not, that’s about as far from real chocolate as Rolf Harris is from a carefree shower. With its bitter, leathery flavour, chocolate made with 100 per cent cacao (or cocoa) is a surprisingly intense experience, up there with smoking a fine cigar.

Something you’ve grown yourself

Just because you’re a clean-living vegetarian doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get your hands dirty. Growing and eating your own fruit, herbs or vegetables makes you appreciate the time, care and diligence required to put food on your table.

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Converting your garden into an arable farm might be a turnip too far, but you can easily grow cherry tomatoes, coriander and even chillies on the hottest of desert balconies.

Something nasty

If you can eat fish-head curry while all those around you are losing their appetites; if you can confidently crack the shell of a balut egg, and not squeal at the downy duck embryo inside…

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If you can stomach the stinking maggot-ridden cheese of casu marzu, or nibble deep-fried Thai cockroaches with pride; you’ll be able to convince your children to eat their salad, and everything that’s in it, and you’ll be a man, my son.

Something dangerous

Killing your own food is one thing – what about food that can kill you? Cheating death can be hungry work, so head to Japan and have fugu, or pufferfish, which contains a poison 1,200 times deadlier than cyanide.

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Chefs undergo years of training to obtain a fugu licence, but that hasn’t stopped more than 20 fugu eaters dying in Japan since the turn of the century. Good luck!

A lot of chilli

It’s embarrassing for a man when his dinner-date is popping chillies like they were cherry drops, while he sits cowering in the corner sucking an ice cube with a wet towel on his head.

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Also, chillies taste good. They’re in curry, peri-peri chicken and pretty much all Mexican food. If you haven’t built up a resistance to hot chillies by the time you’re 35, you probably never will.

Camel meat

To understand why the camel is regarded with such warmth and affection in the Gulf, you must eat its meat. A highly prized delicacy, camel meat is usually saved for special family occasions, such as births or weddings. If it’s a young one, the meat is tender and rich in flavour, and aside from the fatty hump, is generally leaner than most red meat.

Oysters

You can divide men into two categories. Those who can swallow oysters, and those who can’t. For the latter group, eating oysters is like swallowing a fisherman’s phlegm.

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But for a real man, an oyster is a divine gift from the oceans, bursting with complex saline flavours, delivering a zinc blast that will keep him sharp and alert for whatever the night may yield.

Proper Parmesan

There comes a time in every man’s life when he must understand what proper Parmesan cheese is.

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Parmigiano-Reggiano is a solid block of fragrant pressed cow’s milk cheese from certain regions of northern Italy – not the pre-shredded stuff in little cardboard tubes that looks and tastes like sweaty toe-hair dandruff. OK?

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