I have put some horrible things into my body in my time. Absinthe, for one. I even managed to win lots of money by playing Swish-and-Spit. What’s that, you ask? As you and a bunch of friends sit around a table at a bar, everyone chips in $20. Now you pass around a glass of water, taking turns sipping, then swishing the water around in your mouth, and spitting it back in. (It helps if you have all eaten just prior to playing the game.) Eventually, as the amount of floaty bits in the water increases, people will bow out and the last person standing wins the money, and possibly dysentery. (Helpful tip to winning: point out in later rounds how the water level in the glass has actually dropped.)
But nothing, and I mean nothing, can prepare you for the horror of eating cow brains.
My hosts here in Indonesia decided it would be a riot if they took me out for a traditional Indonesian lunch of Nasi Pedang, which they assured me was just like the Indonesian version of tapas. Apparently, they misspelled “nasti.”
The only thing that nasi pedang and tapas have in common are that they both arrive in an army of little plates. Other than that, nasi pedang is basically the discarded animal parts left over from when you make tapas.
For example, cow skin:
Hey, we have cow skin in America, but we wear it on our feet and store our money in it. What we don’t do is boil it and serve it at lunch. It was about as tender as chewing on a purse.
And then the plate of cow brains was passed to me. I thought I could handle it, as I’d seen Hannibal and Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom. Nope! (Chuck Testa!) With each squishy, spongy bite, I ingested cow thoughts, giving me quick flashes of this bovine’s life. Chomp. “Mmm, grass.” Chomp. “Goddamn teenagers, tipped me over again.” Chomp. “Hey get away from me with that Anton Chigurh thing!”
I vomited three times at the restaurant. It’s been four hours, and I just vomited again as I was writing this. Just check out the picture at the top of this post. You can see the medulla oblongata. Or is that the hypothalamus? The only thing I know for sure is that it’s the part that ended my foray into brain eating.
Sadly, my Swish-and-Spit championship run has come to an end. Especially if I find myself at another nasi pedang lunch with hungry Indonesians. And I know for sure I could never be a cow zombie.
Ugh. Just had upchuck number five.
Which just goes to prove the power of the mind! (If you eat just one mind, you’ll be vomiting for hours.)