There is a restaurant in Tokyo where people are paying a lot of money to eat dishes where the key ingredient is dirt.
Remember when your parents told you to stop eating dirt? Or when you convinced a friend to eat one of your mud pies (or, worse, were yourself convinced to take a bite)? Well, there is a French restaurant in Tokyo, Japan, where every course of one particular meal on the menu is soil-based. And its not some avant-garde artsy thing where you're only supposed to admire the dish and not eat. In fact, you're invited to chow down. But a word to the wise: The items on the menu aren't dirt cheap.
At the Ne Quittez Pas restaurant, dinner will cost you $110 a person. Alex Zolbert of CNN followed up on the story about the French restaurant that first made headlines at the end of January. And like a good investigative reporter, he got the real dirt on what was going on.
Chef Toshio Tanabe studied in France and says the idea for the dishes on the menu at his seafood restaurant all came about "naturally." The menu sometimes includes such down-to-earth dishes as a dirt risotto with flounder, baked potato with dirt sauce, a salad with dirt dressing, and dirt soup. For dessert there's even a dirt ice cream.
And yes, people are actually paying to eat dirt. Why? According to Zolbert, it's delicious.
The idea of dirt as fine cuisine actually comes from famed French chef Michel Bras, who created a dish called gargouillou, a name he borrowed from a traditional French regional dish centered around potatoes and flavored with a slice of ham. According to the Wall Street Journal, his creation, which he serves at his own restaurant, contains some 40 to 60 vegetables, herbs, leaves and flowers that represents Aubrac (Bras' home) in a plated form.
For those who are a bit squeamish about the dirt ingredient found in the dishes, it should be noted that the dirt is nutrient-rich, laboratory inspected, and heated to extreme temperatures in order to destroy any insidious bacteria, all before becoming part of any chefs menus.
Beside, eating dirt is nothing new. Geophagy, or the eating of dirt and clay, has been around forever and was first documented by the Greek philosopher/physician Galen in the second century (A.D.) when he noticed the widespread behavior in sick and injured animals and birds. There are those who subscribe to the idea of gaining physiological assimilation -- and an increased bacteriological immunity -- to an area or region by eating soil from those particular areas or regions.
Still, it is difficult to see dirt becoming a staple of anyone's diet and obsessive cravings for dirt and other non-food items is an actual eating disorder -- called pica -- catalogued in the DSM-IV. But this isn't the abnormal devouring of loam...
Along with the warnings when you were a child, your parents also often told you when you swallowed a little soil: A little dirt never hurt anyone. That was true, for the most part. But who would've thought anyone would charge -- let alone pay -- for the privilege to eat a menu item where the key ingredient was dirt? Further: who would have thought that, given most accounts, the dirty dishes on these French restaurant menus would be enjoyable?
But that $110 per person price tag... Well, let's just say that's a lot of cabbage to be forking over just to eat dirt.
(photo credit: Yelkrokoyade, Creative Commons)
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