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Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre World of Food: Brains, Bugs, and Blood Sausage Paperback – June 12, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

ANDREW ZIMMERN is a food writer, dining critic, and chef, and the co-creator, host, and consulting producer of the Travel Channel series Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern and Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre World. Zimmern is the founder and editor in chief of, and he writes monthly for Delta's Sky magazine and Minneapolis St. Paul magazine. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and son.

From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Modern-Day Vikings: Puffin Hunting in the Land of Fire and Ice

Iceland looks and feels like no other place on earth. As our plane touched down just outside Reykjavik, I was almost convinced we’d landed on the moon. Not surprising, given that NASA astronauts trained in Iceland prior to the first moon landing. In much of the country, the barren, rocky topography looks otherworldly. Iceland, which is roughly the size of Ohio, is a glacial, rocky, moss-covered expanse born from volcanic eruptions. Treeless mountains, sweeping fields of arctic grasses waving out to the horizon, awe-inspiring geysers, raging rivers, spectacular ocean vistas, and therapeutic hot springs fueled by underwater volcanoes are stunning but make much of the island uninhabitable. Iceland is called the Land of Fire and Ice, yet despite its staggering natural beauty, the overwhelming majority of the population lives in the capital city of Reykjavik. Everyone else is a farmer or works in either the thermal energy business (booming) or the greenhouse-gardening industry (emerging).

 * Reykjavik is the world’s northernmost capital city and is home to two-thirds of Iceland’s total population of about 320,000 people.

* Iceland’s name implies that the weather is freezing, but that’s not the case. Summer temps rarely hit the sixty-degree mark, but the winters are surprisingly mild--the average temperature in January is 32°F.

* The only native land mammal when humans arrived was the arctic fox, which came to the island at the end of the last ice age, walking over the frozen sea. There are no native reptiles or amphibians on the island.

 The country is changing and growing all the time--literally. In 1963, a volcanic explosion just off the southern coast of Iceland created an island that eventually expanded to one square mile in size. This landmass, named Surtsey after Surtur, the Icelandic fire god, grew to this official landmass status in only three and a half years. I was fortunate enough to travel to Surtsey by boat one day. It’s a phenomenal thing to see, an island that is as big as it is, that is as new as it is, and freakishly almost exactly as old as I am.

I knew the food in Iceland would be wonderful. As a chef in New York and Minneapolis, I’d always been floored by the quality of the Icelandic lamb, dairy products, and seafood I’d run across from time to time. Icelandic animals drink the cleanest water on earth, eat the freshest grass, and breathe the purest air. Everything, from the horses to the sheep and cows, is genetically pristine, and the animals are raised not only for their meat but for their milk and cheese products. Skyr, the addictively cheesy yogurt product you see everywhere in Iceland, comes from cows that eat sweet grass for a brief period of time, then silage for most of the year. The cows’ diet produces a unique flavor profile that is distinctly their own.

I spent much of my time in Reykjavik, puttering around town and enjoying the beautiful summer weather. Summer temperatures climb into the forties during the day, maybe the fifties in the sun.

* Because Iceland is so close to the North Pole, the country experiences midnight sun in the summer. In the winter, expect only four to five hours of daylight.

The food scene in Iceland is vibrant. I was looking forward to my first taste of puffin, those cute little black-and-white birds with big orange beaks. Before you get yourself all worked up about me eating this cute ’n’ cuddly creature, consider the fact that only about 320,000 people call Iceland home. The puffin population, on the other hand, runs between 8 and 10 million. Icelanders could eat puffin meat at every meal from now until eternity and they would never make a dent in the region’s population. As a matter of fact, they urge people to eat the birds as a point of civic duty because there are just so many of them.


But to eat the best puffins, and to hunt them where they live, you need to head south of Reykjavik. There you’ll find the Vestmannaeyjar Islands, a cluster of smaller islands that make up one of the region’s most famous fishing communities. This area’s other claim to fame is the 1973 volcanic eruption on Heimaey, the largest island in the chain. It’s Iceland’s version of Pompeii, but only a few decades old. Lava flows crushed half the town, and when you see the end results of something that destructive and realize that it happened within your lifetime, it takes your breath away. You see homes buried, and cars half frozen in black, porous rock. Luckily, everyone was able to get off the island in time to save themselves.

Millions of puffins call the Vestmannaeyjar Islands home, and the local restaurateurs take advantage of this ample source of food. The rest of the citizenry are devoted puffin eaters or hunters, or both. Once our six-seat puddle jumper landed on Heimaey, the Bizarre Foods production crew and I tried to negotiate our way over to the far side of Vestmannaeyjar, with its simple harbor, occasional spouting orca, seals, and numerous birds. We ended up running into a guy who claimed he could arrange to have us picked up by boat on the far side of the island and taken to an uninhabited area to experience a puffin hunt firsthand. Without hesitation, we piled into our van and headed over.

It’s a bright, beautiful summer’s day in Iceland, perfect sweatshirt weather. We pass alongside a huge half-moon bay, complete with breathtaking views of the ocean and the outer isles, which include Surtsey. We start unloading our gear onto the mile-long black sand beach at Surtsey. There isn’t a trace of human imprint as far as you can see. Not a jet contrail in the sky, not a footprint in the sand, not a boat at sea . . . it’s just empty and desolate. You know for sure you’re at one of the ends of the earth--a feeling I find so satisfying I could have sat on that beach all day.

From the Hardcover edition.


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 1220L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Ember; Reprint edition (June 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385740042
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385740043
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,586,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Atticus on August 18, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is definitely a good read. HOWEVER, the content is 99% the same as Zimmern's first book "The Bizarre Truth: How I Walked Out the Door Mouth First . . . and Came Back Shaking My Head" So, if you already have read the first book, DO NOT get "Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre World of Food: Brains, Bugs, and Blood Sausage"
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Alison's VINE VOICE on June 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
My son loved it, and only after his insistence, I gave it a shot. I'm glad I did!

It just goes to show that mom shouldn't always choose the books! When this book came in the mail, there were equal amounts of cries of "Ewww!", squeals of delight, and quiet moments of reading. My older son excitedly read especially gross passages aloud to my younger son...only to free me of any appetite I might have had. He also read aloud some interesting facts he thought I would appreciate.

For those of you who are not addicted to the Travel Channel, Andrew Zimmern hosts a show called Bizarre Foods, now in its 6th season. He travels around the world experiencing exotic cultures and cuisine we Americans would probably never eat. His book brings his show right to the audience who would appreciate it most - fearless Middle Grade readers.

I have to be honest, my son read more of the captions in the fact bubbles throughout the book rather than read each chapter word-for-word. If there was a topic that was particularly interesting, he read more of these few chapters. I was okay with this, especially since he was a bit younger than the recommended age 10 and up.

Bizarre Food is not just for kids! There are travel tips and tricks sprinkled throughout the book that we could all benefit from - tips on choosing street food, being sensitive to sacred cows in Hindu cultures, and which hand to eat with as to not insult your host in India (use your right hand!).

There are a few photographs printed in the book, courtesy of The Travel Channel. Even though some of the more bizarre foods made me squeamish, we all wished there were more pictures throughout the book, instead of only in the middle.

This was a great book of Bizarre Food for the whole family! The best part? We ALL learned a few things!
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Format: Kindle Edition
We read this as our guided reading book for fifth grade in Northern California's Bay Area. My kids not only picked up the themes, they also learned important lessons on text features and text structure and LOVED IT THE WHOLE TIME!
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By Neicie on August 14, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Who doesn't love Andrew Zimmern?

This book is fun. It was one of the options for my son's 8th grade summer reading. We love the show and my son loved the book.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Doesn't sound like a healthy occupation or pastime. Interesting book though, what people eat for one reason or another around the world.
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By JanG on December 31, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Silly, but sort of a "fun" book to skim through. Sometimes I wonder about this guy! Has he really eaten all these foods!
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