Ask a Volunteer
Q: What is the most unusual food item, by U.S. standards, you have encountered in your host country?
A: One of the delicacies here in Ecuador is guinea pig. They eat it barbecue-style with rice and potatoes. I have yet to eat it; I used to have guinea pigs as pets when I was younger, so I can’t quite bring myself to eat them!
Lindsay Dudley, Business Management Peace Corps Volunteer, Ecuador
A: The most unusual food item that I've eaten in my village is field mouse, which is delicious. Bop the mouse on the head with a stick, gut it, grill it directly on the coals, and then stew it with light soup. It’s surprisingly tender, with a flavor vaguely reminiscent of pork. I've also eaten cane rat, lizard, and dog.
Michael Dreyfuss, General Health Peace Corps Volunteer, Ghana
A: In Azerbaijan, we have khash, a thick soup made from cows’ feet. The hair is burned off the cow’s feet, and then the bones are boiled to remove the meat until the broth is the consistency of mucus. It is served with vodka. Some say that is to enhance the flavor; some say it’s to help you forget the flavor. Khash is supposed to be healthy and good for what ails you.
Amy Eilts, Youth Development Peace Corps Volunteer, Azerbaijan
A: The most unusual food that I've eaten in Mongolia has to be gedes, or animal innards. Mongolians grow up eating it all the time and love the stuff. Whenever the men slaughter a sheep or goat, they will put the innards into a tub for the women to take care of. The women squeeze all the excreta out of the intestines and stomach and clean everything really well.
The men have an ingenious way of killing the animal without spilling any blood. They cut a small hole in the chest, and then while covering the animal’s mouth, they reach in and squeeze the heart until the animal dies. The blood is saved. The women then use the blood to fill the intestines and stomach. Everything is then put into a pot to boil. When it's finished, everyone sits around a table and takes turns cutting off whichever piece they want. I've slowly become used to the taste, but that first meal of innards—and the thought of what I was eating—was very hard to get through.
Trip Edington, Community Development Peace Corps Volunteer, Mongolia
A: The biggest holiday in Morocco is the Muslim Aid-el-Kbir, or “Great Feast,” to celebrate Abraham’s sacrificing a lamb to God. In my village, no part of a sheep or goat is left uneaten, including the lungs, spleen, pancreas, and gall bladder. As a general rule, one third is eaten during the feast, one third is saved for later, and one third is given to charity.
Stephen Eldred, Environmental Education Peace Corps Volunteer, Morocco
A: I was shocked when I was served a goat head in onion sauce for dinner one night. Here in Mauritania, we eat everything with our hands and from a communal bowl, so the goat head was served whole. The skin had been taken off, but they left the eyelashes on! Although I don’t see myself making goat head when I return to the States, I would definitely eat it again.
Cortney Donnalley, Community Development Peace Corps Volunteer, Mauritania