Couple travels across globe to eat bizarre food, write book

Divya Anand and her husband, Vivek aren’t ordinary couple who travel the world simply to take selfies or perhaps enjoy a romantic evening but rather they navigate the globe to eat bizarre foods like sipping snake wine in Cambodia or goose web in Singapore! Divya’s book, “Dare Eat That: A Guide to Bizarre Foods from Around the World” explores their journey to eat every species on earth. In a chat with News Today, Divya, a product manager by day and an author by night informs that her wanderlust gene is a result of having lived in three countries and eight cities.

* About the book
Divya says the journey of writing the book was very organic. “Vivek had been eating his way through the world for a while and catalogued it using a chart. Our friends were super excited by the chart and kept asking us how big it had grown, what new species had been added etc,” she says. “On a trip to Australia, a friend, Shreyas, gave us the idea that we should create a Kickstarter campaign around Vivek’s quest. That was the point where I realized that the concept was interesting and then began thinking about writing a book about it.”

* The explorer
Vivek began his culinary quest even before he met Divya. As he moved around India for his studies and work, he kept exploring the food at each location. When they started dating, Divya realized that she could very easily marry her love of travel with Vivek’s love for food. “That’s how we began travelling together,” she says. “Since he was already open to exploring and eating new foods, he extended this to our travels and also catalogued every new and bizarre species that he’s eaten.”

* Most bizarre
When asked about the most bizarre food she had ever tasted, Divya reveals it is ‘ant-egg bhurji’. “We found the ant eggs at Khlong Tooei market in Bangkok. We made bhurjee out of them in AirBnB kitchen with some butter and soy sauce,” she recalls. “While the preparation was simple, the eggs were delicious. They have a tangy, lemony flavor which comes from the mango leaves that the ants eat in the jungle. I highly recommend ant eggs to anyone who is interested in bizarre foods.”

Snake and Scorpion Wine at Night Market, Siem Reap in Cambodia

* Breaking barriers
Divya then proceeds to explain how she got the craving to eat food which normal people may find as ‘weird’ or ‘bizarre’.

“Vivek has always been a foodie. The first time he ate something which was not ‘normal’ was when he tried pork on a trip to Darjeeling. Once the mental barrier of eating something that wasn’t considered ‘food’ at home was broken, he began exploring with as many new dishes as possible,” explains Divya. “To him, none of the new species he eats are really ‘weird’ or ‘bizarre’, they’re just food. It also helps that we understand stories and history behind why different cultures eat these foods. This classification of ‘food’ vs. ‘not food’ or ‘weird food’ is all in the mind.”

* Unforgettable experience
Divya says that the most ‘exciting’ incident in their travels would be when Vivek decided to eat pufferfish. “Pufferfish can only be cooked by licensed chefs because it can be poisonous if made incorrectly,” she says. “While we were at a licensed restaurant, it was still an adrenalin filled experience as I wasn’t sure what could happen.”

The couple ate Bater (Quail) Tandoori at Toni daa Dhaba in Pune

* Travel writing tips
Divya offered tips for budding travel writers. “Focus on descriptions – armchair traveling still needs to transport a reader to the place you are talking about. They need to be able to see, smell, and experience the place through your descriptions of it,” she says. “While the writing may have photos, my focus is on ensuring that the descriptions themselves can convey the feel of the place.”

* What next?
The couple are considering Laos as their next stop, and also aim to head to the North-East to experience what India has to offer. Divya has started working on a children’s book. Visit their blog

Mohammed Rayaan