Jerry Hopkins, who lives in Bangkok, is the author of "Strange Foods: Bush Meat, Bats and Butterflies" (Periplus), a look at unusual cuisines from around the world.
Q: What was a typical meal like during your youth?
A: Boring. Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and overcooked peas.
Q: Animal activists are pressuring the South Korean government to ban the eating of dog in advance of the 2002 World Cup hosted by the country. What do you think of their campaign?
A: Dog meat is a rather ordinary protein source in all of Asia--has been for thousands of years. There are plenty of food sources that we turn away from because of what we learned to eat and not eat when we were growing up. We deny ourselves variety and good nutrition. . . . [Westerners] have a very limited cuisine and a limited attitude about trying new things, but in time we will all be eating insects anyway.
Q: The McGrasshopper?
A: The time will come when we must find new protein sources, because cattle are not environmentally sound and wise. I grew up during the Second World War, when many things were in short supply, and I remember my mother making meatloaf extended by bread crumbs. Before we sit down to a plate of deep-fried grasshoppers, fast-food hamburgers will probably be augmented by mealworms, earthworms and other insect protein.
Q: Can you recall the last strange food to crawl or slither onto the Western dinner table?
A: During the mad cow disease scare, British Airways started serving ostrich medallions in first class. Ostrich and crocodile farms started making a profit.
When I was a kid, a friend's father served what everybody at a party thought was swordfish steak. At the end of the meal, he announced it was rattlesnake. A number of people went off to the bathroom to vomit. These days, snake is not as strange a food as it once was.
Q: What strange food has pleasantly surprised your palate?
A: A couple of days ago, I bought a bag of deep-fried salted moth larvae at a market in northern Thailand. I ate it like salted peanuts with a beer. I would never have imagined growing up that insects would be something I enjoy, but I do.
Q: Plan a dinner party menu made up entirely of strange foods.
A: First course: deep-fried scorpion on toast, followed by a salad of edible flowers garnished with deep-fried ants. I'd offer mealworm bread with a pate made of hot chilies and maegnda, a large water bug that tastes like a soft cashew. For the main course, I would want to serve dog. I'd probably just serve it in a simple curry. My second choice would be crocodile. Dessert would be durian ice cream, made from the smelliest fruit in the world.
Q: Have you ever turned down food that even you considered disgusting?
A: The first time I was offered fresh-drained snake blood, I couldn't do it. I've since consumed blood in a number of different ways, including bat blood in Vietnam. It was thick, warm and salty, and I admit I chased it down pretty quickly with a deep swallow of beer.
One of the hardest things for me to eat was shrimp sushi in Hawaii. To top off a meal, the sushi chef reached into an aquarium, pulled out a live shrimp, peeled it and plopped it on a lump of rice. He then squeezed a lime over it, causing the shrimp to wriggle and writhe in what appeared to be discomfort. And it was at that point that you put it into your mouth. Eating live food is something I don't cherish or particularly recommend.
Q: Describe the strangest meal you've eaten.
A: Pate made from my son's placenta. My son was born in 1972, and I was living in London at the time. For reasons that have faded, I thought it would be a good idea to [prepare it for dinner]. . . . It seemed like a waste to throw something away that had nourished my son for nine months.
David Wallis has interviewed a former flight attendant, a blind tour guide and a NASA-trained motion-sickness expert in his quest for travel-related insights. Got an idea for a future "The Word On. . . " column? Send a note to email@example.com or The Washington Post Travel section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.