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Not My Job: We Quiz 'Bizarre Foods' Host Andrew Zimmern About White Bread

Nov 25, 2017
Originally published on November 25, 2017 11:00 am
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

And now the game where people who have done everything do one more thing. It's called Not My Job. Some people become famous and beloved culinary TV stars by making delicious food. Some of them do it by traveling the world and showing you where to get the finest cuisine. But one guy did it by traveling to Kazakhstan to eat horse rib and rectum sausage.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Andrew Zimmern is a chef, author, teacher and of course the host of "Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmern" on the Travel Network (ph).

Andrew, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

ANDREW ZIMMERN: Thank you, sir.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: It's great to have you. You live here in Minnesota, right here in Minneapolis.

ZIMMERN: I absolutely do - 26 years now, which - I'm almost pure-bred Minnesotan now.

SAGAL: And do you live in Minnesota because traveling the world eating these exotic things, you just want to come home to, like, basically bland pasta covered in cheese?

ZIMMERN: I came...

UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE: (Booing).

SAGAL: I'm sorry.

TOM BODETT: They can hear you, Peter.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: There's also - I for - sorry, no.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: They're angry 'cause I left out the cream of mushroom soup. I'm sorry.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: But here's the thing. As is very evident, you are an extremely informed guy from the food world. You were a chef yourself, an award-winning one. So how did a guy with your pedigree as a - in fine cuisine end up eating bugs for a living on TV?

ZIMMERN: Desperation and money.

SAGAL: Yeah, that'll...

(LAUGHTER)

ZIMMERN: No, it's not that shallow. I really - I saw a world 14, 15 years ago that was increasingly being predicated on defining itself by the ways in which we're divided.

SAGAL: Right.

ZIMMERN: And I didn't know what to do about it. And I wanted to tell stories about our commonality and the things that we loved. And I thought, let me tell a story about culture through food. And I will show people in this country that people wearing grass skirts and speaking in clicks and whistles are actually just like us.

SAGAL: You've eaten so many things. Was there anything you just couldn't get down?

ZIMMERN: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

ZIMMERN: Do I need to...

SAGAL: Yeah, well?

FAITH SALIE: Oh, yeah.

SAGAL: I'm kind of curious.

ZIMMERN: Dinner a couple weeks ago in New York at Faith's house, it was...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Oh, oh, oh.

SALIE: It's true. It's true. I can't cook.

ZIMMERN: I crushed a lot of the salad and just...

MO ROCCA: Yeah.

ZIMMERN: ...Left the pork tenderloin.

SAGAL: I understand the side and sit...

ROCCA: And she makes a terrible brontosaurus burger.

SAGAL: It does occur to me - you would be, like, the world's worst dinner guests, not because of your character or personality but, what if you don't like it?

ZIMMERN: Well...

SAGAL: This is a guy who ate horse anus sausage, but he didn't like my lasagna. I'm going to die.

(LAUGHTER)

ZIMMERN: It's fascinating, though. We - I'm disinvited to dinner as many times as I'm invited to dinner because often I'll have, you know, a guy friend who doesn't really realize what I do for a living. We just - you know, a buddy from the gym or a buddy...

SAGAL: Yeah.

ZIMMERN: ...From one part of work that I do or from the magazine or this or that - and he's like, oh, you got to come over to the house - just invites me over like you invite someone over. And then I get the call like a week later the night before and he says, you know, I forgot to tell my wife. And then I told her, oh, yeah, tomorrow night, I invited Andrew to come over for dinner.

She says, I am not cooking for a food professional...

SAGAL: Yeah.

ZIMMERN: ...Who's not only...

SAGAL: Yeah.

ZIMMERN: ...Eaten fermented whale anus but, you know, has done this and done that. And in comparing notes with other people who were at the big kids' table in the food world, it's pretty universal.

SAGAL: Yeah, I understand.

ZIMMERN: We get disinvited a lot. But that's why I like to cook and entertain for people anyway.

SAGAL: Sure, I understand. I know that the most typical question you get must be, what's the worst thing you've ever eaten?

ZIMMERN: Yes.

SAGAL: So what do you say when asked that?

ZIMMERN: I usually make a joke about someone else in the room and dinner at their table.

SAGAL: Yeah.

ZIMMERN: But it is probably all the fermented and rotted foods - they're very tough to get down. There are many cultures where their way of preservation was to simply let something decompose. Two, three, four weeks - if you tasted it, you'd die.

ROCCA: (Unintelligible). Right?

ZIMMERN: Six, seven, eight, nine weeks...

SAGAL: Yes.

ZIMMERN: ...The bad bacteria is eaten by the good bacteria. All the rot and stink is left there. And all - but there's no dangerous bacterium, and it's not going to spoil anymore. And this is the way that ancient peoples have eaten. And some of those dishes in almost every culture around the world has remained. In the first peoples of Alaska, it's stinkheads of salmon. In Greenland and Iceland, it's the Greenlandic ice shark that is allowed to ferment called the hakarl. In Ethiopia, it's enset, a bread that's left to rot for three months in the ground before they bake it. It comes out looking like blue cheese.

SALIE: (Laughter).

ZIMMERN: And it's just - it's horrific, but it's a superfood. Better for you than chocolate.

SAGAL: Yeah. Well, what isn't?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, Andrew Zimmern, we've invited you here to play a game we're calling...

BILL KURTIS: The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread is More Sliced Bread.

SAGAL: So as we have been discussing, you are famous for eating unusual and extreme foods. So we thought of course we'd ask you about white bread.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Answer two out of three questions about white bread, and you will win our prize for one of our listeners.

Bill, who is Andrew Zimmern playing for?

KURTIS: Amy Denholm (ph) of Cedar Falls, Iowa.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Here we go. You ready?

ZIMMERN: I am.

SAGAL: Here's your first question. Americans went from baking their own bread to buying it from stores really quickly around the turn of the 20th century. What was one of the reasons they all started buying factory-made bread? Was it A, the country was swept by a craze for perfectly square foods...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...B, a highly publicized murder case known as the Wichita bread poisonings; or C, everybody decided that kneading bread with your own hands was really gross?

ZIMMERN: God, I'm going to have to go with B.

SAGAL: The Wichita bread poisoning?

ZIMMERN: Sure.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: No, it was actually the last one. There was a huge sanitation craze for sanitary everything in the turn of the century. And everybody thought - oh, my God - putting my hands on bread, that's awful. Let's let the machines do it.

ZIMMERN: Fascinating.

SAGAL: I know.

ZIMMERN: I've now learned something and disappointed Amy.

SAGAL: I know.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, you haven't lost yet.

All right. We all know the saying, as Bill reminded us, the greatest thing since sliced bread. But when sliced bread was actually introduced, it had to be advertised how? A, the time-saving solution that cures mortality; B, the greatest thing since bagged bread...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...Or C, a collection of 25 stackable breadlettes (ph)?

ZIMMERN: Geez Louise.

SAGAL: Yeah.

ZIMMERN: Those are all so ridiculous.

BODETT: There's a claim.

(LAUGHTER)

ZIMMERN: I'm going to go B.

SAGAL: Yeah, you're right. That's it. Right.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

ZIMMERN: Simplest...

SAGAL: Simplest one because the big innovation...

(APPLAUSE)

ZIMMERN: Yes.

SAGAL: ...Before sliced bread was bread that came in its own..

ZIMMERN: In a bag.

SAGAL: ...Little bag. That was big news.

ZIMMERN: Yes, yes.

SAGAL: You people are so spoiled.

ZIMMERN: Is it Foucault's pendulum or Heidegger's - there's something that says that the easiest...

ROCCA: Schrodinger's cat.

ZIMMERN: ...Most obvious answer is...

SAGAL: That's Occam's razor.

ZIMMERN: Occam's razor - I knew it was...

SAGAL: Occam (unintelligible), yeah.

ROCCA: Somebody say something about Schrodinger's cat.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: That was actually - instead of saying something about Schrodinger's cat, you just referenced Schrodinger's cat.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Last question...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I guess we'll never know if that joke worked or not.

(LAUGHTER)

SALIE: Wow.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Your last question - if you get this...

ZIMMERN: Yeah.

SAGAL: ...One right, Andrew, you win.

White bread has been used for many things over the years other than food, such as which of these? A, an efficient and durable dish sponge; B, emergency bandages; or C, erasers?

ZIMMERN: I used it to make booze in jail once.

(LAUGHTER)

ZIMMERN: Sorry. I'm just so excited 'cause I'm...

SALIE: Like erasers on a chalkboard or erasers if you're writing with pencil?

SAGAL: If I were to answer - well, an eraser.

ZIMMERN: Well, that leans - but it's a good question, Faith. That leans me more towards B.

ROCCA: (Groaning).

(APPLAUSE)

ZIMMERN: It's definitely not A.

ROCCA: (Groaning).

ZIMMERN: Emergency bandage.

ROCCA: (Sighing).

ZIMMERN: Eraser.

ROCCA: (Groaning).

ZIMMERN: Let's - listen, why are you making those noises? You're going to make it worse. I'm going to...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Mo, you're allowed to help, just so you know.

ROCCA: No, I just...

SALIE: Wait. Didn't they - don't they say to put, like - if you get a black eye, you put meat on it, right?

ZIMMERN: Yes.

SALIE: So maybe you need like a carb to go with your protein.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Yeah.

BODETT: It's like an open-faced sandwich. That's what it is.

SAGAL: Yes.

ZIMMERN: Do you want to know something? If you're erasing something, you use your finger. If you're hurt yourself, you slap a piece of bread. I'll just go with B.

SAGAL: You're gonna go with B, the bandage?

(APPLAUSE)

SALIE: Uh-oh. I'm afraid to be responsible.

BODETT: Have you ever taken a piece of Wonder Bread. And you take the crust off and you ball it up into a little ball?

ZIMMERN: Oh, I love it.

BODETT: If you had a tiny little ball of bread like that that was hard and absorbent, you could probably use it for a...

(LAUGHTER)

ROCCA: A ban - an eraser or a ban...

ZIMMERN: I'll change my answer and cross my fingers for Amy and go to eraser.

SAGAL: It is an eraser.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

ZIMMERN: Thank you, Tom.

BODETT: You're welcome.

SAGAL: Thank - by the way...

BODETT: I knew that. I knew that. I grew up in the Midwest, by God.

ZIMMERN: Proving you should just listen to people that are around you.

SAGAL: Exactly.

BODETT: It also works as bait. You can catch bluegills and...

ZIMMERN: Oh, yeah. No, we went nuts.

SAGAL: Know that, yeah.

ZIMMERN: Bread - that's a no-brainer.

SAGAL: No, it's true. Apparently, Japanese art students in the 19th century were given bread to use as erasers. And because they were starving artists, they sometimes ate it.

ZIMMERN: Oh.

SAGAL: Bill, how did Andrew Zimmern do on our quiz?

KURTIS: He's a winner, two out of three.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Congratulations, Andrew - another success.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Andrew Zimmern is a four-time James Beard Award winner. His show "Bizarre Foods" and "Bizarre Foods America" air on the Travel Channel.

Andrew Zimmern, thank you so much for joining us.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Andrew Zimmern.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EVERYBODY EATS WHEN THEY COME TO MY HOUSE")

CAB CALLOWAY: (Singing) Have a banana, Hannah. Try the salami, Tommy. Get with the gravy, Davy. Everybody eats when they come to my house.

SAGAL: When we come back, we give thanks for the bravery of comedian Bassem Youssef and for the thrilling romance of author Nora Roberts. We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.