9 Crazy Things I Ate Around the World

Hello! Hola! Sawatdee-ka! As I am sure you’ve all noticed, I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus during the course of this past year. Why, you may ask? I volunteered to take an 11-month long journey to 11 countries to serve in orphanages, villages, and churches. My travels took me from Central America, Southeast Asia, and Africa. This chapter will certainly be one of the most rewarding and heart-transforming of my life.

If you’d like to read more about my travels and epiphanies I experienced, you can check out my other blog here! If, however, you’re more interested in all things strange, traditional, and delicious, then stick around here on The Thrive Life!

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Those coconuts were on those trees behind us about 30-seconds before we drank them. #nowthatisfresh

To kick-off the mouth-watering and mesmerizing array of foods, here’s a fun list of some of the crazier things I ate around the world:

1. FRIED TARANTULA // Siem Reap, Cambodia

12743616_10156562348180525_5798225656330473208_nThis was one of my more surprising foodie adventures. Known for their affinity for creepy crawly delicacies, Cambodia offers various bug cafes where you can push your palate’s limits. Tarantulas, scorpions, and crickets are widely available on the streets of Siem Reap via market stands and carts.

One bite into the tarantula and I was totally freaked out by the eight hairy legs within view.  After a few crunchy bites, it actually proved to be pretty yummy– salty and crunchy, with a slight furry texture.

2. JICARO HORCHATA // San Pedro Sula, Honduras

12346456_941518082608957_5650511031471855666_nIn Honduras, you’ll often find the traditional Horchata made with jicaro seed as the primary ingredient. Our lovely host whipped up a batch of horchata for a birthday party we were attending and the results were as follows, from the words of my friends:

“I feel like I’m drinking a plant.”
“This tastes like we’re sipping on dead leaves”.
“You guys, I just threw mine out the window.”
“Well, I like it.”

A number of things could have gone wrong here. Jicaro is not something I would personally consider delicious, coupled with the fact that our host used water instead of milk, and I don’t think any sweetener was added. I would probably give horchata another try in other circumstances, but I’m with the girl who described it as “dead leaves”.

photo source: beedeephoto

3. SNAILS // Da Nang, Vietnam

Vietnamese SnailsMy lovely Vietnamese friend walked in our hostel with a bag of shells in her hand. It looked like she had just gone shell collecting by the ocean, until she doused them in chili sauce and took a little twig to start pulling out the meaty insides.

As a good Vietnamese friend, she quickly offered my friends and I some snails of our own. The challenge of yanking out the snail, paired with the spicy, salty flavor– I was hooked. Best described as, “They taste pretty oceany.” And the ocean is pretty freaking delicious.

4. SACHA INCHI // Battambang, Cambodia

12715834_10156562224270525_5943915734925880358_oAlso known as the “mountain peanut” from South America, sacha inchi seeds grow on beautiful vines and are now cultivated all over Southeast Asia. As part of our volunteer program, our team spent hours cracking open the shells of these beautiful pods of happiness.

Literally, I had these things stuffed in my pockets, I could not get enough. All day long I dreamt of a day I could smash these seeds down into sacha inchi butter (Is this a thing yet, Internet?!). Smooth, nutty, and creamy, these seeds blew my taste buds’ minds. The only downside: too many = diarrhea. Nosh with caution.

5. FRIED CATERPILLARS // Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Zimbabwean CaterpillarsEven with channelling my inner “Hakuna Matata” and envisioning Simba gobbling down a delicacy of assorted bugs, Disney magic couldn’t help me here. My friend Anna picked up a small bag of fried caterpillars from the market to share with our group.

I stuck to my “you-gotta-try-it-once” policy and went in for the kill. No surprises here; it was as horrible as I imagined. They basically tasted like crunchy, burnt twigs that disintegrated in your mouth. Thanks for trying, Anna.

6. FRUIT ROJAK // Sungai Petani, Malaysia

Malaysian RojakOn return from a day at the waterfalls, our Tamil friend grabbed this Malay treat from a roadside stand. Pineapple, cucumber, green mango were all tossed together with a BBQ-like sauce and topped with crunchy peanuts.

Overall, the dish was pretty tasty and a suitable cool, crunchy snack after a day roaming around nature. We split the dish between the four of us and I could only have a small amount due to the richness of the sauce. This could be a fun dish to try to recreate for a BBQ or pool party!

7. RAPE // Blantyre, Malawi

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“Yes, rape… like the crime.” — My Local Malawian Friend

As odd as it sounds, I could eat rape for days. Rape greens were served to us daily while in Malawi. The best way to describe the taste was like a mild version of kale, or more potent version of spinach.

We had them served steamed with diced tomatoes and onions, and occasionally minced garlic when we were getting fancy. A super easy dish to make and eat. This will be a side dish I try to recreate at home.

photo source: beedeephoto

8. NSHIMA // Lusaka, Zambia

13737523_10157253084290525_8172068603041058735_oPop. Sadza. Nshima. You’ll hear all kinds of names in Africa to describe this cornmeal staple. Often eaten with greens and a protein, you cannot walk too far in a Zambian village without setting your sights on some nshima.

At first glance, I thought it was mashed potatoes. Unfortunately, besides first glance, it’s nothing like our beloved mashed spuds. The amount of sadza, nshima, and nsima I ate ranged from grainy to smooth, and salty to bland. Quite honestly, it didn’t taste much like anything other than the sauce or foods it was paired with. I’m not going to miss this.

9. BALUT // Manila, Philippines

balutBalut is a duck egg with a partially formed fetus inside. It is also EASILY the most horrendous food item to ever make contact with my stomach. We purchased a few at the market and from the outside, it looks completely harmless. Crack it open and suck down the warm, salty broth and you’re still thinking, “Man, this can’t be that bad. That broth was delicious”. Dive into the peeling process, take one bit of that parboiled egg and if the mini duck beak and small hairs don’t freak you out at that point, gobble it up!

It’s one of those, “you-gotta-try-it-once” situations. So, I’m officially on the Been There, Done That team as far as balut goes. #neverforgetneveragain


The amount of incredible foods this world has to offer is outstanding. Trying new foods was one of my favorite ways to experience new people and their cultures. Now, back in the States and there’s a lot of fun food ground to cover! Let’s do it!

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I’m also fairly confident I ate my weight in Pad Thai in Thailand. #noshame
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East End Market

Call me Captain Jack because I just found treasure.
That line was disgustingly cheesy, I know, but you need to understand how incredible this place is.East End Market

Rejoice! Calling all foodies, yoga moms, and business men on lunch! Plus, everyone in between. East End Market, located in Audubon Park District in Orlando, Florida, is absolutely a hidden gem.

The Market showcases some of Central Florida’s top food entrepreneurs, tradespeople, artists, and chefs. The two-story structure is home to a dozen merchants, a large event space, a demonstration kitchen, an incubator kitchen, offices, retail shops, a full-time, award-winning caterer and a world-class restaurant.

East End Market is not only a hub for local food and culture, but also a community space fostering creativity and collaboration.

Inside the MarketThe entire property was stunning. There seems to be something for everyone: coffee, sushi, smoothies + juices, a bookstore, craft beers, local farm produce, bakery items, floral + plant gifts, and MORE. Seriously, something for everyone!

Of course, I had a few of my own favorites that I would LOVE to share with you all.

Skyebird

SkyebirdSkyebird 2This place was my favorite (with a close runner up). Skyebird captured my attention immediately– the colorful display of produce and teas, the mouth-watering menu, and the fresh atmosphere. I simply had to give it a try. After checking out the menu, and getting a few recommendations, I went with the Skye’s Favorite Smoothie. Skyebird's FavoriteNot only do you get the opportunity to pull up a chair and watch the magic happen, but the beautiful part about the “magic” is that they actually are slicing and dicing the fruits and veggies in front of you! How many smoothie/juice places have you seen that just pull out a container of pre-sliced produce that makes you wonder how long it was sitting there? Now that is fresh. I would also love to add that the adorable glass jar it comes on is your to-go cup! If you bring it back for a refill, you get $0.50-off your drink!All Things DeliciousThe staff was amazingly friendly and happy to help with decision-making, which I often need help with. My smoothie tasted wonderful and from some of the “regulars” I talked to agreed that the menu items were always fresh and delicious. I highly recommend swinging by Skyebird when visiting the East End Market.

Lineage

LineageIf there is good coffee, it will be found. I am a coffee fanatic and as soon as I walked into the market, Lineage was the first place I stopped. Lineage serves all kinds of coffee in various styles: French press, cold brew, pour over, and Chemex. Fresh BrewTheir incredible roasted coffees take on an art form when being brewed. The aroma lures you in as your walk by and begs of you to stay. When you stick around you’ll meet wonderful staff and down amazing brew. Relax and enjoy the experience. ahhhhh. 🙂

 Porch Therapy

Outside PorchSucculentsWhen first arriving to the market, I was greeted by the loveliest of plants and flowers sprinkled throughout the patio area. I noted the signage that indicated Porch Therapy was responsible for the beautiful display and that customers were welcome to pick any plant of their choosing and bring it inside for checkout. The abundant array of plants and flowers were such a colorful greeting into the market and Porch Therapy’s interior was no different. I had a wonderful conversation with the owner, chatting about her business, along with the ins and outs of the market. This place makes my “Top 3 of East End” with ease.Indoor Porch Therapy


East End Market was an experience. I love when places capture all your senses and allow you to enjoy the present moment! This is a place where community gathers, feasts, and learns. Speaking of learning, East End also has fun events and cooking classes for the public, if you’re interested! I highly recommend you check out East End if you’re local. If not, whenever you happen by Orlando and are sick of the theme parks, a stroll over to East End Market will not disappoint!East End Outdoor 2

I hope you find a local gem of your own! And if you have a favorite in Orlando (or anywhere really) leave a comment!

Cheers! 🙂

Whole30 at McDONALDS

Usually, I would recommend keeping McDonalds at bay, but if you find yourself in the situation where everyone in the car wants McDonalds and you lack your bag of snacks, then this post is for you.

I’ll tell you right now: There aren’t many options, but there is somethingAnd we will take something!

Side SaladFood:
[or as I like to call it: The Short List]
– Apple Slices
– Side Salad
– Beef Patty (McDonalds has taken out their fillers, hurray!)

Drinks:
– Minute Maid Apple Juice
– Minute Maid Orange Juice
– Dasani Water (surprise, surprise)
– Unsweetened Iced Tea
– McCafe Hot Coffee, black
– McCafe Iced Coffee, black

Coffee BreakTricky Foods:
[these foods may look like Whole30 or Paleo; but they’re hiding something…]
– Eggs & Egg Whites; contain liquid margarine
– Grilled Chicken; contains sugar & rice starch
Applewood & Canadian Bacon; contains sugar
– 
Sausage; contains sugar, corn syrup & dextrose…geez!
– Pickles; contains food dyes

Stay strong on your Whole30 journey!
See? You can even tackle a McDonalds with ease!

Summer Camp Commentaries

Backstreet’s back; Alright!

Maybe not Backstreet, but I’m back! Close enough, right? Back from all the fun summer camp festivities, the walk down memory lane with friends and family in New Jersey, and the amazing experiences that were shared during those two weeks away. I love some fresh perspective, don’t you? It’s funny how returning to an old, familiar place can inspire you with new, life-changing thoughts. I believe that’s God working. Here are some (and great emphasis on “some” or else we’d be here all day) of my take-aways from my days spent in New Jersey and Pine Bush Bible Camp.

My Sisters

1. Your family is seriously importantNot just your blood-relatives, even though they’re awesome, but your eternal family through Christ. The world should look at our relationships, as Christians, and see something dramatically different:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you much love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

My prayer is that this is not something I take lightly. That those words of Scripture will not just fade into a memory, but rather I act on them and commit my life to loving others, especially my brothers and sisters, in the way Christ loves us.

Why are they so old?

2. Time flies. And I think it is just going to get faster. I have missed the past four years of camp, only to come back to meet teenagers who are much taller, smarter, and wiser than their 10-year old selves. Peers of mine are experiencing new life adventures of mission trips, marriage, and careers. The word “lifetime” had new meaning to me. Our lives are short.

“What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 14:4b

Now, that can either be a depressing statement, or a driving one, but the choice is yours. I know God has a plan for our lives and with the little time I have here, I want to be all in for Christ and going wherever He leads.

I know that ice cream is not Paleo, but it's TRADITION! And delicious...
I know that ice cream is not Paleo, but it’s TRADITION! And delicious…

3. YOU ARE SO VALUABLENo matter what any single person on this entire planet says… You are loved greater and deeper than you can possibly imagine by a Creator who values you more than you can fathom. “The Son of God gives you the upmost value— that is something man cannot touch!” (Nate Bramsen) We are a people who long to be loved. We often let the world define us or sometimes, we even let our own self define us (both of which, I am guilty). We need to look at ourselves the way God sees us: beautifully unique and created in His image.


 I am so thankful for the time I spent up North. I am beyond thankful for the work God did in my heart– the way it has been transformed. I am blessed to have the brothers and sisters I was surrounded by for those two weeks (if you’re reading this, know how much I deeply love and appreciate you guys). I am also grateful for returning back to my brothers and sisters in Florida and their eager ears to hear what God has taught me and challenging me to act on it (if you’re reading this, also know how much I deeply love and appreciate you too). Thank you to everyone who follows The Thrive Life and I can’t wait to dive back into some delicious Paleo meals & treats. 

Finishing out with a special shout out to the five (one not pictured) lovely ladies who were baptized this summer! Thankful for your testimonies and your boldness to declare the name of Christ with your lives!
Finishing out with a special shout out to the five (one not pictured) lovely ladies who were baptized this summer! Thankful for your testimonies and your boldness to declare the name of Christ with your lives!

 


Packing Heat on a Plane (Okay, they’re really just snacks.)

I’m leaving for the wonderful state of New Jersey in less than 24 hours. I am headed up to visit some family and friends and then be reunited with all my childhood (and teenage/adult-hood) memories at Pine Bush Bible Camp as a camp counselor. Yes, people entrust their sweet children to me for a week. Trust me, everything will be fine. 😉

Camp Life
Camp people understand this type of behavior is not only acceptable, but expected.

All of this got me thinking about traveling and sticking to the Paleo lifestyle. I am trying to be as prepared as possible to stick to it while traveling. There is only so much I can do once arriving at camp, but while boarding planes and road tripping, I’m arming myself with paleo-approved snackage. (Whoa, I just sounded like my father. He loves to add “age” to words for a reason unknown to me. Boilage. Beepage. Snackage. Love that man.)

The trick is to keep things simple, portable, and carry little-to-no liquids, which seem to upset airport security. Let’s get to it:

1. Raw, Mixed Nuts & Seeds: For me, cashews are currently a big hit with my taste buds, but any mix or nuts & seeds will do. Nuts and seeds are a great source of healthy fats and will keep your tummy satisfied when paired with a protein source. Try not to overdo it, as it is easy to do when reaching your hand in a large bag of mix. I like to separate mine into single-servings pouches so I’m aware of how much I am eating.This is nuts.

2. Bars: Another perfectly portable snack. My favorite is the Coconut Cream Pie Larabar (shocker), but I like to bring a variety of bars for whatever mood I’m in. Sometimes I’m feeling all Colonial American-like and Apple Pie strikes my fancy. Just make sure whatever bars you bring along have real food in them and none of those crazy artificial & chemical ingredients that you can’t pronounce.Check out those bars

3. Canned Meats: Portable protein for the win! Canned tuna (or salmon or chicken) is a great addition to bring along with you. Some people love to eat it straight from the can, or you can add it to a garden salad you’ve purchased in the terminal. Either way, eating a quality source of protein (check the cans for organic and/or wild caught) will keep you satiated and loving that you didn’t go for that sugary donut instead.Canned Meats

4. Coconut Water: Dehydration can become a bit of a problem due to the low humidity on airplanes. You many not even be aware it’s affecting you, but sometimes air travel can cause dry-skin, itchy eyes, and lethargy. Plain coconut water contains a natural source of electrolytes and is high in potassium, which will aid to ward off dehydration. Try and drink some before or after your flight. Also, drink some good ‘ole H2O while on the plane. Staying hydrated while traveling will keep you feeling energized and refreshed.This water is coconuts

It may be tricky, but it is 100% doable to stick to healthy choices if you come prepared. I hope these are a few things you bring along on your travels so you will feel nourished and energized! Travel well.