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Another Portland Blog

Thursday, February 21, 2008

 

Weird Stuff From Around This Weird World - Part 1

Various friends of mine have developed a habit of giving me odd gifts from their travels. Unfortunately, my attempts to reciprocate are typically thwarted by poor planning and international laws. I still feel bad for letting a cashier at a duty-free shop at Heathrow talk me out of smuggling a bottle of absinthe back to the states last fall. I had to settle for gin instead. Lame? Yeah, I know, I know.

Partially out of guilt but mostly due to a lack of things to blog about during these dull winter days, I've decided to showcase some of these gifts in a series of posts that are sure to thrill you all. First up....




...this bottle of mezcal, which was picked up during a friend's recent trip to Puerto Vallarta. He handed it over with a perquisite, half-serious warning that it might cause me to hallucinate. I'd heard the legends surrounding this precursor to tequila before but always thought the alleged hallucinatory effects would kick in only if I ate the worm at the bottom of the bottle.

A little internet research suggests otherwise. Not only do most brands of mezcal pack roughly the same alcoholic punch as the average bottle of tequila, the stuff won't cause you to trip out. According to this, the confusion stems from the simple fact that "mezcal" sounds a lot like "mescaline." Mezcal is distilled using agave plants as a chief ingredient, not the mescal cactus, the source of a few no-doubt lovely hallucinogenics like peyote.

Still unconvinced and, purely in the interest of research, I decided to conduct my own experiment on a recent Saturday night. Three shots of mezcal consumed in short succession resulted in no hallucinatory effects, I'm sad to say. It did, however, make Farce of the Penguins seem like the funniest movie ever filmed for around twenty minutes.

Also, the "worms" packaged with mezcal aren't worms at all. Wikipedia says the two insects most commonly found at the bottom of bottles tend to be the agave snout weevil or a certain species of caterpillar. Er...yum. All things considered, I like the idea of a worm better.

Will I be eating my agave snout weevil and/or caterpillar once I finish off the bottle? Probably not. Not because I'm afraid I'll embark on a spiritual journey involving a "Space Coyote" voiced by Johnny Cash. It has more to do with a certain scene in Poltergeist II involving Craig T. Nelson and a character that has become known in horror movie lore as the "vomit creature" (here's a link, click on it, if you dare).

If you aren't completely disgusted yet, here's a link to a short Washington Post article about snake wine, a much stranger medicinal beverage found throughout SE Asia that comes packaged with fermented reptiles. Also available: scorpion and seahorse wine. Sounds tasty!

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