I’ve gone on record before as saying that I’m not a fan of the word foodie, preferring such designations as “good eater” and even the pejorative “glutton.” All that said there is one person who for whom my hatred of the F-Word does not apply, my good friend, Elyse Pasquale, aka Foodie International. She was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule, which includes everything from eating reindeer hearts and scorpions to harvesting her own olive oil and slaughtering pigs, to answer Seven Questions.
Where did you learn to use chopsticks?
In my bedroom, in high school. I grew up on a horse farm outside of Philadelphia. There wasn’t much diversity in the area when it came to food. In high school, a take-out Chinese joint opened in the same strip mall as our grocery store. Let’s just call it the year of Lo Mein . . . I was determined to perfect my chopsticks skills, so I followed the directions printed on the wrapper and practiced in my room. I think my execution might be a little unorthodox, but I can hold my own in any Tokyo ramen shop. For the record, I also tie my shoes counterintuitively, but my bows still turn out looking like bows.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
Geez, that’s a tough one! I focus on local food when I travel, and I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to explore the local cuisine in 66 different countries. I don’t even know what to consider strange anymore! Last year, I got over my final food fear—balut—fertilized duck egg. It’s definitely the scariest looking food I’ve ever seen. It took me years to work up the courage to try it, so you have to imagine how shocked I was when I discovered that it’s good. Like, freakishly awesome. Other strange edibles: chicken ovaries and proto-eggs, fugu sperm sacs, raw sea cucumber, reindeer heart, opihi, pig ears, sheep feet, scorpions…I could go on.
Talk to me about how you became Foodie International?
I’ve spent the past 30 years as a food-obsessed globetrotter (the magic began with a French-cut lamb chop in London when I was seven) but my passion became a vocation five years ago. I’d just returned from a transformative pig slaughter and prosciutto-making session with local olive farmers in rural Tuscany when I saw a casting call online for a “food dude” to host a new food and travel show. I was p-o’d. My first thought was, “why does it have it be a guy? It’s always a guy,” and then I realized I could step up and be that food dude, without the Y chromosome, naturally. The past five years have been an enormous learning experience and a powerful, magical and often-humbling journey. I’m a full-time freelance food and travel journalist and culinary adventurer, living the ultimate dream.
What’s your favorite way to eat bone marrow?
I’m crazy about marrow. I actually have some bones in the freezer right now. Lately, I’ve been roasting them upright and stuffing them with a “mad scientist” salsa verde, which is my haphazard combo of garlic, home-harvested olive oil and whatever greenery I have in the fridge—parsley, oregano, tarragon . . . even cilantro. Lately, I’ve been toying with the idea of inventing a marrow-laced onion soup. When I’m out on the town, I love the preparation at The Marrow, a restaurant in the West Village. They serve the bones split longwise, topped with sea urchin. You can’t beat that.
For some people it’s durian, for some it’s stinky tofu, and for some, like our pal, Andrew Zimmern it’s walnuts. Is there a food you absolutely cannot stand?
I hate cake. I know, this automatically makes me horrid and evil. Birthday cake, cupcakes, ugh . . . especially anything with a shortening-based frosting. It tastes like cardboard and chemicals to me. There are exceptions to the no-cake rule: carrot cake and cheesecake for starters. I’m just not very much of a “sweets” person. I’d rather eat twice the cheese course and skip dessert, unless it’s pie. I’m crazy for pie. When I was younger, I celebrated birthdays with my grandmother’s legendary sour cherry pie. No one makes it like she did,
What’s up with your web series?
Last year I shot a 35-episode culinary adventure web series in Australia, New Zealand, Cambodia, Singapore and Japan. (here’s the link to the trailer) Currently, the series is still in post-production and I’m seeking online distribution. Season two will be shot in Europe in the late spring. The material and the message—that food can transform the way we travel with extraordinary and accessible culinary adventures—means everything to me.
What do you miss most about New York City when you’re traveling?
Everything bagels from Ess-a-Bagel with lox, cream cheese, red onions and capers. It’s always my first breakfast when I come home from a trip.
What’s the last thing you ate good, bad, or otherwise?
I’m eating Tommy’s Jerky “sweet and sassy” flavor as I’m typing this sentence. I picked it up at a jerky outlet at a rest stop in Ohio last fall, driving to Niagara Falls from Cedar Point. The last great meal I had was last week in Helsinki, Finland. There’s this restaurant, Olo. The chef is a genius. The meal falls within my top ten of all time, and I don’t make statements like that lightly. In 22 courses, I felt as though I’d explored the length and breadth of Finland, that I’d tasted the country’s soul. They have one Michelin star, but the restaurant needs to be on the international radar. It could dominate the World’s 50 Best list—if more diners actually went to Helsinki.
Are there any food related items that are always in your kit bag when you travel?
I swear I’m not making this up: I often carry a block/wedge/chunk of cheese in my purse. Despite the fact that I’m always eating, I still manage to get hungry and if I don’t eat, I go nuts. My brain stops working. Cheese is my superhero. I’ve also been known to carry little bottles of hot sauce in my liquids bag on the airplane.