Does Andrew Zimmern ever get sick? Does he ever get tired of eating so many strange (and often wonderful) foods? The man is a walking, talking encyclopedia of consumption–and a Travel Channel mainstay–and so it’s probably not hard to believe that the most popular question of all about the man who made Bizarre Foods a fascinating experiment in gastronomic voyeurism is whether or not his curiosity ever gets the better of his tummy.
And, according to the man himself, the answer is a surprising one: No. Early in his TV career, Zimmern offered an explanation for why that might be:
I was actually talking to my doctor about this, just in between the last two trips, because he was asking me about it, and I said, “You know, it’s the question I get the most from fans and press people.” It’s the one everyone wants to know. But, no, I’ve never gotten sick on a trip. It’s not like I’m doing some safe dieting! I’m in some of the most bacteriologically compromised places, eating some of the most pathogenically different foods for a Westerner, but I think what it is, is that over time, you either develop antibodies for some of this stuff or you don’t. Because I’ve eaten food and had my crew try things, and then they have an upset stomach for awhile and I don’t. I think a lot of it just has to do with….I’m at the point right now where, when I was in India, I didn’t drink the water, and when I was in Mexico, I didn’t drink the water, but just about everywhere else, I do. When I was in Africa, they gave me this honey water to drink in Tanzania when I was living with the Masai, and I drank it, and two days later, one of my cameramen asked me, “Do you realize that you drank a whole cup of, like, raw, unfiltered water that was brown in color?” I didn’t even realize that I’d done it. It was kind of wild. But I had no side effects! But, no, I’ve had no “digestive issues.” [laughs] And I keep waiting for it to happen! Not because I want it to, but it’s just like I’m rolling the dice, you know? Enough already!
Years later, Zimmern expanded upon that belief with a second, briefer response to the same question, one that Parade fielded. “Even when I’m in the wilds of the Amazon or African or Asian jungles,” he said, “I’m eating extremely fresh food, [like] bush meat that comes off the fire an hour after it’s killed.”
Indeed, it’s worth remembering that Zimmern’s adventures take him all over the world in search of food, meaning things that have been cooked–not strange, raw, bizarre ingredients or errata. “Some of it looks crazy,” he continued, “but native peoples identify sick animals and won’t eat them.”
That said, it’s not as if Zimmern is denying he’s ever had food poisoning or gotten sick from eating food. In a 2014 Daily Meal interview, Zimmern explained that while he’s yet to get sick from eating something on his show, he’d been the victim of food poisoning four times in the past ten years from eating back home.
During one of his more adventurous Reddit AMAs, Zimmern expounded upon one of the four: “Worst case [of food poisoning] was in Portland, Maine eating mussels at a crappy restaurant that I shouldn’t have been eating in in the first place.
“On the road,” he said, “in the third and fourth world I have not gotten sick.”
(Elsewhere in the AMA, the host was asked whether he has “a medical crew [and] antibiotics” everywhere he goes. Zimmern, with just the subtlest of nods toward everything that can happen to a food-poisoned body, answered “Yes, and a hazmat team.”)
That AMA also yielded an answer to the related question of whether Zimmern eats absolutely everything that he is presented with while the cameras are rolling. As you might have guessed, the answer is also a definite No. “I’m not stupid,” he said. “Rotted food that is guaranteed to put me in the hospital is something I try to avoid. It’s why in Thailand I skipped the day-old placenta in the jungle market, but ate the fresh one-minute old placenta at Seabreeze Farm.”
And by his own admission, Zimmern has refused local hospitality at least twice more:
There was this dish being made in the Philippines on this Southern island with the intestines of chickens and there were some that were discolored. I felt they were maybe from some sick animals and I chose not to eat it.
There was also some street food in India — and I love street food in India, I eat it all the time — but they were seasoning it with this brown sludgy water that was coming out of this tap in this tiny little town in the country. I just said, “I’m going to pass.”
However, Zimmern has said elsewhere that he’s yet to find himself unable to try something that he knows has been cooked properly (and is also not rotted!). The example of unusual food he came up with illustrated just how far the man is willing to go in service of his own curiosities. ” I was just in Africa,” he explained, “and I was with some tribal people that were sacrificing animals and drinking their blood, and I was, like, ‘Okay, this is crossing a line that I never thought I would cross…’ But when you’re with people who do it regularly, it’s sort of an easy thing to do!”
Driven By Food, Andrew Zimmern’s newest exploratory presentation, airs Tuesdays on the Travel Channel.
(Photo credits: Does Andrew Zimmern ever get sick via Facebook)