Delicious

National Geographic photographers are known for their dauntless attitude, their ability to acclimatize in the most strenuous circumstances, and their relentless passion for tracking down and capturing powerful moments. A solid mind, a steady hand and  unwavering determination all play an essential role in bringing home the prize. But none of these virtues mean a thing unless a the photographer has a strong stomach.

Whether one is eating eskimo ice cream (made out of a lovely mixture of reindeer fat, salmon eggs, and berries), or snacking on pig’s blood cake, a Taiwanese favorite, partaking in international fare can often make for a  strange and sometimes unappetizing situation. Especially when the polite thing to do thing is to finish every last bite.

Dereck Joubert had one of these challenging culinary adventures while on assignment in Russia. On the prowl for snow leopards to photograph, Joubert and his wife Beverly got lost. They were taken in by a family in the high Northern Korpet Dag mountains. The family cleared the main room, which served as a living room or bedroom or kitchen/dining room depending on the time of day, and began preparing a meal. As the hour was approaching 2 AM the Jouberts realized that the meal was being prepared especially for them. Eager not to be a nuisance, the Jouberts politely protested. But the family wasn’t having it. To the family it was a matter of honor to feed their guests.

Going way beyond the late PB & J sandwich, a goat was slaughtered and set into a mud oven to bake. Multiple interpreters conveyed to Dereck Joubert that he was to the best part of the goat. “Oh no I couldn’t,” was the response that went back up the line of interpreters to the woman of the house. A feeble “please don’t go to the trouble on my account” followed. However, being an honored guest, especially one from National Geographic, brings gastronomic responsibilities. That late night Joubert dined on the skin and fatty part of the goats head mixed together and topped off by the hapless beast’s single eyeball. With rice. A lot of rice.