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Best Of 2014: Going to the Ends of the Earth

This year, we traveled around the world, getting high on gonads in the Arctic Circle, eating lamb in inner Mongolia, fishing on an exploding lake in the DR Congo, and even hanging out with Fidel Castro's former chef in Havana.
December 24, 2014, 3:00pm

Even in this wondrous age of globalization, when we can get the exact same can of Coke and flash-frozen fast-food burger in almost any country with electricity, we sometimes find that we need to travel out of our little metropolitan bubble in order to find out what other people are eating around the world.

And that we did.

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Recently, we found out what happens when you're too fat to fly. For the delicious and fatty fulmars of the Faroe Islands, located between Norway and Iceland, it means having your head ripped off.

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We went to Cuba and took a long look at the state of beef there. Protein has been so scarce that at one point people were stuffing their croquetas with bits of old rags and melting condoms on their pizzas to approximate cheese.

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We found out that if you want to get drunk in Myanmar, go climb a tree—literally. Fearless men collect the sap of palm trees, concentrate it into jaggery (palm sugar), and ferment it with sticky rice before distilling it into powerful firewater called toddy.

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Where else? We went to Pakistan to harvest sea buckthorn berries—the same fruits prized by New Nordic chefs. We ate lamb stew in inner Mongolia, before getting wasted and shooting fireworks off in a parking lot with a crazy man named Erjiu.

tofu stinker preparing the racks

We lost our durian virginity in Malaysia, and it didn't smell very nice at all. We met the people who make some of the world's best stinky tofu in China's Yunnan province, and it didn't smell like flowers, either.

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We learned the pros and cons on insect farming in Thailand, where slinging cricket protein can help you buy a car. We checked in with an arctic doomsday vault that could save our food future, because why not?

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We visited Venezuela's underground beer brewers, who illegally ferment under the watchful eye of the law. We went to Christiana, a Copenhagen haven for hippies and anarchists and 3 AM falafel.

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We went to the South Sinai of Egypt, where Bedouins are revitalizing 1,000-year-old fruit gardens. We stole honey from angry African bees in Burkina Faso, and didn't flinch when they stung.

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We got high on sea urchin gonads in the Arctic circle. NBD.

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We ate a meal of cold noodles and bulgogi—flavored with propaganda—on the North Korean border.

Fisherman in Goma, DRC

We celebrated a wedding in Kenya the traditional Maasai way—with a cup of fresh cow's blood. We fished on a lake that could literally explode at any time in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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We ate greasy, meaty bowls of rice in Uzbekistan that'll make or break a marriage. We stopped by the highly no-frills restaurants of Tajikistan—which most Westerners couldn't find on a map—and went to Kazakhstan to investigate the fatherland of modern apples.

Photo by Kelly Tunney

And just to round things out, we went back to Havana and hung out with Fidel Castro's former chef. For a guy who used to work for a dictator, he was pretty chill.

But that barely even scratches the surface of where we went this year. Stay tuned for even more of these stories in 2015, if we've got any pages left in our passports.