MERIDEN — Tarantulas are steam fried in Cambodia to remove their furriness before they are eaten.
“Eww” came the collective howl from the audience.
In Iceland, some fish urinate through their skin and before being eaten are put in the ground for three months to leave behind the rot.
Andrew Zimmern’s talk Wednesday at Platt High School struck the right chord between gross and adventure to keep 370 middle and elementary students wanting more.
The globe-trotting host of the “Bizarre Foods” TV show shared his adventures and read from his newly released children’s book “AZ and the Lost City of Ophir.” The show airs on the Travel Channel.
The visit and a copy of Zimmern’s book was a reward to students who read more than one million words.
“I love his show a lot,” said Isabelle Chaparro, a Washington Middle School eighth grader. “I like best learning more about him as a person and what inspired him.”
Zimmern also has shows on the History Channel and Food Network. He is a world renowned chef, food critic, restaurateur, culinary expert and author.
“Food all around the world is born of necessity,” he told the students. “Over the past few years, we really pushed the lever on eating for pleasure. Not all food is supposed to be good.”
“AZ and the Lost City of Ophir” is a tale of ancient mystery, global adventure, mischief, fun and food. Its chief character is 12-year-old AZ who dreams of becoming the world’s greatest explorer, but instead is stuck in summer school. After a time-traveling accident, AZ and his companions find themselves in Ophir, a lost city.
Zimmern, who has published two adult books, wrote the children’s book based on bedtime stories he told his son at night.
“AZ is a version of me at that age, a complete mess,” he said. “I wanted to produce something from anthropology, sociology, and a rocking roller-coaster of adventure.”
He advised the students to write down their dreams and a plan to get there. He set his own goal of selling a TV show, but realized he had a lot learn before he could accomplish it.
“I didn’t know how to do television,” he said. “You’ve got to start learning things you don’t know how to do.”
Students clamored to ask Zimmern questions
Q: What’s your favorite food?
A: His grandmother’s roast chicken.
Q: How did you become famous?
A: “It’s other people who make you famous. Some people get really lucky.”
Q: What do people in other countries think about the food we eat?
A: “In Argentina, if you open a jar of peanut butter, they’ll run away like they’re on fire. They think peanut butter is just disgusting.”
Zimmern’s favorite color is orange, and he wears a bit of it everyday.
“Orange is the color of life preservers, and safety vests,” he said. “I like to be reminded we all need rescuing.”
The annual reading celebration has always featured big name authors, but Zimmern’s exotic experiences resonated with the students, said Superintendent of Schools Mark Benigni.
“He’s sharing some stories about the book and I think the students are excited to read it,” Benigni said.
Raneem Ahmedeltigani and Madison Lionello, fifth graders at Benjamin Franklin lined up to get a copy of Zimmern’s book. They said they liked the questions and answers, and wanted to read more of the story.
“I really liked when he was reading the story,” Madison said.