Meet writer Justin Schmid

Justin Schmid describes himself as one of the weirdest Arizonans ever, explaining that he's an ex-hockey player who thinks tacos are overrated and who seeks out delicacies that would make most people gag.

He currently works as a marketing content writer and uses his personal blog to tell stories and keep his WordPress/HTML skills sharp. Previously, he's worked in journalism, PR and content marketing. "I'm almost as nerdy about SEO as I am about AP style," he says. "My favorite resource is Garner’s Modern American Usage, along with some guy named Mike."

Justin believes you should try every food you can. "Eating is a gateway to the funniest and most-enlightening stories," he says.

Do you consider the food when you travel?

When I travel, I’m after two things: I want to find some sort of unusual beer-ish beverage, and I want to find some sort of food that would make most people gag.

One of my favorite fermented finds was sahti, a drink in Finland that’s the sort of thing your reclusive uncle would brew in his backyard. It’s strong, dark and flat with a taste like the forest smells.

As for the gag-worthy foods, I’ve tried a long list from hákarl (fermented shark meat) to boiled silkworm larvae served piping hot from a roadside stand in Seoul. Some of my other favorite items have been camel, bear, possum and haggis.

I also went hours out of my way in Australia because I heard of some tiny farm that grew the black sapote (aka the chocolate pudding fruit).

Some of my food goals are balut and lutefisk. I have few limits to what I’ll try.

Justin shows off a possum pie (photo provided by Justin Schmid).

Do you believe that being a writer helps you enjoy or appreciate food more?

Being a writer helps me convey the experience more effectively. Someone who isn’t a writer can appreciate an experience just as much as I can, but I can turn the whole experience into a story that makes someone wish they were there--or glad they weren’t, in my case!

Do you hunt or fish for your own food?

I’d love to learn how to hunt and prepare small game like squirrels and rabbits. I tried hunting quail a few years ago. I’m good at gutting fish, so it would be nice if I was good at catching them, too.

What's your opinion on local and/or healthy food?

I rarely get near fast food. I try to keep it as local/organic/shadegrown/fair trade/free range as possible. I tell anyone who listens to me that there is literally no reason to go to chain restaurants. There are so many great local places that can do anything a chain can, but better. Keep your money in the community, support small businesses, give your neighborhood some character!

Do you ever write about food?

I write about food on my blog--mostly beer and coffee. If I find an unusual enough item, I’ll blog about that, too.

Do you have any favorite food books?

Two favorites: Horsemen of the Esophagus by Jason Fagone, which is about competitive eating. It made me decide that, if I ever tried competitive eating, my stage name would be Gorge Lucas. My other favorite is The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten. Good fun, especially the one chapter that's all about catsup. Seriously, it sent me on a month-long catsup-eating binge.

Where do you turn for great food or food inspiration?

The staff at local restaurants. I had never thought of South Korea before a waiter overheard my wife and I talking about hiking. He said “We have great hiking in Korea, along with food and karaoke!” He made a great pitch and convinced us. Turned out to be one of our favorite trips ever. The crew at the Pig & Pickle, which I miss so much, also got us in the habit of eating crisped trout and salmon skin, plus they got my wife started with pickling.

Do you have any favorite restaurants or food travel destinations?

It’s tough to name a favorite local restaurant because I don’t want to put one in front of the other. I will say this: I love restaurants in Australia and New Zealand because of their service model. It’s much more laid back. The constant hovering of many American restaurants (refilling the water glasses, asking what else they can get you, if you need another beverage, etc.) is tiresome. I prefer going and getting my own water or having a big chilled bottle on the table, and going up to the counter to order something when I need it.

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