Throughout human existence, one question has burned uppermost in the minds of human beings, whatever their sex, race or culture: “So what’s for dinner?” From most place around the world, the same answer has come back – food.

Food? How predictable! Fans of cuisine find a diet limited to items defined “edible” woefully dull. Instead we consume naga (metal-dissolving) chillies, Cambodian water bugs, fried banana skins and strange black, sludgy, night-market condiments which appear to be a mixture of used engine oil and finely ground gravel!! And those are the conservative ones. There are people around us with diet preferences that include rocks and houseware. This is a scientific fact. A recent study of global eating habits conducted by Oxford Brookes University in the UK concluded that “throughout the world, every day, millions of people eat earth, clay… and foods conventionally regarded as inedible by most Westerners.

For gourmand Allah Wasayo, the perfect meal is a nice carpet. Most people lack variety in their diets, says the 59-year old Pakistani, who likes to follow his lunch with a dish of broken glass and some grass clippings. At a buffet in a five-star hotel in Karachi, reporters watched him eat light bulbs and pulverized teacups. “I eat carpets, cups, saucers, pieces of glass, chicken curry and grass with the same fervour,” he told the Dawn newspaper.

Wasayo us just one of  a long line of creative diners, a list which includes a woman who lived largely on ice, and a man who claimed to eat nothing but air. More recently, YouTube fans have been entranced by Dasarath from Kanpur, who drinks his beer and then munches down the glass.

One super-omnivore, Wang Chengke of China, wolfed down some ashtrays and beer bottles and was then checked by doctors. They concluded he had gastric juices five times stronger than most people. It’s not clear what practical purpose his skill could be used for. Maybe China could develop some sort of dining army who could eat their way through the enemy forces.

But the diner who most sticks in my mind is Ram Rati, 82, who has been happily chomping her way through a medium-sized beach. She has been eating sand since she was a child. “I eat on average around one or one-and-a-half kilos of sand per day”, she told Asian News International. Her granddaughter Shikha said: “The doctor said if she had no health problems, let her eat.” What a glorious attitude. “If grandma want to eat a major tourist attraction, let her eat.”

For most people, a taste for the inedible is merely a food preference, but for some, it’s a matter of life and death. After super-hot-curry became the favorite food of the British, army generals started receiving requests from British troops for chicken curry, lamp tikka and pulao rice. But today’s active soldiers eat 4000 calories a day and take toilet breaks only once every 72 hours. Generals had grim fears that history would be changed because battles would be constantly interrupted by British Soldiers telling enemies they have to go to the loo. Several top scientists were commissioned to find ways to replicate Asian flavors without system-churning spices. In the end, they provided ration-packs with the fieriest spices served separately in sachets for those who could cope.

Personally, I think they should go the whole hod and train and their soldiers to eat the most extreme food. After all, the sight of men biting the necks of beer bottles and crunching glass in their mouths is guaranteed to strike fear in the hearts of anyone raised on less challenging diets. Which is why Allay Wasayo, despite his fame, remains a bachelor. No family will provide him with a wife. “They think I might eat her,” he laments!!!

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