Steve Backshall, the presenter of CBBC’s wildly popular Deadly 60 series, has revealed that while filming on the Indonesian island of Sumba he took part in a tribal funeral ceremony that required he drank a pint of blood as it poured forth from a slaughtered buffalo.
Backshall made the stomach-churning admission to Sheila Dillon of Radio 4’s Food Programme, for an edition being broadcast this Sunday that focuses on some of the more strange things the crews of the BBC’s Natural History Unit eat while they are filming.
The tough-as-nails Bafta winner — who’s been bitten by a snake, a crocodile and a shark, and attacked by hippos, a walrus and elephants — also claims he’s eaten “every kind of bug you can imagine” but that the buffalo blood was the hardest thing to stomach, as it was still warm and starting to clot as he gulped it down.
He confesses, “I’m starting to feel ill, just talking about it.”
Asked why he put his tastebuds through such ordeals, he reveals, “You have to eat what local people offer to you, merely out of politeness.”
Dillon spoke to him over the phone while he was in the Falklands filming for his latest series Deadly Pole to Pole, in which he journeys from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica in search of dangerous creatures. And it seems the main problem on the Falkland Islands isn’t so much food that could upset a delicate stomach, but that the islands’ isolation means most of the food is flown in from the UK and there’s a scarcity of fruit and veg.
Backshall reveals the going price for a pineapple in the local supermarket is £7, while a bunch of bananas will set you back £6.
He agrees with Dillon’s assertion that, while on location, freshness and simplicity are two of the best things in the world: ““Heston Blumenthal has his place, there is no doubt, but for me it can’t match the simple simplicity of food that has been very well-earned and eaten in the outdoors.”
Even if it is deep-fried cricket.