Anyone over forty years of age knows that Master Po was the blind monk in the television show Kung Fu. Most people under the age of forty, or those with small children, think of Po as the smallest and youngest of the Teletubby sub-species homo teletubulus. Po was the flaming red one with whom Jerry Falwell happily coexisted, not to be confused with the other flaming Teletubby (the purse carrying Tinky-Winky). To Italians Po is a river. To my 'hood bros, po' is what you are when you can't pay the rent.
Today's post is not about Po, it's about insects and cooking. Was that not what you were expecting? Is a segue from Kung Fu to Teletubbies to eating grasshoppers less than logical? Not for me and my type.
In 2003 I was in Montreal with Wendy and Julian. Wendy was performing in L'Opera de Montreal's production of The Marriage of Figaro. I imagined myself spending my days strolling down quaint little Montreal side streets, conducting research on bagels and croissants. Not so, instead I was contemplating lining up to eat some insects.
I remember specifically why we ended up at the Insectarium de Montreal; it was because they had an exhibit entitled 'Edible Insects'. Edible insects eh? To fuel the fire, my father spent his working life as an entomologist (bug boy), trying to kill spruce budworm. I thought it only fair that the insects exact some revenge. In town to watch the opera, I dragged my parents along to the insectarium.
We started by watching a film depicting the consumption of insects by loin-clothed inhabitants of some far-flung societies. Bug eating seemed to be popular in third world countries such as Indonesia, Malawi and Chipman. Bugs are an important source of protein in these desolate areas. I squirmed while watching the film. Grubs were sizzling on a fiery griddle, dancing like Mexican macaroni. During the film my son leaned over and said something that is indelibly etched into my memory..."those grubs look delicious." He wasn't joking...he was practically salivating.
After the film we heard a fateful announcement: there will be an insect tasting demonstration upstairs in 5 minutes. I won't print what was going through my head at that moment when my son announced his desire to munch on mealworms, suffice to say that it rhymed with 'no luck'. We made our way upstairs to find a huge line-up of chocolate covered locust lovers. Fools! Not them, us...we joined the queue.
It quickly became obvious that it was going to be a long time before we got to the head of the line, as we were currently at the tail end (thorax). I announced that I wasn't prepared to stand in line for a half hour to eat something that would, in a ll likelihood, make me hurl. If I wanted that, I could go to Taco Bell. My son was miffed.
I've watched other people accidentally ingest insects. Wendy's brother Erik didn't believe me when I told him there was a caterpillar on his Lay's potato chip. He ate it. Betcha can't eat just one! A guy I knew at college found a dragonfly in his sandwich...he turned the colour of photocopy paper. I once took a sip from a can of Coke and found something buzzing in my mouth...it was a hornet! Fortunately the the Coke rendered the hornet impotent and I lived another day.
Me? I'm not a big fan of eating insects. I'll get my protein and carbs elsewhere (i.e Tubby toast). That reminds me of Julian's early forays into baking. Every kid likes to help mom in the kitchen, some even like to help their dad (charity begins at home). As a pre-school fan of the Hundred Acre Woods stories, Julian filled our house inundated with videos and books about Tigger, Eyeore and the petite porcine Piglet. We once had a collection of cookie cutters shaped like A.A.Milne's lovable characters. It came with a book entitled 'Cooking With Pooh'.
Cooking With Pooh!
I like a hot breakfast every now and again but I've got no interest in eating a steaming plate of June bugs. I wonder, though, if I'm just being silly. A lobster is nothing more than a giant, meaty salt water scorpion? And I love lobster. Ditto for crab. Shrimp are kind of dodgy looking too. I mean, seriously, if a shrimp was buzzing around your head, you'd swat it. Right? Maybe eating insects isn't such a big deal after all.
Let's see, if I was forced to eat insects (because I was po' and hungry), what would I choose? Not grasshopper. Too crunchy. I'd probably opt for dung beetles...I've already got the cookbook.