Friday 26 July, 2013

Hungry? Fancy a spider?


Georgina Atherton/Tha-One Feature Writer When most of the western world is feeling a little peckish, we normally reach for a packet of crisps or a bar of chocolate. Unfortunately, we are not all fortunate enough to have a Tesco around the corner, which may be the reason why much of the world has reverted to […]


Georgina Atherton/Tha-One Feature Writer

When most of the western world is feeling a little peckish, we normally reach for a packet of crisps or a bar of chocolate. Unfortunately, we are not all fortunate enough to have a Tesco around the corner, which may be the reason why much of the world has reverted to some delicacies that are a little more unusual.

The idea of chowing down on a crispy fried tarantula or a well-matured rotten egg would, undoubtedly, turn the stomachs of most of us. However, in some distant countries, to eat these rare specimens is completely normal.

An arachnophobe’s worst nightmare is presented fried and crispy in Cambodia, but fried spider is a regional delicacy there. The town of Skuon has become famous among tourists for selling mammoth numbers of this speciality snack, and they are even being farmed to cater to their growing popularity. The taste has been likened to a cross between chicken and cod – a fusion taste that does not immediately stand out to me as being desirable.

Meanwhile in China, century eggs, or millennium eggs, one would think were a delicious treat that would be served in high-end restaurants nationwide. You would be half correct. These eggs are favorably sought after and particularly expensive, but despite the enticing name, these duck, quail or chickens eggs have been preserved in a mixture of ashes, clay and salt for several months. This turns them into a green/grey cream with an overpowering scent of sulfur and ammonia mixed with rotten egg. Tasty, no?

rotteneggs

The durian is a fruit from China that is consumed as a delicacy. As this is a fruit, many would have no qualm with this ‘unusual’ dietary element, until you discover that this yellow, spiky, succulent looking fruit’s scent has been likened to that of rotting flesh, sewers and dirty socks. Many may assume that this is a slight exaggeration since people are able to consume this fruit out of choice, but it has been banned from many hotels and airports in the country due to it’s persistent stench. This is just a minor indication into how horrific this fruit smells.

durian

In the Philippines, there is a delicacy called Balut which is, essentially, a fertilized duck egg. Animal lovers, hold your breath, because this does mean that there is a semi formed duck fetus inside the shell. They are most often eaten when they are 17 days old and barely even formed but, for the more adventurous, a 21-day-old egg is preferred when the duckling has a beak, bones and some feathers.

duckfetus

Some other delicious nibbles that you may be temped into sampling are: beating cobra heart from Vietnam, insect caviar from Mexico, scorpion soup from China and lutefisk from Norway which is effectively rotten raw fish which has been nicknamed ‘rat poison’ and ‘weapon of mass destruction’ because of it’s unbearable fragrance.

Personally, I do not understand how something with such an unpleasant stench can be in any way appealing. Around 80% of taste is smell and for this reason I cannot comprehend how any sane person could eat a rotten egg and find it anything other than rancid.

Similarly, being semi arachnophobic, I could not be paid any amount of money to even witness the preparation of a fried spider, let alone eat one. Conversely, I would be tempted to try a spider if it were presented in such a way that I would never know what it was, but if it were passed to me with legs still attached, I would run for the hills. Perhaps this would be seen as extremely unadventurous?

Click HERE for a link to a fried spider preparation video – NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED

However, I can appreciate and admire people who do eat such unusual foods, as I understand that some day this may have to become ‘the norm’ for the western world. Studies have shown that in the future, we may all have to rely on insects for our nutrients. They are high in protein and far more of a sustainable source of food than many others that we consume regularly. To eat unusual foods is tapping into new and wholesome species, which will give the more unstable species a chance to recover.

Despite this reasoning, I cannot fathom how people can even begin to think of eating such abnormal creatures and foods. Most would not be out of place featuring in many a horror story. Although, maybe we should turn the mirror on ourselves. These unusual food habits are completely regular for those who consume them, and things which we may find completely normal, may seem extraordinary to them. This poses the question: what is the norm when it comes to diet?


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