Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Large Arthropod and a Load of Bivalves

Continuing in a food stylee, I was privileged to scoff my way through a large arthropod and a load of bivalves the other day, and it got me thinking about cultural attitudes to food. The lobster I've had sitting in the freezer for months finally had an airing with some bread, butter and Helman's, and it was flipping delicious, like all the good bits of crab in one longer critter. The moules avec frites (mussels and chips, I reckon) were a spur of the moment thing whilst at the fish counter in Sainsbury's.

I have, in my wanderings, experienced the joys of locusts and guinea pigs (much to the wife's dismay, as she's very fond of locusts), and when I tell people this I get a mixture of disgust and curiosity. Locusts have a sort of prawny flavour and less crunch than you might think, and guinea pig tastes like rat. Nice, porkesque rat mind. From this, I concluded that I am adventurous and broad-minded in my eating habits, and rarley go for the sausage and egg option when holidaying in foreign climes, almost always trying the local fayre. How else would I have discovered the greatness of tapas.

However, I found my limits a few years ago, when I used to visit some african immigrants whilst working in London, which is a large town in southern England with a big stream running through it. And a museum. Anyway, they had to import great big bags the size of dustbin liners full of gigantic wood-boring beetles because they considered them a delicacy that you just couldn't get in the UK, not even in Waitrose. I was duly offered some as a thank you present for some work done, and declined with a barely repressed shudder. I'm not proud of it, and it was after that I made sure I ate some locusts when the opportunity arose.

So why is eating beetles repulsive and lobsters not? It's not as though beetles are better looking. I mean, take a ganzy at this thing I ate just yesterday:

It looks like a gigantic headlouse. It was also full of eggs which is apparently lucky and very tasty, even if it did look like . . . well, some sort of crustacean's eggs. And mussels? They look lie pebbles until you open them, and then they look like something out of an obstetrics manual.

What about our staples? Fruit I can understand, as it's advertised by the plant for the eating thereof. And meat, perfectly natural to attack, kill, heat and eat other species. But who was the first person to think of milking other animals for sustenance; was it a culinary adventurer who carefully noted how healthy baby mammals were on nothing more than what they obtained from their mother's teat, or was it a pervert who happened to come across a useful byproduct whilst fiddling with a mountain goat? And surely the bravest person in the world was whoever first ate an oyster.

I should remember that I live in a country who's national dish is tandoori chicken, and depsite the stereotype, I have never found a wider range of good quality, international foods than in the UK.

And despite what you might think of the individual mussel's fizzog, you can't help but admire the combination of french fries and white wine with a healthily sauced pan of the things, can you?

Mmm . . . food in general . . .


  1. As someone who adores haggis, I can hardly comment on the ghastliness of other nations' foodstuffs. But at least a haggis doesn't wriggle before you eat it. Unless you're very unlucky and the anaethestic hasn't taken full affect.

  2. I recently received an email reminding me to celebrate "Burns Night" (January 25th).

    Since I'm not across the water, I must rely upon you Jules and the fair maiden (aka Madam DeFarge) to, "raise your glasses high and say The Selkirk Grace, the traditional opening toast of the Burns Supper." I'm told that true sticklers to tradition may serve a haggis with tatties and neeps (potatoes and turnips). Haggis is a savory Scottish delicacy made with sheep’s pluck (heart, liver, and lungs), oatmeal, onion, and spices, and cooked in the sheep’s stomach lining. One of the highlights of the night is the recitation of the Address to a Haggis toast as the dish is presented. mmmmmmm....yummy!

    What else can I do? They don't serve Haggis in the hood or the joint.


  3. Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
    Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!


  4. What is "food" or not was always determined by the survivors.

  5. I eat most things, but I'm afraid my sensibilites draw the line at beetles and even snails and frogs. I had the chance to eat guinea pig in Peru, several times, but always declined, hard to eat something that your kids gave names to. Posted on this some months back. On Tomus I believe.



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