How to Eat Fried Worms

One of my favorite books growing up was How to Eat Fried Worms, the story of a 10-year-old boy named Billy who, on a bet, must eat 15 worms in 15 days. At first, he can barely choke them down, even though, as Amazon summarizes it, “Billy’s friends cook up these fat juicy grubs in a variety of appetizing ways — drenched in ketchup and mustard, fried in butter and cornmeal, and the piece de resistance, a Whizbang Worm Delight (an ice-cream worm cake).” In the end, Billy decides worms don’t taste so bad after all, and he keeps eating them even after the bet is won.

I was reminded of this tale yesterday morning when RB sent me a link to the website Edible.com, a purveyor of such delicacies as BBQ Worm Crisps (“Oven-baked not fried… taste similar to popcorn”), Chocolate-Covered Scorpion (“similar to Kit Kat in texture!”), and Giant Toasted Leafcutter Ants (“nutty bacon-like taste”).

ants

Edible.com’s wares aren’t limited to insect delicacies. They also sell Reindeer Pate (“an indulgent Christmas treat!”) and Thai Green Crocodile Curry.

curry

I wondered whether this site was actually an elaborate hoax. But it certainly seems real, right down to the exotic aphrodisiacs for sale. Then I started wondering — maybe BBQ worm crisps aren’t so bad. I mean, come on – if we didn’t eat oysters and clams, we’d probably think they were pretty disgusting. People from cultures that don’t consume cheese (pun intended, ha) tend to think it’s incredibly gross — and if you think about it, it really is. Especially that stinky cheese with mold growing all over it! If we hadn’t grown up eating the aged curds of a liquid that came out of cow teats, we’d never consider putting it in our mouths.

The strangest, and most disgusting, thing I ever ate was horse guts, served by very generous and hospitable hosts in Kazakhstan. It’s a national delicacy, highly prized, and I was honored to be offered a plate. But oh, my god. There is nothing quite like the smell of a steaming plate of horse innards, and knowing you have to choke at least some of it down. The friend who was traveling with me refused to try it, to my embarrassment. But I can’t say that I blame her, as she’s free of that particularly horrific sense-memory.

Anyway, I’ve never tried insects, either fried, chocolate-covered or whatever. Have you? Any aficionados out there? Are the rest of us missing anything?

19 responses to “How to Eat Fried Worms”

  1. swells says:

    How strange you should ask! Farrell, Trixie, and I ordered up a plate of fried insects yesterday in Mexico City! They came on a plate with a big heap of delicious guacamole and a basket of fresh steaming corn tortillas. They were darkly fried and crispy and slightly spicy. Although Trix pointed out that they just really tasted like fried anything, in the end the sight of all those little thoraxes and wavy antennae (not that they were still waving) on the plate proved too much for Farrell and me. Trixie soldiered on but eventually we needed to have the plate removed from the table.

  2. Jane says:

    Eat bugs? Eeewww!

  3. Dave says:

    You guys are in Mexico City? I’m so jealous. Trix, I would have eaten the bugs with you.

  4. Reindeer paté seems damn close to evil IMO. Come on, if you kill the reindeer for food how are we going to get our Xmas presents?… I like that someone is selling fried (or, well, BBQ) worms for snack food though.

  5. Wow, I did not know you had spent time in Kazakhstan. It seems to me (who has obviously never been there) like one of the most mysterious, distant places in the world. (This is based in large part in readings from Gravity’s Rainbow I guess.) A wonderful description of “A Kazakh Feast”.

  6. trixie says:

    the little legs and thoraxes were not appetite-inducing in the least.
    the things that made these pretty easy to eat for me were:

    1. there were no chewy parts and there was not really an obvious taste that could be distinguished from just fried bits of anything
    2. we probably all eat lots more bugs than we realize

    also, for the record, steph made it sound like she and farrell didn´t eat the bugs but they ate just as many as i did. they were just complaining about it more.

    i wasn´t traumatized by the eating of the bugs at all in the way that i was by eating cow intestines two years ago in argentina. they were actually so delicious at the time ( served coiled up and seared) but for several days following, i would have a gag reflex whenever i thought about it.

    eating a fried pig´s tail served whole at one of fergus henderson´s restaurants in london last year was also a little bit disgusting, but also delicious.

  7. Marleyfan says:

    When my kids were 7 and 9, we were down at the river, and I dared them to eat worms. They said I’d have to pay them, and so I said I’d pay $3.00 for each worm. What a mistake, I think I ended up paying out about $30.00 that day. Here it is ten years later, and the kids still talk about the fun day at the river…

  8. Dave says:

    I saw a thing on TV once where some people in some desert land caught loads and loads of crickets of some sort, dunked them in boiling sea water(?), and let them dry in the sun. They supposedly tasted like popcorn but with lots of protein. Sounded kind of good.

  9. people in some desert land

    During the years of Exodus, the Israelites were said to subsist on Manna, which could well be the honeydew secretions of plant lice. (Speaking of Exodus, this Facebook Haggadah is if not the funniest thing ever, at least the funniest thing ever associated with passover.)

  10. Ivy says:

    A local delicacy here is pan fried huhu (pronounced hoohoo, or whowho, if you prefer) grubs. Essentially this is like eating a 2-3 inch maggot. Apparently they taste like roasted peanuts. So why not just eat roasted peanuts, one might very well ask? Also some people swear by lamb’s fry at docking time. That is, tails. But i have yet to bring myself to try either. In the small matter of eating bugs, I can’t see it happening. The thought of the texture gives me the jim-jams.

  11. J-man says:

    I’ve eaten sauteed crickets, at a Oaxacan restaurant in L. A. no less. They tasted like hay.

  12. Dave says:

    Hay. So I’m not missing out on much.

    Ivy, you’re in New Zealand? I didn’t know that.

  13. Jeremy says:

    Though I wasn´t part of the cricket-eating expedition (due to being, uhhh, still tipsy from the night before), I was able to eat some of Farrell´s omelette com escamoles , which, as all of you surely know already (or at least Modesto Kid does), is an omelette with ant larvae. They look like pine nuts or sesame seeds and don´t taste like much, though they were a bit squishy. We love caviar, though (as one food reviewer noted), so why not ant caviar?

  14. i didn’t really read this, a little tired, so i was scanning and i got to “horse guts”

    LISA you kill me! you and all your crazy ass experiences!

    HORSE GUTS!

  15. Rogan says:

    The post, but especially the following conversation, reminds me of a time when I was a boyscout. The scouts came across a nonchalant porcupine strolling through the woods and decided to club it to death. The Scoutmaster, an old Montana hunter, made the scouts drag the carcass back to camp where he dressed and roasted it. We ate it along with the crawdads and perch we had killed earlier in the day.

  16. Another putatively gross Mexican food which I like a whole lot, is huitlacoche, a mold that grows on the inside of corn husks. Very good in quesadillas.

  17. Rogan says:

    P.S. HTEFW was one of my favorite books in grade school. After finishing it I decided to give worms a try. Whenever it would rain, the curbside street gutters would get filled with the earthworms that had surfaced from the soggy earth, hoping not to drown (doesn’t seem to happen here in Los Angeles). So I would squat on my haunches, pick them out of the gutter and pop them into my mouth. But I couldn’t bring myself to chew or swallow them. Instead I would walk up to some unsuspecting girl (a Susie Derkins) and ‘vomit’ out a pile of worms at her feet. It got the reaction I was hoping for.

  18. LP says:

    14: Lane, it’s almost worth revealing my crazy experiences slowly, over time on this site, just to get your response. HORSE GUTS! It was truly a gastronomic horror.

    5: Kazakhstan is indeed fabulous. We went to Uzbekistan on the same trip, and I think I’d have to recommend that even more highly. But going anywhere in Central Asia is pretty magical, at least in my experience.

  19. lane says:

    LP, One of the great pleasures of knowing you is how every so often one gets this line “Oh that’s like the time I was in (some far off land) doing (some really weird thing)

    Give us a post sometime about the nightclub singing in Japan. That’s an area I really want to hear more about.