The heat has finally set in. Yes, I'm sure it's here to stay. You know how I know? The ants. Little sugar ants have started crawling across the kitchen counter. It reminds me of something...oh, the Berenstain Bears "A" book. "Ants. Ants advance. Ants advance across all Arizona and Otehlia's kitchen."
Today my husband threatened poison.
"They get in my sandwiches," he said.
"What?" I cried. "They're just sugar ants, they're harmless."
And then I threw in for extra measure, "And if you cleaned the counters more often, the ants wouldn't have anything to eat."
He asked if I would like to eat them, and I assured him I already have.
Living in Guyana, Africa and Brazil and traveling in Australia, I have ingested a fair number of ants. And as a kid I ate them as a dare, but that's another story (like the beginning of my culinary prowess?).
The thatched roofs and open-air environments in the tropics allow all sorts of wildlife in. Ants were just one of many. At night after cleaning the kitchen, and dishes, a towel was thrown over the leftover food and just-cleaned dishes to prevent ants from throwing late night parties. But they made their way in, nevertheless, and enjoyed the powdered milk, and of course the sugar. Those small crunches were the involuntary ingestions.
In Australia, however, eating ants can be voluntary. There is one species of ant, the green ant, that is actually favored for it's burst of "citrus" flavor that comes from it voluptuous behind. I tried those, too--once.
That got me thinking about some of the other weird food I have eaten. Here are some of my top picks:
Cameroon: After traveling for many hours to visit a friend's mother in the bush, we gave her the fish we had bought from the market that day. I love Cameroonian fish and was looking forward to a delicious meal. But as the honored guest, the local village men went out to hunt for me--and came back with a forest rat (I just realized it is probably a cane rat). I had to try to be polite and chew some of the stringy rat meat. Not yum.
Mali: Again, after traveling for hours, by bus, donkey cart and foot, to visit a friend's family in a remote village, we were treated a meal of goat's meat. The goat stew was delicious, but I noticed the next day that the legs and head of the goat were laying on a mat inside an empty hut. I wondered if the were going to bury it, or offer it as a sacrifice. On the third day it finally disappeared from the hut--and showed up that evening as the most foul smelling dinner I have ever been offered. I tried to, but couldn't, eat it. Rotten goat's head must be loaded with B vitamins and protein, but I couldn't get it past my lips. They forgave me because I am a foreigner. I think.
Cameroon: (Again?) Cows stomach and snails. Tough and chewy. Enough said.
Guyana: I was always hungry for protein (read "meat") during the two months I lived among the Makushi tribe in Guyana, and one of the most readily available meat was fish. Villagers dried the fish and brought it around to sell. Since I was no fisherwoman (the women killed the fish by biting the heads of the fish--I am not that brave!), I eagerly bought what I could. I remember cutting into one hunk of dried fish to find it crawling with worms. When I showed it to my friends there, they told me to just cut the worms out. So I did. No point in wasting good meat!
Husband, ants are a treat. Just try them with chocolate! It could be worse...
What is the weirdest food you've ever eaten?