Nov 15, 2010

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I’m A Celebrity Style Bug Eating is Nothing New

Dave Holcroft
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As the next gaggle of B list celebrities head into the jungles of Australia for another annual instalment of ITV’s bug eating “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here” I find myself questioning whether or not Linford Christie or Lembit Opik would ever be challenged to eat something that would kill them? Imagine it, nutrition diet guru Gillian McKeith meeting her maker live on ITV, it just wouldn’t happen.

If the I’m a Celebrity show researchers are worth their weight in locusts, they’d be well aware that eating bugs, insects, glands and intestinal ‘bits’ is actually quite commonplace across the world and has been tradition in some far flung places for centuries.

I'm a Celebrity Bug Eating is Nothing New

I'm a Celebrity bug eating is nothing new

My motto when travelling to remote locations is that it’s probably far safer to eat what the locals are eating than asking a tribe in remote Indonesia to cook a lasagne or fish fingers, chips and peas, they’re simply not used to it.  If you’re travelling by the coast, eat seafood, if you’re in a landlocked area miles from the ocean, don’t eat seafood. Local knowledge built up generation after generation will skilfully dictate how to prepare, cook and eat the correct parts of the animal or insect which, let’s face it, is probably going to be a damn sight healthier than some of the salt-ridden, monosatured fatty nonsense we’ve come accustomed to in the western world (apart from Poo Doctor McKeith of course).

Gillian McKeith may be analysing her own poo after this show

Gillian McKeith may be analysing her own poo after this show

To prove eating ‘bugs’ is a worldwide phenomenon let’s take a tour round the gastronomic world continent by continent. Beginning with Africa, insect digestion is the norm. In Nigeria you’ll find roasted termites on the menu, reputed to hold more calcium than roast beef, whilst in Uganda an evening meal of roasted grasshopper is not uncommon.

I travelled to Tanzania this year and learned of the rather cruel masaai practice of drinking cows blood (often through poverty and necessity in comparison to delicacy) mixed with milk, it’s enough to make a pigs stomach curdle!

The Masaai of Tanzania tucking into some hearty cow's blood.

The Masaai of Tanzania tucking into some hearty cow's blood.

Apparently the cow’s throat is slit, delicious blood extracted then patched up again until breakfast time.

Whilst I was backpacking in South America, I decided to taste guinea pig (or ‘cuy’ as your pet ‘fluffykins’ is known locally), which actually tasted like piggy pork, albeit the complicated rib cage system meant my chips were cold by the time I’d found the meat. I guess I’d ordered my guinea pig in the wrong ‘style’, it arrived whole but gutted, with teeth and claws intact and clean shaven, perhaps I should have gone for other Peruvian alternatives such as piquant and quartered or flattened and fried! Either way, I could imagine Shaun Ryder tucking into a guinea pig dish, no qualms at all.

Moving onto Asia, we can see probably the biggest clash with non-insect eating western cuisine. The stories of skinned dogs hanging up in Vietnamese butchers are true. Consumption of live octopus (or San Nak Ji) in Korea is also true, with tenticles still moving on the plate. Interestingly, many reports suggest the taste is actually quite bland, given the amount of chewing that must occur to ensure you don’t ingest a live sucker that could wreak havoc on your gut.

Visitors to the Cambodian town of Skuon can taste yummy pan fried tarantulas whilst further north in Japan, you may be given a warming dish of killer puffer fish, whose innards are 1,000 times more toxic than cyanide. Only permitted to be sold if prepared by licensed, qualified Japanese chefs I bet Ant and Dec wouldn’t dare risk bringing this one into their Queensland playground for playmate Kayla Collins or X factor songstress Stacey Solomon to chow down on.

Snack Attack of Cambodian Deep Fried Tarantula?

Dealdy Puffer Fish or a snack attack of Cambodian Deep Fried Tarantula?

Always a firm favourite on the show is the wretch-ridden chewing of the Australian Aboriginal delicacy witchetty grubs, which I’m really hoping Gillian McKeith has to eat this time round – though the poo analysis should only take place after midnight, post witchetty grub.

Peckish? Try a Witchetty Grub. The Aborginal 'bag of crisps'.

Peckish? Try a Witchetty Grub. The Aborginal 'bag of crisps'.

The Aussies are no strangers to wierd foodstuffs, its not uncommon to see kangaroo, emu eggs and crocodile being eaten across the outback, in fact on my travels I’ve seen giant supermarket chain ‘Coles’ selling ‘kanga-bangers’ and ‘roo-burgers’, let’s just hope they’re not road kill scoop-ups!

Europe also has its fair share of gruesome dishes, in fact Casu Marzu cheese of Sardinia, is actually provoking a bout of nausea as I write this post. The Italian’s refer to it as ‘maggot cheese’, the sadistic cheese makers introduce insect larvae to digest and ferment the cheese, essentially ending up as a runny block of cheese.

Casu Marzu or Maggot Cheese - now banned in Sardinia!

Casu Marzu or Maggot Cheese - now banned in Sardinia!

Apparently Casu Marzu has now been banned in Sardinia for health reasons – still if it’s been eaten for centuries I see no reason why Linford Christie couldn’t pop some in his lunchbox and win some ‘stars’ for the team back in camp!

Even the USA and Canada have some putrid culinary offerings. There is the famous Brunswick stew of Carolina, USA which is a veggie way of saying Squirrel casserole and the Canadian Inuit tribes still rejecting Qallunaat or western food to this day in preference of their own diets. The Inuit’s liking of seal blood and raw seal brain, eaten raw and frozen to maintain the vitamin C boost might ruffle a few feathers where animal rights are concerned but it proves our ancestors knew what was good for them.

I think it’s clear that the ITV ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’ producers wouldn’t serve up the contestants anything a couple of immodium tablets wouldn’t sort out. As we’ve discovered here, eating bugs, insects and with Christmas approaching it’s always difficult deciding what to buy your loved ones, why not treat them to some edible bamboo worms or a can of giant water bugs – there are even websites dedicated to this stomach turning market.
Just to encourage a spot of bug eating debate – have I missed anything here or do you have any views on how low we have to go to get a fix of TV enterainment these days?!

  1. Harry Lawrance says:

    Out of this beastly buffet I’d probably only try the Ozzie kanga-bangers and roo-burgers. Everything else just sounds foul. One delicacy that I heard of that’s not included here is kæstur hákarl. It’s an icelandic dish of fermented shark. The shark is buried 10 weeks before it is dug up and dried.

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