|Egg Chirozo Chapulines|
Alejandro Linares Garcia
In view of the fact that this month has one of the most food-celebrated holidays in it, namely Thanksgiving, I thought it might be interesting to talk a bit about some unusual foods.
In my book The Nun and the Narc, which is partly set near Oaxaca, Mexico, the heroine, Sister Margret Mary, grabs a quick snack at the local village market. I could have provided something safe like a taco, tamale, empanada, or a cup of Mexican chocolate, but I thought it would be interesting to provide her with an unusual snack that would show readers her adventurous side. Even if her creator, me, isn’t so adventurous.
Here are a few unusual foods served in or near Oaxaca, Mexico, that I had to choose from.
Tecoles, also easy to pronounce, are red segmented maguey worms, the larvae of the Hypopta agavis moth. They made me too squeamish to even consider letting poor Sister Margaret chomp on them, even though they are usually toasted or fried and served in a taco. She wouldn’t be seeing the bugs as she dined, but my stomach rebelled at the mere thought.
Another delicacy I encountered on the culinary search was escamoles, sometimes called “insect caviar”. Escamoles are ant larvae harvested from the roots of the agave tequila or mezcal plant in Mexico. I didn’t think the good sister could keep these down either. I know I couldn’t.
\The next choice was Huitlacoche, or corn fungus, which was described as having an earthy, mushroomy flavor. Not a bad option, I thought, because I love mushrooms. A bit harder for readers to figure out the pronunciation of the word, but it might be an edible choice. Then I saw a picture of the corn smut. It was off the table, too.
The last option I had was chapulines. Chap- u- lin-es. I rolled the Spanish word around on my tongue. It had a nice feeling. Easy to pronounce. Very Spanish sounding. And it is a widely consumed delicacy. Chapulines are eaten on a daily basis in Oaxaca, Mexico, and have been a culinary choice since the early to mid 16th century. Diners eat them in fried in tacos, or fried and dipped in chile powder and threaded on skewers. Put enough chile powder on anything to disguise the taste, like ketchup, and it might be edible. Described as crunchy, high in protein and very low in fat, they seemed like the perfect snack for an adventurous heroine who is health conscious and taking care of the Lord’s temple (her body). So, when she’d skipped breakfast and found herself getting hungry at the village marketplace, Sister Margaret chowed down on a skewer of deep fried, chile powder-coated grasshoppers.
Now, I’ve never eaten a bug, intentionally that is. The odd gnat has flown in my mouth while gardening, and according to one source I’ve read, we devour a fair number of insects that crawl in our mouths while we sleep, (which is why I cover my mouth with the sheet at night). So, I have to say, “More power to Sister Margaret, and anyone else brave enough to chomp down on any of these Mexican delicacies.” Because, frankly, I still prefer turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberries and good old pumpkin pie. I just live adventurously and vicariously through my heroines.
What about you? What’s the most adventurous food you’ve ever eaten? I did have alligator once, in New Orleans. It didn’t agree with me. No big surprise there.