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How To Eat Wasp Larvae

Last Friday, I was suddenly caught in a torrential downpour. I was walking along the road to get to class-when the rain began to come down, turning the road into a reddish, muddy river.

When it rains here, it doesn´t rain-it pours. You stop whatever you are doing and take shelter in whatever is closest(or you slog your way thru it to get to your destination). I had no umbrella, and was wearing flip flops…so I thought heading for  shelter would be the wisest choice.

There were a few hamlets of houses near me-and I ran to the one that had the best overhang, thinking I could just sit under that for awhile. As soon as I showed up on this particular family´s ¨porch¨, they all came over to get a closer look at the gringo.

There were about 20 people living in this particular hamlet, aged 1 to 50 or so years old. There were no men to be seen-only women and children. It turned out that a few of the kids had been in my English class for kids a few weeks ago, so I was luckly welcomed not as a visitor, but as a friend. I had a packet of coffee in my backpack, so I offered them the coffee, and we all sat around drinking it and watching the rain.

I happened to have my camera, so I asked if I could take some photos of the kids. As I snapped away, suddenly it seemed that 40 or more kids were there-it turned out the whole neighborhood heard I was there, and all the kids came racing over. Most people have rarely seen themselves in a photograph(except for the standard Panamina ID photo), so everyone loves seeing themselves in a picture.

I had been there about 2 hours, when they offered me lunch. I am very nervous about eating stranger´s food still(since getting so ill in the very recent past), but I could see that they were boiling the water and so on, and besides, the meal seemed to consist of solely white rice. Sure, I said.

About half and hour later, one of the women brought me a tin plate with a heap of rice on equally large heap of wasp larvae.

Let me first say that I had heard that the Ngobe ate wasp larvae, although I had never seen them do so. Many Ngobe think this is a ¨backwards¨custom, something from the past. However, in a place where money is little and protien sources are expensive, it´s a viable food source for many people here.

That said, um, wasp larvae is not easy to eat. For one thing, it sort of looks like it´s moving around, even when it´s quite dead. Secondly, it looks like what it is-whitish, maggot-like creatures. Third, it´s very, very chewy.

Here is my advice for those of you who try to eat this particular food in the future:

1. Don´t let your mind start playing tricks on you-it is dead, it´s not moving. And if it is, well, you´re going to have to be polite and eat it anyway. If it is moving, sort of look away while you mush it on to your fork. This will avoid you noticing if it is squirming or not.

2. It´s very chewy. Very. The best way to deal with this is not to chew too much, or you will be chewing away for ages. Just get it into your mouth and swallow quickly. Try to follow each swallow with some drinking water-if you have any. This helps it from getting lodged in your throat.

3. Smile alot. It´s a big deal for your hosts to give you so much of what is a very precious, protien rich food. They are giving you the best of what they have, and you should try to demonstrate that you are very pleased. Avoid grimacing or turning green.

One of my Ngobe friends here has offered to prepare wasp larvae for me in banana leaves, and I think I´m going to take her up on this offer-just to try it. Practice makes perfect, after all.



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