On the Consumption of Termites

From Guest Blogger Abraham Paternoster, who is more than half-way through his six-month stint with the team in Burundi

            If you want to come into contact with as many living organisms as possible, visit a jungle. If you want to come into contact with as many insects as possible, visit a jungle with a flashlight. If you want to come into contact with and eventually eat insects at the bargain price of 6¢ a pile surrounded by friendly onlookers, visit Kibuye. While Burundi may not be at the top of many culinary tourism lists, I think it’s fair to say that the team has been intrigued by several types of fare here. Bananas, manioc, roasted goat, and now termites have in varying degrees captured the attention and adventurous spirits of Kibuye’s ex-pats.

            What to say about downing these protein-rich arthropods? Tastes like bacon bits, according to some. Its subtle flavor might be improved with a pinch of salt and, properly seasoned, could conceivably make a delicious party snack at a gathering of open-minded individuals. I highly recommend this as a literal illustration of G.K. Chesterton’s statement about the relationship between an open mind and an open mouth. Other evaluations likened the taste to nuts or suggested they be sprinkled on top of a salad or taken with coffee. Perhaps the only downside to this otherwise pleasant and enriching dining experience is the somewhat unpleasant thought that you are, in fact, eating a bug. That and the legs that get stuck in your teeth.

            Recent visitors Drew and Kim Huang had their curiosity stirred upon hearing that these delicacies were available at the dukas (vendors of local produce) just behind the hospital, so a couple weeks ago they invited the Fader girls and myself to walk up with them to buy the little creatures. For 200 Burundian Francs the woman combined two small handfuls of termites and put them in a little bag for us, but not before offering a few to Drew to see if he would actually eat them. He obliged her and the many spectators that had gathered by popping a couple right then and there, much to their astonishment and delight. We thanked them and carried our prize home, Anna holding the samples we’d been given and eagerly sorting out the heads as the tastiest pieces.

            We arrived back at the Quadplex and proceeded to offer our purchase to all and sundry near and far; several obliging souls partook and found satisfactory while others resisted even the heartiest coaxing. If you’ll pardon the expression, once one peeked, one’s interest either piqued or peaked. It was only among the children that the buggy flavor was occasionally measured and found wanting, suggesting that the composition of cooked termite can go against the child’s sensitive palate. The termites did feature as a sort of a party snack later that evening during a board game, however, lacking salt or other embellishment, they were eaten but gradually and remained unfinished at the game’s close.

            In case a merely descriptive account leaves the visually-inclined readers unconvinced, please refer to the pictures below (photocreds to Drew Huang).

1 comment:

Sandy said...

Oh, I'm shivering while reading this. You are so brave, Abraham! Except I can't decide if YOU ate them! You could describe them well enough. Gulp.