Creepy Crawlies

Math according to Ed: Bugs, and Lots of ‘Em + Thailand + Food week on the Bog = culinary mayhem. Q.E.D.

As some of you know, we went to Thailand for our winter vacation. Given that information, the title of this post, and the fact that it’s still food week, I can understand your anticipation of a story about cockroaches scuttling around the food markets and restaurants. Sorry, but if that’s all you can come up with, your imagination isn’t working hard enough. You won’t get roaches—well, ok, a few—but you will get an anecdote about questionable restaurant sanitation. And more.

Our nasty experience with food, or experience with nasty food—it was nasty any way you look at it—happened at a cafe on Koh Samui island. Did I say it was nasty? Gross, too. I can’t remember the name of the place—and regrettably I didn’t take photos or notes—but it was in Na Thon between the Surat Thani and Don Sak ferry piers. There was a small bakery section, with displays of various kinds of bread glued to the wall. In some places there only were crusts left. I’m pretty sure that the crusts were evidence of gravity showing its disapproval of wall-mounted bread, but I prefer to think that a plague of locusts tore through the place. Then again, locusts wouldn’t leave the crust, would they?

Regardless, the ketchup I squeezed onto my plate was a little squirmy. What did the waitress do when I pointed out the little white worms? She took my side order of fries back to the kitchen, had someone wipe off the ketchup, and brought the plate and a fresh bottle of ketchup back to me. Incredibly, we ate the fries. Though not the ones that had touched the tainted ketchup. The rest of our meal, which was Thai style, was passable. Any arthropods that may have been hiding there—we didn’t find any—were probably part of the traditional Thai diet.

I took just over a thousand photos in Thailand, which works out to about one hundred frames per day. Thank goodness for digital cameras, big memory cards, and CD-burning photo kiosks. Still, you’d think that with that many pictures, I’d have more than a mere dozen-or-so keepers. Here’s one of them. It’s food related, and blurry of course.

Bangkok food vendor

It’s a street vendor selling crunchy snacks. The bins, starting from the big pile on the right and going counter-clockwise (right-to-left and front-to-back): grasshoppers, mealworms, large beetles that look like cockroaches, scorpions, small beetles on the left at the back, and in the middle at the back is some other kind of beetle. The leathery-skinned white guy on the left appears to be trying to score some cockroach cluster, lightly killed.

All items appeared to be deep fried, many with a slight coating of batter. Based on the sheer size of the pile, it seems that grasshoppers are expected to be the top seller. Recalling simpler times when I was but a callow youth and willing to try campfire-roasted Saskatchewan locusts, I can understand their popularity. The slightly nutty taste. The crunch of the thorax. The legs stuck in my throat like the wayward shell of a popcorn kernel. But I must wake from my reverie. I didn’t try any this time around as we’d been repeatedly warned about buying any food from street vendors. We avoided everything: pineapple and other fresh fruit, assorted barbecued meats, the bugs, durian (which actually smelled good, if you can believe it), and all manner of mouthwatering Thai cuisine. It’s a shame we were too paranoid to try any of it. Still, there’s comfort in knowing that we managed to almost completely avoid intestinal discomfort for the duration of our trip. Especially considering the questionnaires we were subjected to by Japanese immigration officials upon our arrival at Fukuoka airport..

Overall, Thailand was great. Yes, were were there when the tsunami hit. But no, we weren’t anywhere near the affected areas. In fact, until our schools phoned from Japan to check up on us, we were blissfully unaware that anything had happened. If anyone wants to know more, post in the comments, or use the contact form. Ditto on the Thailand photos.

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