I am sure we have all heard of some weird foods that people out there are eating these days. Some sound completely disgusting, like shirako, or sperm sacs of cod fish, while others sound like someone was having too much fun cleaning out their fridge, like broccoli and Cheetos or cheese and jelly.
But what about tarantulas for dinner?
People in some parts of Thailand, Papua New Guinea, India, and Venezuela risk their lives hunting tarantulas for consumption, but this practice is most prevalent in Cambodia.
In 1976, the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), also known as the Khmer Rouge, took over Cambodia and consequently, caused widespread genocide. The Khmer Rouge tried to revert the country to "year zero" by forcing everyone to become farmers and rely on the land for food.
In an attempt to avoid starvation, many people resorted to hunting and killing tarantulas.
In spite of this practice's grisly beginnings, tarantulas are considered a rare delicacy and sold for a relatively high price: equivalent to a day's wage. They are commonly sold at such a high price because tarantula hunting is very risky business.
I recently had an opportunity to spend a week in Cambodia while studying abroad in Chiang Mai, Thailand this summer and was challenged to try one of these creepy crawlers. After trying crickets at a night market in Thailand and thoroughly enjoying it, I was beyond ready to sink my teeth into a deep-fried tarantula. What did I have to lose?
To be frank, it was horrendous.
The greasy, hairy arachnid had some decent-tasting legs, although they were quite hard to digest due to all the cartilage. I could not claim that I had eaten a tarantula until tasting its body, though, right? Not only is a tarantula's body packed with protein, but it is also believed to have a lot of medicinal properties, such as being a good source of zinc and folic acid.
As I bit into the tarantula's butt, I immediately knew that it was a bad idea. It was super dry; a lot like overcooked, unseasoned chicken. Not only was the texture and taste weird, but the whole spider was slimy from being soaked in oil.
Even though this was not the best tarantula-eating experience, I would still be super open to trying other weird foods which are enjoyed by people out of my culture.
From this experience, my eyes were opened to the risks, like compromising one's life to catch a few tarantulas, many people take to earn a living. I have gained a certain respect and greater conscience for the processes it takes for food to get to my plate.
I would highly suggest giving foods outside of your own comfort zone a try. You never know what you may (or may not) like!