Foodie Friday: You Ate What??

Besides frequent torrents of rain, the beginning of rainy season brings with it an onslaught of flying termites – but only for a few days, making these creatures quite the delicacy in Nigeria.  Honestly, I have never seen anything like it: Hundreds and hundreds of termites swarming by our front door, porch lights and outside.

They’re attracted to light…. (I will spare you the bad analogies running through my head….)

And the excitement of the Nigerians catching them!  Oh, you should have seen the excited (and determined!) looks on their faces!  It’s amazing to me that these insects are out in such mass quantities for such a short time, and just like that, they’re gone.  This year on our compound  there didn’t even seem to be as many hard core termite catching days as in past years that we’ve heard about; there was one night of swarms, then maybe 2-3 nights of just a handful.

Which explains the focused determination of those catching them.  Even the guards on the compound were swooping termites into buckets – it was actually quite an amusing (and fascinating) sight.  Chris went to ask one of the guards a question, and he answered while continuing to rapidly fire termites into their holding tank.  Chris thought the guard was going to come with him to show him how to do something, but the guard clearly thought nothing of the sort, as he kept on gathering away in a frenzy.

Our front porch was littered with wings for days….

…And the side porch….


…But when I saw how quickly the termites were gone, I can’t say I blame them.  For the most part, Nigerians love this snack (fried being the cooking method choice here.  I suppose the sentiment is the same as in the States: Fry anything and it will taste good.), and if peanut butter cups were falling from the sky and pouring down an annual yield that would disappear in a few days, I’m pretty sure I would be abandoning the “gather enough manna for one day” philosophy.  In fact, I would probably be abandoning everything for some focused peanut butter cup gathering.  (Oh, can you imagine?!  Raining peanut butter cups!  Orange packages beautifying the sky!  Oh, man!!)  (Wait a minute!  Maybe that’s why I devoured those peanut butter cups that came from lands far away when Chris’s parents came to visit and brought these foreign delicacies!  Grandpa and Grandma Plane probably misconstrued my rapid, greedy consumption as gluttony, but really, it’s like the termites that come a mere once a year, and the only response to such goodness coming so infrequently is to hurriedly gather and consume them.  Whew!  I was almost beginning to doubt my self-control, but I see now that I am simply adapting to the culture in which I am living.)

Chris and Judah got caught up in the frenzy, too, and decided that since everyone raved about fried termites, they would catch and cook some, too.  The guards used straw brooms to sweep up the bugs, but Chris and Judah’s purposes were served just as well with a butterfly net.  Granted, they weren’t nearly as fast as the guards, but they haven’t had years of practice (or motivation from having developed a taste for them).  Eventually they developed a system, though: Chris would run around trying to swoop his net over the termites while Judah would scream with delight (or terror if they got too close), “There’s another one, Daddy!  Oh, you missed it!  Daddy, right there!  Oh, you missed it!  YAY!  You got it!  {Squeal!}  We have special snack!  We going to eat term…. ANOTHER ONE, DADDY!”  I stood by and watched (such a good helpmate, aren’t I?), then Grandpa and I grabbed cameras to photograph the spectacle.  Grandma stayed inside trying not to think about it.

Finally they came in like hunters with their catch and headed straight to the kitchen, where Chris promptly began frying these bad boys.  I don’t know if it took some of the manliness of the hunt away when he was unable to proudly thump in and present his woman with his finds for her to cook, but I had no desire to cook termites.  Actually, they’re lucky I let them use the good frying pan.  (I must say, though, this was probably the shortest amount of time between the “harvesting” and eating of a food for us non-gardening, non-animal-slaughtering people.  (Again, unless you count the immediate consumption of peanut butter cups.))  I felt so in touch with the land and all that other jazz.

Crisping up (Oh, speaking of cooking termites…. One of our friends actually plucks the termites right out of the air, pops them in his mouth and spits out the wings. And he’s British! When I tell some of my Nigerian friends that, they gasp, “He’s white?! I don’t even do that!” Richard, you’re a legend!  😉 )


Interestingly, you don’t need oil to fry the termites because they are so naturally oily.  (And have the highest iron content of any of the most commonly eaten bugs in Africa.  (Yeah, I looked it up.  Hard to believe such a tiny little thing can pack such an iron punch.  Although I guess vitamins do, so why not God-created termites?  (Hmmm…. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?)))

Also interestingly, they smell like pancakes when they are cooking.  I mean uncannily similar to pancakes.

Judah had been talking all evening about eating termites and was SO excited about it… in theory.  (I, however, was not even excited about the theory.)  When Chris plucked one out of the frying pan, de-winged it and cooled it for Judah, he had second thoughts, though: “No, you first, Daddy.”

“You first, Daddy!”

So Chris went first and really liked it.  I think we were all a bit surprised.  That was all the encouragement Judah needed to try, and he was hooked, too.  In fact, after that, Chris could not cook them fast enough for Judah.  Almost as soon as Chris would remove them from the pan, Judah wanted another one.

Mikey likes it!

(Say, how many more years do you think we have left on the Mikey references before people no longer get it?) (Oh, and for the dentists who might be reading this, that is thankfully not a cavity in his tooth but bug remnants. Thankfully, right?!)

I’m not going to lie, though: I was not as adventuresome.  I have shied away from eating bugs since my childhood days of bike riding at dusk and ending up with an uninvited mouthful of gnats, and to be honest, even the claims of so many Nigerians – followed by Chris and Judah devouring them – did not tempt me in the least to try.  Yup, not even to TRY.  (“I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them, Sam-I-Am….”)  I have spent a lifetime squashing bugs, and it ain’t so easy for a girl to dismiss that ingrained response.

So do I regret not trying them?  Nah.  But next year come termite time, I might offer to cook them so my guys can catch more.

(Now comes the part where you comment and tell us the strangest thing you ever ate.  Did you like it?  Not like it?  Did you vomit in your mouth while you pretended to love it so you didn’t offend someone?)  Or maybe you have a green eggs and ham story to share (like I never ate mangoes before coming here because they looked slimy, and I love them now!)…. Respond away!


23 thoughts on “Foodie Friday: You Ate What??

  1. I remember well the flying termites from my visit to South Sudan a few years ago; but they didn’t eat them…

  2. Hmmm… I think the strangest this I ever ate was the white sausage in Bavaria. Didn’t like that. I was NOT tempted to eat the whole, filleted fish rolled up on a stick, though. Something weird about eating something looking at you…. I ate everything else I was served, though.

  3. Yup, I ate chapulines (fried grasshoppers) in Mexico. Not exactly a delicacy, but I could stomach them. They had the wings already pulled off them, and were doused in chili powder.

    • We could bring some back for you next time we’re in the States and perhaps seeing their deliciousness might change your mind. 😉

    • Actually, no…but I don’t think these kind of termites eat through wood, which might explain that. 🙂

  4. I am with you Christie! No bugs for me! Zeke however, is more adventurous believe it or not! (Who knew?) He wants to eat chocolate covered grasshoppers and ants!

  5. Have never been close to starving, so don’t know if I would try one even then. But have made it through 75 years of life without one, so I think I’ll pass. Adventurous of Chris & Judah though.

  6. My daughter, vegetarian by the way is a survival guide for Boulder Outdoor Survival School. she has eaten many mice on courses. Not me though.

    • Good to hear from you, Mr. Bricker! Not sure if I could do the mice…bugs are one thing, but rodents are a whole different ball game.

  7. While in Tajikistan one of the expat guys ordered bull testicle. Apparently he had it in one of the villages and it was in a very nice sauce. Watching my language partner, a girl, explaining that part of the menu to him was pretty funny. She had no desire to try it. I thought to myself, “how can something like that even taste good?” and was curious enough to try it. If I could go back in time I would pass. It wasn’t vomit inducing but the texture was just grainy and unnecessary.

    You want to know something I did pass up because I was sure I would gag? I was in Jamaica staying in the home of a lovely church lady. I am not a fish person and fish seemed to be a staple in the morning. Cod fish no less! I did manage to eat those dishes. On one of the last days of my stay I was so excited to see that an omlette was being made. I love eggs! Well I sat down to eat and noticed a huge mass (seriously. a huge mass) in the middle of my omlette. Before I dug in I asked what the omlette was filled with. And the answer was sardines. A sardine omlette and its maker was sitting right across the table. I looked at the omlette and knew if I took one bite I’d throw up so I had to explain that I just couldn’t do sardines. I could try a tiny piece of bull testicle but didn’t even touch the sardine omlette.

    • Interesting…I think I’d probably opt for the sardines over the bull testicle, though neither of those sound nearly as appetizing as termites!

    • Well then Uche is definitely missing out! We’ll bring some back next time we’re in the States so you can try them. 😉

  8. Pingback: How You Know Your Kids Live in Africa | Those Winklers

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