Worms are fascinating critters. There’s no getting around it. Or maybe they’ve just seemed fascinating, ever since I first read Gary Larson’s hilarious 1999 book, There’s a hair in my dirt! A Worm’s Story.
Now, though, worms have made it to the big screen. Last week I took my two young children to a movie called “How to Eat Fried Worms.” We all enjoyed the movie, which provided some lessons on eating earthworms, as well as a lesson or two on getting along. Click here for more information on the movie, which features a large cast of youngsters, along with Tom Cavanagh and Kimberly Williams.
There’s an interesting side story here. I was surprised that the book on which the movie is based has been the target of censors:
Because of the novel’s content, the idea of eating worms as part of a bet is thought to be disgusting by some, it has been the frequent target of censors and appears on the American Library Association list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000 at number ninety six.
Amazing, eh? But back to the main topic of my post. I’d like to tell you the story about how I ate worms . . . but I can’t. I didn’t even come close.
Watching “How to Eat Fried Worms” reminded me of the time I was visiting Guangzhou, China in 2001 with my wife and our newly adopted daughter. We were traveling with a large group of adoptive parents, accompanied also by a translator who recommended that we eat at a very nice restaurant in town. I don’t recall the name of the restaurant, but I do remember that you could choose from a wide variety of dishes, including some specialties involving worms and bugs. In fact, the live worms and bugs were on display at the front of the restaurant. You could pick out the worms and bugs (or snakes or lobsters or other critters) and the chefs would then prepare them.
Here’s a photo I took at the time.
As you can see, customers could select worms, beetle-looking bugs and other types of bugs. I really wanted to try out some of these exotic foods, but there was absolutely no one in my group that was encouraging me. In fact, the suggestion that I might eat anything out of the ordinary was met with horror and gasps. I remember looking at my wife for encouragement. She didn’t try to dissuade me, but she gave me a look I interpreted as “do you expect me to ever kiss you again if I have to watch you eating worms?” Bottom line: I wimped out. We did order a deep-fried pidgeon, which was presented with its head still on. Yes, it tasted like chicken.
While sitting in that restaurant that night, I remembered something a friend named Tim once told me: Morality starts with what one puts in one’s mouth.
You know, worms are truly wonderful creatures:
Toiling out of sight, they are indeed miniature plows, tunneling passageways that carry air and water deep underground. Darwin calculated that over a decade, the worms on an acre of soil could create a layer of nutrient-rich droppings, known as castings, about 2 inches thick.
Watching the movie and reminiscing about that Chinese restaurant made me wonder how easy it would be to prepare worms for direct eating (not indirect eating, where you have the fish eat the worm, then you eat the fish). I found a recipe for “earthworm chow” here. Here’s how you do it:
Wash earthworms thoroughly and place in boiling water for three minutes. Pour off water and repeat the boiling process twice. Bake on cookie sheet at 350 degrees F. for 15 minutes. Roll the worms in flour, brown in butter, add salt to taste. Add bouillon and simmer for 30 minutes. Saute onions and mushrooms in butter. Add onions and mushrooms to the worms. Stir in sour cream or yogurt. Serve over rice or noodles.
Earthworms have received considerable attention in the press recently as an excellent and potentially economical source of human food. From all accounts, they are a nutritious addition to human diets. Besides being high in protein, they are entirely edible, with no bone or gristle to throw away, and their subtle, earthy flavour lends itself well to all sorts of delightful dishes.
This article suggests that you let your worms graze on special food to optimize their taste: “To achieve a smooth taste, feed them a meal (oatmeal, for example) or organic material for a few days.”
Here’s an article that cautions that you need to clean your worms carefully before eating them. “Otherwise, you will have a gritty, chewy string that most likely has spent its lifetime dining on a whole assortment of harmful chemicals put in the soil by humans.” For legitimate health reasons, other sites have also suggested that you don’t want to just start sticking worms in your mouth. Were you about to do that?
It’s funny how so many people tell you about how to prepare earthworms, but most never suggest that they have ever eaten any worms themselves. Here’s a sample of that approach.
Ok, so you aren’t interested in eating worms. Then you might be interested in moving upscale, to something like sautéed maggot If I ever do get up the nerve to eat some worms, I’ll enthusiastically update this post. Until then, I’m destined only to dream of what could have been that night in Guangzhou.
About the Author (Author Profile)Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.
Sites That Link to this Post
- Why we should eat insects. | Dangerous Intersection | December 8, 2010