A number of years ago, whilst in Cambodia (back when I was a cool, jet setting world traveller…before kids) a woman passed by the table we were sitting at having breakfast. On her shoulder she had balanced a huge tray piled high with black leggy things.
Closer inspection revealed these were actually large spiders, seasoned and roasted to a crisp.
I decided to buy one to stage a photo of me “eating a spider” to wow friends and family back home. Of course, this was before Facebook and other social media had taken off but I knew the power of this kind of picture for future generations…the cringe factor.
The problem was that apparently when a foreign woman buys a spider EVERYONE wants to watch her eat it. In short order everyone in that roadside stand and everyone within a half mile radius showed up and gathered around the table.
Suddenly there was tremendous pressure to actually eat this thing.
Now, some quick cultural and historical background… We had almost been arrested and jailed once already (long story for another time but it involved an accident by another van in our caravan on the way to Siem Reap). There are a ton of rules about what is socially unacceptable (i.e. do not sit in such a manner that you point the bottoms of your feet towards someone or leave chopsticks standing up in the bowl). Something as innocuous as chewing gum…against the law. AND there was the small matter of the Pol Pot regime’s brutality in the not so distant past.
So back to the spider that I now had in my hand. What is a girl to do? Mustering all of the bravado I had left, I bit off several legs and chewed them. I picked legs as they would be less likely to be squishy. I chewed with a fake smile plastered on my face, then swallowed.
Someone at the back of the crowd asked the next obvious question…of course it had to be translated for me. “Did you like it?”
No. No I did not. The legs were crunchy, much to my relief. The bits and pieces stuck in my teeth and I was picking out parts for the next several hours.
“Would I want another?” No. The woman with the tray was very disappointed that I would not buy a bag of five. I felt bad for her and went on ahead and purchased them. She was probably playing me, but it was a cheap thing to get played over. The spiders got thrown away as no one from our group wanted to touch them. Go figure.
On the rest of the drive I wondered how THAT many spiders came to be on her tray. There must have been a couple hundred. It was piled that high. Were they caught? Were they bred? More relevant, should I be concerned about spiders as I slept?
So now, I have truth to my photo of eating the spider. I learned a valuable lesson. And I know that if our society collapses and Harry our tarantula is the only edible thing left…he is going to be goner…because I know I can do it.