Reflections on scorpions and eating them

by wands on December 1, 2009

Sting-in-tail eater.

Sting-in-tail eater.

I wonder if there are women in China who have pregnancy cravings involving scorpions. The eating of them, that is.

There’s no reason to imagine this would not be the case given that scorpions, it seems, are something of a delicacy in China. Or at least a popular snack with some in China.

Unless, of course, the scorpions and sea horses and starfish and grasshoppers are being planted in tourist areas by Chinese people with a sense of humor, amused by the reaction of white people (as my Asian American friend calls me and my friends of Caucasian persuasion) who no doubt sometimes shriek in horror or alternatively belly up to the street seller’s counter and gingerly, although more likely with a hint of bravado, bite into one.

Skewered scorpions Beijing style.

Skewered scorpions Beijing style.

I got to thinking about scorpions recently after my daughter returned from Beijing having added scorpion on her list of culinary adventures. She and her husband are, happily, enthusiastic and adventurous eaters. When eating is such a readily available pleasure, it strikes me as a shame when people fail to relish its joys.

My memories of scorpions are not culinary in flavor. I recall being in awe of Professor Anne Alexander, who was head of the biology department back in the days I was a post-grad psych student at what was then the University of Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) in Durban, South Africa. She had done her PhD on scorpions mating. Wow.

Around the same time a post-grad psych student the same year as me who became a fabulous writer (why can’t I find links on google?) kept scorpions in his psych department office, which was right next to mine. He showed me how to pick them up by the sides of the tail (to avoid the sting on the end) and said so long as you didn’t touch them from above, you could let them run all over you.

No, I didn’t (let them anywhere near me). And neither did I sleep out in the open in Namibia when traveling and camping the length and breadth of that country some years back (four women, including my daughter, in a Volkswagen van) when my friend whose vehicle we were in stopped for a night in a location famous as a scorpion haunt.

And when I saw scorpions for sale in a market in Guangzhou in Guangdong province a few years ago — a bunch of them scrambling around in a red plastic basin, like my mother would put in the sink to wash her dishes in — I took a snapshot, registered I had the opposite of any desire to try them. And left with the memory — but not the taste.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

debbi December 7, 2009 at 8:40 pm

That is incredibly fascinating. However, this is not something I would try….I think it would ruin my vacation. I had admiration for the sophisticated palette but I would not eat this unless I was stranded out in the desert with no other alternative.

Ben Lamont December 30, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Good Day!!! Delicous Life is one of the best informational websites of its kind. I enjoy reading it every day. All the best.

Annette Miller June 22, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Looking for information on Prof. Anne Alexander. I was a very good friend of her’s and lost contact years and years ago. Wondering what happened to her.

Thanks

Annette

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