It’s finally going to happen. This week, I am finally going to indulge one of the darkest corners of my curiosity and try surströmming, the notoriously horrible-smelling Swedish fermented herring.
I was actually going to try it today. Then I realized that we only have one can opener in the house. A good can opener. An expensive can opener built to last. And if the stories I’ve heard are true, I’m likely to have to discard most of the plates, utensils, garbage bags, furniture, and clothes that are contaminated by surströmming juice. So before I can do that, I have to go buy a cheap can opener and probably a tablecloth to wear like a poncho.
This was my other menu option:
That is a black scorpion (also known as an Asian forest scorpion, or Heterometrus longimanus).
It looked like poison and death. It smelled like molasses. Of all the bugs I’ve eaten in the past month (more than I should have, no doubt), the scorpion was by far the crunchiest. I started with a leg. The leg was unpleasant. It was obscenely crunchy and didn’t seem to have any actual meat. It tasted foul, too. A bit like the smell of cat food mixed with the smell of pool chlorine. For the first time in my brief bug-eating career, I had to cleanse my palate with coffee.
Next, I tried the claw. Of all the parts of the scorpion, that one looked the most like food, because it looked like a lobster claw. Turns out that convergent evolution’s a bitch. It looked like a lobster claw, but it tasted like almost nothing, and the exoskeleton was so crunchy it was like biting down on a pistachio shell.
I went for the rear-most body segment after that, the one right before the tail. Before I bit into actual meat, a piece of exoskeleton immediately jammed between my teeth like one of those irritating popcorn husks. My reward for biting through that crunchy mess? Meat that tasted almost exactly like dry cat food (which yes, I have tasted) and followed up with a nasty bitterness. The head was the same story, only less offensively crunchy.
Finally, I steeled my courage to take a bite of this:
I should point out that I did not eat that stinger. Even I have my limits. For one, that’s where the venom gland is, and though most of the venom is probably gone, and most scorpions aren’t dangerously venomous anyway, my instincts prevent me from intentionally swallowing venom. That’s why I’m not dead. My instincts also prevent me from chewing up and swallowing an arachnid’s anus, which, as it turns out, is on the underside of the stinger. (I discovered this while researching to find out where the venom gland was. I also discovered that, apparently, scorpions have “anal valves”, which is my new phrase for the week).
I took a bite out of the segment at the opposite tend. It was far too crunchy, once again. It shattered noisily between my teeth into thousands of pieces which I had to spend a minute or two chewing. That minute or two gave me ample time to feel like an idiot, because once again, the tail tasted like cat food with a foul bitter aftertaste. After that, I declared failure and returned the disassembled scorpion to the bag. Trouble is, there was another whole one in the bag, so now I’ve got to decide whose birthday cake I want to decorate.
Way too crunchy. Tastes like cat food, bitterness, and chemicals, and filled me with the fear that I would poison myself and die in the stupidest possible way. Would not recommend.