You might remember the moment in I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! when two of the ‘contestants’, Jordan and Kerry Katona took each other on in the ‘Bite For Bite’ bush tucker trial. Mealworms, coakroaches and fish eyes were a few of the items on a taster menu that would leave Heston Blumenthal popping his collar.
Would you like to see my Moths?
While this may appear to be scraping the edible barrel, insects and their ilk have long been considered an excellent source of nutrients for bushmen and Aborigines alike. Before you turn your head away in disgust, have a quick think about the last time your grandparents mentioned tripe, or the fact that western society considers oysters a primal delicacy, or that the French still chow down on snails in garlic butter. One man’s bowl of snot is another man’s delicate soup, and if that mental image made you gag, you might want to avoid the following descriptions of classic Australian bush food. If Jamie Oliver was an Aborigine, these would likely be on his recommendations for an early evening snack.
If you think that Aborigines pick up the odd insect here and there when patrolling their surroundings, you’d be wrong. If the Aborigines had an equivalent of Dragons’ Den, someone would most likely have pitched a tool to help speed up the harvesting of Bogong moths. From November to January, Aborigines would gather to literally mop up the layers and layers of moths that covered the entire surfaces of caves in the Bogong mountains of New South Wales. After dislodging and collecting them from the cave floor, they were then cooked in sand and stirred in hot ashes, which removed wings and legs, before being sifted in a net to remove the heads.
Sometimes they were eaten whole, often they were ground into a paste to make into moth cakes (mmm, cottony). Aborigines were big on the Bogongs because the insects were very high in fat content, with over half of an adult male’s body comprised of the stuff. Yum. The practice of feasting on the Bogong moth is no longer popular. Indeed, the Bogong moths are now getting their own back, regularly invading the Australian capital, Canberra, and occasionally making their way to Sydney, where they cover buildings in huge concentrations.
Andrew Zimmern is host of the travelogue show Bizarre Foods. Examples of his days out include visiting the only restaurant in the world to serve over 30 different varieties of animal penis, indulging in the consumption of thousand-year old eggs accompanied by ‘stinky’ tofu, and tearing his way through a jar of sea slugs. This particularly Australian delicacy, the raw crocodile egg, is probably best expressed by Zimmern himself, so get this video watched .
The Aborigines of central Australia were big on these little blighters. They used to be a rich source of sugar, as the worker ants feed huge amounts of honeydew to other worker ants who function as storage vessels for the nectar, their abdomens hugely swollen with the stuff. These ants were kept underground, regurgitating the nectar at the behest of other worker ants, a bit like Mr. Creosote in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.
Yeah, think I’d go for that…
Unfortunately for the fat ants, human ingenuity won out, and though some chambers could be up to two metres underground, such was the dearth of sugar content in the Aboriginal diet that the prize was too great to miss out on. The appeal of the Honeypot ant is so strong that places in Australia have been named after the insect.
Nothing wrong with a bit of Kangaroo tail. Check out this recipe for Kangaroo Tail Soup with Potato Dumplings. The Aborigines prefer chopped, marinated Kangaroo Tail ragout themselves, and who’s to argue when the thing is marinated? Certain portions of the tail meat are considered a rare delicacy, though it has been rumoured the Kangaroo has difficulty boxing afterwards.
I guess it would be like Ox Tail soup?
Red Rock Cod
Although the other entries on this list might be, to use the most tactful phrase, an acquired taste, the Red Rock Code is in a league (or several, arf arf) of its own when it comes to things that might disagree with you. Apart from being uglier than a service station waitress, the cod has an arrangement of 13 highly toxic spines running the length of its back which have to be completely removed before cooking. Although an antidote to the toxin exists, the likelihood of leaving a tip after the meal would be remote. Regardless, this is almost definitely the tastiest delicacy on the menu, popular for its delicious, succulent crab-like flavour.
He looks pretty cool! So does the fish
More commonly known as Green ants, the Weaver ant is, as ants go, not a bad looking creature. In the north of Australia, they are a favourite among the more indulgent bush men as their green abdomens taste quite similar to lemon sherbet. The traditional way to eat the Weaver ant is to pick it up by its head before squashing the head, preventing it from biting. Good for the diner, very bad for the ant. The abdomen should then be bitten off the body. This is insect chomping 101, so if the situation ever arises where insects are the only thing on the menu, the Weaver ant is a good way to ease oneself in.
Not that type of Weaver!
The undisputed king of disgusting insect food, the Witchety Grub is the Elton John of the insect world. Check it.
Considered the most important insect food in the world and a delicacy by Aborigines, ten large Witchetty grubs provide enough nutrition to sustain an adult for a day, being rich in protein, calories and fat. They are reported to taste like almonds and cream when cooked. However, the preferred method is to eat them alive by holding the grub by its head, lowering it into the mouth, biting it off at the neck and chewing immediately, as the grub will still be wriggling in your mouth despite its decapitated state. It’s enough to make you want to cry.