Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Cricket Canapés and Arachnid Amuse-Bouches

The Food Network
75 Ninth Avenue
New York, NY 10011

Dear Executive Producers:

We’d like to call your attention to a new programming opportunity that we have been developing. Specially designed to capture the sector of the market interested in adventurous eating and culinary bravery, we feel it fills a gap in your current schedule.

As we become ever more aware of our global community and our impact upon it, the interests of the discerning gourmand are broadening accordingly. Though every serious foodie knows the environmental toll of the West’s industrial cattle production, how many know that many of the under-developed cultures of the East find protein in animals and animal parts most Westerners have never even considered as food? In a shrinking world, dishes and ingredients once considered exotic are available as never before, and the cosmopolitan eater expects the food media to keep him on the cutting edge of gastronomic opportunities such as these.

Accordingly, please find enclosed the transcript and a short sample of the pilot episode of “From Crepes to Chitin.” We look forward to hearing from you.

Shannon Dunlap and Jason Leahey

Transcript from 10/10/08

S: We’re in Cambodia this week, outside of Phnom Penh and cruising by bus up National Road 6 on our way to the small town of Skun. I’m here with Jason Leahey, renowned food critic, and I think I’ll let him describe what exactly we’ll be doing there.

J: Arriving drunk and eating bugs.

S: Yes, Skun does have a singular distinction, in that it is the French-fried spider capital of the world. Many Cambodians travel to the town for a taste of the region’s specialty. A little research into tourism in Skun reveals few attractions save for its trademark delicacy.
Jason, can you give me an approximation of how many people in the United States you expressed excitement to about eating bugs? Just an estimate.

J: It’s true that in my zeal for travel, I told many people—dozens? A score, maybe?—that I was jazzed to eat bugs.

S: How many bugs have you eaten since arriving a month ago?

J: You are tricking me and backing me into a corner. (Sigh.) I have eaten no bugs.

S: What makes you most nervous about eating the bugs?

J: I think it’s that they’re fucking bugs, man. We saw some at a roadside stand, and they had crickets, which I’m sure taste like the crunchy stuff at the bottom of a French fry basket, but they still look like crickets, which is a bit of a hurdle. And the tarantulas, they make daddy long-legs look like tiny little punks.

S: Are you more nervous about the cricket or the tarantula? Because you will try both today. Am I correct in thinking that?

J: Yes, I have committed myself to trying both. It’s the tarantula that makes me nervous. Maybe we should have done this afterwards. I’m starting to get jittery. Yeah, I guess it’s mostly about size with the spider. But there’s also that big ol’ abdomen. What’s that going to taste like? Like the inside of a fire-roasted marshmallow? Will there be a texture issue? That’s my main concern.

S: In case you’re feeling too sorry for Jason right now, we have come up with a plan to make him slightly less nervous. Would you like to tell our viewers what time it is?

J: Almost ten in the morning.

S: And how many beers have you consumed?

J: Approximately two and a half in the past forty minutes.

S: Would you like to describe for us how you’re feeling?

J: Mostly sleepy. It’s been a while since I’ve gotten drunk in the morning. Though there is a measure of collegiate nostalgia to it. Mostly I’m just focusing on what I need to do.

S: Do you know anything about the nutritional value of bugs?

J: I imagine there’s protein. Some salt and serious fat, too.

S: There is protein, in fact. I read that spiders and crickets have more protein by weight than beef, chicken, pork or lamb. And the cooking kills the venom, so you don’t have to worry about that.
I know you’re just doing a straight sampling today, but can you give us an idea of what might go well with the bugs? Condiments? Wine pairings?

J: Wine would definitely be something red. A little spicy. A shiraz, perhaps. And they’d probably go well with other Cambodian delicacies that we’ve seen, like barbequed entrails and pork faces and deep-fried chickadees.

S: Is there anyone to whom you’d like to feed a bug?

J: Hmm. I hesitate to answer that since I don’t know what it will be like. If it’s exciting and new then it will inspire me to feed it to someone different than if it’s vile and revolting. So given that, it could be anyone on the spectrum from my brother Andrew to Rupert Murdoch.

S: How are you doing on your third beer?

J: You know, it’s Anchor Smooth, man. Goes down easy.


S: Alright, we are back with Jason Leahey, on the other side of the spider, as it were. Can you describe what you’re doing right now?

J: Smelling my fingers. What do they smell like to you?

S: Familiar, actually. Like salad dressing, maybe?

J: I would not have said salad dressing.

S: Can you tell us how you’re feeling right now?

J: I’m feeling pretty good. I feel like I climbed a mountain. I don’t know if I’ll be going back to that mountain, but still.

S: So you won’t be eating bugs again any time soon?

J: No. And I’m a little disappointed in myself. There’s a part of me that was hoping that I would love it—that I’d just be walking down the street tossing crickets into my open mouth on the way to the malt shop to have a shake with my baby in between cricket munchings. But that’s not how it was.

S: Can you give us a rundown on the differences between cricket and spider?

J: Cricket—you had to pull off just one leg because it had like, little harpoons on it.

S: I think those are the legs that they make the singing noises with.

J: So I just ate a musician? Bummer.

S: Go on.

J: The crickets, you just put them in head-eye-goobery-antenna-end first. And there wasn’t a lot there. They tasted vaguely fishy. And greasy, very greasy. But that tarantula, you bite into one of those legs, and you’re just chewing, chewing, chewing. Not really breaking it down, but just beating it into tiny pieces. But the abdomen—that was pretty fucking gross. It looked a little like the inside of a moldy old samosa. It was just mushy and mealy and fishy-tasting.

S: It looked like the inside of a fig to me. It didn’t taste like a fig?

J: Not remotely. It was just gross. The Spider King will hate me. Forgive me, Spider Father, for my trespasses.

S: Okay, I think that’s enough for today. Thank you, Jason, for taking us on this culinary ride to Skun. Today’s episode has been brought to you by Anchor Beer.

J: Goes down smooth.


Rae said...

Wow, J. I am seriously impressed! Good thing Shannon got that on tape...ya need proof of a culinary experience of that nature. :)

Andrew and Emily said...


I can only imagine what the native Cambodians must be thinking. "Yes, yes, feed the biggest tarantula we have to the crazy white guy!"

buymoretime said...

That's awesome. Do they raise them and harvest the little guys or is this more of a revenge thing.... like catching it creeping over you in the night and setting it aside to be friend in the morning? If it's the latter, I'm not sure if you ever had to leave nyc...

Anna said...

more videos!!

Andrew and Emily said...

I just read this transcript again. Love it.

Kent said...

i almost threw up! i want a cricket. will you feed me a cricket when i come to vietnam? or cambodia? or wherever the heck you are?

Team Match said...

Jason should try out for Man V Wild. Next, you just need to learn to sift muddy water with a t-shirt in case of severe thirst.