A scorpion is just a bug

from: Bo Tung Xeo Restaurant, Ly Tu Trong St. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Zooming around in the pandemonium of Saigon traffic is enough to put hair on a woman's chest. For someone like myself, with an already more than attractive compliment of the manly stuff, the adrenaline just makes you crazy enough to deal with it. And hungry.

Having read about a restaurant where one can order a great tray of raw meat and cook it yourself over a charcoal brazier they bring to your table, I thought it sounded like a sufficiently manly meal for one who had just conquered the mean streets. I turned the bike in that direction and almost blind-sided someone.

Salivating, I walked into the restaurant and came face to paint with a sign above a rustling cage. I read it and immediately felt the age old pull of biology that once caused knights to joust and gentlemen to duel. "Deep fried Scorpion." The gauntlet was tossed, my lady was there. Not only that but when one of the waiters took one out by its tail and came at me with the black beast, I yelped and tried to hide behind my lady. My honor was at stake and I could not back down.

I try to act nonchalant, "how much for a can of Tonic Water?"

"Eight thousand" says the waiter with a belittling smirk only the professionally subservient can perfect.

"Hmm, and how much for the ... er," I flip the pages and look intrigued upon reaching the scorpion section, "... how much for the scorpions?" I jerk my thumb over my shoulder unable to look back to where the scratching sounds are coming from. I think I can even make out sound of clacking pincers.

"Thirty thousand Dong." There is a tone of begrudging respect in his voice now. I am encouraged.

"Uh huh. And just how many does that get me?" I could see on his face what he did not say. Aaah, he thought, I misjudged this one who asks the right questions. This one is shrewd! Respect beginning to show on his face now,

"eight Scorpions." Damn!

"Ok. Well, how much for just one?"

The scorpion came out looking just as scorpion-like as I had feared it would. The kitchen had put it on a large plate with a full bed of lettuce beneath it and an oversized garnish on the side, as if to mock my backing down again and ordering 'just the one then'.

I broke off one of the pincers. The deep frying had not removed the hairs. I bit into it, almost cracking a tooth but grateful that it did not taste worse that a particularly blackened piece of Cajun cooking, just burned really. Courage flooded my veins as I saw the opportunity to redeem myself in the eyes of my fair lady sitting opposite (the waiters were a lost cause at this point) and surveying me with a disgusted eye. I went straight for the soft abdomen and pulled it open to reveal contents that looked like mashed banana. My stomach twisted, I closed my eyes and bit into the body avoiding the touch of the legs to my face that I knew would be my undoing. "It's just banana ... it's just banana ... it ... ugh ... it ... tastes like bug!"

Have you ever absentmindedly found what you thought was a small seed in your mouth, no doubt dislodged from between your teeth, and chewed it only to find out that a bug must have flown in? Well if you have, you have experienced all the gastronomic subtlety of eating scorpions and can safely give them a miss. For those of you who haven't, spit out the seeds unless you've been eating raspberries because manly or not, a bug is just a bug and they taste like shit.

~ Nigel 12.13.01



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