Monday, August 31, 2015

I think I’ll go and eat Worms.

Worms are, apparently, quite nutritious.  They are high in protein and low in fat, are easy to find or rear, need very little preparation for the table, and apparently don’t taste too bad either. I feel sure they could become the next superfood. All they need is a celebrity chef in search of something to endorse. I can see them now, in all their wriggly worminess, neatly plated on a bed of shredded kale (or would amaranth be better?) with a garnish of açai berries (or maybe chia seeds?), and a quinoa (or would freekeh work better?) salad on the side. All washed down with coconut-water, perhaps.

Any wanna-be celebrity chef in search of a new concept to own and promote should look to the past for an old idea ripe for rediscovery, for there is no 100% new food idea in the world. Here are a few words from some late nineteenth century ‘French gourmets’ on lobworms (common garden worms) which I found in The Chicago Herald Cooking School: A Professional Cook's Book for Household Use (1883), by Jessup Whitehead:-

An Incredible Story.
Pall Mall Gazette.
Not only has the intellect of the worm been sadly unappreciated for centuries till Mr. Darwin rehabilitated that sagacious reptile, but it appears now that his value as a viand has also been grossly misunderstood and underrated. A group of French gourmets, whose object it is to do for the cookery of the future what Wagner is doing for its music, are happily following up the labors of Darwin in this direction, and, having recently tried this tempting morsel, have communicated to a grateful public the result of their researches. Fifty guests were present at the experiment. The worms, apparently lob-worms, were first put into vinegar, by which process they were made to disgorge the famous vegetable mold about which we have heard so much. They were then rolled in batter and put into an oven, where they acquired a delightful golden tint, and, we are assured, a most appetizing smell. After the first plateful the fifty guests rose like one man and asked for more. Could anything be more convincing? Those who love snails, they add, will abandon them forever in favor of worms. And yet M. Monselet, the great authority in Paris, has told us sadly that no advances have been made in the art of cookery since Brillat-Savarin, and that all enthusiasm on the subject died out with Vatel when he committed suicide because the fish had not arrived for the royal dinner.

The U.S. Army Survival Handbook (2008) does not comment on the deliciousness of the worm, presumably because by definition, if you are in a survival situation, you do not have the vinegar in which to marinate them, the ingredients for a nice batter, an oven to bake them in, nor any compatible seasonings or condiments. What it does say is:

Worms: Worms (Annelidea) are an excellent protein source. Dig for them in damp humus soil or watch for them on the ground after a rain. After capturing them, drop them into clean, potable water for a few minutes. The worms will naturally purge or wash themselves out, after which you can eat them raw.

I am sure you could cook and enjoy worms by following the (admittedly minimalist) suggestions above, but if you are still unsure about trying them, perhaps you could start accustoming your eyes and palate to the concept with a nice dish of vermicelli – which means ‘little worms’ after all. From another book by Jessup Whitehead, our author of the day, may I give you a dish impressive enough for your next dinner party?

Thatcher House Game Pie [specialty]
Is made in the following manner: Rub the inside of a deep dish with two ounces of fresh butter and spread over it some vermicelli. Then line the dish with puff paste; have ready some birds seasoned with powdered nutmeg and a little salt and pepper; stuff them with oysters or mushrooms chopped fine; place them in the puff-paste lined dish with their breasts downward. Add some gravy of roast veal or poultry (it may be cold gravy saved over from a recent roast), and cover the pie with a lid of puffy paste. Bake it in a moderate oven; and when done, turn it out carefully upon a dish and send it to the table. The vermicelli, which was originally at the bottom, will then be at the top, covering the paste like thatch upon a roof. Trim off the layers so as to look neat.
The Steward's Handbook and Guide to Party Catering (1889)


srhcb said...

Ask Martin Luther about the Diet of Worms

Kate McDermott/Art of the Pie said...

Oh dear! I don't think I could quite bring myself to make a pie with the little darlings, no matter how clean they are or how much vinegar they are marinated with. But, worm pie with vermicelli? That I just might try!