This mouthwatering webpage describes some delicacies that the rice-loving Javanese who’ve resettled all over eastern Indonesia don’t seem fully to appreciate:
Easy meal: Sago Palm (Metroxylon) is far more productive than rice, producing four times more starch, 100-200 kg per palm, enough to feed a family of 4-5 for a month. And it is the least labour-intensive starch to harvest. It takes one person 10 days to process a palm, faster if a group works on it. Sago is the staple carbohydrate for many people in Southeast Asia, Oceania and Pacific Islands where Sago Palms are found.
Asmat sago rituals: For the Asmat, the Sago Palm is the only sure source of calories in their mudflat homelands. They treat the Sago Palm not merely as a human being, but as a life-giving mother, the sago being her child….
Sago grubs are the larvae of the Capricorn Beetle (Rhynchophorus ferrungineus/bilineatus). The Asmat celebrate special occasions, such as the consecration of a new ritual house with an elaborate party featuring the grub. A huge bark container is prepared in the centre of the house and each guest is required to deposit his share of the grub. Each person, however, tries to cheat by giving as little as possible without being caught. Once all have made their contribution, the container is opened, spilling out the grubs, signifying new life emerging from a mother. The grubs are then enjoyed raw or roasted.
The Korowai also have sago festivals. Preparations for such a party lasts for 3 months. The head of the extended family initiates the celebration by sending out invitations to all family members and others with close links to the family. They build a large party house with all the special features needed to enjoy the sago grub: a traditional fire which is always kept burning, special racks to store the grubs. They cut down Sago Palms, sometimes up to 200, and make holes in the trunks for the beetles to enter, then leave the trunks on the ground. The beetles are only attracted to damaged palms, and quickly lay their eggs in the starchy palms. In the meantime, the family also harvest sago in the regular way, in preparation for the party. In about 6 weeks, the beetle larvae are nice and plump and just about to pupate. Each palm may contain up to 100 sago grubs. The family then sends out invitations far and wide to join the party. The grubs are harvested by cutting through the palm. The grubs are eaten raw, or mixed with sago flour and steamed. Often with lots of dancing and merrymaking.
Sweeter than roasted marshmallows. Or so I hear. The related Arthropods: Bugs for Breakfast page is also highly recommended, though perhaps not at mealtime. Here’s a sample:
You probably regularly eat bugs, without even knowing it! Insects are a part of all processed food from wheat meal for bread to tomato ketchup. It’s impossible to keep mass-produced food 100% insect-free. There are regulations stating the maximum amount of bug bits that food can contain and still be fit for human consumption.
Red about it: the food colouring cochineal is extracted from the crushed bodies of scale insects that feed on the prickly pear. Cochineal is widely used in many popular food items–read the labels!