15 June 2009

The Curiosities of Food


In 1859, The Curiosities of Food was published in London. If it walked, swam, crawled, slithered or flew, Peter Lund Simmonds wrote about eating it. Not something as pedestrian as venison or horse or even possum, Simmonds wrote of buffalo humps, sea lion tongue, and red ants.

Simmonds exhaustive study quickly went out of print and might have been lost to general public if not for Alan Davidson. While researching the Oxford Companion to Food, Davidson ran across Simmonds' book. Its exhaustive research proved a boon for insight into the rarer culinary items Davidson was researching. Not only did he love the book, but he worked to get it reprinted. Lucky for us he did.

Fly Egg Cakes

In October the lakes Chalco and Texcuco, which boarder on the city of Mexico, are haunted by millions of small flies, which after dancing in the air, plunge down into the shallowest parts of the water, to the depth of several feet, and deposit their eggs at the bottom.
The eggs of these insects are called hautle by the Mexican Indians, who collect them in great numbers, and with whom they appear to be a favorite article of food.
They are prepared in various ways, but usually made into cakes, which are eaten with a sauce flavored with chilies.

I realize these ingredients may be a bit hard to find. I have as yet found no supplier for fly eggs nor the yummy elephant toes which are all the rage pickled; and prepared bat is just impossible to get at the butcher! It is very sad for us that Peter Simmonds' book was not a runaway best seller. He was outlining a companion piece for vegetables which promised to be equally fascinating.

Check out our previous post on Alan Davidson.

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