I did it. I ate a scorpion. And mealworms. With ice cream. With a cherry on top. And it wasn’t that bad.I was trying to find something bizarre and creepy to do in Portland, and I remembered my friend telling me about eating bug sundaes at the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium and Museum.
I did it. I ate a scorpion. And mealworms. With ice cream. And it wasn’t that bad.
I was trying to find something bizarre and creepy to do in Portland, and I remembered my friend telling me about eating bug sundaes at the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium and Museum.
The gag gift shop sells sci-fi- and horror-themed ice cream dishes, and is home to a recreation of Al Capone’s safe and other curious oddities.
A giant Sasquatch guards the entrance with one eye cocked in attack mode, flowers strewn at his feet and money pinned to his shin as if he were some Vedic god. I started laughing immediately.
I told the friendly guy behind the counter, Matthew Vasquez, that I wanted the Bug Eater’s Delight, which is a sundae topped with dried mealworms and a dried scorpion (without its stinger).
Vasquez, originally from Los Angeles, started working at the Peculiarium in August 2012. I asked him if he’d ever eaten the sundae, and he said he hadn’t because he’s a strict vegetarian. But that didn’t damper his enthusiasm for it.
“When they started the Bug Eater’s Delight—it was the very first thing [the owners] tried, and they said that they imagined that nobody would want to eat bugs,” Vasquez said. “But it became one of their most popular things, as you can tell by the Bug Eater’s Hall of Fame, or the Bug of Fame.”
Vasquez also said that places like the Church of Elvis really helped pave the way for what he called “nonserious, opposite-of-somber fun.”
He handed me a dried mealworm to sample. I looked at its eyes and legs. It smelled like Chex cereal. I was afraid I was going to crush it when I smelled it, and ended up dropping it because it was slick to the touch.
Vasquez offered me another.
I told him it was like chewing sand.
“With a body,” he said.
In 2012, Dennis G.A.B. Oonincx and Imke J.M. de Boer, researchers in the Netherlands, published a study in the academic peer-review journal PLOS ONE stating that “mealworms should be considered a more sustainable source of edible protein.”
Maybe I was preparing for something bigger—the next diet trend in Portland: mealworm meat substitute.
I also found out that practitioners of Chinese medicine use scorpions for aliments that have to do with “wind,” one of the elements used to categorize energies and illnesses, according to Acupuncture Today’s website.
Wind is attributed to varying maladies, from headaches and rashes to hypertension, according to the website of Mystic River Acupuncture, a therapy center based in Groton, Conn.
Maybe eating a Bug Eater’s Delight is a good way to fight summertime hives or poor student/starving artist migraines. I’d try it.
I asked Vasquez for mint chocolate chip ice cream to help mentally block the fact that I was about to eat the same food as a bird. The sundae was topped with whipped cream, rainbow sugar crystal sprinkles, a handful of dried mealworms and a dried scorpion next to a cherry.
I wanted to plug my nose like a little kid, but I didn’t.
The outer shell of both insects reminded me of roasted peanut skin, or that thin waxy tab from popcorn that wedges itself between your teeth until you floss 50 times.
I went for the scorpion claw first. I severed it with one quick crunch. It didn’t really have much taste; it was mildly nutty. I left the rest of the body for later.
The first bite of beetle larvae slathered in whipped cream was fine, novel, and went down easy until the aftertaste of salted cardboard hit me. I ate a spoonful of ice cream to wash it down, but I knew the next bite o’ bug would be even more pronounced. And it was.
After the initial hint of nut, eating mealworm was like chewing Styrofoam or air, followed by a gritty, salty filling.
I’m not going to lie. I couldn’t eat them all. I wanted to. I tried. But it just got to me, like the sound of a metal fork on a porcelain plate.
The scorpion was an even more unpalatable sight, with light reflecting from its H.R. Giger-esque exoskeleton. Its beady tail dipped in cream and sprinkles. My tummy turned. But I was determined.
I squeezed my eyes shut, took a big breath and ate the rest of the scorpion. I couldn’t believe it tasted better than the worms. It was almost sweeter or tangier.
I ate my artificially flavored maraschino cherry and left the remaining dead worms drowning in melted mint chocolate chip and whipped cream soup.
Now I can finally cross “eat bugs like Bear Grylls” off my bucket list.