Sunday, June 01, 2008

We should all eat the weevils

An article in today's Independent informs us that the humble grub is in fact a highly nutritious little critter. I don't expect them to be sold at ASDA's any time soon, but given the dramatic rise in food prices, we may have to get used to some uncomfortable truths and unfamiliar habits.

In any case, said article reminded me of the following passage in J. G. Ballard's novel Empire of the Sun, which explores the bleak dietary options offered to the inmates in a Japanese internment camp during WWII, one of whom is Ballard's fictional alter ego, Jim:

After counting the eighty-seven weevils -- their numbers, Jim calculated, were falling less steeply than the ration -- he stirred them into the cracked wheat, an animal feed grown in northern China, and swallowed the six spoonfuls. Giving himself a breather, he waited for Mrs Vincent to begin her sweet potato.

'Must you, Jim?' Mr Vincent asked. No taller than Jim, the stockbroker and former amateur jockey sat on his bunk beside his ailing son. With his black hair and lined yellow face like a squeezed lemon, he reminded Jim of Basie, but Mr Vincent had never come to terms with Lunghua. 'You'll miss this camp when the war's over. I wonder how you'll take to school in England.'

'It might be a bit strange,' Jim admitted, finishing the last of the weevils. He felt sensitive about his ragged clothes and his determined efforts to stay alive. He wiped his plate clean with his finger, and remembered a favourite phrase of Basie's. 'All the same, Mr Vincent, the best teacher is the university of life.'

Mrs Vincent lowered her spoon. 'Jim, could we finish our meal? We've heard your views on the university of life.'

'Right. But we should eat the weevils, Mrs Vincent.'
'I know, Jim. Dr Ransome told you so.'
'He said we need the protein.'
'Dr Ransome is right. We should all eat the weevils.'

Hoping to brighten the conversation, Jim asked: 'Mrs Vincent, do you believe in vitamins?'

Bon appétit!

1 comment:

Dale said...

Entomophagy -- it's a meme on the rise!

This is good?

This is delicious?