The AJ List: 9 Gross Things You Can Eat In A Pinch

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Thanksgiving is Thursday, and you’ll probably celebrate by cramming a combination of tasty things like turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce down your throat, washing it down with a few refreshing gulps of gravy, and letting it all settle into your stomach, where it will combine into a mixture that will knock you out sometime during the second quarter of the Cowboys-Raiders game.

But life’s not always gorging yourself on fattened poultry and starch, is it? Sometimes things don’t go quite as planned, and you get lost in the wilderness, survive a plane crash, or find yourself on the run from cannibalistic barbarians during a nuclear holocaust. In that case, you won’t just be able to drive through In N Out for a Double Double — you’ll need to survive on whatever you can find. And chances are, whatever you can find will be a little gross. But if you can hold back that upward-projecting bile and choke down some critters, you can make it. Here are a few nutritional, but not-usually-so-desirable things you can eat when it starts getting real.

1. Earthworms
Of course your first instinct when you see an earthworm is to scoop it up and eat it raw—but it’s actually a good idea to thoroughly cook them to make sure you kill any parasites they may carry. Earthworms provide about one calorie per gram of uncooked weight, so eat up!

2. Rats
In 2013, Uruguayan Raul Fernando Gomez Circunegui walked across the Andes from Chile to Argentina after his motorcycle broke down, got lost in a snowstorm, and survived the winter by eating rats and raisins. Of course, folks in some Southeast Asian and island countries have eaten rats for years, so it’s not just a survival thing—they meat from a rat can be as big as a normal chicken breast. But FYI, rats can carry a bunch of diseases like typhus, trichinosis, and salmonellosis, so it’s better to eat rural rats rather than, say, ones you find scurrying around the tracks at Penn Station.

3. Snakes
Let’s be honest—we’re not averse to eating much of anything if it’s prepared and cooked and we have no idea what animal it is. For instance, anything called a “nugget” is pretty suspect, but you’ve popped a few of those in your mouth, haven’t you? Your problem with snakes is likely that they are creepy, slithery creatures. Also, they’re not the tastiest things in the world, but you can eat them. Non-venomous snakes are best, and it’s good to weigh risk vs. reward when sneaking up on, say, a rattlesnake, which can inflict a venomous bite up to an hour after death (even after the head is severed from the body).

4. Leeches
Sure, leeches feast on the blood of humans, but did you know you can feast on them as well? That’s right. Survivalist Alec Deacon says to “grind them and mix them into a paste that you can fry a little, for better taste.”

5. Cockroaches
Sadly, when you Google “eating cockroaches,” most of the search results turn up news of Edward Archbold, a 32-year-old Florida man who died in 2012 after winning a live-cockroach-eating contest. Autopsy results showed Archbold actually died from asphyxiation after vomiting. Interviewed for news stories after Archbold’s death, University of California Riverside entomology professor Michael Adams said, “Unless the roaches were contaminated with some bacteria or other pathogens, I don’t think that cockroaches would be unsafe to eat. Some people do have allergies to roaches but there are no toxins in roaches or related insects.” So go ahead and fry up a few dozen today. They allegedly taste kind of like shrimp.

6. Roadkill
After years of The Man quashing residents’ hopes of being able to enjoy the freedom of eating roadkill without prosecution, Montana finally legalized it in a law that went into effect October 1. It’s also legal in West Virginia (and New Jersey, if you have the proper permit). If it’s not too bloated or smooshed, go for it.

7. Tarantulas
Fact: Fried tarantulas are a street-food delicacy in Cambodia. It’s a pretty simple recipe—a little salt, a little sugar, a little MSG, some garlic, fry till legs are stiff, then enjoy. You can refer to the abdomen as “white meat,” but as the Wikipedia page for “Fried Spider” says, “There are certainly those who might not enjoy the abdomen, however, as it contains a brown paste consisting of organs, possibly eggs, and excrement.” Mmmm.

8. Caterpillars
Ever stand around in the grocery store aisle comparing energy bars and their protein content, wondering if you should go for soy, whey, hemp, or pea? Which one’s best? The answer is: caterpillars. Per gram, many caterpillars actually contain more protein than beef. After you’ve foraged for a few dozen, you can boil, fry, or dry them. We also believe them to be paleo.

9. Scorpions
If you’re camping in the desert and find a scorpion in your shoe in the morning, there are a few things you can do, least desirable being unknowingly sticking your foot into the shoe and getting stung. Shake that guy out, skewer it, and cook it—scorpions are a great source of…well, scorpion meat, which isn’t actually that tasty, but is okay if you ran out of beef jerky three days ago. They’re a delicacy in some areas of China, served by people who know a lot more about cooking them than you do, but hey, this is survival.


Photo by xcode/Flickr


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{ 6 comments…read them below or write one }

  • AJ SmithAJ Smith

    I don’t know why these are viewed differently than the animals sitting in our fridge at home. I would imagine the same people who think these are “gross” wouldn’t be very fond of dispatching, plucking, and butchering the chicken they eat for dinner a couple times a week.

    • Kathleen Rock

      Earthworms smell worse than chicken and they’re soggy and squishy. I don’t like eating things that can be soggy and squishy before they’re dead.
      My Dad used to make us help pluck the chickens and turkeys to eat when we were kids and I’d still rather do that than eat worms. Buuut, I guess in a pinch. . . .

  • Sean

    Rodents are fine, ive had some very good roadkill (mmm rabbit a la tire), snakes are pretty ok eating as long as you gut them well.

    But bugs, bugs, bugs. Crunchy bugs are fine. Grasshoppers, beetles, ants. Ive had those no problem. Ive even eaten a couple spiders (harvestmen taste of mint) BUT i cant do the squishy. I just cant. Im upset just thinking abut it

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