A few weeks ago in Ikorodu I saw a lady with a container full of what looked like peppered bugs in traffic. I was ecstatic because I had heard about eating ants from the chefs Alex Atala and Rene Redzepi. Little did I know then that today I was going to try one.
Now that I am on my way out of Lagos for a while, I must reflect. The last 10 months have been amazing. Although a lot has happened health wise within the family, I have honestly understood the most about myself during this period. It came about by being in an old familiar environment without friends while charting a new course for myself. What I failed to realize until later was that I was depressed most of this time. It became so deep that I forgot how to feel emotion. Traumatizing events happened and I shrugged because I felt nothing. I was being told information near and dear to peoples hearts and I felt nothing. My brother got married and I was happy because I was told to be. I tried to get into a relationship but I made myself feel nothing and I was indeed distant because at that point I had forgotten how to feel.
As usual, the kitchen butterfly comes to the rescue. Just as I was about to bid farewell and leave her house after returning some books, I see those bugs I saw in Ikorodu traffic. At this point they were wrapped up in paper and skewered. I was terrified yet still intrigued. I then came to the realization that I was terrified not because it was a bug, but because within my realm of normal, it’s not eaten. What was funny to me was the guy sitting next to me while this was happening was from Florida. He has lived in Africa for a while and had eaten a few kinds of bugs. He has also tried most of the Nigerian soups I’ve wanted to try. As he recounted his experiences with words I would never associate with Nigerian food, I started to realize how we all truly experience food differently.
The reason I must go on this voyage now is simple. I feel joy when I cook and this is a new emotion for me. While cooking my mind and body feel connected and all the hours I spend alone geeeking out with cook books come alive. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified of the idea of having my ass handed to me while working 15 or so hours a day. A week from today, I will be in a new city I’ve never been to, pursuing a trial at a fine dining restaurant I only knew about a year ago. Hopefully I would have found a place to live and sorted money things. But my new philosophy is this. In life there are only 2 options: sink or swim.
The bugs were now in front of me and a few of the other people at the table had eaten theirs. Sink or swim? On one hand I knew it would taste good but I couldn’t get over the fact that it was a bug. After a bit of anxiety I chewed and swallowed it. What bugs me is that I can’t describe the taste. It’s like nothing I’ve tasted before. I later learned they are called delta suya or popo and are found in rotting coconut trees. I still need to investigate more.
It’s interesting how the voice in my head explains to me how I must sink because I don’t know how to swim. Somehow though I start flapping my arms around and end up swimming each time. I now believe that every barrier we have in our head is there so we can smash through it. You won’t die even though it feels that way, you will just become stronger.