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Cheese-mites, the grubs of a small fly, are freely eaten by many persons, whom I have often heard say "they are only cheese." There is certainly some ground for this assertion; as these grubs live entirely upon cheese; but what would one of these epicures say if I served up to him a cabbage boiled with its own grubs? Yet my argument that "they are only cabbage" would be fully as good as his. As a matter of fact, I see every reason why cabbages should be thus served up, surrounded with a delicately flavoured fringe of the caterpillars which feed upon them. As things are now, the chance caterpillar which, having escaped the careful eye of the scullery-maid, is boiled among the close folds of the cabbage, quite spoils the dinner appetite of the person who happens to receive it with his helping of vegetable, and its loathsome (?) form is carefully hidden at the side of his plate or sent straight out of the room, so that its unwonted presence may no further nauseate the diners. Yet probably these same diners have, at the commencement of the meal, hailed with inward satisfaction the presence on the board of dozens of much more loathsome-looking oysters, and have actually swallowed perhaps a dozen of them raw and living as quite an appetizer for their dinner! At a table of gourmands, he who by chance thus gets the well-boiled larva served up in its own natural, clean food should, instead of being pitied for having his dinner spoilt, be, on the contrary, almost an object of envy, as he who gets the liver-wing. I am quite aware of the horror with which this opinion will be read by many at first sight, but when it is carefully thought over I fail to see that any one capable of correct reasoning can deny its practical truth, even if he himself, though a frequent swallower of the raw oyster and a relisher of the scavenging lobster, continues to turn up his delicate nose at my suggestion to put it to a practical proof.
The general abhorrence of insects seems almost to have increased of late years, rather than diminished, owing, no doubt, to the fact of their being no longer familiar as medicines. At one time the fact of their being prescribed as remedies by village quacks and wise men made people, at any rate, familiar with the idea of swallowing them. Wood-lice, which conveniently roll themselves up into the semblance of black pills, were taken as an aperient; centipedes were an invaluable specific for jaundice; cockchafers for the plague; ladybirds for colic and measles. The advance of medical science and the suppression of wise folk have swept away this belief in the medicinal qualities of insects, except from out-of-the-way country corners, where a stray wise woman occasionally holds a divided sway with the parish doctor. As these theories die away, why should not the useful practice of using insects as food be introduced with advantage? From time to time letters appear in the papers inquiring as to the best method of getting rid of such insect pests as the wireworm, leather-jacket, chafer-grub, etc., and I have seen one method especially recommended. This is to set traps for the insect vermin by burying slices of turnip or potato stuck upon the ends of small sticks, whose other ends project from the ground to mark the spot. The slices, in the morning, will be covered with the mischievous ravagers, which, one answer went on to say, "may then be dealt with at pleasure." I say, then, collect them for the table. Man will often, in his universal selfishness, take the trouble to do acts, if they directly affect him or his stomach, which he would not do for their mere utility; and if these wireworms, etc., were esteemed as articles of food, there would be a double incentive to the gathering of them. We have only to glance through the pages of Miss Eleanor Ormerod's excellent work on "Injurious Insects" to see what a power for harm lies in the myriads of the insect world, even if we do not know it from sad personal experience.
There cannot be said to be any really strong objection, among the upper classes, to making any new departure in the direction of foods, if it once becomes the fashion to do so. Here is the menu of a dinner at the Chinese Restaurant at the late- Health Exhibition, whose quaint delicacies were eaten and well appreciated by crowds of fashionable people, who turn up their noses at the neglected supply of new delicacies at home.
Pullulas a l'Huile. Saucisson de Frankfort.
Bird's Nest Soup.
Visigo a la Tortue.
Souchée de Turbot au Varech Violet.
Biche de Mer a la Matelote Chinoise.
Petit Caisse á la Marquis Tsing.
Roulade de Pigeon farcie au Pistache.
Copeau de Veau a la Jardiniere au Muscus.
Sharks' Fins a la Bagration.
Boule de Riz.
Noisettes de Lotus a l'Olea Fragrance.
Pommes pralinée. Compôte de Leechée.
Persdeaux Salade Romain.
Vermicelli Chinoise a la Milanaise.
Beignet Soufflé a la Vanille.
Gelée aux Fruits.
Biscuit Glace aux Amande pralinée.
Glace a la Creme de Café.
Persimmons, Pommes Confit, Peches,
Amands Vert, Grapes.