“Why are you taking photos of this one? He is for eating.” K.B. stepped back to remove his shadow from over my camera.
Lying across a dirt trail near my campsite in southern Africa I was tracking the movements of a large caterpillar. Camera pressed to my face I waited for it to reappear from the dead leaf litter. Its vibrant colors against the late autumn browns of the wooded campground were even better with the sun filtering through the trees.
“This is making me hungry.” K.B.’s sigh was audible.
My grinning cheeks pushed the camera slightly upward. “Quit making me laugh, K.B. You can’t eat this one until he finishes posing for my photos.”
“I can’t eat this masonja anyway, because the park says the season is wrong. We can only take when it is time. Otherwise there is not enough worms for the birds. But my bucket is ready when they say we can take them.”
This statement catches me off guard, and I look up from the lens.
It is a different life I find myself in here, and I’m reminded that this national park conserves its species while allowing its staff to continue harvesting traditional food sources. It’s not publicized, but the longer you stay within the park, and especially the more you get to know the staff, you learn more about the private cycle of culling and consumption.
The mopane caterpillar emerges onto a stick, and I focus once more on the camera. I try not to remember that this is the same creature, called a “mopane worm,” as those in a stew with tomatoes and garlic on our buffet table in Victoria Falls.
I used to wonder if I could eat a bug. That buffet gave me my answer. My husband, however, is another story…
~ ~ ~
As you might have guessed that’s a little excerpt from my forthcoming book.
Come find out about the prettiest caterpillar in the world, and how one of us (maybe me) ate one (or maybe many), and the verdict on how it tasted.
And yes, of course I’ll bring you elephants, hippos, and the tale of our crazy swim at the top of Victoria Falls!
Bring your happily filled Easter bellies Monday night for some African coffee and snacks.
Will there be some dried mopane worms for you to try? You’ll have to come to find that out too!
Monday. 7PM. Indiana Free Library. Hope to see you there!