Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What do Cockroaches Taste Like? : BLECH

One of the questions I ask myself is, would I ever dare to eat a cockroach? After all, I've dined on crickets and chowed down on sago grubs and chestnut weevils with relish. Perhaps a roach, stir fried with extra virgin olive oil and dressed with a sprinkling of sea salt and black peppercorns, would go down easy? Nuh-uh. I remember watching a movie  - Papillon - where a starving prisoner eats a cockroach that wanders into his cell. I think about that particular scene quite a bit. If I were starving, would I eat a roach? ...

Actually, wait... YES I have accidentally eaten a cockroach before. In fact, I have also eaten cockroach poop (droppings / frass) before too.

How - you may wonder - the heck did I know it was roach and poop? Well, it's the taste. While the texture or 'bite' as you crunch down on a roach is not much different from that of a cricket (both have leathery tegmina or wings), a roach tastes AWFUL. Just AWFUL. Crickets taste like whatever they ate last. I know this because when making choc covered crickets, I would feed them organic apple a few days before 'processing', to clean out their guts. With their guts full of apple, they tasted sweet. Flavorful.

Not so for roaches. A roach tastes AWFUL. (I know I just said that.)

By the way, I absolutely must clarify here that those 'fried cockroaches' people brag about chomping down on in Thailand are NOT cockroaches. They are the Giant Water Bugs (Belostomatidae) and although they look similiar, do not taste half bad. Trust me, a taste of cockroach is one that is not ever forgotten. Why is this? It is because cockroaches have glands on their abdomen that ooze the super stinkiest pheromone ever known to mankind. These pheromones are powerful attractants to other cockroaches. Combine this with the fecal pellets, which are in themselves malodorous, and folks, you have a 'Winner'.

NOT a cockroach! These are Giant Water Bugs, a popular street-food snack in Thailand and neighboring countries

"Cockroaches taste the way they smell. That's the first time I ever came close to losing it" (Entomology professor Lynn Kimsey, UCLA Davis). Lynn, my sentiments exactly.

The American cockroach (Periplaneta americana) wins hands down for worst smelling cockroach species. The Madagascar hissing cockroaches smell musty, and I imagine that's how they would taste. According to Entomophagy on Youtube, they taste musty. Cockroach species have varying degrees of stinkiness.

Sigh! I think I have just about creeped out myself for the day. I will have to tell y'all about my accidental cockroach ingestion another time.

Would you dare to eat a cockroach?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fear of Cockroaches: What Worsened Mine

Okay, I have recovered sufficiently from my previous post Worst Nightmare Cockroach Stories and will today, for my dear readers, relive one more traumatizing cockroach encounter.

Again, if you have a roach phobia, do not read this. Instead, read How to Overcome Fear of Cockroaches.

Cockroaches like dank, dark and dirty places. The home I lived in growing up had plumbing that went from the sink or any drain hole, into the big drain behind the house. Typical of Malaysian homes. Somewhere in the deep dark depths of that plumbing, lived a huge colony of American Cockroaches, Periplaneta americana. How huge? I'll tell you how huge in a future post on this Nightmare series.

The toilet / bathroom on the ground floor had one such drain hole. Malaysian bathrooms are wet bathrooms - taking a shower gets the entire (tiled) floor wet, and the bath water goes down a drain hole.   The drain hole leads to the cockroach colony. At night, which is when cockroaches are active, the critters would creep up the drain pipe, and through the drain hole, and into the toilet / bathroom.

Cockroaches come out from these at night.

I was afraid to use the toilet at night. When I absolutely had to, I used these semi-effective avoidance strategies. First I would turn the light on, without even opening the bathroom door. I would let be a few minutes. Since cockroaches are light-averse, they usually scatter when the light comes on. I would open the door a crack, making sure to look behind the door first, quickly step in, do my business, and get out, hopefully not having encountered any roaches face-to-face. A quick in, do business, out, was all I would hope for. I was usually successful.

Except this one time. I did the usual. Then when I went to sit down on the loo, I felt scratchy legs scurrying up my bare hip. With a wordless scream, not even looking to confirm that it was indeed a cockroach, I pushed it off me with flailing arms. It was a cockroach. It landed smack on the floor, then it made a bee line for the drain hole where it promptly vanished using the 'pendulum maneuver' (reported by the same roach researcher who uncovered the astonishing fact that at high speed, cockroaches run on two legs). Shudder.

Why can I not pee in peace? Tell me Why? At my most vulnerable, with my pants down, this dastardly creature would prey on me. Darn you Cockroach!

After that, I always, always, lifted the toilet seat to check under it, before sitting down. Did I find anymore roaches hiding out under there after that? Yes, occasionally. I am not sure why, but they also like hiding under the rim of the toilet seat. So I check there too. And also all around the bowl. And on the floor too. And the walls (roaches are good wall climbers).

I am so glad I live in PA now. It is cold. The roaches don't overwinter. I haven't seen one (the American cockroach) ever.

Ok, I need a break. I'll be back.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Cockcroach Phobia: Katsaridaphobia? How did I get it?

Roach phobia also known as Katsaridaphobia / Blattodeaphobia.

Phobias Really Cramp Da Style
As in all phobias, roach phobia is irrational. It doesn't make sense. It is crippling.

People with this phobia do anything they can to avoid roaches. Unfortunately, avoidance is a tactic that would not really work when it comes to roaches, because these six-legged terrors are EVERYWHERE. And they are here to stay.

I was once a very successful roach breeder. Meet Big
Mama and some of her babies.
Ease That Phobia
I remember my earliest memory of roaches stalking me as a child (recounted HERE). I continued to have horrifying experiences with cockroaches into adulthood. Thing is, I dissected cockroaches in high school and also as a Entomology graduate student at Virginia Tech. And 'The Ultimate' - had a stint as Cockroach Rancher boasting 500 hissing cockroaches.

All this roach-handling should have blown away my phobia.

Well all that helped. A lot. But I'm still afraid of them!

(Read Fear of Cockroaches to help deal with the phobia).

How Do Phobias Start?
I delved into what creates a phobia, in the book Hypnotism: A Hypnosis Training and Techniques Manual and found that phobias can be learned, created by a traumatic event, or a way of coping with generalized fear i.e. by placing all that unformed fear into (for example) a fear of spiders. I don't think I have a 'second hand fear' - getting the fear from my parents - because neither my Ma or Pa are scared of cockroaches. My Pa, growing up, slept on the wood floor in the family grocery shop and had cockroaches running all over him all night. Roaches don't bother him at all.

My phobia most likely originated at childhood (which I talk about in my previous post).

Masochistic Me
Strangely, although I was terrified of roaches, I had a morbid curiosity about them. I remember picking up The Nest from the used book store, and tortured myself reading it from beginning to the end. It's about cockroaches that develop a taste for human flesh. I might actually even watch the movie The Nest.

By the way, while cockroaches won't bite a chunk out of your thigh, they do eat the skin and other particles that fall off humans.

Hmm, now that I'm thinking about this - could my hands-on approach to tackling my cockroach phobia have led to me study entomology? After all, I did take up scuba diving to face head on my fear of drowning. (I now love scuba diving, but am resigned to aquaphobia for life).

Do you have a fear of cockroaches? How do you cope? Or not? Would love to hear from you!

xo Gracie

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Worst Nightmare Cockroach Stories: Oh the HORROR

I am afraid of cockroaches. Cockroaches are the stuff of my worst nightmares and my run-ins with them have scarred me for life. It kinda helps that I am an entomologist - knowing the facts about these ugly bugs has helped me (somewhat) overcome my fear of cockroaches. And I can lay claim to having been a roach rancher in the past. But I still get cockroach nightmares every once in a while, and I still scream if one takes me by surprise.

(Note: do NOT read any further if you have a roach phobia. Do read how to overcome your fear of cockroaches)

What caused Gracie's phobia?
Cockroaches seem to have a vendetta against me. They have terrorized me since I was a kid. Into my teens, these horrible creatures upped their game and their targeted attacks grew worse, culminating in a terrifying epic showdown in my early adulthood where I emerged (somewhat) victorious. 

I'll start with my earliest memory of roach terrorization. I was a wee girl. The scene: in the kitchen, watching Ma make dinner while munching on an apple. The Terror: I glanced at my apple right before taking another bite, and saw a huge cockroach perched on the apple. Its antennae jerked back and forth. It was looking right at me. I was too horrified to scream. I don't remember what happened after that. I think I was too traumatized...

I had waist-length hair as a teenager. We lived with my Popo and Kung Kung - us three kids (more now) situated in a room next to the kitchen. So I was sleeping in a mattress on the floor, my hair spread out over the pillow. In my sleep (I am a light sleeper), I felt something rustle in my hair. Immediately guessing (to my horror) what it was, I started grabbing at my hair. I felt something leathery, a little squishy, and large, and I knew it was a cockroach. I grabbed it, ripping out some of my hair with it, and flung it blindly across the corner of the room, while simultaneously leaping up and flipping the light switch. I lost sight of the roach! I spent the rest of the night lying in terror on my mattress thinking of it crawling around the room awaiting its revenge...

I'll post my next two worse experiences next time. This is all I can handle for now hehe. Have you been terrorized by a cockroach? What's your worst cockroach nightmare? I'd love to hear your story!

xo Gracie

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