What Has Been Seen Cannot Be Unseen
Sometimes it’s better to not see well.
Years ago I swore on all that is holy that I would NEVER . Eat. Bugs. I didn’t care how hungry I was. If I was stranded on a desert island or lost deep in a primeval forest for months with nothing available to eat but grubs, I would NOT eat them. I would starve first.
And I’ve kept that pledge. Not counting the occasional gnat I inhale while riding my bike.
Then tonight I made a batch of manoomin. Wild rice. The good stuff harvested in canoes. Not like that flavorless paddy raised junk sold in stores.
And I love the stuff. It’s expensive but wonderful. And I never had trouble with it. Until tonight. When I made a fabulous side dish: wild rice cooked with broth, dried currants and cranberries, seasoned with Garam Masala and the finishing touch – chopped walnuts.
I know what you’re thinking. “Sounds great! When are you inviting me?” Let me finish.
I sat down to dinner. Placed a large serving on my plate. Picked up my fork. Scooped up some rice. Placed it in my mouth. Chewed. Swallowed.
And it was good.
Then I looked at the rice. Really looked at it. With my new glasses. The good ones which let me see lots of fine details. And saw that instead of the normal small, straight grains of rice that I was accustomed to seeing, about half the grains were curved.
I looked even closer.
And that’s when I realized the rice wasn’t all rice. Dear sweet mother of all that’s unholy it was full of thoroughly cooked worms. Or grubs. Or larvae. But whatever they were, they were definitely, absolutely, positively: bugs.
I tried not to panic. I tried not to be ill. I tried to think what kind of bug I had just eaten, how many, and whether they would kill me. Or if it was a parasite that was already eating my brain. I discreetly tested one by squishing it with my fork. It squished just like a bug. I mentally retraced my steps in the kitchen. The rice had looked normal before cooking. Surely if bugs had been in it I would have noticed, right?
I looked across the table at my spouse. He was contentedly finishing his meal. My stomach did a triple forward half-gainer. I said nothing and carefully left the rest of the rice worm casserole on my plate. Later, I scraped it off my plate and into the trash, along with the remnants in the serving bowl.
Then I rushed to my computer to research worms in wild rice.
What I found was encouraging. Yes, the search results included disgusting stories involving meal worms and pantries and a video showing dozens of worms wriggling out of harvested wild rice. But the worms weren’t poisonous. And weren’t parasites. Which didn’t settle my stomach, although at least I knew I didn’t need to call the Poison Control Center.
Feeling vindicated at pitching the leftovers, I looked further, even contacting a Native-American I know to ask about the rice: “Today is the first time I noticed what looked like worms after I cooked it – are they really worms?”
Her answer: “No not worms … it breaks up when cooked … Splits open.”
Now my stomach is still twisted in knots. I threw away perfectly good rice. Or maybe rice worms. Expensive ones. I’m not sure which. Because logically, I know it’s really just rice. But what good is logic when I keep seeing that video. And the worms. The worms.