Delicacy is prized by Warao people of Venezuela
julia dimon/for metro toronto
I’ve eaten a lot of strange things in my travel career. I’ve sampled boiled dog in Laos, sucked back shots of cobra blood and bile from a freshly killed snake in Vietnam, snacked on fried grasshopper in Thailand, tasted goat brain in Morocco, sampled six-inch scorpion, silk worm kabob and an entrée of lamb’s penis in China.
In terms of cultural culinary delights, there’s no taboo. I’m open to trying anything.
Kayaking through the jungles of Venezuela’s Orinoco Delta, I learn of the Moriche worm. It’s a thick juicy slug that lives in the Moriche palm. The Warao, an indigenous tribe living along the Delta’s shores, go to great lengths to cultivate this aphrodisiac delicacy. Since I’m here to learn about the Warao lifestyle, I should probably eat as the Warao do. Bring it on!
Chris, my fearless guide, and I set out from village to village hunting for Moriche worm tapas. We eventually meet a young Warao man who agrees to take us into the jungle. He wants to see if his worms are ready for harvest. Two months ago, he found a mature Moriche palm, cut it down, made an incision in the trunk and hoped that a black beetle would lay its eggs inside. With any luck, the larva would hatch into fat, protein-packed worms.
As he bushwhacks through the thick jungle, I trail behind, struggling to keep my balance. With every step my boot is vacuum-sealed in dark, gooey mud. Since the jungle is alive with things that bite and sting, I try not to touch anything.
Chris tells me that we are the first non-Warao to trek in this part of the jungle. I’m not surprised — the walk is gruelling.
After a few hours of hard-core hiking, we arrive. Wielding an axe, the young man takes aim and hacks into his Moriche palm. With skill and precision, he chisels away at the wood. He peels open the trunk’s cavity to reveal a dozen maggot-like worms crawling inside. Thick, plump and fanged, they were way bigger than I expected. Grosser, too!
Having come all this way, there’s no turning back now. I have to eat one. The worm writhes like an accordion between my fingertips. Trying not to be squeamish, I rip off its head, squeeze its body and suck out the gooey worm guts. Swishing the thick white slime in my mouth like a fine wine, I identify the taste — salty, warm custard.
Buzzing from my Moriche worm high, I feel fantastic. Maybe it’s the adrenalin, maybe it’s the natural Viagra flowing through my veins, but this worm is certainly kicking in. My blood is pumping, I feel alive, extremely aware and my vision is extra clear. Hiking back toward the canoe, through thorny vines, hungry mosquitoes and thigh-high swamp-water, I feel invincible. I am Jungle Jane.
Making my way fearlessly though the jungle, I can’t help thinking that the Warao are on to something.
Watch Julia eat the Moriche worm in the jungles of Venezuela tonight on Word Travels, airing at 10 on OLN.