Working on my memoirs recently I realized I’ve had more than a passing acquaintance with quite a few cockroaches in my day. Not that we were ever on a first name basis or got really personal, but I’ve known more than my share.
Considering that cockroaches have been around for 320 million years, able to survive incredible heat and sub-zero temperatures, radiation, and all known insecticides, we can probably count on them rising in triumph after we mere humans have managed to blow ourselves to Kingdom Come with our nuclear toys.
Can’t you just see this; one giant cockroach, probably a Madagascar Hissing Roach, close to 6 inches long, atop a smouldering mountain of debris, brandishing tiny flags in all six arms, loudly hissing “Roaches Rule.” Representatives from all 4,600 of his fellow species skitter madly about in their haste to establish a brave new world order.
My first experience with cockroaches came as a very young, very pregnant, very impoverished Navy wife during World War Two. My husband and I were living with four other couples in a small house in San Diego. (We rented the dining room as our private quarters).
I awoke late one morning and headed for our shared kitchen to find the other wives in a frenzy of activity. The kitchen had been invaded overnight by huge flying roaches. My big belly and I were led gently but firmly to a chair and told not to move, so I had a front seat for my first lesson in how to handle cockroaches. First you panic – then you start screaming, then you stomp, swat and hammer with any and all available tools.
I found that San Diego, similar to most of Florida with it’s warm, humid climate, was ideal for cockroaches. Those large flying roaches are known as Palmetto Bugs in Florida, but I’ve got news for Floridians, they’re really cockroaches, just one more of the 40 some types that hang around humans.
My next experience with roaches was in San Francisco, which has a cooler climate, not that the roaches cared. My husband was still in the Navy, the War was still on, and housing in San Francisco was impossible to find. We were reduced to moving every 4 or 5 days from one sleazy old downtown hotel to another, the time limit having been imposed due to wartime regulations.
All of these horrible places had a few cockroaches hiding out but we hit the jackpot with one room that was so bad we had to leave all the lights on all the time, just to keep them at bay. I never did unpack my suitcase.
When we moved to the tropics some years later, by then as civilians, I learned that any previous experience I’d had with cockroaches was just a warm up. Roaches in the tropics are a way of life. Or so I thought until I discovered one of the few things that will actually kill them, Boric Acid Powder!
With the fervor of a religious convert I took it upon myself to educate all my friends and close neighbors. I’d mix small amounts of boric acid with a bit of sugar and set little foil cups around in likely spots, being sure to keep them hidden from small children and pets with their endless curiosity.
There is always some mad fool who will try to tell you roaches are basically harmless. Anything that crawls through sewers is not harmless. However, roaches have been used in some cultures as medication, sometimes fried in garlic for indigestion and sometimes boiled up as a tea for tetanus. I myself, will take my chances with both indigestion and tetanus. A few intrepid souls actually keep the Giant Madagascar Hissing Roaches as pets. There again, if I have a choice I’ll take a nice cuddly boa constrictor.
I did come across sort of a recipe for an edible (their word, not mine,) – ediblle spread to use on crackers or bread. I’d never have the nerve to try it but I’m happy to share it with anyone who is more daring than I. Wanting a catchy name, I’m calling it “Bug Butter”. Read on, if you dare. The “ick” factor gets pretty deep right about here.
Take about half a pound of cockroaches, simmer them in vinegar and remove the head and entrails. Are they kidding? Do you have any idea how many roaches there are in an ounce, let alone half a pound? And remember, a cockroach can live up to an hour after it’s head has been removed. Next remove the entrails? They’ve got to be kidding! A person could starve to death just picking over the first few ounces.
If you’ve gotten this far, you’re finally coming to the good part. Saute all those little carcasses in butter, salt, pepper and plenty of garlic, and serve hot or cold on sourdough rounds. Bon Appetit!
O.K. they’ve got me with the butter, garlic, and sourdough. I’ll just skip the protein. Who wants those tiny little legs in their teeth anyway?
If we ever get to the point where our civilization finds us lounging around, snacking on “Bug Butter” maybe it will be time for Armageddon. It’ll definitely be time for the Giant Madagascar Hissing Roaches to take over.