A Relish of Caviar-type Worms in The Sahara 1819

A 13th century book illustration produced in B...

al-Wasiti, 13th century. Wikipedia

 Captain George Francis Lyon, a British naval officer stationed at Malta, was one of the earliest European explorers to have successfully returned to England following his exploits.  His travels included North Africa and parts of the Sudan and Niger area, with a view both to learning more about the region as well as to scope out commercial opportunities for English ‘venture capitalists’ of the day.

Capt. Lyon, relaxing in Malta

  His descriptions of local life are often picturesque and remind me of the descriptive style used by early Arabic explorers such as Ibn Batuta and Ibn Khaldun.

 The following passage describes a type of worm that was collected and processed for food (perhaps it still is).  Eating worms was, and continues to be practiced with relish (or as a relish, usually on a thick porridge); here are some past blogs on the topic:

Ant Culture and Cuisine in Africa, 19th Century and Now

Eating Worms in the 19th. Century

Spicy, North African Pan-Fried Locusts, 1792

Eating Weeds and Insects

Now, here is what Capt. Lyon had to say about worms as caviar:

  … The people in the Wadeys are blacks and mulattoes as in Morzouk, and Arabs live amongst them. The villages contain from thirty to two hundred houses; many, however, are composed of palm huts. The people are very poor, but in the time of the Waled Suleman, who resided much amongst them, they were opulent.

 In some of the pools of stagnant water in the Wadey Shaiti are found small worms, of about the size of a grain of rice; these are collected in great quantities, and pounded with a little salt in a mortar, until they form a black paste, which is made into balls of about the size of the double fist, and then suffered to dry in the sun.

 These worms, which are called Dood*, form one of the very few luxuries of Fezzan, as the poor people, when they have a mess of flour, mix some of them with the sauce, to their Aseeda**. They resemble very bad caviar in taste, and the smell is extremely offensive; but habit and necessity overcome all prejudices in this country, and I soon became very partial to them.

 Sand is an unavoidable ingredient in this paste, and the natives consider it as more wholesome in consequence. One or two families gain a good subsistence by preparing these worms for the market of Morzouk, and the neighbouring towns.

 * ‘dood‘ – arabic for ‘worm’

** ‘Aseeda’ – A thick porridge made of sorghum, millet, or other flour – primary carbohydrate staple of the Sahelian and some Sahara regions.  It is eaten with a relish, usually vegetable, unless an animal protein source is available

Lyon, G.F. – Narrative of Travels N. Africa, Sudan, Niger in the Years 1818-19 and 1820

A few recent articles also advise on the eating of bugs:

Small Stock Foods

FAO advisor in Laos

‘Gourmet’ ants in Columbia

Tibboo of Gatrone, Source - Lyon-A Narrative of Travels in North Africa...


About dianabuja

With a group of BaTwa (pygmy) women potters, with whom we've worked to enhance production and sales of their wonderful pots - fantastic for cooking and serving. To see the 2 blogs on this work enter 'batwa pots' into the search engine located just above this picture. Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
This entry was posted in Africa-North, Colonialism, Cuisine, Explorers & exploration, Food, Indigenous crops & medicinal plants, Recipes. Bookmark the permalink.

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