Fortunate forays into entomophagy and Éire
In the estimable 1885 tome Why Not Eat Insects? (charmingly reprinted by Pryor Publications) Vincent M. Holt puts forth a simple culinary challenge, not in the contrarian vein of Jonathan Swift’s “Modest Proposal,” but apparently in earnest. Pointing out a few certain truths about bugs and arachnids often overlooked by the squeamish (their undeniable resemblance to crustaceans, their clean eating habits, and ready availability), Holt goes on to describe with epicurean delight the taste of butter- sautéed locusts and an equally buttery wood-louse sauce.
Entomophagy expert Daniella Martin whose well-documented fascination with creepy-crawly cuisine began with an encounter with “The Eat-A-Bug Cookbook,” by David George Gordon, gave a cooking demonstration of tempura-battered bugs rather appropriately in front of the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum. Fisherman’s Wharf may not be a place especially known for enterprising culinary effort, but there certainly was foot traffic aplenty, and surprisingly, no shortage of volunteers to nosh from Martin’s unique "menu."
Martin, a disarmingly charming hostess with a well-practiced patter gave a brief primer on prep (burning the hair off the tarantula with Bacardi 151, for instance) as she dunked her crispy critters in a pocket-sized fryer. The more intimidating insects were devoured first, since downing a scorpion tail imparts more bragging rights than a comparatively tame cockroach, and certainly there’s more meat on ‘em. In fact, from my vantage point, the pristine flesh of an Emperor scorpion looked very much like the other other white meat—and if Martin has her way, that might be exactly what we’ll be calling it in a few years.
There was no bug-eating in evidence at Amnesia on St. Pat’s, but plenty of lucky buggers milling about all the same. Just missed Sean Hayes by a whisker, but grabbed a front row spot just in time for Kelly McFarling. Accompanied by Tim Marcus on guitar and her own banjo, she shimmered effervescent through a short set of songs off of her debut album “Distractible Child,” including a lovely rendition of her hometown lament, “Atlanta,” which she performed as a duet with Megan Keely. After a tip of the hat to the old sod with a well-received cover of U2’s “One,” she surrendered the stage to The Barbary Ghosts, who sang a rollicking set of sea chanteys and drinking songs—both traditional and originals. Eminently danceable gems such as “I’se the B’y,” rubbed elbows with “Whiskey You’re the Devil,” and “Danny Boy” evoking a proper Irish spirit, though the Ghosts, whose ranks include Amnesia owner Shawn Magee, all actually hail from various corners of the US.
Speaking of evoked spirits, Shameless Seamus and the Aimless Amos’s managed to channel both the raucous unpredictability of a mid-'80s Shane McGowan gig and a Hobo junkyard band just tumbled from a rattling boxcar with a stage full of musicians including a Bouzouki, not enough microphones, some onstage moshing, and a well-timed stage dive or two. A leave no-blarney-stone-unturned setlist included Pogues’ classics (“Sally Maclennane,” “Dirty Old Town”), Irish folk tunes (“The Rattlin’ Bog”), and crowd-pleasing sing-alongs (“All For Me Grog”). One part Éire, one part alt-Americana, one part pure San Franciscan, the rollicking rowdies proved the perfect antidote to the panicked desperation that so often characterizes the dregs of “amateur night”, for which we were all lucky. Slàinte.