A comment on an otherwise forgettable post just got us thinking: isn’t there something completely random about the Western culinary take on arthropods? We have apparently decided to feast on only one of the phylum’s four remaining subphyllum—Crustacea. But we gag at the thought of eating the terrestrial cousins of shrimp, lobsters, and crayfish. Why is that? Why not a nice, crispy scorpion every now and again, in lieu of beef or chicken?
Don’t say it’s because of toxicity—a scorpion’s poison is quickly neutralized by frying. And as far as we can tell by looking through the genetic data, crayfish and scorpions share a remarkable amount of DNA.
Our hunch is that each culture develops its dietary taboos out of early experience, and that those taboos persist even after technology has rendered them no longer useful. Back in the day, it probably make perfect sense to avoid messing with scorpions; but now that the critters can be safely farmed, we still have yet to adjust our perceptions. Cultural memory lingers.