Overheard In The Green Room: Mel Sheldon Jr. And The Bug Chef

Apr 18, 2013

Eel roll.
Eel roll.
Credit Flickr Photo/Manoj Vimalassery

We decided to catch up with Tulalip Tribe Chairman Mel Sheldon Jr. and The Bug Chef, David George Gordon, in the KUOW Green Room while they were awaiting their interviews on The Conversation.

They weren't alone. There were also three bowls of bugs on the table, also waiting -- to be eaten.

Amber: "David, this is Mel, he's also a guest on the show today."

Mel: "(eyeing the bowls of bugs) Well, I'm not hungry yet, so -- "

Amber: "Mel, what's the weirdest thing you've ever eaten?"

Mel: "I think it was eel. Sushi eel. But when I figured out it was eel, I kind of had a mild negative reaction to it."

Amber: "Why?"

Mel: "Well, I hadn't yet developed a taste for eel."

Amber: "David, is that what it's like for bugs? You have to develop a taste for them first?"

David: "You know, I think people are predisposed not to like bugs because in our culture they're considered germy and disgusting. So I think people have to be convinced to try their first bug, then they kind of act like, they're relieved, like, 'I'm alive!'"

Mel: "And I think he's right. When I had the eel, once I started chewing, it did taste good. It was like food! So, what the heck?"

David: "Yeah, that's right. A lot of that is about visuals. When you think about an eel being this long slippery thing, it just doesn't seem that appealing. But, in actuality, smoked eel is delicious."

Amber: "Is there anything you can do with insects to make them more delicious?"

David: "Sure! There's all sorts of things you can do. You can grind them up and mix them with other ingredients. There's a restaurant called Vij's up in Vancouver that's a famous Indian restaurant, and they were making a kind of cricket chutney dish. So, if it were crickets you wouldn't even know you were eating them! It was just a good flavor."

Mel: "Well, you know, I know how to deal with it 'cause when I was in Vietnam we ate C-rations, right? And everything we ate with C-rations was with Heinz 57, so with these bugs I'm going to put some Heinz 57 on them, and there you go!"

Bugs for lunch
Lunch is served: crickets, mealworms, waxworms, and chipotle mustard.
Credit KUOW Photo/Amber Cortes

Amber: "Do you feel like you could snack on one now?"

Mel: "Well if you could find some Heinz 57, you might get me there."

Amber: "All right, let me check the fridge!"

Mel: "Ha! Easy there!"

Amber: "We might have it!"

Mel: "(laughs) Or even A-1 sauce."

David: "These (insects) are pretty straight up; I just put some light seasoning on them."

Mel: "Or butter and garlic. That goes a long way too, you know."

David: "I usually tell people not to put condiments on the bugs because I think they should taste them. Like, 'it tastes like garlic butter' -- well that's what everyone says about escargot."

Mel: "Escargot! Great example. Who eats slugs? Sea slugs! Well, you put a little butter and garlic on it and now you've got my attention! (laughs)"

David: "So, were you successful in there?"

Amber: "I found chipotle mustard."

Mel: "Oh, no, sorry."

Amber: "Um, I found some salad dressings -- sesame vinegar?"

David: "Hey, what kind of yuppie fridge is this?"

(Mel and David both laugh. The producer comes in to fetch Mel for the interview.)

Mel: "(eyeing the bugs again) Well, they do look pretty juicy. But I guess I gotta go now (laughs)."