How to Avoid Cooking with Bugs

Having East European ancestry, I cook with a lot of paprika — the hot and the smoked kind, not the sweet kind. Until I can afford to buy all of my spices in fancy shops with high quality product, this means getting my paprika in small metal tins at the grocery store, being careful to always get the ones that say “hot” because they look exactly like the ones that do not say “hot” aside from this single word.

I just opened a new can today so that I could include it in a rub I was putting on a rump roast. [1] Thankfully, I was preparing a dry rub and poured the paprika out into the spice mill, not directly onto the meat. BUGS! Lots and lots of little pill bugs. Somehow alive, and moving about. They’ve been inside a sealed can, with nothing but hot paprika for months. Many months. How are they alive?

This was nearly a huge disaster. I nearly cooked a huge roast with a bunch of bugs. Being an American, if I had discovered the bugs after I cooked the roast, despite well above boiling point heat for hours, I’d have concluded the food was “ruined”.

Lesson: When opening a new container of dried goods that you can’t see into at the time you buy it (like a box or a tin, not a glass jar), be sure to make the first pour into a dish and do some examinations before letting the contents touch anything you plan to eat.

I’m going to be over here rocking back and forth and mumbling quietly to myself.

[1] One of the several local Whole Foods in Houston has some kind of an arrangement with a local farm which raises grass fed beef. Since I am the only one in the house who eats meat, and then only a few days of the week, certain weeks of the year besides, I can no longer sustain a regular standing order from a farm directly, which is what I used to do. This is the next best thing. I usually get the eye round roast because it is almost like a tenderloin but costs $5 a pound instead of $30 a pound. They were out of those, so today we’re trying the rump roast. Mine was more than two pounds and should probably last me almost two weeks of lunches.

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4 thoughts on “How to Avoid Cooking with Bugs

  1. Bugs have caused me to keep my flour in the fridge and 7-grain cereal in the freezer. While they may not have bugs when I buy them, the fact is that they often have eggs that are harmless until they hatch. The best thing you can do is find a way to kill the eggs without harming the product.

    Another creepy bug moment I had was with Cod. It can be wormy at times. The upside is that cooking the fish at 140F for 1 minute kills the worms. Since I tend to cook my fish for longer than that at higher temperatures… I don’t worry about the worms unless there are enough to trigger being squeamish.

    Wormy cod doesn’t upset me, but bugs in my dry-goods. Ugh…

    • The thing I can’t figure out is that this is a brand new can that I just cracked the seals on, and the bugs are full sized and awake. It isn’t like it is an old, open can they somehow got into and bred and I’m finding eggs and babies. Yes, I had the can for six months or so, but it was still completely sealed during those six months. Apparently bugs use very, very, very little oxygen.

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