Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Day 37 - Eating a Scorpion

I have never eaten a scorpion. Although this is something I have never had any desire to do, I knew I needed to make it a part of my “I have never…” challenge when I learned a local bar, the Dragonfly Lounge, offered a “Scorpion Shot” complete with a scorpion starter. As a result, I did some research on how to best take on the task and honed in on today’s date as the day to follow through with eating a scorpion for the first time.  With my plans in place, I made it through the work day and found my way down to the Dragonfly Lounge with Rachael this evening.

With intent to get this “I have never…” event over with as quickly as possible, I picked up Rachael at home after work and immediately drove to the Dragonfly Lounge. After finding a parking spot near the lounge, Rachael and I walked down the block and rounded the corner near the Dragonfly. As we approached the entrance to the bar, we were greeted only by a closed steel gray door. A feeling of concern overwhelmed me as I reached out to turn the handle and felt the resistance of a firmly secured lock. I turned to Rachael and said the only thing that came to mind in that moment, “Uh oh… What now?”

Rachael promptly pulled out her phone and began researching the bar’s hours while I paced back and forth rattling off possible replacements for the day’s “I have never…” event. With limited success tracking down any consistent information on the Dragonfly’s hours, Rachael looked up from her phone with a look of uncertainty. “I can’t find anything…” she said glancing back at the phone’s screen. Feeling a bit panicked, I looked over her shoulder and offered a few search suggestions in a last desperate attempt to find anything indicating I would be able to follow through with my “I have never…” event for the day. With no success, Rachael finally suggested we check with the restaurant above the lounge to see if the staff had any information about the Dragonfly’s hours.

Together, we walked around the building and climbed the stairs to the Bellini restaurant. Passing through the interior door of the restaurant, we were greeted by a member of the staff who promptly asked if we were seeking a table for two. I advised him we were not and proceeded to ask when the Dragonfly would open. He explained the lounge usually maintains weekend hours and that it would not open again until Thursday of the current week. With my “I have never…” journey on the line, I immediately began explaining my reason for asking, my desire to do the “Scorpion Shot”, and the challenge that led me to our discussion. Understanding my objectives, the employee nodded and said, “We should be able to make it happen for you. Let me see what I can do.” The man then led us to two seats at the restaurant bar before rounding the corner and approaching a man sitting at one of the last barstools along the long wooden surface. He whispered in the man’s ear, gesturing lightly with his hands. After getting a brief response from the man sitting at the bar, the employee walked back to our location with a smile. “Yeah, we can do it. No problem. Let me find someone to help you,” he said with a hint of enthusiasm. My concern abating, I thanked the man before he crossed to the other side of the bar and disappeared into a backroom.

Several minutes later a man named Ryno walked up from a stairway at the back of the building. Wearing longer hair and a loosely buttoned shirt, he casually found his way to the back of the bar and approached our seats. “So, you want to eat a scorpion, huh?” he said as he set four small bottles containing a liquid on the bar in front of us. “Well, here they are…” he said pointing to the small containers before him. I glanced at the bottles and noticed thumb-sized scorpions suspended in each. “Pick your flavor,” Ryno continued as he prepared containers to mix the drink that accompanied my forthcoming “snack.” After I settled on blue raspberry, Ryno opened the bottle and drained the bright blue syrup into a martini shaker. Once empty, he flipped the bottle upside down onto a napkin he had placed on the bar, sending a small scorpion out onto the thin paper surface. Stained blue from the syrup, the scorpion waited as I prepared myself to follow through with the day’s objective. "You normally take that first," Ryno said looking toward the scorpion in front of me. I nodded my head in understanding, staring at the small creature while Ryno continued mixing the cocktail.

Moments later the drink to accompany the scorpion was placed in front of me. I knew there were no steps left between me and the inevitable act of eating a scorpion. In a state of hesitation, I picked the scorpion up by its tail and dangled it in front of me. A nervous laugh emanated from deep in my chest as I stared at the small arachnid hanging motionless between my pinched fingers. “It’s time…” I thought as I cocked my head backwards and slowly lowered the scorpion into my mouth. I closed my eyes tight as I felt the scorpion touch my tongue. With it fully beyond the threshold of my lips, I closed my mouth and bit down.

Ready to eat...
Down the hatch!

The taste of the syrup filled my mouth as I worked through the woody texture of the scorpion’s exoskeleton. Unlike my expectations of a crunchy snap, chewing the soaked insect felt more like gnawing on a toothpick that had been my mouth too long. It was fibrous and a bit tough, with the segments of the animal providing a slight resistance as I continued eating. To my surprise, the scorpion did not have anything in the way of flavor. Perhaps overwhelmed by the flavored syrup, the taste of the scorpion was plain and largely undetectable. Adjusting to the taste and texture in my mouth, I continued chewing until I was satisfied I could void my mouth of the creature. Finished, I swallowed hard and felt the bits of the insect slide down my throat. Once gone, I immediately reached for the vodka drink at my side and washed what remained of the scorpion into my stomach. With that, I had accomplished my task. I ate a scorpion.

Big Red
Still coming to grips with what I had just done, I laughed as I set down my now-empty glass. I shook my head in disbelief at the fact that I followed through with such a disgusting task. I looked back to the three remaining bottles on the bar and fixed my eyes on a bright red scorpion suspended in a clear syrup. Noticing my glance, Ryno chimed in, “You know, a guy came in here about a month ago and wanted to try a scorpion. He ended up having all four flavors before he left.” For a reason I still don’t understand, I promptly replied, “Really? …You know what? I’ll do one more!” as I lifted the bottle containing the red scorpion into the air.

Ryno chuckled as I set the bottle in his hand and leaned back in my chair. He went to work repeating the same steps as the first round, making sure to display the scorpion directly in front of me. “That one’s a little bigger than last time!” Ryno said as he prepared the vodka concoction for my second “Scorpion Shot.” Still slightly hesitant, I grabbed the thick, red scorpion by the tail and lifted it skyward. I paused for a moment to let out another round of nervous laughter before moving my head back and dropping the creature into my mouth. My first bite into the scorpion presented the same texture and a comparable flavor to my first experience, but I felt a noticeable gritty paste ooze into my mouth as my teeth clenched down. The paste felt like hummus with a bit of fine sand in it as I continued chewing. It was disgusting. Working through the variety of textures in my mouth, I knew this was the full scorpion eating experience; strange, very different, and a little unpleasant.

Round Two

After swallowing down my second scorpion, I drank the accompanying drink before Rachael and I closed out our tab and headed home. Looking back at the evening’s events, I can’t say that I will ever eat another scorpion, but I’m glad I followed through with the task. The experience is one I will likely talk about for some time, and much of the experience was surprising to me. The texture, the flavor, and the feeling of eating a scorpion were unexpected. I didn’t realize how nervous the act would make me feel, and the physical aspects of eating the creature were unlike anything I have done before. In turn, I can definitely say there were a lot of new experiences that came with today’s event. Here’s to trying new things and to looking forward to the next crazy adventure that will inevitably come with my “I have never…” journey!

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