Eating grasshoppers has gotten so commercial

Here’s some bracing local culture—and cultural change—for you. I first heard about the festive Ugandan grasshopper harvest and consumption from a just-returned biologist who’d done some fieldwork there. He reported that the hoppers, fried in their own fat, tasted like popcorn shrimp. In any case, here’s a recent update from a blogger in Kampala.

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To those that have acquired the taste, nsenene is the object of undiluted greed for many Ugandans of all ages. A favourite joke is to tease a husband about finding himself on the receiving end of his pregnant wife’s tantrums if she asks for nsenene in the middle of the night, moreover on the wrong month.

During the month of Musenene, everyone was sure to get a mini harvest and neighbours would freely (maybe grudgingly too) share their catch.

Well, the romantic story of nsenene of old is no more. Today most of the grasshoppers that make the long trip from the Abyssinian heights end up at commercial harvesting rigs set up by ambitious greedy capitalists who have monopolized the catching of nsenene.

Weeks before the first insects are expected, building sites with top floors are booked and leased for the sole purpose of catching the most nsenene possible. The ‘combine harvesters’ consist of rows of huge barrels fitted with shiny new iron sheets and crudely wired light bulbs. The fluorescent lights bounce off the iron sheets, at once attracting and blinding the insects. When they hit the iron sheets the nsenene slide all the way down to the bottom of the barrel, literally. Security guards are hired to keep watch, and sometimes live electric cables are wired around the area to deter thieves. This way the monopolists lag home tonnes and tonnes of nsenene, and close out the ordinary people who used to get free ‘manna’ from heaven.


from “A Nsenene Chronicle,” by Minty, Sunshine, 2 November 2008 :: via Global Voices Online

Originally published at culture-making.com.

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