Delicious Food or Horrifying Animal?

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Everything's better on a Ritz--even spider legs.

Everything’s better on a Ritz–even spider legs.

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by E. Reid Ross

Tomorrow, May 11, is Eat What You Want Day, which means absolutely no one can judge you for ButterPop — the popsicle that’s a frozen stick of butter. But say you’re bored with the rampant hedonism, and you want to get a bit more adventurous: you’d have to hunt a little harder for some culinary masochism. Sure, you could eat kale, but that’s contrary to the holiday’s meaning: you should be able to consume something truly horrific without repercussions, and choking down a disgusting cabbage is what you’re supposed to do the rest of the week.

However, we do feel the need to remind people to maybe be a little responsible on such a potentially irresponsible day. And so, using the natural world as our template, we present some cautionary examples of how consuming something that may look irresistibly delicious may in fact be a terrible, terrible idea.

Biscuit Kite Spider

If you’re one of the many people who suffer from a fear of spiders that society tells you is irrational, meet the species that proves society is full of crap. Honestly, what evolutionary advantage could possibly be gained from looking like this, unless these things are up to no good?

Pictured: either a tasty snack or the Queen Alien in heat.

Pictured: either a tasty snack or the Queen Alien in heat.

This is Isoxya tabulata, a member of the a genus of arachnids called kite spiders. In addition to the microwavable breakfast pastry impersonation, kite spiders can take many different forms, each and every one of them cruelly delectable. There are 6 species in southern Africa with insidious camouflage that ranges from gourmet candy to decorative cupcake. Though they possess a bite that’s harmless to humans, they’ve still managed to become a viable threat by devising one of the more ingenious methods among spiders to infiltrate ever closer to our sleeping faces.

Shipwreck Food Diary, Day #1

I’m no botanist, but I’m pretty sure there’s no such thing as a Pop Tart tree. And I’m positive that I’ve never had one try to skitter out of the toaster before (note: the battery powered toaster I salvaged from the wreckage is proving increasingly useful.) As my discovery appears to be already at least partially baked, 60 seconds on medium setting should be fine. And here we go…

It’s slightly crunchier than I would have guessed. There’s a gooey center here, but I’m detecting no sugar whatsoever. Not much taste at all, in fact. There now seems to be some activity on the underside of my meal. A cluster of countless tiny spheres seem to have been agitated by my preparation procedures. Something, some things are now emerging from the spheres and are rapidly…. no. Oh God, no.

Tomato Frog

Picture that guy wallowing in olive oil and basil chiffonade.

Picture that guy wallowing in olive oil and basil chiffonade.

A lot of frogs sport bright coloration and loud patterns in order to advertise the fact that they’re poisonous to predators, but one species in particular still seems to be evolving the kinks out. Frogs of the Dyscophus genus may not be as deadly as their garish Amazonian poison arrow counterparts, but when pestered they do excrete an irritating, sticky white mucus in a halfassed attempt to accomplish the same thing. Even more halfassed, their way to let potential attackers know about just how disgusting they taste is to look exactly like a bright red tomato.

To further their garden vegetable defense, when they feel threatened they plump right up to look even more like a tasty beefsteak ‘mater. And for just that extra bit of authenticity, when they’re feeling sick (and less sandwich-appropriate) they start turning brown. Tomato frogs can only be found on the island of Madagascar. Since the wildlife in that place all seem to have been designed while Mother Nature was loaded, maybe this animal starts to make more sense.

Shipwreck Food Diary, Day #2

After yesterday’s debacle, I’ve decided to avoid grains entirely and focus on other areas of the food pyramid. And it looks like I may be in luck, as this morning I came across a patch of ripe tomatoes underneath a rotting log by a stream. They must be ripe, as they appear to be near to bursting. I must be hungrier than I thought, as it almost seems as if they are pulsating, such is their succulence.

Deciding to forego any preparation, I snatch up the closest one. It’s much more slippery than I would have imagined, and in my excitement it’s almost as if it is trying to wriggle from my grasp. But I am delighted to discover that this must be a very special variety of tomato, as it appears to be producing its own salad dressing. I take my first bite and it’s just as juicy as I had imagined, but the taste is… yeah this isn’t a tomato. I have now lost all feeling in my mouth and can no longer control the movement of my lower jaw. Very tired. I now appear to be surrounded by child-sized purple dancing bears… Going to sleep now…

Green Slug Caterpillar

Adorable, yet delicious.

Adorable, yet delicious with the right amount of Sriracha.

Like the frogs mentioned above, some caterpillars are toxic and wear gaudy colors. However, many of them are so harmless and dopey that effective camouflage is the only thing between survival and winding up as the main ingredient in a bird plop. As an adult, Eloasa symphonistis is a nondescript, shabby-looking brown moth. But in their larval form they’re actually kind of spectacular, in that they look just like a teeny, Barbie-sized watermelon.

They’re often referred to as “green slug” caterpillars, which would seem to completely miss the point but actually refers to the way they move. Instead of crawling around on little stubby legs the most caterpillars do, these things instead slurp along by way of suckers, like a slug.

Shipwreck Food Diary, Day #3

Despite being unconscious for the last 36 hours as a result of whatever happened on day #2, this will be my third day of foraging. As my next course of action, I have decided to go berry hunting. I know there might be some poisonous ones out here, but at this point I’m willing to take the risk. After an hour or so in the brush, it appears that I’ve hit the jackpot. A very… confusing jackpot.

My elation at finding what appears to be a large amount of ripe watermelons is tempered somewhat by the fact that each of them is the size of a pencil eraser. Throwing caution to the wind, I’ve stuffed my mouth full with as many as I can find, with each of them making a satisfying popping sound as I remove them from the leaves. The texture is somewhere between calamari and week-old gummi bear. As my taste buds are still in a state of disarray after day #2’s mishap, I am left to imagine the taste. I choose to imagine that they taste like peaches, even though the smell of them is more reminiscent of the inside of a prosthetic leg. Things are looking up.

Fried Egg Nudibranch

Not what you expected to see when you started typing a Google search for "Fried egg nudi--"

Not what you expected to see when you started typing a Google search for “Fried egg nudi–“

Nudibranchs are what the slugs in your backyard would look like if they held an annual pride march. Even though they are shell-less mollusks and are often called sea slugs, they comprise their own suborder. There are currently over 3,000 fabulously flamboyant species that we know of, and new ones are being discovered all the time. Their wildly varied colors, shapes and patterns result in some outlandish combinations, to include one that looks like it was pelted with eggs for handing out crappy Halloween candy.

That’s Colpodaspis thompsoni, or the fried egg nudibranch. They can be found in numerous areas across the Pacific and like to hang around in shallow water. The sunny-side up portions are actually warty protuberances that serve as protection from predators that may or may not include elderly scuba divers looking to save a buck at the early bird special underwater breakfast buffet.

Shipwreck Food Diary, Day #4

Because the only thing I’ve been able to conclusively determine thus far is that everything in the jungle is trying to kill me, I’ve returned to the beach to see if anything edible washed up on shore this morning. Nothing has that I can see (aside from Bob, the ship’s entertainment director, but I’m not that desperate yet), but I have found a series of tidal pools to the north. I had hoped to find a shrimp or maybe a crab here, but the only things inhabiting these pools appear to be some kind of sick joke. Those are clearly slugs, and no matter how tempting those things that look like perfectly fried eggs covering them may look, I’m not falling for it. Also I’m pretty sure they would completely ruin the toaster. The chances of a dignified burial for Bob are decreasing by the hour.

Sea Potato

To be honest, both names are more polite than what this looks like to us.

To be honest, both names are more polite than what this looks like to us.

Being as how they resemble nothing more than a coconut that’s just fallen from a tree, Echinocardium cordatum sea urchins are of course commonly referred to as… sea potatoes. They can be found in temperate seas all over the world and while they prefer to remain buried under the seabed, they can be a common sight on beaches after having washed up on shore.

The “hair” on the sea potato are actually specialized spines. They have spoon-shaped ones underneath to help them to dig, and long ones on top for use in funneling water for respiration. A lot of the time when they show up dead on the beach all of the spines have been worn off, revealing a shape that has led to its other common name, the heart urchin. An uninspired choice, in our opinion, since at first glance you might think you were looking at a miniature washed-up skull.

Shipwreck Food Diary, Day #5

Ha ha ha! Finally! It’s a deserted island, for chrissakes, of course coconuts would turn up eventually! And they were right here on the beach all along! They might look a little small but I’m in no position to be choosy at this point. Plus, from what I’ve seen on some TV shows I might even be able to make a radio out of these things. I’m saved!

Hunger should take first priority right now though, and I need to find a way to open one of these things. First a small opening to get at the milk, then I can start in on the delicious meat. Using a rock, I’ve successfully punched a hole in the top from which I can drink all of the liquid in one gulp. Now for the moment of truth…

Editor’s Note: This appears to have been the survivor’s last entry, as no other pages could be found by the rescue party. His only other attempt at communication seems to be on a tree nearby to where his body was found, where “THERE IS NO GOD” was scrawled repeatedly on the trunk. The writing at this location was apparently created by the survivor having smeared the letters into the tree using the bodies of several large red frogs.


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What E. Reid Ross doesn’t know could fill a book, but he is eager to learn how to sell that book for video game money. Feel free to friend him on Facebook and check out his supple body of work over on Cracked.com. He and a few pals also blaspheme old comics at RealToyGun.com

WE CAN HAS GIFZ?

Yes, yes, you can has gifz

Taste more terrifying (but much more edible) grub in Fight The Food Fight, or check out more animals with our latest batch of Life Lessons from GIFs: Animal Edition.

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