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| Columns |

Big-Butted Black Ants and Cow Foot Jell-O, Yum!

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When my co-worker brought in edible "presents" to the office from his Colombian mother-in-law, it wasn't your typical box o' chocolates or salt water taffy; instead these souvenirs were hormigas culonas, or big-butted Colombian ants and gelatina de pata de res -- cow foot gelatin.

Most of the reactions from my metrosexual co-workers were less than brave. Sour scared faces quickly filled the office as the Tupperware of nearly a dozen 2 inch-long dead ants were passed to the sound of shrilling shrieks.

For the daring cultured few, including myself, it was a delectable feast. Crunchy, moist, salty and delicious are a few words that came to mind. "It tasted like really roasted popcorn, you know, when the kernel is half-way popped so the crunchy shell is surrounding the buttery nub?" said a voice from behind the cubicle.

A traditional, centuries-old Colombian snack, the hormigas are nudged from their nests until the big queens emerge. They are typically lightly fried and then their wings and legs are plucked before they are sold locally; there is also a growing demand for these critters internationally as many are packaged for export. They are considered delicacies and carry a hefty price-tag. (three times the price of coffee, according to one observer.)

The legs were still intact on this batch and I could feel a few stubborn loose legs tickle the back of my throat as they became detached from the hormiga after my chewing and swallowing.

Now, for the cow foot gelatin -- chances are you've had it before, actually. The collected gelatinous marrow substance is gathered from boiled cow's feet (accumulated after the feet are left at room temperature after boiling) and is used in everyday foods such as Jell-O, (which is made almost entirely out of gelatin, hence the name derivative) as well as gummy bears, marshmallows, Spam and other canned meats, as well as a long list of other foods.

So the next time you turn your nose to something that's a cultural taboo, just remember, you've probably already had it.

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