After three sleepless days of cooking, watching hours of raw and cooked ingredients rot, and delivering them to restaurants, I was in Oregon last week, looking over his menu at Teriyaki King, a Japanese-flavored restaurant and Thai takeout joint on the side of the highway.
Teriyaki King serves its signature recipe of Ateo’s jerky-made pastrami-stuffed chicken, but also has shirashi, Spam and reishi. I have a slight bit of food anxiety when visiting a restaurant for the first time, so I was excited.
I should note that this particular chicken was actually not any chicken I was familiar with, but an antibiotic-free heirloom chicken I found on Amazon from Hidden Valley.
Teriyaki King has won the Pacific Northwest Best Sushi Sweepstakes three years in a row, and serves up entrees such as plates made with king crab legs from California, the lobster from Maine, and cilantro oil to tint green tea.
But the owner’s real excitement comes from his fresh milk pastries. Apparently, some places are using chemicals to make pastries, with flavors so nutty they can actually kill people. And so over the last three years, he’s opened a bakery that makes its own puff pastry from trace amounts of organic milk products and cooks the butter in isle.
I loved the pastry — fresh cream and chocolate and nutty flavors — but most of the day, my best dessert memories were of a gluttonous plate of mealworms from a business south of Seattle called Bugs and More.
Bugs and More has organic rice, broccoli, sweet potato, quinoa, carrot, and wheat. When you are done eating those protein-rich foods, they cook in the tubes of worms into a pleasant texture in a nice, dry mix. You drain the worms in a sieve and scoop them out in a vat of water. In the pan of water, you heat this mixture, and voila, you have an interesting orb that you can make into little chips. But after 2 to 3 cups of cooking, you have gluttons of mealworms.
I managed to eat roughly six meals of mounds of mealworms for the whole week.
But maybe it’s just that I am not meant to eat insects, despite several people in my family saying they couldn’t eat more than a single cup at a time of rice.
I did fall in love with a dish called buffalo worms. These are caterpillars that grow to more than 20 inches in height when mature, and when you scoop them up with a fork, you get a delicious crunch that is soft and has the same color as mashed potato. And when I wasn’t eating those, I ate pigs feet.
When you cut the legs off a pig foot and season it with vinegar, you can actually taste the inherent bitterness in the feet. Sometimes, I thought this was good — because the drierness in the foot makes your mouth feel healthier. But then when I ate a dry, mushy foot, I found it actually provided more pleasure than the crab legs I tried last week.
Since I was focusing on eating close to survival, I did not think about the environmental factors involved with raising these animals, but I do think it is important to encourage people to eat food that is produced sustainably.