Today, you can see peddlers selling fried tarantulas, crickets, beetles, silkworms and crickets in Cambodia’s public market. It is a popular snack among the locals— and a more exotic treat worthy of bragging rights for daring tourists like me (hehe).
Insects and spiders became part of the Khmer diet during the terror years of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot’s reign. Quick history lesson: the Pol Pot regime saw one of the worst human genocide in the history of mankind. An estimated 2 to 3 million civilians died due to mass killings committed by the Khmer Rouge. The others who did survive the executions, died because of starvation and disease.
During the civil war, the insects provide the necessary protein and energy otherwise absent in their forced ration of 6 teaspoons of rice porridge a day. Imagine— to survive a day of imposed force labor under the sweltering heat with 6 teaspoons!
To quote one survivor, ‘Food was more important than God’ during those hard times. They would eat anything they could get their hands on; like insects and even human flesh from the deceased!
What is most odd to me about this civil war is that it’s not done by an external force–say, Nazis against Jews like the Holocaust, or white people against black slaves, or aliens against humans. This civil war was Cambodians killing fellow Cambodians.
When Pol Pot’s regime came to an end, they were more than happy to stop surviving on human flesh; but developed the taste for insects and tarantulas.