January 12, 2013

A centipede paratrooper drops in for lunch

This might qualify as a lunchtime horror story, so if you're the squeamish type, you might want to look away. I hate to drive traffic away from the food critique, though, so why don't you re-read some of your favorite posts from 2012? Or social mediatize all of your friends about how much you enjoy these food reviews. It can be your good deed for the day, helping me achieve new heights of metrics.

Speaking of heights, I had the most harrowing run-in with an airborne arthropod the other day. I was sitting at my desk at work, enjoying a mid-day rustic grill made up of kielbasa, potatoes and peppers, when I felt a plink upon my head.

Please excuse this brief aside on rustic grills. I've become quite enthusiastic about them lately. They're quick to prepare and can generally assimilate anything you have lying around the house. Potatoes? Check. Meat -- of any sort? Check. Peppers? Onions? Brussels sprouts? Check, check and check. Slice it, dice it and fry it up.

I like to give my rustic grills a good accompaniment of ketchup, although I fear this is a subconscious effort to cover up for one consistent shortcoming on my part. Very often, I misjudge the amount of food I'm going to be rustically grilling and consequently choose too small of a frying pan. There's no better way to come out with unbrowned potatoes, unless you forgo turning the burner on at all.

Fortunately I've come to enjoy less-than-crispy potatoes, provided they've been properly ketchuped. So there I was, having just raked in two forkfuls of steaming hot rustic grill, when this plink touches the front of the top of my head. My hair moved as if it had been struck by a large raindrop.

Only it wasn't a raindrop. It was something that bounced off my cranium and made an even larger plink in my lunch.

There, sitting in front of me, ruining my perfectly caramelized polish sausage, sat a stunned centipede.
My research tells me I had a run-in with a common house centipede. Wikimedia had the foresight to maintain a public-domain picture of an example, which is good, because those of us surprised by one falling from the sky don't always have the quick reflexes necessary to whip out our cameras before the arthropod scurries into some dank, dark hole.

Now, I have no idea if it was a male or female. I don't know how many legs it had or whether it was some middle-aged man-centipede skydiving to try to prove how young and cool he was. All I know is the thing was about two inches long and that it grows every time I tell this story.

But if I had to guess, I'd postulate that this centipede was not known in centipede circles for being a connoisseur of the culinary. Because after a second shaking off his fall, he scrambled out of my food, across my desk and out of sight.

I just sat there the whole time, processing the experience. I didn't push back my chair, I didn't scream, I didn't stab the little paratrooper with my fork.

Eventually I came up with a question: Should I tell my coworkers about this incident?

The answer, I decided after some thought, was a definite "no." The little bugger was off hiding in some shadowy corner where we'd never find him, so ratting on his existence wasn't going to accomplish anything. Centipedes don't like light, if my tenth-grade biology lessons are still accurate in my mind, so we don't have to worry about it coming out of hiding and scampering across anyone else's desk -- unless it decided it liked its free-fall experience, which I seriously doubt. Therefore, all I would achieve by telling others about my harrowing lunch would be to scare them about eating their own food at their desks.

They needed no warning that this sort of thing might happen to them. Believe me, they'll know as soon as it does. The risk of unknowingly getting a forkful of Chilopoda is slim to none. Health risks were minimal as well -- these house centipedes don't generally bite humans, and they aren't poisonous to us. As a bonus, they prey upon peskier forms of arthropods, nasty things like insects and spiders.

Once I'd decided this, another question came to mind: Can I finish my rustic grill?

Listen. I only considered this because the grill was very, very good before my skydiving friend plopped himself in the middle of the meal. The potatoes were tender, the kielbasa wasn't too greasy and the peppers were spicy without being so hot as to overshadow the whole thing. Plus, reheating through microwaving hadn't completely wrecked the ingredients, for once.

I tried not to waste this food. I really did. But when  push came to shove, I just couldn't bring fork to mouth. The meal was ruined for me.

In the end, I made a quick trip to Subway, where I tried this month's $5 Footlong. Keep your eyes out for a post on that in the near future. And of course I'll be delivering the promised Golden Spork Awards later this weekend.

Right now, I just had to release this centipede onto the page. I couldn't keep it crawling around in my head forever.

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