Cool and refreshing Mexican beer soon arrived along with bowls containing chiles or sweet limes, baskets of tortillas and a variety of breads. Starters appeared on the table, including cheeses, melon, prawns, mushrooms, and a delicacy called Sopes de Escamoles, which are little fried masa cakes topped with "Mexican caviar" - perhaps more commonly known as "ant larvae".
Yep, that's right, tiny little embryos harvested from the woody roots of the agave plant where ants make their nests. Tonight ours were roasted and served over fresh guacamole spread on small, dense hand-shaped corn tortillas. Actually I was pretty excited to eat something that sounded so unpleasant. I think I was more nervous about eating the guacamole, which I don't really like.
I squeezed a little lime on top, picked it up and took a bite. The flavor was really mild and kind of murky. The escamoles have a soft, cottage cheese-like consistency and a nutty aftertaste. The guacamole was very subtle and balanced the dryness of the chewy tortilla. I took another bite and set the rest down on my plate, but as I did I bumped the lime, causing some of the escamoles to roll off.
Hearing them scatter around my plate was like a switch turning on, giving me the heebie jeebies and totally grossing me out. For a minute I contemplated spitting it out, but I was determined to eat the whole thing! I struggled while swallowing but managed to hold it together. Then I drank some of my beer and ate a couple pieces of melon before going back for the final bite. I finished it, and I'm glad I tried it - but I was really happy that I didn't have to eat another one.