Things are bagging out down Illawarra way. And I mean that in the literal sense as we’ve arranged a special meet and greet with some cool creepy-crawlies as part of Illawara Fly’s Bugs @ the Fly school holiday event.
Introductions begin with a hirsute Wolf Spider, a grotesque beast of a thing who I’m pleased to say is kept behind glass. Then comes a lairy pair of perfectly pretty Rainbow Stag Beetles who shimmer and shine like cheap costume jewellery which Sugarpuff thinks would make nice earrings. Raffles is entranced but Sugarpuff, on discovering that the incredible insects aren’t about to become additions to her jewellery box, heads with her dad to the gift shop to make out with a fluffy python or two.
Back in bugland, Raffles is getting touchy feely with some other interesting invertebrates including a super-cool Spiny Leaf Stick Insect…
And this dinosaur, the Giant Burrowing Cockroach.
The ‘roach is so freaking big and so awesomely strong that he declares it a Teenage Mutant Ninja Cockroach – high praise indeed from my mutant loving boy.
In a slightly macabre twist, on our trip home, our creepy-crawly meet and greet turns to into a meet and eat as Raffles finds himself noshing on some of his new pal’s cousins.
On a weekend whim we decide to stop by Cabramatta for some Vietnamese vittles to find the annual Moon Festival celebrations in swing. The kids are quickly joining in. They jump and sing and chase down a dancing lion or seven.
They bang some gongs and collect enough balloons to send the pair of them floating into outer space.
The whole of Cabramatta’s John Street is a buzz of people, colour, noise and, of course, tantalising smells.
There are steaming bowls of pho tai (beef noodle soup) big enough to swim in.
Platters of Com Dac Biet (a quirky combo of rice with pork chop, minced pork, noodles, egg and fried rice) to shovel.
Piles of delicious zongzi (sticky rice parcels) to unravel and comsume.
A fabulous duck and bamboo shoot noodle soup is nothing short of an epiphany.
Not to mention the plates and plates of steaming hot dumplings. We willingly scoff it all but even after consuming his own body-weight in Vietnamese food Raffles remains hungry.
A packet of traditional mooncakes fills a little more of his tardis like belly but, having now devoured enough to make a dozen sumo wrestlers feel bloated, my little compactus still swears he’s wasting away from starvation.
So when we stumble across Butterfly Skye and her stall of edible insects, we put him to the test. How hungry is he really?
Hungry enough to eat a packet of mixed bugs it would seem.
A chocolate-coated mealworm here, a choc-dipped cockroach there and a couple of choccy crickets as garnish almost do the trick, but he is disappointed when he discovers the stall is all out of scorpions and tarantulas.
Whilst Raffles thinks the edible insects are just ok, Sugarpuff is in a frenzy of chocolate bug bliss and is begging for more… neither of them appears to notice that their cowardly parents are not joining in the insect inhalation.
For those of you more squeamish than my little weirdos, and who may think it odd that I’m actually allowing my children to eat worms and cockroaches, it’s not their first time at scoffing insects. And as it happens, bugs are extremely nutritious and a great sustainable protein alternative. Most bugs are also high in calcium, iron, essential amino and fatty acids but low in fat.
The only thing even remotely unhealthy about these ones is the wads of chocolate they’re coated in. But give us a break, it’s a festival and buggers can’t be choosers.