Grain Moths

Have you ever eaten a grain moth? I probably have, though I really couldn't tell you for certain. Our kitchen is full of them, and they fling themselves thoughtlessly at any sticky object. As a result, any food that is left out for more than about fifteen minutes attracts a garnish of grey little bodies. Stubbornly, we still leave butter out in an uncovered dish. Their inadvertent suicides make Gary Larson-esque portraits of themselves in silhouette against the bright, opaque yellow of the butter--legs askew, wings flattened. It's incredible how frail and malleable these exoskeletoned creatures are. When I accidentally run across one with a butter knife, it smears, leaving behind unknown essences.

We keep our cast-iron pan always on the stove, always with a sheen of oil. We do this because we don’t want to ruin it by subjecting it to soap. It accumulates a grime of fried egg, vegetable, cheese, and bread that sometimes I scrape off with a paper towel, or with the spatula, which is fairly ineffective. Only when I scrape do I notice the moths that have died there. They have been fried to a crispy consistency, and saturated with oil, darkening them them to a color indistinguishable from the pan. Hundreds if not thousands of them have been infused in the iron patina. The pan imparts many flavors to what is cooked in it, and one of them is grain moth.

I am both nauseated and blase about their ubiquity on and in things I'm about to eat. I usually just try to take the butter that isn't directly touching one of their corpses. Unlike ants, they do not release an offensive smell when crushed. They are not sour, or at least I don't think they are. What does a grain moth taste like? I'm frightened to find out, even though I suspect they taste like nothing.

Their frequent failure to navigate the kitchen to suitable sustenance in which to lay their eggs is apparently not enough to slow them down much. On some days their swarm extends even outside the kitchen, and every day I see at least one, usually more. I've stopped being surprised. Today one fluttered out of an egg carton that had been in the fridge.

You might think that the grain moths would induce one of us to clean up and get rid of what feeds them. There are cupboards with countless forgotten bags, boxes, and unsealed jars of flour, beans, lentils, rice, noodles, and oatmeal. There's also a giant open bag of birdseed. Somewhere in there, they're feasting and breeding. I wouldn't say they're pleased by this bounty, but they do multiply accordingly. With indifference and neglect we keep providing for them. Yes, we could make life harder or even possibly impossible for them, but we don't bother.

Actually, I would really like to get rid of them, but the prospect of going through all that pantry cruft we've accumulated over the decades is too daunting. Who even knows what's in there. Maybe I'll find out when I've found out what one of one the maggots feeding on it tastes like.

2 March 2012