Scorpions on a stick update: Washington Post, NBC, Miami Herald, and more

Foreign reporters informing readers about Chinese cuisine based on a short visit to a Beijing night market popular with tourists. Hmmm, sounds about par for the course. Here’s the latest on the scorpions-on-a-stick media monitoring project:

Category: Scorpions on a stick = crystal meth for journalists

Candidate: Dan Steinberg, Washington Post


Foreign media doing scorpions-on-sticks pieces is just about the lamest form of journalism imaginable. It’s hackneyed, cliched, predictable and useless. It relies entirely on the gross-out factor, and is basically Fear Factor on location. It creates an image of life in Beijing that is demonstrably fake, no different than if every visiting journalist in the U.S. sent home pieces on American food, based entirely on FedEx Field concessions or the Texas State Fair. And, on top of all that, it’s just lazy.

So here’s my version.

[Kudos to Steinberg for putting the addiction in perspective and, in the rest of this story, taking us through the process. We hope rehab goes well for him.]

Category: America, your next Mark Twain (very poor man’s version)

Candidate: Dave Hyde, Florida Sun-Sentinel

I must confess: I ate a spot of Spot. And I feel awful about it. No, really. I physically feel awful, though the problem might not stem from that teensy-tiny bite. Nor was it probably from the stir-fry pig liver (tastes like chicken), roast young pigeon (tastes like chicken) or fried scorpion (tastes like scorpion). It’s because I accidentally swallowed the leash! Ha ha ha ha, sigh.

Category: Duh, we’re not in Kansas any more

Candidate: Jennifer Floyd Engel, Kansas City Star


Or maybe a place [like Beijing] where donkey and fried scorpions are considered lunch actually is just that exotic.

[Read this one if you are a fan of reporters who sound like wide-eyed tourists that did zero research before coming to China.]

Category: Big Macs and Coke? That’s a crappy, rather than a picky, eater

Candidate: Alex Cabrero, NBC News


Friends who know my taste in food (or lack of taste in food, depending on your point of view) started sending me e-mails of dog brain soup. Deep fried starfish. Snake. Crispy scorpions. Beetles on a stick. Every e-mail ended with Good Luck! I’m serious, every single one. I’m not just exaggerating about the emails like I am about the food in Beijing. OK, OK, I admit a few of them didn’t say “Good Luck”, they said “Good Riddance.” But only a few!

[The story title: "Picky eaters won't starve in Beijing - Forget the dog brain soup; I'm going to Mickey D's".]

Category: The Michael Phelps of scorpion references

Candidate: Geoffrey Wansell, Daily Mail


[1] Laid out in trays and boiling in cauldrons are everything from goat lungs with red peppers to scorpion brochettes, seahorses on skewers, iguana tails, dung beetles and silk worms on a stick, by way of fried sparrows, grilled snake and turkey vulture schnitzels.

[2] One U.S. visitor, Jackie Siegel, could not resist starfish fried in shark oil, though the centipedes, worms and scorpions on offer ‘kind of bothered me a little’.

[3] So the visitor must put their ideas of good taste on hold for the duration of their visit and try a freshly fried and seasoned skewer of farmed scorpions, one of the most famous of the delicacies on offer, which costs about 50 yuan (£3.70).

[4] Scorpions are said to make your blood hotter in cold weather and to cure ‘certain conditions’, although no one seems sure what grasshoppers on a stick are a remedy for, or mixed cow and horse soup, come to that.

[5] While living in China, Dunlop ate rabbit heads, pig brains, scorpion and preserved duck eggs – known as 1,000-year- old eggs – whose oozy black yolks and ‘noxious aroma’ caused her flesh to crawl, made her feel sick and left a toxic black slime on her chopsticks.

Category: The Michael Phelps of scorpion references II, but with a point

Candidate: Dave Barry, Miami Herald

The market was bustling with people. But here’s the thing. The Chinese people I saw all seemed to be buying things like lamb kebabs and fruit. On the other hand, the people gathered around the centipedes and scorpions on a stick were, in almost every case, tourists or American TV reporters doing fun features on weird Chinese food. These people were basically lining up to eat scorpions. A reporter would hold up a skewer of scorpions, and the camera person would get a close-up shot. Then the reporter would scrunch up his or her face, take a bite of a scorpion, chew, swallow, and declare that it really wasn’t that bad. Then, depending on how in-depth the feature was, the reporter might take a bite of seahorse.

I watched as this procedure was repeated with several different TV crews. Then the truth hit me: The Chinese don’t eat scorpions. They feed their scorpions to TV reporters. I would not be surprised to learn that the Chinese word for scorpion is “TV reporter food.”

See also:

Scorpions in a… bottle?

Scorpions on a… cracker?

Scorpions on a stick update: Globe & Mail, LA Times, BBC, DNA India, and more

Scorpions on a stick update: Forbes, Wall Street Journal

Scorpions on a stick update: NBC

On a stick? In Beijing? No way!: ESPN, Boston Globe

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