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ArggggH! Worms in My Goulash


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#1 ZenFoodist

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Posted 01 February 2003 - 08:34 PM

This probably be posted in the Disasters thread, but I feel it needs its own forum.

Friday night, 10:00 pm. Up since 6:00am, full day with my ESL junior-high schoolers, afterschool hours spent tutoring around my kitchen table, last kid gone by seven, dinner served at eight, everything cleaned up, exhausted-beyond belief....culinary martyr that I am I decide to make.... goulash! I'd been doing a lot of stew-y, things all week....pulled pork with pozole in chipolte-adobo sauce, braised short ribs, chicken cacciatore, lamb and white beans etc... why not goulash?

A recent trip to a tiny Hungarian place in College Point, Queens, "Taste of Hungary," a few weeks ago had inspired me and I had my heart set on whipping up an Eastern-European extravaganza. The plan was to make my 'lash the night before, let the flavors meld in my fridge, and serve it for dinner the following night with a crisp cucumber salad, sauteed wild mushrooms, and some toasted barley.

So here I am, basically crying from exhaustion, my husband repeatedly yelling about what a nut I am, swearing he'd be happy with a lifeftime of turkey sandwiches if it meant not hearing me whine (how bad a life would that be?), begging me to just go to bed...but NO. I must make my goulash.

I brown my beef cubes with some onion and garlic, pour a few generous shakes of imported Hungarian sweet paprika and a quick scatter of the hot, stir it around to brown it a bit. Next, a few cups of water, quick stir, cover, turn around to rinse some dishes. I de-lid a few moments later and am greeted with.....WORMS!Tons of them! Floating upon the surface of my lovely goulash.

I pry the tops off my recently purchased paprikas, shake the cans a bit and there they are...squirming bitsy larvae-like worms...meal worms, maggots, not quite sure but they appear to be cousins of the crittters that turn up in my King Arthur bags on the exact day I decide to make Christmas cookies year after year. I hate these bloody things!

I feel like I am going to cry. SICK PART: I actually contemplate skimming them off for a millesecond. Who would know? Hell, friends in the PeaceCorps have eaten far worse. Protein sources, they'd say. I am a girl who combs the tassles on her rugs, vacuums every other day, dusts the vacuum CLEANER, cleans the condiment jar caps with boiling water..there is no way I am going to eat a soup in which bugs were macerating. I am so annoyed that I wasted all this time cubing meat, peeling and chopping potatoes and carrots etc...

Sucky-Ducky.

What annoys me more is that my husband will not allow me to flush the remains down the toilet which has been standard practice in my parents' house for as long as I can remember. Instead he walks down the block of our Queens neighborhood and dumps it down the sewer, which he argues, is where it will end up anyway. I think this is weird.

Two Questions:

1. Where do these pests come from? How do I prevent them? Explain maggots showing up in dead flesh while you are at it, if at all possible. I'm fascinated.

2. Where do you dispose of liquidy, gooey things that have gone bad?

Nothing worse than wasted effort.

One Good Thing: Since I had no dinner prepared, we went to Sun Young Spring in downtown Flushing and continued our week-long soupy fest with big steaming bowls of spicy beef and noodle soup.

:smile:
Lisa

Edited by ZenFoodist, 01 February 2003 - 08:39 PM.


#2 CathyL

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Posted 01 February 2003 - 08:41 PM

Lisa, I know nothing about the science behind this, but I am sorry you had to experience such a horrid thing. :sad:

And glad that you could end your tale with a smile.

#3 mikey

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Posted 01 February 2003 - 09:14 PM

Lisa, everyone has their own limits when it comes to hygiene and protein sources.
As for disposal: your husband poured the goulash down the STORM sewer, which flows untreated into the nearest body of water(at least in most cities); had you flushed it down the toilet, it would go into the SANITARY sewer, to a treatment plant, and then, into a body of water. The goulash in the storm sewer will likely sit there at the bottom of the inlet, to rot or feed rats or whatever until the next rain. Around here, the chunks usually go into the garbage, and the liquid down the sink(sanitary sewer). Alternatively it goes through the garbaage disposal.

#4 Suzanne F

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Posted 02 February 2003 - 08:03 AM

1.  Where do  these pests come from?  How do I prevent them? Explain maggots showing up in dead flesh while you are at it, if at all possible. I'm fascinated.


Ah, the infamous paprika pests! As far as I know, the only way to get rid of them is to not bring them into the house in the first place. :sad: Buy only from places that are likely to have vetted the stuff first, like Penzey's or one of the other big spice purveyors.

Funny you should mention maggots -- I was just thinking about the myth of spontaneous generation this morning in the shower, don't know why. :wacko: Anyway: maggots are fly larvae. They get into/onto meat (and whatever else they infest) when flies land on it and lay their eggs. (The flies also probably regurgitate onto the meat, but that's a different disgusting story.)

2.  Where do you dispose of liquidy, gooey things that have gone bad?

I also pour gook down the toilet (e.g., moldy salsa), as long as there are no chunks big enough to clog the pipes. As Mikey said, eventually the organic matter gets separated out and treated -- and unless that program has been cut as well, the sludge is sold for fertilizer. (If there are chunks, they go into the garbage can after the liquid is strained down the drain.)

NOTE to Mikey: only a few parts of NYC are allowed to have garbage disposals. :sad:

#5 JAZ

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Posted 02 February 2003 - 10:04 AM

A friend of mine had a similar experience with imported paprika many years ago (he was sprinkling it over a bowl of potato salad). He did a little investigation and discovered a small class action suit against the company, so he got a little money when the suit was settled.

Not that I'm suggesting that's what you do, but my point is that this seems to be a recurring problem with imported paprika, so I'd stick with spice purveyors you know and trust.

#6 Stone

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Posted 02 February 2003 - 10:07 AM

Didn't you see the worms when you spoon/poured out the paprika?

#7 ZenFoodist

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Posted 02 February 2003 - 12:37 PM

Nope....I shook the paprika out of the cannister into the browned chunks of meat and apparently their camouflage defense was working. I only noticed them after I added the liquid and they were floating on the surface.

#8 elyse

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Posted 02 February 2003 - 02:33 PM

How disappointing! I recently had the same problem with...cumin? One of the "C" spices. I tend to pour spices in my hand first most of the time, so I can catch it before any melding happens. I'm fine picking critters out of flour, but wet stuff, no way.

I'm a down the toilet kind of girl.

#9 ludja

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Posted 31 January 2004 - 05:40 PM

Ah, the infamous paprika pests! As far as I know, the only way to get rid of them is to not bring them into the house in the first place. :sad: Buy only from places that are likely to have vetted the stuff first, like Penzey's or one of the other big spice purveyors.

Whew! I was just brousing around e-gullet checking to see if I could find an alternative beef goulash recipe to tempt me and saw this thread!

I immediately raced to my kitchen cabinet to check out my hungarian paprika lovingly transported back from my last trip to Austria....and it appears to be pest free!

I thought I'd bring this post back up to the top as a "public service announcement" for those that cook w/paprika. I had never heard of this before.

*I was more than a little scared b/c I had a bad cabinet pest brouhaha once originating with a bunch of packaged dried chiles.*

Now I can calm down and cook the goulash. :smile:
"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"


#10 bloviatrix

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Posted 31 January 2004 - 06:07 PM

A couple of months ago, as I was doing my mise for chili, I discovered a colony of little wiggly things in my chili powder. The whole thing got dumped and I had to run out to the store to buy more.

Which leads me to my suggestion -- don't just shake a container directly into your pot. 1) You never know what's crawling around in there and b) you run the risk of having the shaker cover and the entire contents of the jar fall into your pot.

I save large yogurt containers and jars so if I have something liquidy to toss, I pour it into the container and toss down the garbage shute. I've been know to pour stuff into the toilet and flush (I've got those old, power-flush toilets).
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#11 fifi

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Posted 31 January 2004 - 07:07 PM

When I had adequate freezer space I used to keep some things in the freezer. Even some specialty flours and stone ground corn meal. For one thing, a long sleep at below zero usually kills the eggs. Also, chile powders (paprika being one) are really prone to the little buggers. I wonder if they are the larvae of some sort of fruit fly critter that likes peppers? Actually, it is better to keep those in the freezer anyway for freshness.
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#12 McDuff

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Posted 31 January 2004 - 07:11 PM

Never heard of paprika pests before. I am going to check my new jar of paprika, also the decade old can that sits decoratively in the spice cabinet. I have made bread more than once that turned out to have critters, and once started stirring risotto that began waving back. As for garbagey stuff, if I can rinse it down the drain I do, otherwise I freeze it and it goes out with the trash on Mondays.

#13 Katherine

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Posted 31 January 2004 - 07:16 PM

I think another problem is that the lids on many of these are not tight, and bugs can get in. I found worms around the lid of my Spanish paprika, cleaned it off, put it in the freezer for a while, and stuffed it in a plastic bag for protection.

It seems that worms like the good stuff.

#14 sparrowgrass

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Posted 01 February 2004 - 08:00 AM

All spices go from the grocery sack directly into the freezer, for at least a couple of days. The chili powder and paprika live in there permanently.

The chickens would have loved that goulash, worms and all. :biggrin:
sparrowgrass

#15 ludja

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Posted 01 February 2004 - 08:26 AM

Thanks all for sharing the idea of putting (and perhaps keeping) chile and paprika in the freezer. Sounds like a good idea.
"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"


#16 Arey

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Posted 01 February 2004 - 12:23 PM

Maybe it was the Drugstore Beetle (Stegobium paniceum) which seems to like almost anything and has been found breeding in bottles of cayenne pepper, according to Mary Berenbaum in her book "Bugs in the System". Doing a Google on Drugstore Beetle will bring up more information on this pest of stored products including drugs.

Once, in a very dull moment was standing in my kitchen reading a can of imported paprika, and at the bottom it said "Keep refridgerated", so I have kept paprika refridgerated ever since without knowing why, until now.
"A fool", he said, "would have swallowed it". Samuel Johnson


#17 liamsaunt

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Posted 01 February 2004 - 07:21 PM

I have always kept my paprika in the freezer too, without really knowing why. Now I know! I have been lucky enough not to have had my spices infested (knocks on wood), but I remember my Mom's stories about her rice being infested with some maggoty bug when she lived in Plilly. She said it would look like simple rice, but when she put it in to the hot water, the bugs would come'a calling! Generally speaking, I keep all of my spices in a seperate cabinet, tightly sealed, which seems to prevent infestation.

#18 robyn

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Posted 01 February 2004 - 10:45 PM

The worst I ever had was noxious flies in a bag of Chinese peppers. They ate through the plastic bag and took over my kitchen. These days - everything gets stored in glass air-tight containers. Robyn

#19 sparrowgrass

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Posted 02 February 2004 - 06:40 AM

I put all my flours in the freezer for at least 24 hours, too, especially the whole wheat/rye types. All grains have the possibility of having bug eggs in them, and the freezing kills the eggs.
sparrowgrass

#20 KateW

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Posted 02 February 2004 - 07:13 AM

I hope I never find bugs in my food. I think I'd never eat again.

#21 nessa

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Posted 02 February 2004 - 08:24 AM

I had something similar happen with my cumin seeds.
I think they might have been weevils. Thank goodness I poured it in my hand first. That way I could stare dumbly for a few seconds then fling eveything to the floor, screech and do the icky-dance, run from the room and let the dog take care of it from there. Good dog! I am now seriously considering finding a way to store my spices in the freezer!


#22 Mudpuppie

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Posted 02 February 2004 - 09:27 AM

Count me among those who have found critters in the paprika -- both imported good stuff and cheaper grocery store stuff. They weren't harmless little weevils, either. They were worms. Blech.

Not my worst experience with bugs, though. When I was in junior high, I was in a rush one morning to get ready for school. Grabbed a granola bar to eat while getting ready. Took a bite and it tasted funny. Looked down at the bar and it was crawling with weevils. Spit the first bite out.

Ugh. Weevils are not a taste treat.
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#23 sparrowgrass

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Posted 02 February 2004 - 10:32 AM

Kate, you might want to avoid looking closely at your food, because almost everything has a good chance of having some kind of small critters in it.

Stuff you eat grows outdoors, and the outdoors is a well known hangout for bugs. Grain products come complete with insect eggs, canned and frozen veggies (how can you harvest and shell peas and corn without occasionally incorporating a live thing?) all have particular pests, and stored processed food attracts pantry pests. And if you are into organic food--heaven help ya. I won't even talk about warbles and other parasites found in meat and fish--yuck.

I attended a presentation by Dr. Tom Turpin, a Purdue entemologist, where he discussed insect eating. Almost all cultures, except Europeans and Americans, eat insects regularly.

He also said that the paper band on the top of the ketchup bottle was put there originally to hide the insect eggs that floated to the top of the container. Apparently ketchup is now processed differently, so the eggs are pureed along with the tomatoes, but they are still in there.

Mudpuppie, the weevils probably tasted fine--weevil poop and stale granola bar, on the other hand, are yucky.

edited to the add the note to mudpuppie.

Edited by sparrowgrass, 02 February 2004 - 10:34 AM.

sparrowgrass

#24 Mudpuppie

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Posted 02 February 2004 - 12:48 PM

Mudpuppie, the weevils probably tasted fine--weevil poop and stale granola bar, on the other hand, are yucky.


Uh, thanks. :wacko:

Edited by Mudpuppie, 02 February 2004 - 12:49 PM.

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#25 KateW

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Posted 02 February 2004 - 02:43 PM

Kate, you might want to avoid looking closely at your food, because almost everything has a good chance of having some kind of small critters in it.

Stuff you eat grows outdoors, and the outdoors is a well known hangout for bugs. Grain products come complete with insect eggs, canned and frozen veggies (how can you harvest and shell peas and corn without occasionally incorporating a live thing?) all have particular pests, and stored processed food attracts pantry pests. And if you are into organic food--heaven help ya. I won't even talk about warbles and other parasites found in meat and fish--yuck.

I attended a presentation by Dr. Tom Turpin, a Purdue entemologist, where he discussed insect eating. Almost all cultures, except Europeans and Americans, eat insects regularly.

He also said that the paper band on the top of the ketchup bottle was put there originally to hide the insect eggs that floated to the top of the container. Apparently ketchup is now processed differently, so the eggs are pureed along with the tomatoes, but they are still in there.

Mudpuppie, the weevils probably tasted fine--weevil poop and stale granola bar, on the other hand, are yucky.

edited to the add the note to mudpuppie.

I know what you mean. I guess I meant if I saw bugs where they did not belong, wriggling around on top of a stew or soup, as so beautifully described in the first post, I would not eat that particular thing. However I wouldn't mind trying bugs on their own or if they were *supposed* to be in a certain dish. I also don't mind them ground up in my peanut butter or ketchup or whatever.

#26 sequim

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Posted 02 February 2004 - 03:47 PM

I do wonder why everybody is getting so grossed out by a few bugs. It's not like they're poisonous or harmful to eat, are they? :unsure: Especially once they get cooked and camouflaged into the stew. Why waste all that food? Why be so removed from our natural world that we consider these so horrible?

#27 Knicke

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Posted 02 February 2004 - 05:01 PM

I'm with you, sequim. Unless I'm eating a raw vegetable and come across a worm-y (in which case I'll just eat around), it seems like the logical plan would be to cook the hell out of 'em and chow down. Then again, I was one of those children who got a kick out of chocolate covered ants, etc.
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An oyster met an oyster
And they were oysters two.
Two oysters met two oysters
And they were oysters too.
Four oysters met a pint of milk
And they were oyster stew.


#28 KateW

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Posted 02 February 2004 - 06:33 PM

To me, bugs indicate a sign of rotting, or past-expiration. Yes, bugs grow on stuff that grew outside and I suppose cows, or whatever meat was used in the goulash, techically "grow outside" too. Paprika "grows outside". So heck, I'm gonna eat everything that has bugs on it because hey, it all grew outside. It's only bugs, right? Remember that next time you get a hair in your food. It's not icky, you've got that stuff growing and dying all over you RIGHT NOW! Or a cockroach in your soup...those are fine! Tell them to take it back and incorporate that roach properly!
Where are we going to draw the line? Really, I want to know.

#29 Stone

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Posted 02 February 2004 - 07:09 PM

Worms

#30 Callipygos

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Posted 03 February 2004 - 10:57 AM

Up until this moment I was a little embarrassed to have purchased McCormack's paprika from the grocery store, rather than the good paprika.

No more.