Page:Madagascar - Phelps - 1883.djvu/47

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MADAGASCAR.

45

and hospitable, their own modes of living being so miserable that they are very willing to share freely with others. Where people rely upon the spontaniety of nature, or upon the labor of slaves for their food and shelter, it becomes an easy matter to manifest the ruder semblances of hospitality; but as for imparting Christian solace and comfort they know nothing. These they rather persecute and expel.

Should one be content to dine on locusts and silk worms, he could be highly entertained. Large swarms of locusts are often seen in Madagascar in the spring and summer. They generally approach from the southwestern quarter of the island, and pass like a desolating scourge over the face of the country, leaving trees and shrubs entirely leafless, and destroying the plantations of rice and manioc, and whatever the gardens contain. Their appearance on approaching is like a dense cloud of considerable extent, the lowest part of which is about two feet above the ground, while the upper part rises to a great elevation. The natives, on the approach of the locusts, fly to their gardens, and, by noises and shouts of the most tumultuous kind, endeavor to prevent their alighting. In the uncultivated parts of the country they often dig holes, of large dimensions, and nearly a foot deep, in which great quantities are collected and taken; or they arrest them in their flight by wide shallow baskets, or by striking them down with their lambas, after which they are gathered up in baskets by women and children. The locusts form at times an important element of food; for this purpose they are caught as above described, slightly cooked, and eaten, after the legs and wings have been picked off; or they are partially boiled in large earthen or iron vessels, dried in the sun, and repeatedly winnowed, in order to clear the bodies from the legs and wings; they are afterwards packed up in baskets, and carried to the market for sale, or kept in large sacks or baskets in the house for domestic use, similarly to the manner practiced by the Indians who inhabit the deserts of Utah.

Locusts are usually cooked by frying them in an iron or earthen vessel; and the natives say that they resemble shrimps.

Silk worms, in the chrysalis state, are also cooked and eaten. Considerable quantities of them are gathered in several provinces of the island, where the tapia edulis grows, the plant on which the silk worms feed, and are exposed for sale in the markets.

How long the art of distillation has been known in the island,