What Defines Food?
by Jalen Heyward
How to Eat Fried Worms (2006) is a film about a fourth grader named Billy who moves to a new town with his family. Billy struggles with transitioning to the new school and encounters the school bully on the first day. The school bully; Joe Guire and his crew target Billy and pick on him on the first day by putting worms in his lunch. Instead of showing his embarrassment, Billy decides to deter the negative attention and eat the worms to show that he is unbothered. You can see the disgust on Billy’s face, however he says that he loves the worms and even fries them from time to time. Billy successfully eats a worm and Joe places a bet for him to eat ten fried worms in one day without throwing up. Although this film teaches individuals to stand up to bullies, it also displays the boundaries society places on the definition of food.
In society, the culinary triangle is used to define states of food . This triangle consists three categories which are cooked, rotten, and raw. In the film, ten worms are all prepared differently fitting a specific category of the culinary triangle. This film embarks on the idea of the culinary triangle because worms are not considered food for humans, however if the worms are cooked, it brings up controversy on whether the worms should be consumed or not.
The boys get into many misadventures as they try to find different places and increasingly disgusting ways to cook the worms. In the film, nine worms are prepared for Billy. The first is worm fried with pig fat. The second worm was made with an omelet however it was accidentally given to the principal. The principal enjoys the omelet and ironically says it’s the “best omelet i’ve ever had”. The third worm was made in the french fry fryer and covered in liver juice. The fourth worm was made with a soup concoction of hot sauce and chili as show in figure 1. The fifth worm was made with marshmallows, ketchup, and tuna fish. The sixth worm was a peanut butter and jelly worm jam sandwich. The seventh was a room temperature worm smoothie made with broccoli. The eight worm was called radioactive slime delight in which they placed the worm inside the microwave and heated it up until the worm exploded. The ninth worm was eaten raw.
At the end of the movie Billy is celebrated for eating the worms and the nickname “worm-boy” that Billy was originally given to antagonize him, is now used to glorify his braveness and acquired taste for worms. Through the bet, Billy normalized eating worms and although it is seen as quirky by the rest of the boys accepted his culinary interest. This movie ultimately questions the requirements for the culinary triangle and questions the real definition of food.