D.L. Stewart: Did you want extra tarantula on that hamburger?

When it comes to food, there aren’t a lot of things I won’t try. But I draw the line at eating any species I ever had as pets.

There are some exceptions. Although as a child I briefly had a pair of rabbits given to me on Easter, I eventually bent the rule and sampled jugged hare on a trip to England. And I will order duck a l’orange, even though one summer a pair of mallards lived at our house in connection with a conservation program called Rent-a-Duck.

But I will not eat dogs, cats or goldfish. And definitely not tarantulas.

Admittedly, there aren’t a lot of restaurants that have tarantulas on their menus to tempt me. The only exception may be Bull City Burger and Brewery in Durham, North Carolina. For the past seven years, it has held an Exotic Meat Month. Past years included camel, kangaroo, python and bug burgers. This month’s special is a sandwich of North Carolina-raised ground beef, Gruyere cheese and spicy chili sauce, topped with an oven-roasted tarantula. ($30, including dirty fries.) If you eat one, you get a T-shirt proclaiming that you’ve taken the Tarantula Challenge.

People who have tried it report that tarantula tastes like crab or shellfish. The restaurant’s owner (appropriately, perhaps, named Seth Gross) says it tastes like shrimp. But, because of Harry, I’ll have to take his word for that.

Harry was the name my kids gave to the tarantula I brought home for them one day. How my kids eventually turned out may be attributed to the fact they had a father who brought home a tarantula for them one day instead of, say, a puppy, but I had an excuse.The spider had been sent to me at my newspaper office as part of a movie promotion and my only options were to take it home or to hide in the desk drawer of my editor and wait for hilarity to ensue.

So I took it home and, despite an impressive volume of screaming by their mother, the kids made it their pet. There weren’t a lot things they could do with Harry. He was really lousy, for instance, at fetching a stick. But the kids did have some fun with him. Especially the middle son, who enjoyed taking Harry out of his cage and letting him creep up the arm of his baby brother in the presence of swooning little old ladies.

Harry eventually died and had to be buried. Or flushed. But it would dishonor his memory — and the memories of all previous pets — for me to take the Tarantula Challenge.

I’m just glad I never had a pet lobster.

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