Mono Lake Dip

monosunrise-1When I was a young man I had the opportunity to visit a dear friend who lived in the countryside of Santa Cruz County. I had brought my new family, which included my two year old daughter Katie. As we were engaged in thoughtful conversation, I noticed the young one at the living room window sill, eating flies from a small spider web. A jaw dropping experience for my wife, our hosts did not flinch, as they had raised a small brood on the ranch. They had seen this before, and maybe worse. As my wife screamed in horror, I was drawn into deep contemplation on the subject. I recalled that the indigenous peoples of the Mono Lake basin, in the Eastern Sierras of California, had made a dish of this same ingredient. Well , maybe not whole dead flies, but alkali fly pupae from the lake’s shore.

The alkali fly was an important source of food for the Kutzadika’a tribe during the summer months in the norther Owens Valley. Somewhat related to the Northern Paiute peoples, the Kutzadika’a (pronounced Kootz-a’-di-ka-a’) lived part of the year in the Mono Basin hunting and gathering fly pupae, or anything else they could get their hands on.
The pupal stage of the alkali fly was collected in shallow water along the lake shore. Since the pupae are rich in fat and protein, they were an excellent source of food that were dried and used in stews, or just eaten on the spot.No catch and release here my friend!

The Kutzadika’a even traded this delicacy with neighboring peoples.
Kind of like Jack and the beanstalk to the neighboring peoples. Trade some venison or the family cow for a handful of maggots.
Kutzadika’a means “fly eater” in their native language. People have been called worse.
To acquire said delicacy, just travel to Mono Lake in summer and scoop the pupae from the shore. Be wary of State Rangers, as they frown on poaching, and do not like to share natures bounty. Just try hunting in Yosemite!

Mono Lake Dip


Handful of Alkali fly pupae

Blend pupae in a inexpensive food processor or blender. Why inexpensive? If your spouse finds out what you are up to, she will throw blender or food processor out after only one batch! You could go “Old School”, and simply crush in a mortar.
Serve with your favorite chip or cracker. Enjoy!

So, when you host your next soiree or Superbowl party, a guest exclaims, “This dip is fantastic! Where can I get the recipe?”. You just look proud, and point to the window sill, “Why, it’s right over there”.

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