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Eating Jiminy Cricket


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A couple of weeks a go, I bought some whole shrimp. My boyfriend took one look at all those eyes, paled slightly, and averted his gaze. This was in the shop, while they were still frozen like rocks in their sealed plastic bag. Later that day, I began prepping the shrimp, something that I cannot do without being struck by their distinct resemblance to insects (yep, even the jumbo ones), and found myself wondering what insects, particularly the larvae, would be like to eat. On purpose, that is.

The Paleo Diet topic got me thinking again about eating classes of animals that are not regarded as food by most residents of industrialized/Western[ized] cultures. It's also been a while since this has been discussed in the forums.

Proponents of eating insects praise their nutritional value, and the potentially low environmental impact associated with cultivating them for food, but how do they taste? After all, for the vast majority of us, the enjoyment of food is as important as its nutritional value.

Have you sampled any invertebrates that are not part of the standard Western canon? Was it any good, and if it wasn't, did you get the impression that the preparation, or the critter itself was the problem?

Do you think this is something that might catch on, become popular (after all, in the 1950s plenty of Westerners would have scoffed at the idea that eating raw fish would become widely appreciated)?

Or, is your reaction to the idea of eating such invertebrates pretty much like my boyfriend's reaction to whole shrimp: something too disturbing to be contemplated objectively?

I'm curious about the prevailing attitude in 2011.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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I once attended a program given by an entomologist from Purdue--amazing, funny, wonderful speaker (Tom Something, I think), and at the very beginning of the program, he tossed a handful of mealworms into an electric skillet with some butter.

They smelled wonderful, the kids in the audience were entranced, but when he started to serve them up, I just. couldn't. do. it. I was told they tasted like sunflower seeds.

I love shrimp--I know they are just ocean bugs--but insects will never cross my lips if I can help it.

sparrowgrass
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Deep fried bee larvae are popular round these parts. They are served with salt and chile flakes. They taste a bit like spicy popcorn or maybe just have the popcorn texture. The salt and chile rather disguises any other taste. We also eat the bees (less often). Again, they don't really taste of anything very much unless spiced.

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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I love shrimp--I know they are just ocean bugs--but insects will never cross my lips if I can help it.

Technically, I suppose, crustaceans and insects are both arthropods but different subphylum. They're closely related but not the same. But, yeah, even knowing that, and knowing that I will eat crustaceans, I would resist eating insects, even though I also know it is normal in some cultures and a part of human history. I mean, humans have only two basic rules about food choice: a) can I make this fit in my mouth, and b) will it kill me.

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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When we were in Thailand, my wife and I sampled various bugs - we thought the crickets and meal worms were the tastiest. Both were deep fried and salted. When we initially sampled them in the market, the taste was initially crunchy and salty, but then a slight bitterness comes in that was only slightly unpleasant. I would say though, that they'd make GREAT snacks to have with beer. The crunchiness and saltiness are great, and even more savory than a potato chip, and whatever aftertaste there is would be washed down by the beer. Plus, the fact that they are low in carbs, high in protein is an added bonus!

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I've had mealworms before. They tasted exactly like roasted soy nuts. My DH turned green when he saw me eat them.

I've also tried Korean canned silkworms. Those tasted positively vile. I'm not sure if they were vile because they were silkworms, or because of the way they were prepared. Couldn't get that horrible taste out of my mouth for the entire evening.

Mealworms, I'll eat again. Korean canned silkworms, once was too much. I'm open to trying other bugs, with the exception of spiders & tarantulas.

There's a trendy Indian place here that makes a naan out of cricket flour, but I haven't had a chance to try it.

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If insects are a good source of food, and healthy, we owe it to ourselves to get over ourselves.

These were delicious:

maguey-worms.jpg

I've also had crickets in Oaxaca. I can't imagine not liking them.

In a real sense, it's no weirder than eating the seared flesh of another animal.

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When I was a sophomore in high school, many, many moons ago, my biology teacher had us sample (voluntarily, sort of) a range of wild critters: rattlesnake, chocolate covered ants, grasshoppers, etc. I have a distinct recollection of the grasshoppers tasting like tea.

I don't think I'd voluntarily eat them now. I know that many insects and worms are eaten in Mexico. I would, of course, eat them if a matter of survival.

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In Oaxaca, I've had crickets. They cook them with chili and lime. They come in three different sizes - the big ones for snacking with with beer, the smaller ones to go in a tortilla. Quite tasty, but more for the seasoning that anything else.

In Thailand, I've had crickets, cockroaches, all kinds of grubs. And a soup that comes with big termite eggs on top. Those are tasty, kind of nutty.

In Cambodia, they sell roasted tarantulas on the street. Couldn't bring myself to try those!

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Here in Ecaudor, I've eaten crickets, locusts, and grasshoppers (very good, cooked in dry pans over wood fire, with lime and a bit of garlic), as well as Chontacuro (huge chonta beetle grubs, which are roasted on skewers over charcoal and taste like macadamia nuts), Tarantulas (fried or roasted), Lemon Ants (raw), and my personal favourite, hot-air popped termites (like the best peanuts I'd ever had).

I've also eaten mealyworms, chocolate-dipped crickets, bees preserved in brickle, and a number of other bugs as well. I've never had any problem with it - they're just protein. It's no weirder than eating cows or shrimp or chickens. We need to get over the whole ick factor, because it's standing in the way of some pretty good eats!

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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If insects are a good source of food, and healthy, we owe it to ourselves to get over ourselves.

These were delicious:

maguey-worms.jpg

I've also had crickets in Oaxaca. I can't imagine not liking them.

In a real sense, it's no weirder than eating the seared flesh of another animal.

Those look as though they could be very tasty: they look fresh and crisp.

Yesterday (by an odd coincidence) I had the opportunity to buy bagged cricket and meal worm snacks, and felt that, in the interests of, well, everything, I really should get one of each, but ended up getting neither, because the looked sort of damp and clammy. Sort of the way really cheap beef jerky snacks do, the ones that smell slightly of wet dog, and have the vilest texture.

Perhaps there's a place in NYC that serves them up fresh?

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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Full Tilt Ice Cream has this today:

"Oaxacan Surprise at all locations. Mexican Chocolate ice cream with a Mezcal caramel swirl, and then little crunchy bits of chocolate covered grasshoppers."

Nope, not gonna try it.

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  • 3 years later...

So awhile ago i bought this cookbook

http://www.amazon.com/Eat---Bug-Cookbook-Revised-Grasshoppers/dp/1607744368/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1419629788&sr=8-1&keywords=eating+bugs

 

I was so excited that there were sources in the back for where to buy edible bugs, cause I really wanna try fried tarantulas, cause they supposedly are

crab-like.but tarantulas are $24.00 a piece! Too expensive for a nice plate. Does that price seem right to you?

Wawa Sizzli FTW!

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I've never eaten a bug intentionally. I'm not squeamish about the idea, I've just never been presented with the opportunity or went to the trouble of doing it for myself. One thing I can definitively tell you is that ladybugs ARE NOT tasty. I had one fly into my mouth while cycling and it was incredibly unpleasant. A really foul, bitter taste.

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It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I re-listened recently to a KRCW's Good Food podcast titled Soylent, Cricket Protein Bars, Beef Sashimi. I didn't realize before now that crickets can be (and are) dried and then ground into flour. The method of drying doesn't sound particularly humane - even for insects - but until now I'd always assumed that crickets were to be eaten whole and fried, as I've seen them recently in convenience stores. Still haven't tried them, but a cricket flour might be more palatable to this newbie than whole crickets.

Edit: This is probably the very thing of which gfron1 was posting at the same time. :-)

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
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"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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I have also seen an Indian cookbook that featured crickets, I can't recall the title.  A library patron from India returned the book to me and I asked her if she had tried the cricket recipe.  She looked horrified.  She said Indian people don't eat insects, that's the Chinese.  I opened the book and showed her.

 

The book pointed out that crickets were about the same as shrimp.

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My personal experience with eating insects amounts to involuntarily chewing a daddy longlegs while greedily stuffing wild blackberries into my maw as a child. Now, thanks to the internet, I know that the incredibly foul taste I experienced was due to its scent glands which secrete an foul substance that contains quinones when they are disturbed.

 

Fortunately the taste is so bad, any normal person will immediately spit out the noxious substance, and then do whatever is necessary to wash the taste out. In that case it included wasting handfuls of delicious wild blackberries by masticating and spitting since no water was available in the woods where we were. You can believe each berry was inspected carefully for purity before placing it in my mouth.

 

So this doesn't incline me to want to explore insects as a food source for myself.

 

Our adjacent city, Raleigh, holds what claims to be the largest insect-centric festival in the USA, and this includes opportunities to sample bugs as food in Cafe Insecta. BugFest attracts over 35,000 visitors annually in September at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences.

 

If you'd like to know more, just Google "bugfest.org" or "bugfest raleigh".

> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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So awhile ago i bought this cookbook

http://www.amazon.com/Eat---Bug-Cookbook-Revised-Grasshoppers/dp/1607744368/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1419629788&sr=8-1&keywords=eating+bugs

 

I was so excited that there were sources in the back for where to buy edible bugs, cause I really wanna try fried tarantulas, cause they supposedly are

crab-like.but tarantulas are $24.00 a piece! Too expensive for a nice plate. Does that price seem right to you?

 

Seems like the sort of price I'd expect for any 'novelty' ingredient that is being pushed asspecial; I'd bet that if few go for it, the price will come way down, as sellers try to get rid of their spider overstock. How many tarantulas are considered one serving?

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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I think the reason for the tarantula prices you're seeing is that they're generally sold for the pet trade (where $25 is getting close to the low end of the price scale which goes up as high as $300 for more exotic varieties), not the food market. Even if a specialty shop is carrying them to sell for consumption, they're probably still coming from the pet trade at the bottom end of the price range (~$10) and then being marked up to increase the mystique for adventurous eaters.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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A timely thread bump as I've just brought home Diana Kennedy's Oaxaca al Gusto from the library.  Some of the ingredients may be hard to source.

 

You will enjoy Oaxaca Al Gusto...I have a copy in the original Spanish, signed by Diana.  I was lucky to meet her at a small luncheon in Central Mexico where we were living when the book came out.  

 

Have visited Oaxaca several times and the chapulines are fabulous, especially at the open air markets, where they are grilled to almost a char and served crunchy and hot...the way grasshoppers are meant to be cooked!  

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