Eat Your Veggies

In Our Summer 2017 Issue

Photography By Chef Terri Milligan | Last Updated June 18, 2017
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Picnic Still Life
Picnic Still Life.

A new, but old, source of protein

Jiminy Cricket is one of many beloved Disney characters. He was adapted from the talking cricket character in the book “The Adventuresof Pinocchio” by Carlo Collodi.

Many children were first introduced to the conse- quences of not telling the truth through this fictional tale. But never in my wildest dreams did I ever think about eating Jiminy or one of his close relatives.

I was confronted with that opportunity early this past spring when Leslie and I were graciously invited to have lunch with the family of our daughter’s boy- friend during a visit to Chicago.

René is of Mexican heritage so I was excited to par- take of homemade tacos and tortillas. While certainly not disappointed with the main courses, it was the appetizers that proved to be particularly fascinating and surprisingly tasty.

Chapulines  is the name for the grasshoppers that were offered to me. They were so small that close in- spection was needed to actually determine that they indeed were small invertebrates  with compound eyes, three-part bodies and three pairs of legs. Had they been much larger, I might have been more hesi- tant to give these guys a try. But with a quick smell it was obvious they had been coated with an intriguing seasoning that might mask any peculiar flavor.

They were so good that soon I was taking pinch- es out of the container in much the same way most people attack a bowl of popcorn. Normally not one to shy away from new and exotic foods, I didn’t find the idea of eating a bug to be particularly repulsive.

I eventually put them on my tacos with hardly a thought that these harmless critters had once been bouncing through farm fields. Any thought of Jiminy Cricket with his top hat and umbrella was washed way by this wonderful blend of spice and delicate crunch.

René ’s  uncle had brought  these  par ticular insects back from the family’s home in the Oaxaca region of Mexico, a particular hotbed for these tasty bugs. I was actually tempted to ask when the next time René’s uncle was going to be heading back to Mexico.

Before anyone starts calling me about trying to get their hands on these delicious protein-packed, antennae-wielding herbivores, I should mentioned that there is an export trade into the United States. You’d expect these to be available at a Mexican grocery or other cultures that regularly snack on insects, but you can also pick up a sample pack of three flavors on Amazon. Think locusts in Thailand and water bugs in China.

The demand is such that many of these grass-hoppers are semi-domesticated to reproduce at higher rates.

Jon GastonInsects are being hailed as one of the possible solutions to  the  world  food  shor tage  and a particularly sustainable one at that.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that foundations, including such high-profile ones as Bill Gates’ and Bill Clinton’s, have been investing in start- ups that will further introduce Americans to this alter- nate source of protein.

After snacking on these insects, I can see why the various cultures have been dining on bugs for centuries. According to the Journal article, some 2 billion people regularly consume what many Americans find, well, gross.

As for me, I highly recommend giving grasshop- pers a try. One American company is selling bags of crickets (sorry, Jiminy) at $2.99 with flavors like BBQ, salt & vinegar and sour cream & onion.

Just think of them as potato chips. It may help you get past the crunch.

Jon  Gast
Co-Owner/Editor of Edible Door

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