Sunday, February 2, 2014


A few weeks ago we heard an interview with Stefan Gates on The Splendid Table radio show about eating bugs. The idea of using insects as protein has gained some traction over the past few years, especially as a way to ease the world's hunger problems, but Gates arrived at the issue from a different direction; his interest lies in what the foods we eat reveal about us, both as individuals and as cultures. As for insects, he says this:

On one side, insects are perfectly edible. They're nutritious, and they've got a long and noble history in cooking. But reactions to them, especially in the West, especially among people I know -- and myself, to be honest -- are often violently negative. I wanted to find out what this means. Why are we disgusted?

Um, because they're bugs?

While this was my first reaction, upon further consideration I had to acknowledge that there are things I eat and enjoy that are distinctly bug-like, say, crabs, shrimp, and lobster. I also must reflect on my experience of inadvertently consuming giant water bugs with gusto. (True, they were pulverized.)

So last night when we all sat down to a really fun dinner of small plates at Chef Jose Andres' Mexican restaurant Oyamel, I found that I couldn't resist ordering the Chapulines, or grasshopper taco. Fortunately, Emily was with me, and we knew that if we didn't like it, there would be plenty of other delicious bites for us.

Honestly? The taco was good. It was served on a 3 inch house-made, soft corn tortilla with guacamole. The grasshoppers were tiny, and they had been deep fried and seasoned with chilis. Perhaps I was imagining it, but I swear the flavor reminded me of those giant water bugs-- tart and fruity, almost like apples.

And? I was not disgusted at all.

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