I admit it: I am not the most adventurous eater in the world. I can’t bear to watch Andrew Zimmern eating animal testicles and eyeballs and all the other weird shit he eats on behalf of the Travel Channel. I can’t even bear the idea of eating caviar (fish eggs)—one of the world’s delicacies for many—because as a child I would watch my grandfather clean fish, and some of them turned out to be pregnant and would spill out eggs when he cut them open and it GROSSED. ME. OUT.
I’ve been willing to try a few odd things over my lifetime, though—like frog’s legs (yes, they taste like chicken), escargot (that would be snails to you and me), and deep-fried alligator (it was chewy). Of the three, the only one I became enamored with was escargot, and that’s probably because of the preparation in garlic butter. (Mmm. . .garlic butter.) Still, if chicken is available, why would I want to eat rattlesnake?
And then there are bugs. I have read many accounts on other travel blogs of bugs being sold as food in markets in southeast Asian countries. Some of these travel bloggers have eaten them, too. Dear God, WHY? I asked myself. WHY would you want to do that? I mean, okay, good for you for wanting to experience the local culture and try new things, but why does it have to be bugs???? Those posts are the stuff of my nightmares.
Like snakes and spiders, I have a phobic reaction to bugs. Not a crippling phobia that requires therapy or anything, but I have been known to scream like a little girl at the sight of a large, creepy bug. Or even a small, creepy bug if it startles me. Twice now, while at the Montreal Botanical Gardens I have tried to visit the Insectarium with friends, and twice I’ve had to leave and wait for them outside because I just couldn’t handle it. There are bugs out there, people, that are the size of kittens. It’s enough to make you faint four times over.
Last weekend I went on a Burlington Food Tour (about which you’ll be reading more later). I was having a good old time eating and drinking my way around Burlington. Then we came across the “Crickets Delight” booth at the Burlington Farmers Market. I couldn’t believe it. The bug-eating trend had made it to Vermont. Are Vermonters–who, let’s face it, are not the most adventurous people in the world–actually eating bugs? I wondered.
They will be if Ric Crossman, the owner of Crickets Delight, has his way. Ric was very friendly and told us some interesting facts about crickets—they’re low in calories and fat, and high in protein and calcium. He said he keeps his crickets in the basement and feeds them turkey feed. He dry roasts them and sometimes uses a coffee grinder to crush them into a protein powder that can then be sprinkled on foods. He pointed us toward an online article talking about how the human race will be forced to become vegetarian by 2050 due to a scarcity of water (much of which goes to cattle). We need to find protein sources that use less water, like, say bugs. Mm-hm.
The truth is, if you consider the idea of eating bugs as godawful as I do, guess what? We’re in the minority. Many cultures around the world have long been insect-eaters and continue to be. I suppose if that’s how you were raised, you wouldn’t think it was odd at all. Hence, all the bugs for sale in Asian food markets. And if you think about it, they are readily available in a way that many other protein sources aren’t. Not everyone can own a cow or a chicken, after all. But pretty much everyone can figure out how to catch bugs and cook them.
Did I try one of those crickets?
Well, I couldn’t very well let the opportunity pass, could I? One of the reasons I travel is to see new places and experience new things. Every once in awhile, the explorer in me makes me face my fears, whether at home or abroad. I am compelled to try things I never thought I would try.
As it turns out, dry roasted crickets are about the size and consistency of a rice krispy. (And they only have 6 legs, not 8–what a relief!) Still, I don’t think I’m ready to keep a bag of them on my nightstand for a midnight snack. Baby steps, people. Baby steps.
My cricket-eating escapade was brought to you by Burlington Food Tours, who provided me (and my friend) with a complimentary tour. They didn’t, however, force me to eat the cricket.