It's National Insect Week
On the eve of this esteemed holiday, we got to thinking about entomophagy
(the practice of eating insects). After all, many cultures across the globe incorporate bugs into their diets, both as a protein source and a means of enhancing taste.
Whereas most Americans view the practice with disgust, entomophagy remains a legitimate part of food culture and an ancient human tradition.
But that's really not what this article is about.
If you want to try authentic insect cuisine, you can travel to Bangkok or join the New York Entomological Society
. If, on the other hand, you just want to scarf novelty bug snacks like blueberry scorpion lollipops or salt-and-vinegar crickets, well, Asylum has you covered.
Keep reading to learn about mealworm salsa and other such delicacies.
Candy Is Dandy
If you're ever craved insect candy (and really, who hasn't), you've got to check out Hot Lix
, a mail order company based in Grover Beach, Calif.
They offer lollipops in a variety of flavors -- orange, grape, watermelon and so on -- with three unique fillings: crickets, worms and scorpions. The worm ones also come in tequila flavor. We tried a blueberry scorpion pop, and while the texture of the arthropod was unnerving, it really just tasted like sugar and artificial fruit flavoring.
Next, we tried ant candy
("wafers of delectable white chocolate swirled with real ants") and crispy crickets
(try sour cream and onion, or better yet, bacon and cheese). The crickets come with nutrition facts, and the body-conscious shouldn't worry -- they're just nine calories per box.
There's a definite mental hurdle to overcome when eating insects, but the torture with these snacks lies in the mind, not the mouth. The chocolate was sweet, and the crickets were incredibly salty. Like the lollipops, they didn't taste like much, which I'm guessing is a good thing.
Those looking for a fresher taste of buggy flavor should visit the Audubon Insectarium
in New Orleans. Every day, the museum's Bug Appetit Cafe serves a slew of treats, like chocolate chip cookies and garden herb dip -- insect-infused, of course.
"Shows like '[Bizarre Foods With] Andrew Zimmern
' and 'Fear Factor
' have made people want to try eating insects," says Jayme Necaise, the Insectarium's director of animal and visitor programs. "We offer a virtual bug buffet. It's really a nice spread."
Last year, the Insectarium celebrated National Chocolate-Covered Insects Day
(yes, that exists) with a chocolate fountain and roasted crickets.
"The crickets are roasted off-site," says Necaise, "but we always hand-dip them right here." Well, that's a relief.
Visitors can sample dips like wax worm mango chutney and meal worm salsa. The latter dish tested my resolve, and my gag reflex; the salsa itself was passable, but the feeling of a fat, squishy meal worm on my tongue -- and between my teeth -- was enough to sour me on this assignment.
The Real Deal
These are essentially everyday American foods and flavors with bugs thrown in for fun. If you want to go a bit more authentic, try Thailand Unique
, an online "Thai specialty gourmet food store."
A Thailand Unique variety pack (above) included bags of cooked and dehydrated grasshoppers, weaver ants, and dung beetles, as well as a pouch of "mixed bugs," with bamboo worms and silkworm larva. They also threw in one unlabeled bag -- no photo, no description, no nutrition facts -- that held a scorpion. It smelled like beef jerky.
There is the question of what to do
with dehydrated weaver ants and the like. Stuff them in an enemy's sandwich? Throw them at unruly children? They do make good favors for a Halloween gathering or "Fear Factor" party (those exist, too).
One thing I can't recommend is eating this stuff. I tried it all and none of it's very good. I'm kidding, of course. Asylum doesn't pay me nearly enough to consume the horrors peddled by Thailand Unique.
Brendan Twist is a Louisiana writer and Asylum's weird-food guinea pig.