A couple weeks ago, I met my friends Natasha and Farnsworth at a Mexican restaurant for dinner. While I debated between a margarita or Negra Modelo, I heard Natasha say, “Ohmigod – did you see these appetizers?”
“This says it has grasshoppers in it!”
“What? Where? Ohmigod – we’re totally ordering that!”
Farnsworth was all for it, but Nat was less than enthusiastic. She called over the waiter to clarify if they really meant to say grasshoppers, or if it was perhaps a bad translation. Indeed, they meant grasshoppers.
“They’re very good. Crunchy, salty! You put some guacamole on them… very good!”
Since crunchy and salty are my two favorite food groups, I was immediately sold. When the appetizer arrived, it looked innocuous enough – just a flour tortilla folded in half, with some guacamole and salsa on the side. I was actually a bit disappointed, since this was hardly the exotic dish I was imagining.
But then I decided to add some guacamole like the waiter suggested, so I opened up the tortilla and for a moment, stared in disbelief at what was simply a giant pile of curled up dead bugs inside a tortilla. Nothing else. No cheese, no lettuce, nothing to disguise the fact that these were bugs we were about to eat.
I looked over at Natasha, and she just sat there shaking her head. I didn’t want to seem repulsed by the idea of eating bugs, even though that is entirely the appropriate reaction, so I grabbed one and handed it to Nat, then took another for myself, and Farnsworth selected one of his own as well.
“We have to eat one plain, first.”
I popped the bug into my mouth and was immediately surprised by how salty it was. It tasted kind of burnt, very crunchy, and overall, not bad. Aside from the legs. And the head. And the antennae.
Natasha made a slight grimace as she tossed her grasshopper into her mouth, chewed very quickly, and washed it down with a big sip of margarita.
“Hey! These grasshoppers are kind of good,” I said.
Nat raised her eyebrows, “Okay, I don’t think I’d go that far. And let’s be clear on something – grasshoppers, my ass. These are crickets. Crickets they probably caught behind the restaurant a couple hours ago. Or they got them from the snake food department at Petco.”
An inexperienced bug-eater might think, cricket, grasshopper… what’s the difference?
But as I looked down at the open tortilla filled with brownish black bugs, I realized that Nat was right. These were absolutely not grasshoppers, and most definitely crickets, as evidenced by their striking resemblance to cockroaches.
And she was also right about their country of origin. No way were these free-range Mexican grasshoppers. We were staring at a plateful of street crickets that were probably caught in the back alley using a net made out of some old pantyhose.
But crickets or not, we had paid $10 for some sort of bug taco, and damned if we weren’t going to eat it. I quickly folded the tortilla back over the bed of insects, and slathered some guacamole and salsa over the top. We cut it into three pieces, and quickly ate them.
Farnsworth was completely unfazed by the experience, and was actually disappointed when the waiter said they were all out of some worm appetizer they had on their specials menu.
The following week, Nat called me at work to tell me about an episode of Survivor Man she had just seen.
“So they drop him off in the middle of nowhere, and by the third day he’s totally starving because he only has a granola bar left.”
“Mmm hmm…” I said, as I tried to multi-task and update some PowerPoint slides.
“And then he finds a big grasshopper and gets all excited about having some protein. So then you know how he prepares them?”
“In a tortilla?”
“Nope. He twists the head and slowly pulls it off so it takes the whole stomach with it. Then he puts them on a stick and roasts them. Know why he roasts them?”
“BECAUSE GRASSHOPPERS CARRY TAPEWORM! They have tapeworm, Jenny. Are you happy now? Are you satisfied? Now we’re all going to get tapeworm because you just HAD to have bug tacos.
“Guess it’s a good thing we were eating crickets, then, isn’t it?”
“Look, Nat. Your theme for 2009 is courage – you said so yourself. This was just a good opportunity for you to overcome your fear of eating giant piles of bugs. And my theme for the year is discovery, so I got to discover something new, too. We all win.”
“So basically what you’re telling me is that for all of 2009, you get to discover disgusting things that I have to be courageous enough to eat?”
“2010 can’t get here soon enough.”
As a side note, I just took this quiz below and, although there wasn’t a question relating to grasshopper consumption, I’m still not entirely thrilled with these odds. I guess as long as I keep up with my annual tapeworm shots and weekly self-exams, I should be fine.
Filed under: General on March 2nd, 2009 | 17 Comments »