It’s Thanksgiving, and everyone is seated around the table as the host commences carving. “Who wants a drumstick?” he asks. Six hands are raised. “Six drumsticks coming up.”
What’s wrong with this picture? Nothing, so long as everyone is content with a small portion. A single grasshopper leg, after all, doesn’t provide that much sustenance.
Lest you think this is some futuristic menu, insects are here, and they are what’s for dinner now. As Dutch entomologists Marcel Dicke and Arnold van Huis write in the Wall Street Journal:
The vast majority of the developing world already eats insects. In Laos and Thailand, weaver-ant pupae are a highly prized and nutritious delicacy. They are prepared with shallots, lettuce, chilies, lime and spices and served with sticky rice.
And you don’t have to go halfway around the world to find delicacies like this any more. Right here in New York, the Mexican restaurant Toloache serves chapulines. That’s Spanish for grasshoppers, señor. Order up a side of huitlacoche (translation: corn smut), and you’ve got a meal fit for—an exterminator?
As the professors note, insects are high in protein, B vitamins, minerals like iron and zinc, and they’re low in fat. With the world food supply shrinking, bugs may prove to be the alternative to animal proteins currently featured in our gastronomy and on our tables. The little critters are reputed to have a “nutty” flavor, making them arguably the first exotic food ever described as tasting like something other than chicken.
Should you want to do a survey of New York’s edible insect scene, be advised that chapulines are a specialty of the Mexican state of Oaxaca and that a handful of restaurants feature them. One is The Global Galaxy Eatery, which offers tacos of grasshoppers spiced with lemon. Another is Dos Caminos, on Park Avenue, which serves a salsa with grasshoppers. For a change of pace, there is La Esquina, whose menu is graced from time to time with farm-raised crickets.
But the buggy feast to end all feasts, should it be repeated, was the five-course Mexican tasting menu presented to diners last September at the Brooklyn Kitchen in Williamsburg. The feast included yucca frites with mealworms, and a smoked corn custard sprinkled with crispy moth larvae. The cost was $85 a person. No word on how much they would have charged if you provided your own bugs.
Click Subscribe at the top of the page to have my articles sent directly to your e-mail inbox. Follow me on Twitter or join me at Facebook. You can reach me at [email protected] or by posting a comment below.