• Mon, Feb 9 2009

‘Eat-A-Bug Cookbook’ encourages adventurous palates

There was a time not long ago that every time I called my pediatrician the receptionist would say, “What has Truman eaten now?” Since he was a wee kid, my son has enjoyed shoving all sorts of strange objects into his various orifices. The cat treats (one went up the nose and the other past the lips, into the belly) didn’t warrant much medical attention, but the soy nut in the nasal cavity cost us a trip to the emergency room.

The strangest experience was when my son ate bird poop. (There was a nest above the speaker on our deck and apparently the blue-green droppings looked yummy enough to eat.) That after-hours episode resulted in a call to the nurse. She contacted the poison control center, who then contacted some epidemiologists, a group of whom just so happened to be congregated in town for a conference on the bird flu. For the next three days I had to take my son’s freshly messed diapers to the doctor for testing just in case he contracted some strange bird disease. Luckily, the poop came out clean, so to speak, and my son suffered no ill effects from the experience.

While he’s matured enough not to eat random things he finds lying about, he has maintained a palate more daring than most 5-year-olds. He loves (baked) oysters and foie gras and begs weekly for steamed artichokes. I’d love to cultivate his interest in exotic foods, so I browsed around for some interesting cookbooks and found just about the craziest thing – David George Gordon’s The Eat-A-Bug Cookbook: 33 ways to cook grasshoppers, ants, water bugs, spiders, centipedes, and their kin. I had to give this a second look.

Aside from recipes using various creepy crawlers, Gordon gives nutritional information for some of the stars of his recipes (Who would have guessed crickets are chock-full of calcium!), points out some “choice cuts” of the insect’s meat, and suggests where to go to find those tasty bugs for cooking in your own home. Gordon also gives some background into entomophagy (a fancy way of saying, “bug eating”) adding that some of the earliest North Americans enjoyed a healthy diet of caterpillars of the pandora moth.

If you choose to take Gordon’s challenge and bake up some bugs, he says you should not throw random insects into everyday dishes. “As with all ingredients, the bugs in a recipe must serve a purpose – by satisfying our appetites, adding a flavor or texture, or enhancing the visual appeal (or shock appeal) of a dish.” Who would have thunk?

To make things even stranger, Gordon does book tours where he prepares some of his sumptuous dishes such as Chocolate Cricket Torte, Chirpy Chex Party Mix and Orthopteran Orzo. I’m not sure I can muster the will to cook any of these insect recipes. But I am just crazy enough to let my son marvel at the cookbook.

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