Whenever I venture outside in the summer and have the audacity to speak, yawn, or God forbid, breathe, there’s always some gnat with a death wish that flies into my mouth. I try to spit it out, but can’t, and I’m left dry heaving on the front lawn until my neighbors call to complain. Which is one of the many reasons it’s better to stay inside (and I’m talking about both suicidal bugs and complaining neighbors here). So it probably comes as no surprise that I’d never intentionally eaten an insect.
All that changed recently, however, at my book club meeting. The book we were discussing, State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, was set in the Amazon rainforest, so our hostess, Sheila, decided to serve refreshments in keeping with a Brazilian jungle theme. Now you’re probably thinking that we had bananas or mangos or even Brazil nuts. But you would be wrong. Sheila decided to go with something a bit more exotic and serve us something the Amazon has plenty of: insects.
Crickets, to be exact. Now I don’t know if there are actually crickets in the Amazon and I don’t feel like looking it up, but if there are you know they’re going to be some pumped-up-on-steroids type of cricket. The kind of cricket that would burrow into your inner ear and chirp endlessly until you jumped into piranha-infested waters just to end your misery.
The variety Sheila had were too small to be Amazonian crickets. Plus, they were dead so I was pretty sure their ear-burrowing days were over. They were actually called Crickettes and came in a small rectangular pack. Given their name and their packaging, I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to eat them or smoke them. Not surprisingly, they sat untouched until Sheila asked who was going to try one.
I don't know why I volunteered to try one, but alcohol may have been involved. Wait a minute. What am I saying? I was at book club - of course alcohol was involved! In my defense, we humans have a long history of consuming disgusting critters when we've been drinking. Don't believe me? Just ask the little worm at the bottom of a tequila bottle.
But I can’t blame just the alcohol. The box said the crickets were bacon cheddar flavored. I assume the flavor was added after the crickets’ demise because if living crickets are naturally coated with bacon cheesy yumminess I wouldn’t have waited so long to eat one. There was also the fact that no one else was brave enough to try one so this was the perfect opportunity to claim I’m the baddest ass mother on my cul-de-sac (and when I say mother I’m not using some gangsta slang. I mean an actual minivan-driving mother).
Truthfully, though, I wasn’t the only one to take the dare. Sheila’s 15-year-old son also volunteered. Since the judgment portion of boys’ brains aren’t fully formed until they’re 25, he had an excuse. I’m not a boy and I’m well-past 25, so I don’t know what my excuse was. Oh yeah, someone had just refilled my wine glass.
Now, if you’re going to eat a cricket, here are a few pointers:
1. Make sure it’s dead. Dead ones don’t put up much of a fuss.
2. Whatever you do, don’t look at it. You’re not eating a frosted cupcake with sprinkles on top. Better to just pop the cricket in your mouth with yours eyes clamped shut.
3. Don’t expect it to be delicious. Crickets have the consistency and taste of wood shavings. “But wait,” you say, “wood shavings don’t taste like bacon and cheese.” That’s right. And neither do crickets.
4. Chew as little as possible. Otherwise you’ll end up like I did – with a cricket wing stuck to the roof of your mouth. And take it from me: no amount of dry heaving in your friend’s living room is going to dislodge it.
I did learn one important lesson, though. It turns out crickets are the perfect diet food. You really can eat just one.
Trust me - you don't want to see the "after."