So bizarre

Published 10:46 am Friday, December 27, 2013

Insects are unique creatures. There are some that are incredibly beautiful, like the butterfly. And there are some that are downright disgusting to behold, like, well, most of them that are not butterflies.

Then there are some that are downright vile, like the mosquito and cockroach. Life would simply be more enjoyable if they did not exist.

Most people hate bugs or simply tolerate them. If you take away the mosquito and the cockroach, I think they are cool. Some of my favorite pictures I took during my early days as a photographer were of bugs, such as the dragonfly and the bee.

But why am I talking about bugs? Well, this past Friday I was invited to a hunting clubhouse in Carrsville for a story I’m working on about hunting clubs. My parting gift was a box of fried bacon- and cheese-flavored crickets. The gift giver claimed that it was something that the club did to raise money. But the others did not play along, as they told me to not eat the bugs.

This wasn’t my first time to come across bugs as food, nor even the cricket. On many bug-eating lists, it ranks near the top as the most tasty of insect. And also, grasshoppers and crickets are the most consumed insect worldwide.

Last time I encountered the cricket as a food source was in New Orleans. Of course it was New Orleans. I, and a group of about five went to the insect museum while there, and what were they serving up but caramelized crickets? Of the five, I and one other tried them. And I was thinking about that TV show called “Bizarre Foods” as I scarfed down the bug.

I tried a few others as well, including chocolate-covered ants, but for the cricket I went back for seconds. It was crunchy and tasted mostly like caramel, even the aftertaste. It was kind of like eating a caramel-coated chip, except actually much healthier for you.

Insects are packed with protein, fiber, good fats and vital minerals, as much or more than most other food sources. And they are also cheaper and more efficient to raise than most livestock, as they require less energy and space. But man, it sure is tricky to take that first bite. And how many would you have to eat to even think about filling up?

I had told myself that I would do it, if for nothing else than give me something to talk about. But the cricket before me did not make it easy.

Its lifeless little beady eyes were looking at me as I considered my next move. Its long back legs looking ready to leap away at any moment. And of course the feel of it. It felt like a cricket.

You hear all the stories about bugs being good for you, and of course this past year the United Nations recommended that people consume more bugs worldwide (and many countries do). But looking at it, you think about all of the disgusting things bugs seem to do.

It’s not rational – pigs, fish and especially chicken partake in activities just as disgusting as any insect, yet I still eat them.

So with that, and figuring perhaps it was fate that put edible bugs back in my life, I put the husk of its lifeless body in my mouth and started chewing. It did not taste like cheese and the taste was nothing like bacon. The overall sensation was like eating an over-fried and old bit of okra, or perhaps a burned leftover green bean. Completely dried out and crunchy, except there really wasn’t a lot of flavor that I could detect.

It was neither enjoyable nor revolting. It was a lot better last time when it was caramelized.

CAIN MADDEN is the managing editor of The Tidewater News. Please don’t send him bugs to eat – he prefers cookies. He can be reached at 562-3187 or by email at