MOULTRIE — Most of us have seen the Chick-fil-A signs that urge us to “eat more chicken.” So would you ever expect to see one that says, “eat more crickets?”
A promotion has been launched to convince more people of the protein value of eating insects. And no, it didn’t come from the comic character Homer Simpson. It came from the United Nations, which at times may resemble a comedy, but then so does our Congress.
Edible insects are being promoted as a low-fat, high-protein food for people, pets and livestock. According to the U.N., they come with appetizing side benefits: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and livestock pollution, creating jobs in developing countries and feeding the millions of hungry people in the world.
A long time ago, I ate a chocolate-covered grasshopper. It didn’t taste bad. It didn’t taste good. It was a novelty, and I did it on a dare. But then I’ve also eaten fried rattlesnake as a novelty. As a matter of survival, I would do it again, but I wouldn’t order it in a restaurant. Now would I rather have a platter of diamond back or a bowl of roasted crickets? I hope times never get so hard that I would have to seriously consider the difference. Less filling ... better taste?
The grasshopper I ate was crunchy. The rattlesnake got bigger as I chewed it. Neither tasted like chicken.
I realize that insects are full of protein. And so is a rattlesnake. I’ve learned those attributes from watching survival shows. I also learned that one earthworm has as much protein content as a single chicken egg. And I suppose if one can apply that mind-over-matter stuff and think only in terms of a protein analysis, then maybe eating insects is no big deal. For me, mind-over-matter is in direct proportion to “what’s the matter.” Beetles and caterpillars are the most common meals among the more than 1,900 edible insect species that people eat. Other popular insect foods are bees, wasps, ants, grasshoppers, locusts and crickets. Less popular are termites and flies, according to U.N. data.
They didn’t mention gnats. I’m sure I’ve eaten a lot of gnats along with my watermelon, but I don’t think they would make the list. And after all of those I’ve consumed, I can’t tell you what they taste like.
I did a little research on this subject and found that there are insect farms that fit a niche food market. And there are those cultures that eat insects without grimace or frowns. As well, there are still cultures in the jungles who beat on hollow logs to drive away evil spirits. And they think the earth is flat. Ironically, we have people right here in the U.S. who blow their horns in a traffic jam and don’t believe we’ve been to the moon. The only thing separating those two groups may be grubs and larvae.
Some people may even find eating insects to be a spiritual event, given that John the Baptist reportedly ate locusts and wild honey.
My guess is, we’ve all eaten some insects along the way and didn’t know it. And some may ask if there’s a big difference between eating a grasshopper and eating a snail. It may just be the French name.
I don’t recall the grasshopper that I ate had a name other than chocolate-covered grasshopper. I doubt that if it had a French name it would have been any less of a novelty to me.
Some people say, “It’s what you get use to.”
I tried to imagine as a kid coming in from shaking peanuts and sitting down at the dinner table to a big platter of stewed bees and crickets. Nosiree. As long as there are cows and butterbeans, I won’t be on the food fringe. And I won’t be picking grasshopper wings out of my navel while I watch Monday Night Football. Just Cheetos.
If the waiter should ask how I would like my Georgia thumpers, I would say, “In the back yard.”