Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Insect Dinners

From an article on eating insects in
Mr. Zimmern can rattle off a nauseating litany of bliss, from eating tarantulas in Cambodia to stir-fried bees in Taiwan. He loves the chapulines — little fried grasshoppers — of Oaxaca. (They’re a consistently popular item at the Manhattan restaurant Toloache, where they’re served in tacos.)

“They’re crunchy but they’re kind of soft in a beef jerky way,” said Mr. Zimmern, who once worked with Thomas Keller. “They’re heavily flavored with lime and salt, and they’re the perfect bar snack. You can’t stop eating them. Sautéed silkworm larvae in Thailand are pliant, they’re like little pillows. They remind me of gnocchi. And they have this earthy, loamy, mushroomy flavor. Eaten on their own, they’re good. Sautéed with ginger and scallions, they’re out of control.”

At the Brooklyn Kitchen, diners ranged from insect virgins to Zimmern-style thrill-seekers who could debate the relative merits of wolf spiders and Icelandic fermented shark. “There’s a lot of adventurous eaters out there,” said Harry Rosenblum, who owns the Brooklyn Kitchen, a food emporium, with his wife, Taylor Erkkinen.

And there are those who aspire to adventure, like Pamela Zwaskis, 30, a Victoria’s Secret employee who moved to New York. “We don’t have five-course insect dinners in Wilmington, Del.,” she said. “I want to tell my friends, ‘I ate that.’ ” By the end of the night Ms. Zwaskis was shoveling chapulines into her mouth. “They taste like the exoskeleton of a potato chip,” she said.

Perhaps the most pioneering gourmand of all was Moxie Rosenblum, the daughter of Ms. Erkkinen and Mr. Rosenblum, who swallowed a live wax moth worm the day before the dinner. She is 14 months old.

That moment might mark the start of a lifelong habit for Moxie. Although it’s hard to pinpoint where the Western bias against bug-eating comes from, the gross-out factor seems to be conditioned in childhood.

“I had nightmares as a kid,” the photojournalist Peter Menzel said by phone. “In my dream I would be eating a bowl of shredded wheat or something, and in the milk in the bottom would be these thrashing insects.” Years later he and his wife, Faith D’Aluisio, traveled around the world to chronicle the endless permutations of entomophagy in a 1998 book called “Man Eating Bugs.” The odyssey turned into an unusual mode of therapy for Mr. Menzel, complete with a classic Jungian breakthrough: at a restaurant in southern China he ate a custard studded with river worms. “This big handful was dumped into the casserole, and the worms just went crazy, they were thrashing in the milk and the custard was flying out of the thing,” he said. “And it was just like my dream. It came full circle.”

“It was actually delicious,” Mr. Menzel added. “It was like a quiche with little bits of very tender bacon in it.”

No comments: