Sunday, April 23, 2017 by Vicki Batts
Would you consider eating some fried bugs at a baseball game? If you’re going to Safeco Field in Seattle, you can seize the opportunity to be adventurous and try out a crispy critter. Local restaurant, Poquitos, offers fried grasshoppers as a taco topper — if you’re brave enough to try them. For the last seven years, Safeco Field has given Seattle media members the pleasure of participating in taste-testing new menu items, but this year was a special occasion, because local restaurants were invited to join the stadium’s culinary team.
The fried grasshoppers may seem out of place amidst the likes of pizza, burgers and hot dogs that make up most of what sells at baseball games, but they seem right in line with Chef Ethan Stowell’s goal of expanding the stadium’s menu and opening it to new, more exotic flavors. Safeco Field also debuted “Seattle wings” this year, which are actually oysters drizzled in hot sauce — which may or may not be a bit more tame than fried insects on your tacos.
“Centerplate and myself and the Mariners, we don’t want to just have traditional ballpark fare, we want to do some other stuff. There’s definitely some things we do that we like to kind of experiment with,” Stowell said.
Frank Guanco, a writer for Seattle Refined, even said that the fried grasshoppers from Poquitos were his favorite bite from the annual tasting. “Bugs are different, but it’s kind of cool because it’s textural, it’s a different flavor and when you add it on top of a taco you have this really cool crunch to it too. It’s definitely super adventurous but stepping outside your comfort zone is always a good thing,” Guanco commented.
To many people, eating grasshoppers is probably unfathomable, and perhaps a little unsettling. But, insects like grasshoppers are actually commonly used in a number of different dishes in other parts of the world. In Mexico, grasshoppers are especially popular.
Chapulines, as they are called in Spanish, are not considered to be a cheaper meat alternative as you might imagine, but instead are a prized item that is highly sought after. As such, they are actually more expensive than conventional staples like pork or chicken. Crickets are actually more nutritious than some traditional forms of protein. Ant eggs, or escamoles, are another popular dish in the region.
In Mexico, you can find a broad flavor assortment of grasshoppers, too: spritzed with lime juice, coated with chili powder, roasted with garlic — you name it and they’ve probably got it. Grasshoppers are eaten by themselves or added to any number of dishes to take them to a new level. As Wired writer Lizzie Wade explains, she’s seen grasshoppers diced up and added to salsas, and the desirable insects are even used to spice up micheladas — which are a mix of beer, lime juice and hot sauce. Ground-up grasshoppers are often used to garnish the orange slices served up with shots of mezcal, too.
Crickets are so expensive and “luxurious” because, despite the large population, they are difficult to harvest. While they may be relatively cheap if sold near where they were collected, once crickets start getting shipped across the country, they become quite costly.
Even though grasshoppers are considered something of a delicacy in other countries, it seems that these crunchy critters may soon become more of a dietary staple rather than an occasional indulgence. Despite the difficulties of cricket harvesting, the United Nations even published a book in 2013 to promote entomophagy (bug-eating) as a way to solve global food security concerns. Pound for pound, crickets have more edible mass, are high in protein and require less space and food to grow — reducing their environmental impact while also potentially providing more food to more people. But is it just a ploy to convince the masses to eat bugs?
Will the world turn to bugs for food? Who knows, but if the trend continues, we may soon see cricket-based burgers on the market.