Thursday, February 13, 2014

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Crickets

     So the other day I ate Jiminy Cricket, and a few dozen of his closest friends and family.  Well, okay—not really.  But I did consume a whole bunch of the beloved fictional Disney character’s kin.
     Actually, this was the second time I’ve had crickets.  The first was from the same company (Hot Lix) which produced the scorpion-in-the-lollipop, that I posted about on December 30th, 2012.  As with the scorpion, the cricket was embedded in an apple flavored lollipop.  I didn’t really count this as a fair trial of the cricket’s taste, though, as the cricket just had a crunch, but otherwise was lost in the fake apple flavor.
     But this more recent time was different.  I ordered these crickets from ThinkGeek (, and they came with five other exotics, in the Edible Bugs Gift Pack ($19.99).  Thanks once more to Emily, for bringing this link to my attention.  The crickets were canned, of course, and came all the way from Thailand.  Evidently in Thailand eating bugs isn’t that unusual.  The breed I had was the house cricket (Acheta domesticus), and they were advertised as being flavored with wasabi, the very potent Asian horseradish-like condiment.
     Crickets are, obviously, a tremendously common type of insect, found all over the world.  Their diet is omnivorous, as they’ll happily scavenge plants (decayed or alive), fungi, and meat.  In a pinch, they’ll even attack and cannibalize weakened or wounded cohorts.  They’re best known, though, for their distinctive chirping sound, which is produced when they rub their wings together (and not, as is often thought, their legs).  It’s usually only the males that chirp, with some exceptions.  I was surprised to learn that they have four types of “songs.”  The first is a “calling” song, designed to lure females closer, and simultaneously repel other males.  The second is a softer “courting” song, done to entice a female that’s approached nearby.  The third is an “aggressive” song, designed to scare away any males that might have gotten too close.  And finally, there’s the fourth kind, the “copulatory” song, blared out after mating has been concluded.  I guess people could learn these nuances, and so know when to introduce single lady cricket friends to the singer, or to be a good “wingman” and help chase away horny guy competitors, or give the sated crickets tiny cigarettes, all based on what song was being sung.
     The chirping is also prevalent in many cultures’ folklore, usually as a harbinger of news.  To an extremely diverse degree.  Depending on where you live, the chirping may be interpreted as predicting rain, that a woman in the house is pregnant, that the hearers will come into money, or, more depressingly, that someone is about to die (so a tiny insect version of the traditional Irish/Scottish female ghost, the banshee).  One animal uses the chirping in a particularly nasty way.  The tachinid fly (Ormia ochracea) tracks a cricket using the song, and then deposits a larva on or near the poor male.  The larva then burrows into the unfortunate guy, and eats him from the inside, until death finally releases the cricket.  So, in effect, a weird type of pseudo venereal disease for crickets, one for which condoms won’t help.
     In addition to eating them, people in the Far East also sometimes make pets of crickets.  They’re even occasionally kept in cages, which, given the size of the creature, must have the tiniest, most close-set bars.  In China people sometimes even fight males against each other, and gamble on the proceedings.  (Note:  In case Michael Vick is reading this—don’t get any ideas!)
     When I opened the can, I beheld dozens of small, brownish-black crickets (less than an inch long, with body diameters smaller than a pencil).  Their separate body parts were easy to see—head, thorax, legs, wings, etc.  They didn’t have much of a taste.  It was mostly just a dry crunch, again.  Which was somewhat shocking, as wasabi is not known for being subtle.  I made a point to try the various body parts separately, but couldn’t tell much of a difference.  I next tried putting ketchup on them, which improved the experience significantly.  I finished the can (20 grams) without much trouble, but also without much enthusiasm.  There was a vaguely unpleasant aftertaste.  And to be frank, seeing tiny wing and leg parts in the sink after I brushed my teeth was kind of off-putting.  Throughout the rest of the day, whenever I burped I could review the crickets’ taste in a negative way.  Overall then, I don’t regret sampling them once more, but I don’t think I’ll try crickets again.


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