I cooked my first batch of bugs.
Not lobsters. Although New Englanders playfully refer to lobsters as “bugs.”
I cooked terrestrial arthropods, not the more culinary-acceptable aquatic arthropod.
I decided to start my insect-cooking journey with the wax moth tacos popularized by the Don Bugito food cart in San Francisco and featured in Daniella Martin’s awesome entomophagy treatise, Edible: An Adventure into the World of Eating Insects and the Last Great Hope to Save the Planet.
First, I had to figure out where to get the bugs to eat.
I figured it would be the same place you would get bugs to feed a pet lizard.
It’s weird to think of a grocery run to Petsmart. I’ve never had a lizard—or anything—to buy bugs for. I decided to call ahead.
I called PetSmart on the west side and was connected with live reptile department. I asked, “Do you have waxworms?”
The Petsmart guy says, “Let me see.” He puts me on hold. 3 minutes pass. I’m weirdly giddy. He returns, “Yes”
I ask, “Are they alive?”
He says, “Yes.”
I ask, “Are they wax moth larvae?”
Hey says, “I don’t know. It just says ‘waxworms.’ What do you want them for?”
“Um… for an iguana,” I lie.
“Iguanas don’t eat waxworms. They should only be eating apples. You should not be feeding your iguana waxworms.”
At this point, I should hang up. But I can’t help defending my treatment of this non-existent iguana. I dig in deeper, “Oh, I don’t know what kind of lizard it is yet. It’s a gift.”
He responds with preachy helpfulness, “Well, you shouldn’t start with an iguana for a beginner. Iguanas or chameleons, no way. There are many other lizards that are much better to start out with. I have 18 years experience handling lizards. I can set you up properly. Why don’t you come in. I’m here till 8“
“Okay,” I lie. And hang up.
I realize I’m going to have to go in. To avoid Overzealous Lizard Man, I go to the Petsmart on the other side of town.
It’s an easy enough transaction. I am careful not to ask questions.
David George Gordon’s Eat-A-Bug Cookbook suggests freezing the waxworms over night to humanely kill them and any bacteria. I freeze them for 3 days just to be sure. Plus, I’m not eager to do this. Despite all the reasons I’ve accumulated as a pre-emptive self-persuasion to eat bugs, I’m still beholden to my culturally-constructed food avoidance. Plus, it seems a little different to actually have to cook them.
Nonetheless, here’s my journey…
STEP 1: Poured a strong drink.
STEP 3: Cleaned up the bugs from the wood shavings.
STEPS 4-6: Fried up onions, peppers in olive oil. Added the waxworms. Fried the shit out of them. In the hot oil, the waxworms stretched out and became orzo-like, and then crinkle-cut-french-fry-like.
STEP 7: Drained bugs. Took a deep breath, and another big sip from the strong drink.
STEP 8: Made it look pretty on a tortilla. I added guacamole, queso fresco, tomato, fried waxwoms.
They tasted like a fried crunchy meat with a soft nuttiness. Completely pleasant. I had 3 of these. It was very easy to cook. Like frying up some tilapia or shrimp for tacos.
Now, I’m feeling a little more ambitious. May invite some friends over next. But this could be the strong drink talking.