Mexicans eat bugs. And so should gringos. “Consume more insects” is a directive from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization to the whole world, reminding us that there are more than 1,900 edible insect species on Earth, hundreds already part of the diet of some two billion people in different countries, among them Mexico. And global food production will not keep up with current population growth.
Dr. Susan Albers, a psychologist and author of the new book, “Eat Q,” claims it’s just a matter of getting used to insect consumption and predicts we may all be partaking soon, including scorpions and wasps. Try them, she says, closing your eyes and letting the critter sit on your tongue for awhile to truly enjoy the sensation. She says nothing about having a Xanax appetizer beforehand.
Here in Mexico, bug eating has been a gustatory routine for centuries.
Ahuatle (water-fly eggs)
Mexico has the world’s highest number of edible insects One of the most famous is the ahuatle, also known as Aztec caviar. Ahuatle is a pre-Hispanic food made from water-fly larvae. They are somewhat seafood tasting and register a healthy 93% of protein per serving. These are perfect for anniversaries, weddings and beinglost in a swamp.
Jumiles (stink bugs)
South of Mexico City, jumiles, scarab-beetle-like bugs, are sprinkled into a taco headless and doused in lime. As you bite in, you’re in for a fun surprise, because they’re not dead. They can continue to scamper around your taco even when guillotined, writhing about and appealing for a pardon, claiming to have known Robespierre. You’ll know they’re fresh as you wash down their ticklish feet.
Escamoles (ant larvae)
In Puebla, there is a longing for the buttery nutty flavor of the escamoles eggs, sautéed with garlic, onion and butter, which burst in the mouth. These ants live deep down in the roots of the tequila-making blue agave or mescal-making maguey plants. Do not confuse these ants with the Mexican Fire Ants, whose eggs contain the basic ingredients for napalm.
Fans of eating dried grasshoppers say that they’re clean insects because they never touch the ground, leaping from one leaf to another. Maybe that’s why Mexicans munch on chapulines more than any other edible insect. Their cousins are also a treat, especially chocolate covered. That would be cockroaches. True.
Chicatanas (flying ants)
Now that the rainy season is here, flying ants begin to leave their nests for mating, usually by street lights. Yes, they like being watched. But sadly, as exhibitionists, they pay a heavy price and for many, well, it’s coitus interruptus, because they’re captured in plastic bags —feeling, I suspect, really pissed off and frustrated. Entomologists say they’re very aggressive and have a painful bite. Well, I guess so! The local indigenous people have been eating these insects since ancient times. So they haven’t gone extinct thanks to those bugs just looking for a quickie.
There are 88 species of edible beetles in Mexico. Colorful names include the rhinoceros beetle and gallina ciega (blind hen), which is actually a white beetle grub that resembles an oversized maggot. If your favorite Mexican restaurant doesn’t have these on the menu, please don’t ask for them; it might be my favorite Mexican restaurant too.
Now, my question is when will these bugs wind up in fancy packages that feature families sitting around the kitchen table munching gleefully with starbursts that say “100% Natural Maggots! Serving Mexican families Since 674 AD.” – brand after brand on shelves next to the Raid aisle.