Episode 55: Sometimes, a guest’s gift can be hard for hosts to swallow
David George Gordon admits he was a bookworm as a child. Is that why the prolific author loves insects, and loves to eat them?
Sno-Isle Libraries Check It Out! podcast hosts Ken Harvey, Jim Hills and Jessica Russell sat down with Gordon and chewed the fat about his reputation as “the bug chef.” And they graciously accepted the guest’s gifts, as polite hosts do.
Yes. Harvey, Hills and Russell ate bugs.
The Seattle-based author of “The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook” and 19 other titles covering slugs and snails, oyster history and Sasquatch research has appeared on many TV shows and headlined national festivals.
When Gordon visited Sno-Isle Libraries and laid out plates of edible bugs, the hosts were understandably skeptical. Gordon is used to tough crowds.
“In so many ways, this is the food of the future,” Gordon said about insects as ingredients or cuisine. “It’s really good for you. It’s easy to raise. It doesn’t require the gallons of water that go into raising a steak and so on. But our dislike of insects in our culture is so strong, even at insect festivals it’s hard to get people to eat this stuff.”
Harvey, Hills and Russell mostly overcame their cultural instincts.
They ate kosher, farm-reared locusts, “the official Bible food of John the Baptist,” Gordon said.
They ate seasoned chapulines, wild grasshoppers harvested from cornfields in Oaxaca, Mexico.
They ate the caterpillars of a sphynx moth, which lays its eggs on blue agave plants, which is where tequila starts.
The caterpillar is “the proverbial worm in the bottom of the tequila bottle,” Gordon explained.
And they ate protein-rich energy bars.
“If I didn’t tell you there were crickets in there, you would never know. You’d be eating the blueberries,” Gordon said. That’s because the crickets are dried and ground into flour, “so we’re not talking about a bunch of goo.”
Some of Gordon’s samples went down easier than others.
First, the locusts. The legs are removed but not the wings. Each locust is a couple of inches long, so it’s mostly abdomen and head and it looks dramatic. It looks exactly like a big bug.
“There’s something about the way they’re looking at me,” she said.
“Hold them by the wings, they’re great handles,” Gordon explained. “Eat the body.”
He said to expect the taste of Shredded Wheat cereal.
Hills was just as dubious as Russell.
“This is gonna be a one-bite thing,” he said before he audibly crunched one down.
While Russell and Hills were busy overcoming their nerves, Harvey had already eaten a locust.
“I’m taking the wings home to prove that I ate it,” he said. “I have a reputation as a very picky eater. It has a nice taste.”
“It tastes like the smell of freshly harvested hay,” Russell said.
Next, the chapulines. The three test subjects gave the crunchy critters enthusiastic thumbs up.
“Oh, I like that!” Hills said. “I could actually sit around and eat those.”
Russell and Harvey liked the caterpillar. Russell described a crispy, salty first blast on the tongue and a perfumy flavor that lingered pleasantly on her palate.
“My family will be shocked when they hear that this picky eater did that,” Harvey said.
But for Hills, the caterpillar was a bridge too far.
“Yeah, I couldn’t do that,” he said. “They look like the big version of the grubs you find in your yard.”
The good-natured Gordon wasn’t offended. He knows food that wiggles is not often on the menu.
“I didn’t want to eat the locusts,” Russell said. “I feel like they’re looking at me and I’m not quite OK with that. I grew up in Louisiana where we eat some really interesting, quirky things that are not eaten in other places that have become really normal to me.”
Ken Harvey is Communications Director for Sno-Isle Libraries. Ken brings broad professional experience from his service with Community Transit, Sound Transit, Reno, Nev., and several positions in radio and TV.
Jim Hills is the library district’s Assistant Communications Director, Communications & Marketing. Jim is a storyteller who claims to still have some ink in his veins from familial connections with, and previous-career infusions from, the newspaper biz.
Jessica Russell is Assistant Director of Technical Services – Collection Services for Sno-Isle Libraries. A Louisiana native and Texas transplant, Russell oversees the process that makes 1.5 million books, magazines, DVDs, CDs, digital and other items available to customers at 23 community libraries and online.
The Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation proudly supports the innovative work of Sno-Isle Libraries through private donations.