From bugs to tripe to tongue, one person’s ‘Fear Factor’ is another person’s delicacy
By Deborah Allard Herald News Staff Reporter, Posted Mar 26, 2009 @ 10:33 AM,
Fall River —The American palette has become wild and complicated, maybe due to the limitless variety of foods available, the exotic appetite of a continually changing immigrant population, or the television shows that tout interesting ingredients.
Whatever the reason, it seems people really will eat anything. From crickets to kangaroo meat, it’s on America’s menu.
“You can mix crickets into a stir fry. They’re used as a replacement for shrimp or chicken,” said David Gracer, a Providence man who believes more people should consume insects as a way to healthy eating and because it can sustain the earth’s resources.
Bugs, he said, take a lot less food, water and space to farm, and they’re high in protein, vitamins and minerals, and low in fat. And, after all, they’re not gross, they’re the “land cousins of the crustaceans,” Gracer said.
Unfortunately for Gracer — who’s appeared on “The Colbert Report” and been featured in The New York Times Magazine — there isn’t much of an insect food production market in the United States. His mainstays are crickets, meal worms, also known as beetle grubs, and wax worms when they’re available.
“Most weeks I eat insects,” Gracer said. “I would eat wax worms every day if I could get them.”
Crickets are the most easy to come by and are generally purchased frozen or dried in specialty markets and online.
“They tend to taste nutty like sunflower seeds,” Gracer said.
For people who don’t want to eat the bugs’ legs or wings, Gracer said to put dried crickets in a paper bag and “shake violently.”
How many crickets should a person eat as a meal replacement for shrimp or meat? Gracer said to consume about 100 grams, roughly a soup bowl full.
If you think you can’t get crickets locally, think again. The Oriental Food Market at 418 Quequechan St., in Angkor Plaza, Fall River, sells frozen crickets.
“You just fry it with salt,” said store owner Sandy Srey.
For those with exotic appetites, the Oriental Food Market also has a variety of different Asian fishes, frozen squid head, snake fish head, snail meat, and farm raised frog legs.
For cooked frog legs, Moulin Rouge, a French restaurant in Tiverton, has the delicacy on its regular menu. The Mu Que C Restaurant in Cambridge also offers fried frog legs, along with tripe stew and fried yucca root with dried beef. For the truly “crazy” eater, The Wine Cellar in Boston has a dish called “The Crazy French.” It’s a plated mix of marinated kangaroo, ostrich fillet and rabbit loin with oil and potatoes.
To some, octopus might seem a strange thing to eat, but to Fall River’s Portuguese population, it’s a tasty part of the diet. Chaves Market on Columbia Street has a freezer full of octopus, generally used to make a dark stew. They also sell Canadian quail and rabbit.
The emu is getting to be a popular poultry item, though it is actually considered a red meat.
“We sell out of our own meat, 600 to 1,000 pounds each year, within four or five months,” said Dee Dee Mares, owner of Songline Emu Farm (www.allaboutemu.com) in Gill, a town in western Massachusetts.
Each bird produces about 25 pounds of meat. “It’s delicious in flavor,” Mares said. “The American Heart Association has declared it a heart healthy red meat alternative because of the lean quality to the meat.”
Even in the regular supermarkets, food is becoming more adventurous. It’s not hard to find tripe, buffalo meat or tongue at Stop & Shop and Shaw’s locations.
At the Price Rite on Pleasant Street, Fall River, is a selection of pork tails and skins ready for culinary inspiration.
For Gracer, “a regular guy who eats bugs,” it was a gift of edible meal worms in 2000 that triggered his curiosity in bug consumption.
“I strongly believe in the future of insects,” Gracer said.
To learn more about Gracer’s movement to farm insects for human consumption, visit www.slshrimp.com. Chefs are welcome.