Grasshoppers ... They're what's for dinner


— Eating grasshoppers is gross.

That was the only excuse he gave for not coming to the grasshopper dinner party.

In the end, the brave were few.

Tuesday night, seven people gathered in my apartment to sample a tapas menu of the protein-packed insect that had been multiplying outside our homes at a biblical rate for the past week.

A dry heat beat down on my back as I bent at the waist collecting insects for dinner.

Feeling like the biggest fool to ever pitch a story at an editorial meeting, it took almost an hour to perfect my collecting technique and, with the unhelp of a golden retriever, another hour to catch enough grasshoppers to feed as many people as I had invited.

Unless you've tried to capture a grasshopper, don't laugh.

Spending two hours with my eyes darting like fish, trying to outsmart tiny yellow bugs, taught me several things.

First, I would never survive in the wild. I participate in the food chain only because my species has invented grocery stores.

Second, I learned a lot about grasshoppers. Just as I never fully appreciated rivers until I started fishing, I did not appreciate the plague we are living through until that afternoon.

I learned to appreciate the infinite variety of grasshoppers that surrounds us. I saw orange ones, a pink one and thousands of yellow and green ones. Some grasshoppers have a greater will to live than others. Those who did not cling to life as fiercely ended up on my table.

Lastly, I never truly appreciated the grasshopper's ability to leap as a collective cloud, always staying at least a foot ahead of any predator.

More wisdom/a few tips for grasshopper hunting:
Throwing bedsheets onto a gathering of grasshoppers will get you nothing.

Swinging a net willy-nilly is stupid. If you want to catch anything, you must choose and stalk one at a time.

My final and most effective technique involved a small aquarium net, a plastic bag and a thin piece of cardboard. Once the defenseless insect was in my net, I would slide the cardboard under the net and move the thing to my waiting bag. I opened a small hole in the bag and pushed the g-hopper in.

As I drove home I could hear the scratching of little insect feet against the plastic of my grocery bag. When I got home, I threw the whole bag, tied with a slipknot, into my freezer.
One large grasshopper contains 20.6 grams of protein. That's more than a Balance Bar, which contains only 14 grams of protein. That's almost as much as beef (27.4 grams). But grasshoppers are not the new chicken. Not in my kitchen. They are more texture than taste and are so small that my big American appetite would need to eat a lot of them to feel fully satisfied.
It is also fairly work intensive. After my collection ordeal, I was glad when a friend offered to remove all the legs, wings and heads for me with tweezers.
My dinner was more of food tasting than a full-fledged feast. I started with a tray of grasshopper fritters. Everyone held their one morsel like a communion, waiting to partake as a group.

"I've licked a slug, but I've never eaten a grasshopper," my friend said. No one had. We took the bite together and everyone sighed with relief. It didn't taste like much.

We took a break to talk and drink wine before the second course garlic butter saut grasshoppers. I served whole garlic cloves next to a tiny, crisp grasshopper corpse on a slice of baguette. The strange hors d' oeuvres were pensively received. This was different from the fritter because the eater could stare down at the body and know exactly what they were eating.

Again, like some living room, unsacred Mass, we partook together. Again everyone smiled. Call it the main course. There were compliments all around.

We talked about the taste of grasshoppers, and everyone had to agree they hadn't really tasted the little guys through all the bread and garlic. Dessert changed all that.

Chocolate-covered grasshoppers were my least favorite, because the grasshopper was raw. It took longer to chew and the flavor broke through the chocolate like a fist through paper.

I later realized the recipe asked the cook to dry roast the bugs before coating them with chocolate. My guests' repulsion was largely my own fault, but hopefully they won't read this.
"It tastes gamey," someone said. We all laughed, but not before we threw back another mouth-cleansing sip of wine.

I rewarded the entire party with a promise of no more grasshoppers and a tray of bread, cheese and chocolate.

We all left with a new respect for each other.
"I'll try anything once," someone said. "But I don't think I'll do it again."

Garlic Butter Fried Grasshoppers
One garlic clove for each grasshopper


Melt butter, reduce heat. Sautarlic fro five minutes, add insects. Sautntil garlic is browned and soft.
Grasshopper fritters
From Ronald Taylor's "Butterflies in My Stomach"
This recipe should be cut in proportion to the number of grasshoppers used. Remember, they are really small.)
3/4 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
3/4 c. milk
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 c. grasshoppers
1 pt. heavy cream beaten stiff

Sift dry ingredients together. Slowly add milk. Beat until smooth. Add egg and beat well.

Pluck off grasshopper wings and legs, heads optional. Dip insects in batter and deep fry. Salt and serve.

Grasshopper Gumbo
1/2 c. lemon juice
1 T. olive oil
1 t. honey
1/2 t. grated ginger
1 T. Dijon mustard
2 T. minced herbs parsley, mint, thyme
12 frozen grasshoppers

Mix all ingredients, except grasshoppers, for a marinade. Add insects and marinate overnight.
Pat dry and skewer, alternating grasshoppers, tomatoes and onion wedges. Cook kabob above fire for two or three minutes, basting occasionally with olive oil.

Chocolate Covered Grasshoppers
2 squares of semisweet chocolate
25 dry-roasted grasshoppers, legs and wings removed.

Prepare chocolate as directed on the box. Dip insects and place on wax paper and refrigerate.


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