Like most gourmet cooks, Detroit-area entomologist Gene White prides himself on using only the best ingredients in his kitchen. The 46-year-old, self-described "bug chef" insists on live crickets, even if preserving the small brown bugs through dry roasting requires a little extra work. First, he purges their digestive tracts by feeding them cornmeal. Then, he freezes them overnight in plastic bags, a step that allows him to remove unwanted legs and antennae the next morning by simply shaking the bag.
"The legs have spines on them," White notes. "They can upset your stomach if you eat them."
Clevelanders will be able to watch White in action and sample his culinary creations at the Cleveland Metroparks' "BugFest," a free event scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Aug. 14 at the Garfield Park Reservation in Garfield Heights.APast menu items have included Herbed Rice au Termites, Mealworm dhow Mein, Insect Egg Drop Soup, Bugaboo Brownies and Chocolate Chirp Cookies. White is particularly fond of his sautéed wax moth larvae ("They taste like a sweet nut") and, of course, his crickets.
"They are very good dry-roasted with flavorings on them," he declares. "Anything you can flavor a chip with, you can flavor a cricket with. Unflavored, a lot of the kids who try them say they taste like bacon."
White suggests that those interested in pursuing entomophagy — the eating of insects — on their own stick to commercially farmed bugs. A wild cricket, for example, could pass on a parasite to humans. And when it comes to cooking, "well done is always safer."