Eating Bugs is Both Trendy and Traditional
Published Feb 10, 2006 - (Updated Dec 19, 2012)
In pre-Hispanic Mexico, my mom's admonition to "Eat your vegetables because they're good for you" would have been "Eat your bugs" for exactly the same reason. And while potatoes, peas and carrots were the staples in our house, grasshoppers, ants and worms were the equivalent in this part of the world.
Well, everything old is new again. And while the countryside never ceased eating insects as an important source of protein, a select few Puerto Vallarta restaurants now offer them too. So I dare you, double dare you, to explore the dishes enjoyed here before the region was subdued by the Spanish - because if I can do it, anyone can!
To my relief and surprise, the roasted grasshoppers I tried at El Arrayan tasted kind of nutty, toasty and crunchy. And from everything I read and hear, they really are good for you! High in protein and low in fat, they're delicious when combined with the restaurant's trademark salsas - even if you initially have to avoid thinking about what you're eating. But then what do you think escargots are?
Si Señor offers a wide selection of intriguing plates, including Mexico's version of caviar, escamoles (ant eggs), sautéed with salsa; gusanos de maguey (the coveted worms in some mescal bottles) prepared with garlic and chile; and toasted chapulines (grasshoppers) with oregano, chile and cheese. Also offering wonderful renditions of these kinds of authentic dishes is Los Xitomates.
And just so you know how far your gastronomic adventure could potentially take you, Mexico is blessed with several hundred of the more than one thousand edible insect species, entomophagy, or insect eating, continually gaining converts. Consequently, while farmers around Mexico City once spent a fortune on pesticides to kill plagues of locusts, with the ritziest restaurants now featuring them they're planting expendable crops to lure them!
Summing up what I'm talking about, "Sports Illustrated" once made this observation: "The Pacific Coast of Mexico is absolutely fabulous, but the worst place in the world to be a grasshopper."