Reader, let me ask you an honest question: When’s the last time you ate a bug, wittingly or otherwise?
A colleague today shared a deeply unsettling image on Slack of a worm stowaway burrowed deep in the core of a farmer’s market tomato—a would-be snack (shown above) had it not been caught by his partner. This sparked a conversation among my coworkers about bug-eating, the future of food, and, unfortunately, summoned a memory of one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had with food.
Before I share that horrifying experience with you, let me begin with this: Bug-eating in practice is, of course, nothing to scoff at. Bugs can be nutrient-rich, an environmentally friendly alternative to meat, and they are likely the future of food. Bugs can and absolutely should be explored as food—but not like this.
Back in college, a quick and cheap thing I often made to tide me over was a bowl of noodles with shredded cheese on top—kind of an extremely basic mac and cheese, sans the powder. I would often add a little salt and pepper for flavor and, well, that’s it. On one such occasion that I made this “dish,” I boiled the water, drained the noodles (probably with a fork if I’m being honest), topped it all off with cheese, salt, and pepper, and took a seat on the couch to watch some television.
It was about halfway through my bowl of basic ass mac-and-cheese that I noticed that the black dots sprinkled in with the melted cheese were larger than pepper. And it was as I forked through my penne that I realized what I’d been eating: ants. Boiled ants. They had evidently been in the box, and in mindlessly shuffling through the motions after a long day, I had not noticed that they were in my food before ingesting literally half of the bowl. It was, and remains, among the most revolting experiences I’ve ever had.
So I ask again: When, or why, did you last eat bugs? Was it on purpose? A traumatizing accident? Share with us your experiences or unburden yourself, as I just have, of your horror stories.
Before we dive in, however, let me share with you this bug-adjacent anecdote shared by my colleague Jennings Brown: “I can’t think of a time I accidentally ate a lot of bugs, but once I took a big swig of a beer at a bar in Texas before realizing that it was actually my friend’s tobacco spit can. Kinda like bug juice.”