Baseball, peer-pressure and eating insects

When I present to school classrooms, Cub Scouts, 4H kids or church groups, I have to very specifically remind children not to food shame their friends who don’t want to eat bugs. I tell them, “You can try bugs today if you want. BUT, it’s totally OK if you don’t want to eat a bug, that’s a very normal reaction here in America.” We live in a food culture that says bugs are gross, so I get it. I used to feel that way too.

I’ve seen children shriek and burst into tears on numerous occasions, afraid that they will have to eat bugs while cruel classmates wave crickets in their face. Luckily for me, at least some of the times we recover; after 20 minutes or so the tears have dried, they’re interested again and now they’re willing to try a cricket-chip or roasted mealworm. Often, the kid ends up going back for seconds or thirds because “it’s ok, I guess.” That’s a win for me.

I love sayings like “don’t yuck my yum,” because it highlights that we’re all unique and we will all like different things, and that’s OK. Some people don’t like broccoli, others can’t stand cantaloupe. Some folks don’t eat pork, others don’t like shrimp. Don’t like oatmeal? NBD. Moral of the story: it’ silly to food shame folks who don’t want to eat bugs.

I saw this online a few weeks ago:

Twins try to talk Guardado into eating fried grasshopper in Seattle

Twins bullpen coach Eddie Guardado feels plenty of peer pressure as players taste-test fried grasshoppers sold at Safeco Field

This headline caught my eye because I immediately thought of children waving toasted crispy chapulines grasshoppers from Oaxaca, the same type served as a smashing success at Mariners Stadium, in a crying kids face. Poor Coach Guardado was being “peer-pressured” into eating a fried grasshopper. Shameful indeed.

But here’s the thing. I don’t think the Twins players were the food-shaming kids in this story. I don’t even think the Star Tribune can take all the blame for reporting the story this way. Our sensational media culture needs a catchy headline, and if the Survivor reality TV fiasco taught us anything, it’s that “people afraid to eat bugs, eating bugs,” will get you viewers.

But wait. What if the focus wasn’t on the Twins players pushing their coach to do something he’s clearly not interested in, but instead a story about the Twins players’ reactions to trying a traditional Oaxacan food dating back to Mexico’s pre-Hispanic history?

I love this video. I especially love the genuine response from all the players. I’m not watching the one guy who doesn’t want to eat the bugs. I’m watching the three or four guys who are going back for more.

Really though, it shouldn’t be that surprising that the Twins players are fine with it.

“They’re actually pretty good,” “Mmm not bad,” “Yeah man,” “It’s like you’re chewing a sunflower seed, that’s all.”

Shoutout to Poquitos for bringing this food to the people of Seattle and visiting fans from across the nation. Thanks for making my job easier by introducing bugs to thousands of folks who might otherwise have missed out.

Look, Brandon Guyer of the Cleveland Indians has talked about eating crickets. Metta World Peace of the LA Lakers likened spiced roasted crickets to burnt bits of bacon. Amelia Boone and Mark Cuban freakin’ invested in #EdibleInsects startup companies. (Cuban has invested in TWO through Sharktank!)

Salma Hayek, Questlove, Katy Perry, Don Cheadle, Angelina Jolie, Andrew Zimmern, Kofi Annan, Terry Crews, Alice Waters, Barack Obama, Anna Feris, Tituss Burgess…what do they have in common? All these people have eaten bugs, and liked them!

We need more people to see videos like this, with reactions like this. We need more people to have the chance to try #EdibleInsects. No, I do not mean those gimmicky little boxes of desiccated flavorless crickets, scorpion lollipops and candied ants. I mean food that was made to taste good and be healthy, not survive on a gas station or museum gift-shop shelf for five years. Unlike a few years ago, there are now a multitude of edible insect products to try, and every year the diversity grows.

We need people to see and taste how good bugs can be, and see that eating insects is no more weird than sushi was 40 years ago, or eating Kale 20 years ago. Good on these athletes for not playing into the “Fear Factor” mentality and instead just calling something new that you eat, “food.”

Thanks Star Tribune, for sharing the delicious, nutritious and resource efficient idea of #Entomophagy with more people, even if inadvertently. Chef PV and I were thinking of y’all and Coach Guardado at the 10th Annual Austin Bug Eating Festival, which was a blast. Here’s hoping the Texas Rangers or the Houston Astros are as open-minded as the Twins and the Mariners!