One would think the reaction of baseball fans upon hearing that their team’s stadium is selling grasshoppers in the concession stands would be “ick” – or crickets, as manifested in a quiet food stand hidden behind the cheap seats.
But that’s not the case in Seattle, where crowds at Safeco Field reportedly cannot get enough of the toasted critters. The mad rush pushed the restaurant managing the stand to place an emergency order to meet demand – and now it’s limiting the number of orders that will be sold during each ballgame.
The dish that is creating buzz — or, should we say, a loud chirp — is chapulines: a species of grasshopper that is popular in several regions across Mexico. They have long been a mainstay in Oaxaca, where they are served in tortillas or as a side dish. Sold on the street and at sporting events, chapulines are catching on with foodies because of their savory crunch. Often seasoned with chili, citrus and salt, think of their taste as akin to potato chips, only with a satisfying yeast- and toast-like flavor.
The Mariners sold over 900 orders of this treat during three games, which equates to about 13 pounds or 18,000 grasshoppers, ESPN reported last week. Over the weekend, the team limited the amount of orders to 312 a game, a nod to the Mariners’ team legend, Eddie Martinez, who had a batting average of .312 during his career.
The team was soon overwhelmed with calls from enterprising food vendors asking if other bugs will end up on Safeco Field’s menu, ESPN’s Darren Rovell reported. For now, however, the team is limiting that section of the menu to the chapulines.
The mad rush was a public-relations bonanza for the restaurant behind the fast success. Poquitos, which runs its flagship location in the popular Pike Street Market in downtown Seattle, has been profiled all over the Internet, with publications such as Food & Wine Magazine showcasing the dish.
Interestingly enough, in an era when ballpark food is often fussy and expensive, this four-ounce dish of crunchy treats is only $4. Contrast that price with the legendary Dodger Dog in Los Angeles, which now sets fans back $10 a wiener. And for Poquitos, as well as Centerplate, Safeco Field’s concessions manager, the reception overall has been positive – one writer on Forbes said this delicacy must be tried not over a dare, but because chapulines are pretty darned good and pair well with a cold beer or shot of tequila.
Foodies aren’t the only ones who will want to score a sample, but so would fans who are watching their carbs or have gone ketogenic. A 100-gram portion of chapulines offers 14 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, 20 percent of the recommended daily intake of calcium and 25 percent of the daily recommended consumption of iron – plus a healthy dose of vitamins A and C and no cholesterol. Contrast that with chicken breast, which is rich in protein, but has 104 milligrams of cholesterol, no vitamins, a trace amount of minerals and, of course, a much larger environmental footprint.
So if insects can catch on with sports fans, could ants, caterpillars and other six-legged creatures start appearing at ballparks and stadiums? After all, about 2 billion people consume insects as a protein source on a regular basis worldwide.
In Western countries, however, culinary entomology, according to the blogs, is limited to French (no surprise here) chocolate covered ants and a few token lollipops. Sure, you can buy some products such as high-protein cricket powder on Amazon, but the environmental benefits of eating bugs have not quite yet meshed with human psychology in this hemisphere.
The United Nations suggested several years back that the consumption of bugs would be necessary to feed a hungry world. But when I posted a story about that report for a company in a Middle Eastern oil state a few years ago, the outcry and gross-out factor reached such a crescendo that the chairman became irritated over the commotion, and the post was removed the next day.
But as the world rapidly grows to what could be a population of 9 billion by 2050, the evidence suggests pastureland and soy farms will not raise and grow enough to feed the world. The confluence of hipster culture, sports and Instagram may create just enough spark to make insects mainstream.
Image credit: César Rincón/Flickr