What To Do In Fresno
By Scott BowersCalifornia's Central Valley is one of the most densely farmed areas in the world. By the time August rolls around, you can't so much as smile without getting a couple of bugs in your teeth. I was sent there to work on a top-secret project in Fresno. Fresno is one of those places where you normally need a gun and plenty of ammo to have any fun, but I came prepared with an alternate... David Gordon's Eat a Bug Cookbook. I brought the book to work in an effort to pique the interests of my co-workers, and the next day, my plan went into action. Given my limited cooking abilities, the recipe that seemed the best bet was the Crispy Crickets Snack Mix.
An Abundance of Crickets
From the very beginnings of my road trip to Fresno, I was aware that there would be no shortage of crickets. Crickets in panic avoided my every step. Crickets in their Orkin induced death throes covered our office's basement floor. Crickets incessantly chirped away as toads chased them about the hotel parking lot. The only obstacle was figuring out how I would obtain the 60 crickets called for in the recipe. I ruled out using the poisoned bugs for obvious (I hope) reasons. The hotel parking lot was too dark for effective collection. I considered using the time-tested method of digging a hole and setting a fire to drive crickets into said hole, but trapping them was too much of a hassle. Then, I saw the light. The Fresno Super Dooper Mega Gigantiplex Movie Theater was not only well lit, but it was next to a great big field full of crickets!
I grabbed a grocery bag and headed to the harvest. It took me about 20 minutes to catch 100 crickets and one large grasshopper. One passing moviegoer was shocked to find that the bounty was not for my lizard, but most people were content to stare in confusion.
Cleaning the Kill
The next step was to "process" the crickets. I placed the bag into the freezer of my hotel room for about one hour. Then, I used a pair of scissors to cut off the legs and antennae. I had to rip off the wings by hand. In retrospect, the pruning of the crickets seems to be a waste of time, but I was merely following the directions of the cookbook.
Cooking The Crickets, Part I
Well, my company was nice enough to set me up in a nice hotel (Residence Inn) with a range top, a microwave, and cookware. I put the dewinged legless crickets into a bowl and placed them into the microwave for a few minutes. What I really needed was an oven, but the hotel didn't have that. Just then, I remembered the large and modern kitchen that was inside the building of the client that we were working for. I packed away the crickets (and the grasshopper) into the freezer and waited out the long night.
Cooking The Crickets, Part II
I placed the now frozen legless wingless crickets along with some butter, snack mix, and spices into my (rental) car, and I proceeded to work. The very common response to my concoction was,
"That smells great, what are you cooking?"
"Lunch," was my reply.
After an hour of baking, the snack mix was ready. I needed only to wait for the co-workers to arrive.
Snack Mix Is Served
John came into work first. He saw the tray of snack mix, and he immediately knew what I had done.
"Eat one," he dared.
He was amazed. He was repulsed. It would take until deep in the night before he would try. Excitement quickly spread about the office. Our client was unnerved that I had cooked crickets in their kitchen, and soon I was confronted by my manager.
"Scott, please do not cook bugs in our client's kitchen," she said.
"I cooked them at the hotel room," I lied.
That night, after many drinks, I convinced most of my co-workers to try the crickets. Our waitress at the restaurant where we ate dinner even tried one. They mostly agreed with me that crickets taste similar to shrimp. A legend was born.
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