|From The Wave Magazine|
B.A.B.E.S.(Bay Area Bug Eating Society)
Put away the pesticide and grab a fork – it’s time to brunch on bugs.
What’s the best thing about eating tarantulas? Well, besides their hearty flavor, it’s the fact that you can remove their fangs to use as toothpicks after the meal, says Scott Bowers, founder of the Bay Area Bug Eating Society (B.A.B.E.S.).
Bowers’ affinity for bug binging (or entomophogy, if you want to get technical) began in the early ‘90s when he was an anthropology major at San Francisco State University. Though he didn’t digest his first bug until a few years after college, Bowers recalls a film he watched in school that changed his life: “[The film] showed a chimpanzee using a stick to gather termites out of tree bark and eating them. Early humans did the same thing. It was probably the first tool human beings used. Eating bugs is a link to our evolutionary past.”
Bowers ate his first bug in 1998 while reviewing David Gordon’s classic bug tome, Eat-A-Bug Cookbook, for Discover magazine. Bowers put Gordon’s Crispy Crickets Chex Mix recipe to the test. After capturing his own crickets, Bowers cooked the critters in Cajun seasoning, and then mixed them with crushed Melba toast and Chex Mix. He was hooked from the first crackling bite. B.A.B.E.S. was born shortly thereafter in February of 1999.
Since the inception of B.A.B.E.S., Bowers has traveled the world in search of the perfect arachnid to arouse his taste buds. One of his first stops was the Typhoon restaurant in Los Angeles. At Typhoon, Scott and fellow B.A.B.E.S. member Barbara dined on delicious entrees of stir-fried bamboo termites, white sea worms and Chambai ants.
Bowers went all the way to Zambia, Africa to sample Mopane Grubs (a bug about the size of a baby’s head), which he found disagreeable. “They were similar in taste to that rubbery thing you find in chicken legs. It took me a couple of minutes of chewing before I was able to swallow it.”
Thailand turned out to be Bower’s Mecca for bug comestibles. In Bangkok, he devoured giant crickets, beetles, scorpions, various grasshopper-like insects and water bugs as long as an adult hand. But the best bug of all was “some kind of underwater praying mantis… the meat was very tender, like a tater tot.”
Generally speaking, Bowers believes scorpions are the most scrumptious bugs one can consume. “The bigger the insect, the better it tastes because there’s more meat as opposed to exoskeleton. The bigger bugs taste a lot like shrimp or lobster. They’re of the same arachnid order.”
B.AB.E.S. is a work in progress. Group get-togethers only happen about once a year. Their sporadic gatherings are open to the public and usually take place during Halloween weekend in San Francisco’s Dolores Park. Bowers is uncertain if there will be a BBBQ (i.e. bug barbecue) this year because he may be traveling, once again, in search of the ideal insect (perhaps heading to Oaxaca, Mexico in pursuit of ant tacos, the bug dish he claims is on the top of his wish list). Check the B.A.B.E.S. web site for updates (www.planetscott.com/ babes). If you like what you see, you can subscribe to become a member of B.A.B.E.S for free. Membership includes newsletters and your personalized membership certificate.