Fearless diners are in for a culinary treat Wednesday night at the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania.
In-house caterer Josh Hunter is cooking up a meal of crickets, cockroaches and other critters for registered guests of the event, called “Bug Crawl.”
Five dishes and accompanying beer and wine pairings will be stationed throughout the Arboretum’s ongoing Big Bugs sculpture exhibit.
“Basically I’m preparing them in traditional ways that they would be served in the countries where they originate from,” Hunter said. “Once you get past the fact that it’s an insect, as a chef, I look at them as a new color on my palette that I never had before.”
Prepared dishes will include meal-worm fries with spicy ketchup, cricket fritters with coconut curry dipping sauce and teriyaki-glazed cockroaches.
Hunter has been preparing for the feast since November. He says he was skeptical as a first-time bug chef, but has researched recipes and thought carefully about flavor combinations. The recipe for the cricket fritters came from a Weavers Way Co-op’s newsletter.
The bugs themselves were ordered from a supplier called Fluker Farms in Louisiana. A box of 100 crickets can go for between $6.50 and $62.50 depending on the age.
The smells of cooking insects vary, Hunter says. Cockroaches are more malodorous while the crickets smell a bit more mild, almost like shrimp. Hunter found few volunteers from his staff to help out.
Taste aside, Hunter says these unusual bites are actually good for you and are environmentally responsible. He explains that much more water and electricity are used to get a piece of beef from farm to table, and that the critters are full of protein and low in fat.
“Developed countries tend to stray away from eating bugs when there’s much more handsome forms of protein,” Hunter said. “But as our environmental resources dwindle, this is a responsible way to get protein in your diet.”
He says that some people are even looking to incorporate bug powder into protein bars.
Though it’s not his favorite meal, Hunter is still waiting to see the public’s reaction.
“It’s not like we’re standing out on the street corner, ‘Here, try a bug.’ These people are paying to come here and eat bugs,” he said. “I’m assuming they’re all coming with an open mind and an adventurous palate.”
The event begins at 6 p.m. at the arboretum, 100 E. Northwestern Ave., Philadelphia. Tickets are $50; $45 for members.