Ever eat a bug? On purpose?
The Butterfly Pavilion, located at 6252 West 104th Avenue in Westminster, will welcome a truly freaky act to help open its new, sideshow-inspired exhibit, Dr. Entomo's Palace of Exotic Wonders, this weekend. Renowned Seattle entomophagist chef David Gordon, who has been dubbed the "Martha Stewart of insect cuisine," will be hosting demonstrations that let participants expand their palates and gross out their moms at the same time.
And anyone not familiar with entomophagy, the practice of eating bugs, might want to have their first experience with insect edibles to be at the hands of a professional rather than in their back yard. Gordon has been cooking up crawlers for over a decade, and his dishes are definitely not going to be found under a rock: They include everything from tempura battered mealworms to orzo pasta with cricket nymphs -- the veal of arthropods, he says.
Not only is eating (cooked) bugs safe, but it's better for the environment. "People are starting to recognize that beef production is wasteful," Gordon explains. "People would actually get more protein from a pound of crickets than from a pound of beef. If we diversified our tastes and didn't focus on certain species, it would just be a better thing all around."
Although Gordon has plenty of experience cooking up worms and crickets, his initial introduction came from his day job as a science writer. "I was working on a book on cockroaches and this was fourteen years ago, before Fear Factor or anything like that, and I kept finding out about people around the world eating bugs. So I started working on my book Eat-A-Bug," he explains.
The reaction was positive from the start. "A lot of my friends were excited about it," he remembers. "I lived in a small town and when they found out I was doing tastings, people were trying to get wait-listed for them."
The interest in eating ants and arachnids didn't surprise Gordon. "I think it's important that we are kind of the weirdos, because in just about every other part of the world they eat some kind of insect," he explains. "We eat all sorts of weird stuff, but we don't think they're weird because we grew up with them -- like chicken eggs, oysters or lobster tails."
At the Butterfly Pavilion, guests will be offered the chance to taste the grub as part of the presentation. "I like involving the audience," he says, "so I bring people up to help and then there are taste-testers. I make sure there is one dish with enough for everyone to taste it, which is usually what people call my signature dish: the Orthopteran Orzo."
But he also understands why some are reluctant to taste his creepy cuisine. "People have very strong feelings about food, " Gordon says. "It's right up there with politics and religion, and it's not my goal to make everyone eat bugs. But I tell them that they should try something adventurous, and that they are about to be served by America's foremost bug chef, so they should try to enjoy it while they can. When I do my program, there are always three groups in my audience: the people who are like, 'No way, I'm here to observe,' the people who are being adventurous and will try it, and then there's always a group who seems like they got up at 4 a.m. and drove there and they can't wait for me to get started."
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Gordon will get started at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 10, when he offers the first of three presentation in the Butterfly Pavilion Ballroom (the other two are at noon and 2 p.m.) The buggy treats are included with the cost of general admission, and seating is first come, first squirmily served.
Dr. Entomo's Palace of Exotic Wonders will be on display until August 22. For more information, call the Butterfly Pavilion at 303-469-4441 or visit www.butterflies.org.
To what your appetite, watch Gordon preparing tempura tarantula: