Insect aside

Having thrown away the best years of my life in Florida, I can say I've slaughtered enough bugs to qualify as the insect Grim Reaper, black evening dress and all.

I could tell droning war stories about being buzzed by flying cockroaches the length of a Kit Kat, or living in a house where you'd think the spiders paid rent, they invited so many relatives to come live there. Some I've fought off wearing Braveheart face paint and brandishing a can of Raid Max, some have sent me screaming away as if they were wearing hockey masks and carrying knives instead of just moving.

But I've never seen an infestation like this: It's a Bug's Life.

Before you ask, no I haven't seen the movie, but I still ran out to get the ladybug in the McDonald's Happy Meal before the things were cooled from their plastic assembly line mold. The ladybugs, that is.

This partiality to cartoon toys (DNA by Hanna-Barbara) doesn't prevent me from realizing that, as far as hype goes, Moses and his locusts look like a pesky kid compared to a full-frontal Disney PR assault.

In fact, rumor says that God has bounced Machiavelli and is looking to Disney for spin tips, which is why you hear less about the "vengeful," "jealous" stuff and more of the Tinkerbellish "cares" and "saves" thing. You can be as omnipotent as you want, you still have to get 'em in the door.


Like all movies that cost more than India, the flick swarmed us with hype before it came out and now that it's nesting in theaters (just in time for Christmas! Kids! Start jumping up and down like idiots!) you might want a computer-generated exterminator to bomb the ads and promos away.

You just know you're going to eventually spend money on darling replicas of the things whose guts you spend a lot of your life trying to make a Jackson Pollock painting out of.

Sure, I've already caved, but I am a weak-willed, easily led, lifetime-achievement-award-winning consumer and if it's colorful plastic, I want it.

I understand, however, that those with more spine than an earthworm are not suffering these animated disease carriers gladly -- so it is for you that I would like to present a way to put the little vermin ... sort of ... in their place.

Antz in the Pans.

Actually, on a plate is not where you really want to find a bug. But just in case one day we run out of chickens and don't want to go the soy route, how about a recipe for Mealworm Chocolate Chip Cookies?

Or Ant Brood Tacos?

Martha Stewart might think she's something, but the smart money says that she doesn't have any recipes in her exhaustive files that call for 1/2 pound ant larvae and pupae (and 3 serrano chilies).

These repulsive tidbits were found on the Edible Insects Web site ( featured in a recent issue of Men's Health. (Is that what they're telling these guys to do? Is that what makes them act like that?)

Our gracious Web host offers not only a few recipes but tips on how to raise insects in order to harvest them for your table. (The holidays are coming up and crickets might just make that perfect bite-sized finger food.)

Don't act so disgusted ... you're sure to have eaten a few in your life and not just when you were a kid who took dares. According to Edible Insects, "flour beetles, weevils and other insect pests that infest granaries are milled along with the grain, finally ending up as tiny black specks in your piece of bread." (Are you going to finish that sandwich? Me neither.)

If you're a Luddite non-Web-ster and prefer actual books to cyber-gastronomy, don't think you're getting out of this that easily. Ten Speed Press has published a shocker by David George Gordon, The Eat-A-Bug Cookbook, offering recipes for 33 dishes you'd normally bash with a newspaper rather than serve to your honored guests. It's got recipes such as "Sweet and Sour Silkworm" and "Curried Termite Stew."

Hey, if it's good enough for Louis Armstrong, it's good enough for you. According to a CNN interview with Gordon, little Louis did, as a child, drink "a brew made from boiled cockroaches" to battle sore throats. No mention is made of whether that's why his voice sounded like that.

So they may have been here a million years before us, they may be here a million years after we're dead, and currently they may be more marketable than any of us will ever be.

But we can still raise them like cattle, kill them en masse (the best way, says Edible Insects, is to freeze 'em for 15 minutes ... but make sure they're all alive first. You wouldn't want to down an expired bug, would you?) and eat 'em like Tic Tacs.

I'm not gonna try it, you try it. Personally, I'd just rather stick with McDonald's (like a fly never found its way into a fry vat). I have my health to think of, you know. At least mentally.

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