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Even Neil DeGrasse Tyson Is Now Munching On Bugs : The Salt : NPR

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Neil deGrasse Tyson with a Cambodian cricket rumaki
canape, wrapped in bacon. “I have come to surmise, in the
culinary universe, that anytime someone feels compelled
to wrap something in bacon, it probably doesn’t taste
very good,” he said skeptically before taking a bite.
Carole Zimmer for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption
Carole Zimmer for NPR

Neil deGrasse Tyson with a Cambodian cricket rumaki canape, wrapped in bacon. "I have come to surmise, in the culinary universe, that anytime someone feels compelled to wrap something in bacon, it probably doesn't taste very good," he said skeptically before taking a bite.

Neil deGrasse Tyson with a Cambodian cricket rumaki
canape, wrapped in bacon. “I have come to surmise, in the
culinary universe, that anytime someone feels compelled
to wrap something in bacon, it probably doesn’t taste
very good,” he said skeptically before taking a bite.

Carole Zimmer for NPR

More than 1,000 guests in gowns and tuxedos crowded into a
two-story hall on Saturday night at the American Museum of
Natural History in New York.

Standing among a pack of well-preserved African elephants, they
sampled the delicacies offered by waiters wending their way
through the throngs. They had come for the annual dinner of the
Explorers Club — and the
cocktail-hour fare certainly required an adventurous palate:
All of it was made of insects.

Guest of honor Neil deGrasse
Tyson
, in a formal vest with gold celestial shapes, picked
up a Cambodian cricket rumaki canape, looking at it skeptically
before taking a bite.

Teriyaki grasshopper kabobs Carole
Zimmer for NPR
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caption

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Carole Zimmer for NPR

Teriyaki grasshopper kabobs

Teriyaki grasshopper kabobs

Carole Zimmer for NPR

“I have come to surmise, in the culinary universe, that anytime
someone feels compelled to wrap something in bacon, it probably
doesn’t taste very good,” he said. (The actual universe is his
real specialty: Tyson is the director of the museum’s Hayden
Planetarium
and host of Cosmos: A Space Odyssey.)

The historic club promotes scientific exploration of new
frontiers, and Tyson was being honored with its prestigious
Explorers Medal. Appropriately, he was willing — if not exactly
eager — to explore the cricket specialty.

Waiting for a moment to consider the taste, he said he liked
the crunchiness but declared the crickets and other exotic
appetizers — such as cockroach canapes, wax worm quesadillas
and teriyaki grasshopper kabobs — “not as good as a rib-eye.”

Tyson, a modern-day science hero, says the logical appeal
behind eating bugs, a growing trend in the West, is perfectly
clear: “Insects have been long known as a great source of
protein, so I don’t have a problem with that.”

In fact, as we’ve reported, insect cuisine has steadily been
gaining traction. Startups like Exo and Bitty use
cricket flour
in their protein bars and cookies. The United
Nations has also
advocated
for insect cuisine, noting that bugs are
nutritional powerhouses and easier on the environment than
other protein sources. Insects have even made their way onto
menus at upscale restaurants: At Oyamel, a Mexican
establishment in Washington, D.C., customers can feast on tacos
made with chapulines, or grasshoppers, a Oaxacan
specialty.

Orzo with organic cricket nymphs Carole
Zimmer for NPR
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caption

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Carole Zimmer for NPR

Orzo with organic cricket nymphs

Orzo with organic cricket nymphs

Carole Zimmer for NPR

Still, for many diners, the “yuck” factor persists when they
think of biting into something with wiggling antennae and
hard-shelled bodies. But that’s not the type of thing to put
off the Explorers Club, which chose insect cuisine for this
year’s appetizers as a way to highlight sustainability
practices.

Chef David Gregory
Gordon,
author of
The Eat-A-Bug Cookbook
, who designed the evening’s culinary
bugfest, pulled out all the stops in preparing his dishes. He
spent $15,000 on insects for the evening, which he says is
probably the “largest edible insect event in the history of the
world.”

Ingredients included about 4 pounds of organic cricket nymphs
(that’s about 3 large pillow sacks filled with crickets), 350
American cockroaches from a research lab at the University of
California, Riverside and 200 tarantulas.

Tyson took a sip of his wine before biting into one of Chef
Gordon’s deep-fried tarantulas, with its round body and myriad
legs. “I think the tarantula is one of the ghastliest things in
all of the tree of life, so maybe to confront that fact, I have
to eat one,” he mused as he munched.

A few wary bites did not change his negative opinion of the
creature. And while Tyson says he remains open to adapting his
palate to trying more bug cuisine, he doesn’t expect the
museum’s cafe to be adding insect appetizers to the menu
anytime soon.

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