In Festival Guide

Mmmm...ants on a stick. (PHOTO: Royal Brevvaxling)

3 State Fair foods made with bugs, reviewed and ranked

More than 80 percent of the world's population ingests insects, but chances are that a much smaller percentage of Wisconsin State Fair goers will indulge despite the range of bug-a-licious options this year, one of which is even on a "stick."

"All Things Jerky," a food stand located just south of the main stage, offers ants, beetles, crickets, earthworms, larvae, sago worms, scorpions, silkworm and water bugs in various food forms and flavors.

We decided to try their new item, ants on a stick, along with earthworm jerky and cricket jerky. All range in price from $10 to $12.

The ants-on-a-stick features a pretzel rod (hence "the stick") slathered in marshmallow and then rolled in two kinds of ants: small black ants and larger brown "queen" ants. (Yes, they're dead.) It definitely took a little mental preparation to take the first bite – the number of bug legs sticking out and blowing in the wind was definitely a nosh squelcher, but we were determined to keep spirits high. Mind over matter, right?

The marshmallow and pretzel were a familiar and welcome taste, but after another chew or two, the ant textures and flavors really presented themselves. The black ants were sweet and the queen ants were slightly bitter. It felt like biting into weird, tiny raisins. Weird, tiny raisins with legs. We rated it an "OK, I've done this and will never ever do it again."

The cricket jerky – aptly named "Chirpy Jerky" – was the easiest to digest, but also the most boring. The crickets were ground into powder before adding to the rest of the ingredients – yams, beets, carrots, onions, salt and garlic powder – so there was no trace of bug bods or legs. However, it was extremely dry, crumbly and not very flavorful with the yams bringing the most flavor. It was more like treats for dogs than snacks for humans. We rated it a "Not terrible, but why?"

The earthworm jerky was by far the worst of the three "bug bites." It kinda looked like snake skin (pre-molting) stuck to earthworm-body chunks. The flavor started out kinda sweet (sugar is the first ingredient) and then had a zingy aftertaste due to other ingredients red chili, vinegar and salt. It was hard to munch up and swallow because of the chewy, chicken skin-y texture and there might have been juices that came out of the worm body parts that almost made us gag. I think I saw stray fly wing in there, too, but I was probably delirious with repulsion. We rated it a solid "nope."

Photos or it didn't happen, right?

We admit that we wanted to enjoy our bug eating experience more than we did. Countries like Mexico, Japan, The Netherlands, Brazil and Australia eat insects on a regular basis and some are considered delicacies. Plus, bugs are full of protein and a very sustainable food source. However, the reality is that bugs are really only digestible if you grow up eating them or acquire a taste through travel.

Sure, we Americans will eat hot dogs made from the most undesirable parts of animals, but bugs have no place in our palates. So be it. And as far as Fair Food goes, we suggest you stick with the cream puffs.

For 10 new, non bug-filled State Fair foods, also reviewed and ranked, go here.


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