Move over cream puffs, let's try State Fair foods made with bugs and snakes
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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 and snake-a-licious options this year.
"Exotic Meat Grill," a food stand located just south of the main stage, offers python spring rolls, cricket tacos, snake soup, grilled gator legs and deep fried gator bites. They also offer numerous different kids of bug jerky.
Last year, we tried ants on a stick, along with earthworm jerky and cricket jerky. This year, we added cricket tacos and snake soup to our list of adventuresome fair foods, although we were very tempted by the python spring rolls and have deep regrets over not trying them. Next year.
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?
We also tried the cricket jerky – aptly named "Chirpy Jerky" – and found it easier 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. We rated it a solid "nope."
The snake soup (in the main photo, above) is a new item this year. As the owner of a pet corn snake named Dracula – whom over the years I've grown quite fond of – I had to talk myself into sampling this food item. The Exotic Grill employee described the snake meat as being similar to shredded chicken, and I would agree with that, although it had very little flavor. The soup itself, which was a basic veggie soup, was kind of bland, too, so overall the $12 bowl of snake soup was pretty underwhelming.
The cricket tacos were made with very hearty portions of cricket, but for once less is better and we would have preferred a less generous serving. If you don't focus on the fact the main fixing once had antennae it's edible, otherwise it's just mealy and a little crunchy in all the wrong ways.
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 on our palates. So be it.
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