Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/549

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LOCUSTS AS FOOD FOR MAN.

jority of our people, unaccustomed to anything of the sort, and associating with the word 'insect' or 'bug,' everything horrid and repulsive. Yet I was governed by weightier reasons than mere curiosity; for many a family in Kansas and Nebraska was, in 1874, brought to the brink of the grave by sheer lack of food, while the St. Louis papers reported cases of actual death from starvation in some sections of Missouri, where the insects abounded and ate up every green thing, in the spring of 1875.

"Whenever the occasion presented, I partook of locusts prepared in different ways, and one day I ate of no other kind of food, and must have consumed, in one way or another, the substance of several thousand half-grown locusts. Commencing the experiments with some misgivings, and fully expecting to have to overcome disagreeable flavor, I was soon agreeably surprised to find that the insects were quite palatable in whatever way prepared. The flavor of the raw locust is most strong and disagreeable, but that of the cooked insect is agreeable and sufficiently mild to be easily neutralized by anything with which they may be mixed, and to admit of easy disguise, according to taste or fancy. But the great point I would make in their favor is that they need no elaborate preparation or seasoning, and that they really require no disguise; and herein lies their value in exceptional emergencies, for, when people are driven to the point of starvation by these ravenous pests, it follows that all other food is scarce or unattainable. A broth, made by boiling the unfledged calopteni for two hours in the proper quantity of water, and seasoned with nothing but pepper and salt, is quite palatable and scarcely to be distinguished from beef-broth, though it has a slight flavor peculiar to it and not easy to be described. The addition of a little butter improves it, and the flavor can, of course, be modified with mint, sage, and other spices ad libitum. Fried or roasted in nothing but their own oil, with the addition of a little salt, they are by no means unpleasant eating, and have quite a nutty flavor. In fact, it is a flavor, like most peculiar and not unpleasant flavors, that one can soon learn to get fond of. Prepared in this manner, ground and compressed, they would doubtless keep for a long time. Yet their consumption in large quantities in this form would not, I think, prove as wholesome as when made into soup or broth, for I found the chitinous covering and corneous parts, especially the spines on the tibiƦ, dry and chippy, and somewhat irritating to the throat. This objection would not apply with the same force to the mature individuals, especially of the larger species, where the heads, legs, and wings are carefully separated before cooking; and, in fact, some of the mature insects prepared in this way, then boiled, and afterward stewed with a few vegetables, and a little butter, pepper, salt, and vinegar, made an excellent fricassee. . . .

"I sent a bushel of scalded insects to Mr. John Bonnet, one of the oldest and best-known caterers of St. Louis. Master of the mys-