The ultimate road food landed on my desk Monday.
BBQ-flavored worms. Sour cream and onion crickets. Chocolate-covered insects, variety unspecified.
The gifts were from the Travel Channel, promoting the new season of Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Foods, which premieres in January and will focus on America instead of ranging around the world. Did you think that only people on other continents ate bugs? Nope, these bugs are from California, and they came with a website where I could order them if I wanted, say, to serve a bowlful at a party.
In the interests of research, I invited my colleagues to join me in tasting these edibles. Only a brave few accepted the invitation. We were quick to reach a consensus. We couldn't taste anything but the chocolate on the chocolate-covered bugs. The sour cream and onion crickets had no flavor at all; they were dry and splinter-y, like chewing on a dried-out Popsicle stick. The worms had the most character; they were crunchy, their taste faint, even with the BBQ seasoning.
I consulted with Fred Tasker, The Miami Herald's wine columnist. "Well, you drink white wine with white meat and red wine with red meat, but what do you drink when the meat is green?" he pondered. He spotted the package of BBQ-flavored worms. "A nice Zinfandel goes well with barbecue," he suggested.
The Travel Channel also sent along rough cuts of the first two episodes, so I watched the program shot in and around New Orleans. Zimmern sampled alligator stuffed with sausage and roasted whole. Smoked raccoon and turtle. Frog piquante. Swamp food cooked Creole-style. I'll bet they've even got a way to make those crickets taste better than old popsicle sticks.
Photos: Boxes of worms and crickets, above left. A bug covered in white chocolate, above right.