If you're looking for something adventurous at the Street Food Festival this weekend, consider this: crispy wax moth larvae tacos, or toffee-crisped mealworms on ice cream.
That's what Monica Martinez, owner of Don Bugito, will be selling at her stand. Martinez, an artist, first encountered meal worms in an art project. While designing her "wurm haus," she had to raise meal worms. After presenting her design in New York, she had her husband cook the worms for a celebratory dinner. They were a huge success, so she decided to bring her edible insects to the streets of San Francisco.
"As an artist, I like to push boundaries," Martinez says. "I want to see what the response of the S.F. crowd is to my food, because S.F. has the reputation for being very open minded." She plans to get a street food cart and hopes to be on the streets by October.
Martinez grew up in Mexico City, where edible insects are readily found. "They're common all around the world," she says, pointing out that Americans are really in the minority when it comes to avoiding (knowingly) eating insects. Martinez acknowledges that the psychological barrier is often difficult to overcome, but she says that 60 percent of people she approaches are willing to try her bites. "20 percent are like, 'Oh, I don't know. I don't know' but when they try it then they're like, 'Wow, they're tasty.'" she says.
Martinez feeds her wax moth larva honey and organic bran, and she reasons that she'd rather eat them than factory farmed animals. "The wax moth larva are mostly fat, so they taste like bacon or chicharrones," she says. "And the meal worms taste very nutty."
SFoodie Editor W. Blake Gray tried one of Martinez' tacos at a festival preview and -- for better or worse -- says he couldn't taste the tiny mealworm amid the other strongly flavored ingredients. But Martinez says she is not trying to hide the flavor, she just wants to enhance it, as she would with any other meat.
An additional perk of eating insects is that they take up very little space, says Martinez. "You can raise a thousand meal worms in a 20 inch by 20 inch box," she says. "The waste they produce is minimal, and I feed them organic carrots and organic bran. They don't even need water as they get it from the carrots." Martinez adds that she has several thousand worms and over 10,000 wax moth larva packed in her fridge right now. "They all fit!" she says, happily. We're impressed, but still a little squeamish just thinking about it.
If the thought of bug-food intrigues you more than it makes you queasy, or if you just want to dare yourself to trying something new, here's your chance. Bon appetit!