This in not an official U.S. Department of State (DOS) blog and the views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the DOS.
Yes, I actually ate one and I have survived!
OK, let me tell you the story. Since I’ve been coming to Uganda in Summer 2011, I’ve heard about the local delicacy of grasshoppers. I’m not sure how it originally came up because it wasn’t grasshopper season, but it did during a local feast held at the end of our first successful trip to Uganda. While we were munching away on other, more normal foods, someone started talking about grasshoppers. All of the Ugandans raved about them. It is funny because as soon as you ask almost any Ugandan about whether they like grasshoppers, they get this cute smile on their faces and say something like “oh yeah!” In fact, today is the first time ever that I’ve found a Ugandan who actually doesn’t like them. And his face looked exactly like mine probably did when I first learned about them- all squished up and a little nauseated. Anyway, that first summer, one of the Americans at the party who had lived in Uganda for a year or more quickly spoke up and said he really liked them too, and that they tasted a little like shrimp. I was told that the “season” usually occurs in late November or December. In the villages, when someone notices the grasshoppers swarming, they run throughout the town calling “Nsenene, Nsenene”!! (pronounced sin-nee-nee) Then all the people stop working and run to where they are and start trying to capture them. One of the most common ways, and I guess this must be done in the evening, is to get a piece of metal and hold it above a large container of water. Then you shine a light at the metal which causes a reflection to draw the attention of the grasshoppers. They fly straight into the metal and get knocked out and fall into the water. They are scooped up, their wings are pulled off, and then they are dumped into a frying pan. You apparently don’t need any oil because there is a lot of fat that dissolves out of the grasshoppers as they cook. I’ve been told people usually like them either fried really crispy or some like them soft and mushy in the middle but crispy on the outside. You can also throw in diced green pepper and onions for an extra tasty treat.
The one I ate yesterday was fried nice and crispy with the perfect amount of salt (see the picture). My housemate, Monty, tried them first, before I came home from the Pharmacy School. When he told me they weren’t bad, and in fact, they were pretty good, I decided that I needed to have the guts to try them too. So, I built up my courage and then got out the container. Wow- I wasn’t expecting the eyes to be still on them. That took me by surprise and I almost lost my courage. But, not to be out done by Monty, I just had to do it. So, I got 2 bottles of water, just in case it was horrible, and opened them and sat them next to the container on the counter. Then, I quickly picked up a grasshopper and tossed it in my mouth. I started crunching it up very quickly and I wish I would have given Monty the camera to take my picture because I’m sure it was a site to see. Although I was squeamish about the act of chewing up the grasshopper, it actually didn’t taste bad at all- just different. It wasn’t a displeasing taste. The outside was crunchy and reminded me of the hulls on pumpkin seeds that we eat after roasting them in the oven. The inside was a little soft but not at all mushy- thank goodness! And, I agree that it tasted a little like shrimp. So, I survived and will probably eat some more in the future but I’m not sure that I am anywhere near saying that this is a delicacy for me. But, who knows… Maybe they will grow on me….