On Mexican Crickets, Hypocrisy, and Shame

“If you want to be more adventurous and get more crunch, try the larger crickets.”

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I did not want to try the larger crickets. I did not even want to try the smaller crickets. But in Mexico, on the second day of a week-long academic adventure with my classmates, I was being asked to face one of my fears head on, or more accurately, antennae on.

My fear is not of eating bugs, but rather of being found out as a small-minded hypocrite amongst my peers. Friends and family know me for my enthusiasm and passion for food, which has lead me to pursue a graduate degree to study the economic, social, and cultural aspects of the topic. But only those very close to me know one of my deepest, most shameful secrets: I am not an adventurous eater. I am not into offal, or steak tartare, or oysters. The thought of splitting open a lobster does not excite me – it confuses me with the amount of effort required for so little reward. Spicy foods are unpleasant at best, and brutally painful most of the time. I don’t even like sushi.

“You must not have had good sushi before,” a shocked new friend will inevitably inform me.

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me.

It’s not that I haven’t tried. I’ve sampled all of these items once or twice, and I try sushi about once a year, just to silence the skeptics. But it is never a pleasant experience. The raw fish, rare animal parts, and tongue-tingling delicacies that delight my classmates and friends just don’t appeal to me. My list of favorite foods sounds like the last meal request of an American inmate whose palate stopped developing at age seven. Give me cheeseburgers, chicken fingers, waffles, and chocolate ice cream with sprinkles, and I’ll die an unimaginative, but happy, death.

I knew that going on an international trip with the specific intent to study another culture’s gastronomy with some seriously passionate and open eaters was going to push me out of my comfort zone. While most Americans think of nachos and burritos when they think of Mexican cuisine, the traditional fare is a rich blend of ancient and modern, with many culinary traditions originating from pre-colonial indigenous cultures. Chapulines, or crickets, are fried, tossed in a variety of spices, and eaten as a crispy snack in the outdoor marketplaces that dot the bustling streets of Mexico City. They are also incredibly healthy and sustainable – crickets are high in protein, low in fat, and require much less fuel to raise than traditional livestock. Even though insects have been notably absent from the diets of North Americans and many Europeans, a recent article in Forbes says 80% of countries in the world already feature them as a normal food staple.

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These are the “small” crickets

As growing economies like China and India develop middle classes with a taste for meat, many scientists believe eating insects is the key to solving the world’s upcoming protein debt. Entrepreneurs worldwide have started betting on their success with the use of cricket flour for baked goods and processed cricket meat for nuggets. At an academic and environmental level, I am a huge supporter of eating insects. They are nutritious, better for the planet, and can be raised and sold by nearly anyone, regardless of social class or land-owning status. But the “ick” factor still radiates from the base of my throat whenever I think about consuming them myself. How do I reconcile such strong cognitive dissonance between my brain and my mouth?

I turned towards Nico, our handsome culinary tour guide, and surveyed the spread of insects on the silver tray he held with his outstretched arm. “I’ll just try a little one,” I said in a tiny voice, pinching the crispy legs of a critter that had been cooked in salt and garlic. I tossed it into my mouth, chewed just long enough to get a hint of flavor, and swallowed quickly, clearing any extraneous body parts from the inside of my cheeks. It tasted a little nutty and had the texture of the burnt, overly fried bits you find in the pan after making hash browns. It certainly wasn’t terrible, but I wasn’t rushing back to pick up the larger insects and risk feeling the separate thorax, legs, and antennae swish around on my tongue.

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I survived!

As my classmates began nodding excitedly and chatting about their enjoyment of the morsels, I flashed a quick smile and stayed quiet. I survived another day of my contradictory existence as an unadventurous food lover, and my secret shame remained hidden with me.

Whole Foods 365 Opened in Downtown Brooklyn And It’s Actually Cheaper Than You Think

There are few things I love in this world more than a good supermarket. One of my favorite ways to de-stress after a hectic day is to stroll through the neatly stacked displays, alone and anonymous, feeling thankful to be present in this moment in culinary history. Five kinds of extra sharp cheddar, pre-spiralized butternut squash noodles, Root Beer Float flavored Chips Ahoy – what a time to be alive!

In this blog, I’ve previously written impassioned announcements of the arrival of Trader Joe’s and Wegmans outposts in New York City locations:

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Actual photo of me excited about Wegmans

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Non actual photo of me excited about Trader Joe’s

Adding to my collection of real and poorly edited images with markets, join me in triumphantly welcoming Whole Foods 365 to Downtown Brooklyn!

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Whole Foods 365 opened this past Wednesday in the bottom floor of 300 Ashland, one of the myriad of luxury high-rises in the area. The budget-friendly store is a smaller version of its big brother, Whole Paycheck. But is it actually easier on your wallet?

I compared the prices of staple items here to my normal grocery store, the Stop and Shop at Atlantic Terminal, five minutes away from 365. Much to my surprise, 365 is beating Stop and Shop in pricing for nearly every item. See below for a detailed breakdown:

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In addition to being cheaper, 365 is downright classy. Here’s a photo tour of the new digs:

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The store has a lot of Fort Greene signage, despite arguably being located in Downtown Brooklyn

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The upstairs section has several fast casual food stalls and this tablet-heavy self-serve alcohol situation

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Don’t forget about Amazon!

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Descending into market madness

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One of the workers I spoke with said the avocados were the best deal in the store. Can’t argue.

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SEND PRE-SPIRALIZED NOODZ

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Lest you think you’ll only find kale and quinoa, behold a mighty impressive selection of tall boys.

Saige C., who lives in East Flatbush but works in the area, struck up a conversation as I devoured a quick dinner from the hot bar.  When I asked her how she felt about the store, her feelings were mixed.

“I’m proud of the jobs the new store is creating,” said Saige, “but I think their use of Fort Greene all around the store is unnecessary. We’re in Downtown Brooklyn, which is already pretty gentrified. They should stop trying to make Fort Greene part of their brand.”

But if your sustainable seafood doesn’t come from a neighborhood with tree-lined, brownstone speckled streets, is it even worth buying?

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Food Studies WEEK: Interview 5 – Writer / Cookbook Author

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Last spring, I was going through a bout of particularly persistent anxiety with a tinge of depression that left me constantly panicked, but lacking the motivation to do anything about it. It felt like I was going down the wrong paths in many aspects of my life. My therapist recommended more physical activity, so I started walking the 40 minutes to and from work. And I started listening to podcasts, my favorite being Radio Cherry Bombe on the Heritage Radio Network. I listened to dozens of conversations with inspiring women in food entrepreneurship, journalism, and social justice. Radio Cherry Bombe opened my eyes to all the career possibilities out there for women interested in food, and is probably a large part of why I started in the NYU Food Studies program.

On the other side of those conversations was Julia Turshen, host of Radio Cherry Bombe. Her kindness and intellect always shone through in her interviews, and you could tell she really loved each individual story and treasured her guests. I was enamored with her passion and looking for guidance, so I reached out on social media, and Julia graciously agreed to chat with me about my career path. While I’m still figuring it out, I’m definitely a step closer than I was back then, and I certainly owe her a debt of gratitude.

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In addition to her podcast work, Julia is most well known for being a home cook and writer, and one of her early claims to fame was coauthoring a cookbook with Gwyneth Paltrow. Since then, she has written her own cookbooks, including Small Victories, which was named one of the best books of 2016 by The New York Times and NPR. I have my own personal copy which she signed at an event last year, and its one of my most prized possessions.

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This year, Julia has been an active voice for social justice, particularly with her new cookbook Feed the Resistance, named the best cookbook of 2017 by Eater. I haven’t purchased my copy yet because I suspect it is being gifted to me this holiday season, but if I make it through December and remain book-less, it will be my first purchase of 2018. Also, she’s donating all proceeds from the book to the ACLU.

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I think that’s enough fangirling for now. I only asked Julia a few questions since I know she’s a busy lady, so without further ado…


Q: How long have you been in the food industry?
A: 10 years formally, but really my whole life.

Q: How did you end up here?
A: For me it wasn’t so much that I ended up in this field. I honestly never considered anything else and can’t imagine not doing what I do. I have loved food and cooking since before I can remember. I studied writing in college with the intention of writing about food and working on cookbooks.

Q: What are the biggest challenges in your work?
A: For me personally, it’s challenging not always knowing what’s next and managing irregular income. I think the largest problem the cookbook industry faces is a severe lack of diversity at every level from authors to agents, editors, photographers, and publishers.

Q: What do you like most about what you do?
A: Getting to tell stories.

Q: Any advice for budding writers?
A: It’s always important to remember that writers, even those of us who don’t employ anyone, are small business owners and we need to set ourselves up as such. Get an accountant, start an LLC, etc.

Q: If there was one thing you could change about your industry, what would that be?
A: I would change the range of perspectives and backgrounds of the folks in the rooms where the decisions happen.

The Museum of Ice Cream is as great as it sounds

OMG did you know there’s a Museum of Ice Cream now in New York City? Are you just finding out about this? Do you think that would be a fun thing to do?

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Too bad. By the time the news hit The New York Times, all 30,000 tickets for the limited-time, summer-only pop up museum were sold out.

Thanks to being a loyal Gothamist reader, I found out about the museum on July 9th and promptly bought four tickets at $15/each face value. I put my tickets up for sale last week on Craigslist for a day for $150, a 900% markup, just to see if they would sell. I had 5 inquiries within 24 hours, and one threatening email telling me, “That’s honestly ridiculous, greedy and downright outrageous. I hope you have zero luck selling these tickets.” While the lady had a point, she clearly didn’t realize how far people are willing to go to experience this limited-time engagement.

If you’re shit out of luck and don’t want shell out one hundred fifty smackaroos, don’t fret: Little Girl Big Mouth is here to show you exactly what you’re missing. Sorry. (Not sorry.)

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Room 1: Ice cream! That you eat!

I had a pretty deep rooted fear that the Museum of Ice Cream was just going to involve looking at ice cream and talking about ice cream and there wouldn’t be any real ice cream consumption. Thankfully, my suspicions were proved wrong within two seconds of entering the building. You start the tour with a custom scoop of ice cream made especially for the museum.

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Blue Marble with Kellogg’s: Organic Vanilla with Froot Loops, Lime Zest, Marshmallows, Passion Fruit Jam

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Scoop shot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Different local ice cream vendors will be offering scoops of custom creations depending on when you visit the museum. Scoop schedule:

7.29 – 8.8: Blue Marble & Kellogg’s
8.10 – 8.15: Oddfellows Ice Cream Co.
8.17 – 8.22: McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream & Maman
8.24 – 8.31: Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
8.8 & 8.15: Black Tap

Room 2: Edible balloons that aren’t ice cream but are still fun

This room is called the “cone room” because it’s decorate with a bunch of waffle cone paraphernalia, but the real star of the show is the candy balloon filled with helium that they hand each patron. The balloon is pretty sticky and disgusting but the results are fun:

Room 3: Creating the world’s biggest sundae with freakish non-melting ice cream

This room was a dud. They tell you some history about ice cream and then ask everyone to pick up a sticky scooper and spoon out some magical non-melting ice cream to throw on top of a goblet. You don’t get to put anything in your mouth in this room, so it is inherently less fun. They also encourage you to take a selfie with the oversized bowl of unknown substance. Non-melting ice cream is an abomination and it upsets me.

 

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I know I look happy but I am truly terrified of the non-melting ice cream

Room 4: The chocolate room, where you can put things in your mouth again

Chocolate! Everyone loves chocolate! This was mostly a space filled with projector screens showing images of flowing liquid chocolate. There was a chocolate fountain in the corner but they tell you in advance not to touch it or drink from it, which I get for hygenic reasons, but still a bummer. Thankfully, there are individually wrapped Dove chocolates all over this room for you to eat while marveling at the melting imagery on the walls.

Room 5: This is what you came for: the (fake) sprinkle pool

The sprinkle pool at the MOIC is probably going to be in the top 5 things instagrammed in NYC this summer. The museum has been pushing this image hard in their promotional efforts, and for good reason: the thing is pretty fucking cool and everyone looks glamorous in a backdrop of rainbows. The caveat: it’s not real sprinkles. The pool is filled with little plastic beads that you find in between your toes hours later. Next to the pool, there are plastic bins filled with gummies, more chocolate, and other sugar delivery devices, so you can literally have your cake and eat it too, or in this case, have your candy and eat it in a pool full of imitation sprinkles.

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Dad wondering what the hell this is

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Even if I paid $15 just to get this photo, kind of worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Room 6: Take this pill and eat this ice cream that came out of nowhere, you’ll be fine, I swear.

As you enter this room, an attendant gives you a pellet of concentrated synsepalum ducificum, more commonly known as magic berries (you can buy them on Amazon for $15/pack). The chemicals in the pellet bind to the sweet receptors on your tongue and make sour food taste sweet for about a half hour. To test the effects, a spooky glove-covered hand appears from behind a wall and hands you tart frozen yogurt and lemon slices.

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Room 7: Tinder is here for some reason

The final room is sponsored in part by Tinder, which doesn’t have much to do with ice cream, but okay sure we’ll go with it. There’s a giant ice cream sandwich you can swing on and an ice cream scoop see-saw. But, again, nothing to put in your mouth, so kind of a lackluster finale.

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My parents are actually pretty cute on this giant ice cream sandwich

So that’s the museum! I got to put things in my (little girl big) mouth in 5 out of 7 rooms, and that’s more than I get in a normal museum, so this was an overall win. Go team!

 

 

MealPass! Like ClassPass, but food.

For those of you that don’t obsessively scan the NYC food blogs, YUUUGE news on the weekday lunch beat: MealPass is coming and it could very possibly change your life. If you work between 10th St and 34th St, between 3rd Ave and 8th Ave, LISTEN UP. You work in the MealPass zone. (Those outside the zone are welcome to keep listening.)

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MealPass is a lunch subscription service brought to you by the creators of ClassPass. You pay $99/month and get access to one lunch per day at over 120 restaurants in the Midtown/Flatiron area. Each restaurant offers one option each day, and the following day’s menu is posted at 7:00PM the night before. As long as you order by 9:30AM that day, you can waltz into the restaurant, skip the line, pick up your item from the cashier, and sashay out like queen of the world. If the service works the way MealPass claims it should, some potential pros and cons:

The Pros:

Price. The most exciting part of MealPass? The cost. For $99/month, with five weekday meals included, that breaks down to about $5 per meal if you use it every day. This is significantly cheaper than newly launched lunchtime players Maple ($12), Fastbite by Caviar ($15-$17), and UberEats ($16-$20). Put all that extra money in your Roth IRA like the millennial your parents wish you were.

Speed. Have you ever waited in a sweetgreen line a few weeks before peak #croptopseason? Brutal. Your meal will be ready at a designated time and you can get back to work faster.

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Options. MealPass currently has 120 restaurants in its roster, and that’s just for the initial launch. Stand out selections include Blue Smoke, Choza Taqueria, Joe’s Pizza, and ilili Box.

The Cons:

Options. Wait, wasn’t this just a pro? Having 120 options each day can lead to choice paralysis, or what I call “The Cheesecake Factory Effect”. Maybe you want the Tex Mex Eggrolls, but shittttt what about the Louisiana Chicken Pasta, but damn the Factory Nachos look good oh FUCK IT just bring me ten loaves of the brown bread.

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Timing. You have to decide what you want for lunch either after 7:00PM the night before, or before 9:30AM that day. Good luck remembering to make your choices during the times you’re least likely to be by a computer.

Portions. MealPass launched in Boston and Miami in January. If you can get past the impassioned bickering about the size of a normal cheeseburger, this Boston Chowhound thread shows some early complaints about portion sizes being significantly smaller than advertised.

Delivery. Per the laws of physics, my body at rest in my desk chair tends to stay at rest. I’d actually have to get off my lazy ass and go outside with the masses to pick up the food.

The Verdict:

Who knows! The service launches today and my office is in Soho, so I’m not a great candidate. I’m doomed to $13 turkey sandwiches from Dean and Deluca and $8 pureed raspberries from Joe and the Juice, but if you’re in MealPass’ sweet spot, sign up here: https://mealpass.com/

Read more here:

MealPass, a ClassPass-Style Lunch Service, Launches in NYC This Week – Eater

Mealpass is a money-saving Classpass for your weekday lunch – Time Out NY

A tradition continues: LGBM and family try Japanese KitKats

My brother recently traveled to Tokyo, and knowing my fascination with foreign junk foods, he brought back some treats: purple sweet potato KitKats:

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Apparently purple sweet potatoes are served whipped in a wonton wrapper?

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Ooohhh ahhhh presentation…

I first subjected my other family members to the confectionery experiment:

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And then summoned all of my bravery to try myself:

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See the full videos with all of the giggles and facial expressions here:

BREAKING NEWS: TRADER JOE’S IS COMING TO MURRAY HILL

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I’ve lived in Murray Hill for over 5 years. I’m not proud of it, but I’m not NOT proud of it.

When I first moved in, there was an overpriced, cramped D’Agostinos and a smelly, generally upsetting Gristedes. Times were bleak.

In 2012, Fairway arrived like a shiny beacon of prepared food-laden, produce-stacked hope. The subterranean space revolutionized my grocery game. But the cheap frozen foods and cheery Hawaiian-shirt clad staff of Trader Joe’s was still 13 blocks away. Much too far for a Little Girl with Big Bags of food.

(Also there was this one time where a Trader Joe’s checkout guy asked me out via a note in my bag of apples and we went out once and he told me his hobbies included drawing graffiti in subway tunnels but that is neither here nor there.)

EVERYTHING IS ABOUT TO CHANGE. Trader Joe’s is moving into the old Food Emporium space on 32nd and 3rd Ave in fall of 2016. Looks like I’ll be staying in my apartment in Fratty Hill for the rest of my life. Check out the original article below for more details:

Trader Joe’s Coming to Kips Bay – DNAinfo

We’re just waiting on you now Wegmans.