May 10 2013 05:40 PM

Or, crunk and crickets

The Madagascar hissing cockroach, paired with Ballast Point Sculpin IPA
Photo by Anita Cheesman

Every 17 years, forces unknown summon hordes of cicadas from the soil like a diminutive zombie apocalypse. Shortly thereafter, they shed their skin and take flight in numbers sufficient to blot out the sun. Entomologists tell us that the cicadas use their limited lifespan exclusively to feed and mate, but I don't buy it. You don't spend 17 years planning a few meals out and a quick lay. Their vast numbers and clandestine tactics clearly telegraph an uprising of an entirely different sort, one with all the horrors of your standard biblical plague. And I'm getting ready.

Luckily, I'm not alone in these suspicions. The vigilant folks at the San Diego Natural History Museum invited 300 likeminded heroes to an evening of Bugs & Beer, part of its newly launched "Nights at the Nat" series. In this survival seminar (cleverly cloaked as an evening of revelry and edification so as not to arouse any arthropod suspicions), we learned how to take America's boundless capacity to eat fried things and turn it into a weapon against our tiny aggressors.

With a tongue emboldened by delicious brews and a stomach primed for vengeance, I grabbed a fistful of curried crickets and tossed them into my mouth. They were surprisingly airy and crisp, with a nutty flavor accentuating the curry. They would make for lovely mindless snacking were it not for the occasional and unmistakable brush of tiny feet skating along my palate. I'll confess to readying a Ballast Point Longfin Lager for a recovery rinse, but I found myself actually enjoying them in tandem. However, the chili-oil-sautéed wax worms, while a fitting accompaniment to the Green Flash Hop Head Red, didn't land quite as gracefully. I can certainly tolerate a soggy noodle now and again, but worms haven't earned quite the same latitude with me. (I'm guessing they were sauced a bit early—a classic rookie wax-worm-preparation mistake.)

While I'd approached the evening with paramilitary intent, further pours from The Lost Abbey, Stone Brewing and Karl Strauss diminished my resolve. Instead, I found myself strolling through the Dr. Entomo's Palace of Exotic Wonders exhibit (open through June 2), marveling at the imposing Goliath Bird-Eating Tarantula while covertly trying to free stubborn exoskeleton shards from between my teeth. 

Not only was this evening winning over my heart and liver, it unwittingly produced a thought in me that may have set the new high watermark for entitlement. I queued up to an exhibit that gave participants a chance to handle various creepy-crawlies. It wasn't marked, but you could find it easily enough by following the shrieks of nervous laughter and outbursts of "OHMYGODIT'SONMYARM!" I waited patiently, but any line that fails to produce beer at the terminus stands little chance of keeping me engaged. It was then I grumpily muttered, "The line to hold this cockroach is waaaay too long," thus birthing the mother of all First World gripes.

Cicadas, I want you to know I no longer hate you. Thanks to The Nat (and the power of beer), I see you for what you are—a bumper crop of lean protein. 

Write to and Ian blogs at and you can follow him on Twitter @iancheesman.


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