Eating weird shit is sexy. There’s nothing like a little slimy revulsion to make a date realize what’s not gross: you. Creepy shit has always made panties drop; it’s the reason why horror movies exist, and why sushi took over America. For the price of omakase, a sushi first-date was a simple way to showcase your fearlessnes and readiness to get experimental throughout the 1980s (West Coast), 1990s (East Coast), and 2000s (everywhere else). Emphasis on was.
Unfortunately those of us who live in 2015, sushi is kinda basic, and if you’re looking to seduce your date with new exotic tastes, there’s pretty much only one frontier left to explore: bugs.
My hypothesis: 2015 will be the year we take a date out to eat bugs.
To see if this theory has any merit, I invited a first date to Typhoon, a Thai restaurant at the Santa Monica airport known for its views of landing planes and a menu full of insect-forward options. Since everyone knows the answer to the question, “Hey, you wanna go out with me this Saturday … and eat bugs?” I left that part out of my invitation. Maybe, like a horror film, eating bugs will be a good surprise—a sexy shock.
When my date steps in the door she moves with confidence, and a lightness that suggests she’s open to what life offers. Her wide-eyed curiosity makes me wonder if she’ll eat bugs, and if so, how sexy she’ll look eating scorpions. She sees me waiting, and smiles.
“Wait, you’re seriously going to eat bugs?” she asks when I tell her about my plans.
I place my menu on the table. “I don’t even need to look at this because I’m ordering all the insect dishes.”
She shakes her head.
“So … you wanna eat bugs with me?” I ask, like I’m inviting her to the prom.
“I was worried you would want to. I Yelped this place before I came here. I saw people mentioned eating bugs. So, I sorta prepared myself.“
The waiter arrives at our table with a big friendly grin, the kind of smile that sells used cars. My date orders a noodle dish. I order all the bugs on the menu.
Twenty minutes later, he comes back with three plates of insects, her pad thai, and a platter of dipping sauces (which are among the sexiest condiments). The waiter indicates the dipping sauces, and tells us, “Most people like the peanut butter. Not as much as the chocolate. But you might like them all. You should try them all.”
We stare at the fried bugs. There’s really not much you can say about a plate of insects. It’s not like, “Mmm, don’t these bugs smell good?” Nope! They smell like fried insects. Imagine licking the floor of a burned-out pet store. That’s the aroma of our dinner. We’re not off to the sexiest of starts. I pick out a meaty silkworm pupae—the scariest of the options—and drag it through the chocolate sauce.
Dish 1: Silkworm Pupae
After a moment of hesitation, I pop the fried worm in my mouth. At first, it’s not bad. There’s almost no taste. It’s all chocolate syrup and fried salty pet store. Then, I bite down. The worm pops! A jet of hot bitter bug guts shoots against the back of my throat. How this could ever become an acquired taste escapes me.
I think: spit this terrible shit from your mouth.
But then, I hear a gentlemanly part of me say, in a Southern drawl, “Do not spit hot bug guts at your date.”
The chocolate flavor is long gone. I chew on the bug and it squirts again. I mash the bug in my teeth until there’s nothing left but the bitterness of guts coating my tongue. I drown what’s left of the silkworm with beer.
After the first bug I’m no longer worried about looking like a fool, since I already exhibited thirty-one flavors of embarrassing. When I finish wiping my mouth, and rubbing my tongue with my napkin, I meet eyes with my date, and ask her, "So, which bug do you wanna try?”
She looks at me like I handed her old chewing gum that was stuck under the table. But then, a curious grin spreads across her face. She picks out a cricket. With a swipe through the chili paste, she’s ready to try her first bug.
Dish 2: Taiwanese Crickets
She pops it in her mouth and chews. She looks thoughtful (which is a sexy look). After contemplating its flavor, she swallows the bug. There’s no puke-face. No coughing, or gagging. Meanwhile, I’m using beer to wash away the memory of my silkworm money shot.
“How are the crickets?” I ask.
“Kinda okay,” she says with a smile, “The chili paste helps.”
I should’ve gone spicy. I decide to try a cricket, heavy on the hot sauce. When I push the cricket past my teeth and chew, there’s a mellow, almost nutty taste, paired with a light crunch. My date decides to try a silkworm pupae. Unlike our waiter, I warn her about the hot squirt of bug guts.
When she bites down, her eyes reveal the exact moment when the pupae explodes with flavor. She makes a horrified face, then sorta coughs, and sticks out her tongue.
“You want another silkworm? Pretty terrible, right?” I ask.
She shakes her head. After she washes the horrid little bug down with a swallow of wine, she says, “So far, eating bugs has been like the first time I had sex. I actually enjoyed it the first time, but the second time was … horrible.”
I tell her how that’s kinda the opposite for me. The first time with sex didn’t last long enough, but my first bug, it lasted way too long.
My date laughs and says, “The silkworm pupae … tastes like shoelaces.”
After embarrassing myself further and struggle-swallowing about twenty more pupae, I would add, the silkworms never get any better. But hey, I’m no Anthony Bourdain. Keep that in mind. I order my eggs super well done.
After stomaching all the silkworm pupae I can stand, I tell my date I hope she still has room because … we saved the best for last!
Dish 3: Singapore-Style Scorpions
Scorpions on garlic toast look like an appetizer they’d serve at a drug cartel’s pool party. We each try one having no idea what to expect, other than terrible breath.
Surprisingly, scorpions have the lightest flavor. Lacking the nutty crunch of crickets, they’re almost a letdown. Then, just when you’re about to give up on scorpions, there’s a peppery after-burn. It’s followed by a smooth velveteen finish like a good tequila. I ask my date which bug was her favorite.
“The crickets, by far, because … you don’t really taste shit,” she says with a sexy giggle.
I prefer the scorpions. But she has a point about the crickets. That’s why I’d bet on crickets to win over the Western palate. They don’t taste like much of anything, but America really loves a food that gives good crunch. Especially, if it goes well with binge-watching Netflix. (Combine a horror flick with some crickets and who knows what will happen on your next date.)
In the parking lot, my date confesses tonight was not what she expected. But she had fun. Up against her car, we make-out like teenagers that left the drive-in and have nowhere to go. After kissing off all her lipstick, I promise that, next time, I’ll take her some place nice that serves something tasty and real, like raw fish eggs, or maybe, live octopus.