The swarms of people crowding the entrance to Faneuil Hall Marketplace on Wednesday were not there to catch a performance by break dancers or street musicians. They had a hankering for some grass- hopper-infused turkey burgers with a side of cricket cookies.
“Most people are creeped out by pests, but all of these people showed up willing to line up and come in to try things out,” said John Myers, president of Ehrlich Pest Control, the company that hosted the charity event, called Pestaurant.
Participants gathered around the plaza at the charity event, challenging one another to toss back peppered mealworms and bite down into cookies with cricket heads poking through the soft dough. Groups of schoolchildren formed a circle, letting out shouts as their peers dropped crunchy insects down their gullets.
Across the way was a cricket-eating contest, and more than a dozen people accepted the challenge. When it was done, some contestants’ faces were contorted in disgust, but others were indifferent.
“That wasn’t so bad,” said Sarah Shaw, after the cricket-eating contest with 19 other contestants. While checking to see whether she had any bug’s legs stuck in her teeth, Shaw compared the three cups she tossed back to “dry weeds.”
“There wasn’t really any cricket flavor there,” she said.
David Craft likened the dried bugs to sawdust.
“I’ve eaten bugs before,” he said, casually. “This was a little easier though because they were dry roasted.”
Donna German, co-owner of Hostess Catering, the company hired to prepare the food for the festival, said the recipes called for 2,500 mealworms, 2,000 crickets, and roughly 1,000 grasshoppers.
“It was a fantastic challenge cooking with bugs, and I got to understand the importance of spreading knowledge about what a valuable source of food they are,” she said.
The Pestaurant menu included mealworm fried rice, chocolate chirp cookies, “clorm” chowder (with worms), and grasshopper turkey burgers.
For each meal eaten, Ehrlich donated money to the Greater Boston Food Bank.
The options proved popular, despite the crunchy element in each dish.
Visnja Zarak, German’s business partner, said she had “repeat offenders” coming back for seconds and thirds of the grasshopper-laced burgers they were grilling up for curious patrons.
On his first try, Shakeib Afzal said he kept biting into loose grasshopper legs in his burger.
“They’re hard to cut through,” he said.