If this wasn't a travel blog, it would probably be a food blog. I love visiting restaurants, reviewing food and sharing my experience with others. I'm also very picky about food, so I won't say that good food is bad, or bad food is good.
That being said, I love to try new food. I don't always like it, but I love growing my culinary palate. While travelling the world I've had some strange food encounters, like raw horse (yum), ox tongue (yum), boiled eggplant (yum, unless you mistook it as a chocolate cupcake, in which case not yum) and, the one I am most known for, dogduck (very yum).
But, throughout all my travels, the one thing I've always wanted to try was bugs. By bugs I don't mean raw earthworms pulled from my parent's garden. Those are gross and have chunky dirt inside them and they don't taste very good. Instead, I mean prepared bugs. Bugs that have been fried or baked or turned into paste and put onto crackers. Think "Grasshopper and Strawberry Jam" bugs; that kind of thing.
Unfortunately, bugs aren't a common staple in North American diet. If you ask for a dish and there's a bug in it, you take it back to the kitchen.
But, what if the bug is supposed to be there?
That's what happened on my recent trip to Lethbridge's Whoop-Up Days. I was hungry, so I decide to check out some of the food trucks and I came across a truck for MeltTownGrilledCheese.com. Their main dishes were grilled cheese sandwiches and poutine. However, they decided to mix things up a bit and add a scoop of crickets to the dish.
Yes, real crickets! Like the kind you buy at the pet store!
The cricket grilled cheese sandwich was $2 more than the regular sandwich, but apparently, they were all sold out of bread when I visited. This should have been enough to deter me, but instead I inquired about the cricket poutine. It was also $2 more, so I bought it.
And everybody around me gagged.
When the poutine arrived, it looked like a normal poutine with a scoop full of brown crickets on top. You could see their arms and legs, heads, eyes and shell. I twirled my fork into the dish, picked a fry with some extra cheese and a single cricket on it and ate it.
I didn't taste anything.
I tried a few more crickets.
I tasted them this time, but they didn't taste like much. They were a bit crispy, kind of like the tips of an over-cooked French fry, and they had a little crunch to them like a small nut or some Bacon Bits. As for a direct taste, I'm not sure if the cheese and gravy masked it, but I didn't taste anything.
The only part I didn't like about crickets was their legs. Their back legs are long and tough and occasionally got caught I my teeth. For me, it was like having a small, hard piece of grass in my teeth and I had to pick it out afterwards. I felt it was no different than eating chicken wings, except they are bug legs.
But, the biggest question you're probably asking is why I ate a cricket poutine.
Well, crickets, and insects in general, are an excellent substitute for red and white meat. Per pound, crickets have three times as much protein than beef, more iron than spinach and more calcium than milk. They have all nine essential amino acids, have a perfect Omega 3:6 ratio and are high in fibre. They also have 20 times the amount of B12 than beef.
Besides being very healthy, they are also a more environmental alternative than meat. They need less food and water to grow, they take up much less space and they can be grown everywhere. Unlike chickens or cows that take up a lot of space, you could grow and raise you own crickets in your house and add them to your food. A lot of experts believe that if we switch eating meat to eating insects, we can open a lot more land for farming, reforesting and wildlife, which improves hunger, the environment and the animal kingdom.
With all that in mind, would I eat another cricket poutine? Yes, definitely. I would put crickets on my salad too. Maybe have some chocolate covered crickets. I could snack on crickets instead of cashews at Christmas and try crickets and carrot in my soup. I would love to try ants, maggots and worms too, if I could get my hands on them.
But, that's just me. What about you? Would you try a cricket poutine?
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And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
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Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania shut its doors in 1970. A year later, in 1971, it would briefly reopen and house inmates from Holmesburg Prison after a devastating riot. After the prisoners were returned to Holmesburg, Eastern State would sit empty for over two decades. It would rot, decay and collapse. Trees and shrubs would grow into the structure and a clowder of cats would take residence. These hallowed halls would sit empty, the only noise being the chatter of startled birds and the trotter of feline paws.
The following decades would see various discussions of what to do with the building. Eventually, it was decided to preserve it and turn it into a tourist attraction. Although it officially opened for tours in 1994, attendants would have to sign a waiver and wear hardhats before entering until 2008. They had 10,000 visitors the opening year, a number of tourists not seen in the prison since 1858.
From 1829 to 1970, Eastern State Penitentiary underwent a variety of changes and transformations. This massive, sprawling, 11-acre complex was founded under the belief that solitary confinement was the cure needed to prevent criminals from committing future crimes. It was believed criminals who served in solitary confinement would turn to a higher power to reconcile with themselves for their crimes – hence feeling "penitent". To assist in this process, each cell was equipped with a slit window on the ceiling nicknamed "The Eye of God". It would be the only light source available to the inmate.
A few months ago I entered a contest for a trip for two to visit Philadelphia on Two Bad Tourists. Normally contests like this are limited to United States residents so when I saw this one was open to Canadians I jumped at the chance. I've never won something like this before, so I actually forgot about it until I got the emailing saying I had won. Two Bad Tourists then worked alongside Visit Philly to organise the trip for me and my mother to explore Philadelphia for three days. Visit Philly paid for our flights, hotels and gave us a VIP Pass to experience the city to our heart's content. It is thanks to them that this trip is possible.
Several movies and television shows have tried to capture the essence of Philadelphia over the years – from the boxing Blockbuster Rocky, to the paranormal thriller The Sixth Sense, to It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and even Boy Meets World – but each described the city differently. There is no easy way to approach a city as dynamic as The City of Brotherly Love. With countless layers of art, history, religion and the paranormal, Philadelphia is a city unlike any other throughout the United States.
One thing that surprised me the most about Philadelphia was the history. The city was founded and designed by William Penn, who is also the state of Pennsylvania's namesake. Born in London, England in 1644 he lived through The Great Fire of 1666 and The Great Plague of London from 1665-1666. Both events shaped Penn's life so he designed the city to be strictly stone buildings (to stop fires from spreading) and to have plenty of space between the buildings (as to prevent illness from spreading). This led to the older areas of the city to have winding corridors between old stone walls.
If you've ever passed through Medicine Hat, or you're spending a few days in the area, you've probably wondered what to do there. To most people outside the city, Medicine Hat might seem like a sleepy little prairie town in the Canadian Badlands; but for those who live in Hell's Basement, they'll tell you that this city is one of the most exciting places you can explore in all of Alberta.
I've gone to Medicine Hat three times in the past two years, and while I'm no expert on this thriving city, I know where the hidden gems are. If someone I know is passing through the area, I tell them they need to visit Medicine Hat. To help explain why, I put an article together for anyone else interested in visiting the Hat.
If you're spending 24 hours in Medicine Hat, you'll need somewhere to sleep. Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park is a little under an hour away and a great place to camp. Camping in Cypress gives you the choice to explore the park, the city, and everywhere in between.