Few cities are as hospitable to insect life as New Orleans, where infestations mark the changing of the seasons: swarming termites and spiny caterpillars in the spring, stinkbugs and West Nile-infected mosquitoes in the summer, love bugs in the fall, and Buck Moths in the winter. These bugs are all on display at the Audubon Insectarium, the largest museum of its kind in the United States, as are many more exotic specimens: walking leaf insects, dead leaf insects, spiny devil walking sticks, millipedes, and pink katydids the color of cotton candy.
Three times a day, chefs from such New Orleans restaurants like Brennan’s and Dooky Chase hold cooking exhibitions in the Bug Appétit room of the Tiny Termite Cafe. The walls are decorated with blown-up photographs of mealworms and honey ants; built into the glass tables are display cases containing live tarantulas and giant beetles the size of a child’s fist. The chefs serve insect dishes with a Cajun twist. The Crispy Cajun Crickets resemble spicy, toasted sunflower seeds. Red Beans and Yikes!!! contains, in place of rice, blanched white mealworms. The mildly acrid worms burst in your mouth like ripe currants. For dessert: Chocolate Chirp Cookies.
The Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium is located inside the U.S. Custom House: 423 Canal Street, at the corner of North Peters. Insect cooking demonstrations and tastings daily at 11 AM, 1 PM, and 3 PM. For more information, visit auduboninstitute.org.
Photo: Queen leaf cutter ants on toast points with cucumber and cream cheese.
Audubon Insectarium, A facility of Audubon Nature Institute. New Orleans, Louisiana
423 Canal Street,
New Orleans, LA