I tear open a package that looks like a bag of chips, reach inside, and pop some cooked crickets and mealworms into my mouth.
You may be thinking, "Ewww."
To understand how I got here, I turn the clock back a few days to when my editor has a brainstorm. He notices that the newly opened MOM's Organic Market at 34 S. 11th St. in Center City is selling bugs. As food. For humans. "Why don't you try it out?" he asks.
I'm excited because I think he said "orgasmic market."
Anyway, at MOM's I'm shown around by general manager Jennifer Weigel, who opened the store last month.
What I call the bug department she calls the "sustainable protein" department.
"Conventional meat is not sustainable," she says, because it contributes to greenhouse gas (cows fart a lot, true story) and growing crops for cattle to eat demands a lot of acreage.
"Insects are not in short supply," she adds with a sweet smile. Suddenly, I am feeling itchy.
Not to gross you out, but a number of futurists are saying that because insects are abundant and cheap and rich in protein, they are an excellent source of nourishment for humans.
Back in the bug — I mean, sustainable — department, Weigel points out a few packages containing several varieties of crickets under the Don Bugito brand name. They come in foil bags the size of a small bag of chips, but more costly: Chili Lime Crickets ($4.99), Coconut Brittle Bugitos ($4.99), Dark Chocolate Crickets with Amaranth Seeds ($5.99).
I open each bag for a quick taste test. They don't look like bugs, they don't smell like bugs.
"It's mind over matter," Weigel says. "Don't think about it."
Not thinking usually works for me. I take (very) small handfuls, and find that each tastes like the advertised flavor, not like bugs.
I pop a Coconut Brittle Bugito into my mouth. The Don Bugito website tells me these are "mealworms fully toasted for crunch and then covered with melted sugar and organic dry coconut. Think caramelized popcorn minus the carbs and the fat, yet loaded with protein and amino acids! The perfect sweet treat that is good for you and good for the planet!"
Then it says: "All of Don Bugito's mealworms come from a farm dedicated to raising the highest quality insects for human consumption. Mealworms are farmed and raised with a natural diet of bran and carrots."
Then I take a small scoop of BBQ crickets, $79.84 a pound. My 0.02 ounce serving costs 80 cents, and they are tasty. "They are flying off the shelves," beams Weigel.
You may be thinking: OK, Stu will do anything for a story, but what about normal people?
Five of seven shoppers whom I stop at random agree to try the insects.
Reluctant at first, Center City's Ken Doran puts a few chili lime crickets in his mouth, then begins hopping and chirping. "It's got a little tang to it," he says.
His friend Jim Hughes, also of Center City, tries the dark chocolate and says, "All you taste is the chocolate, it's not like a critter."
Each happily tries all three flavors. "Are we overstaying our welcome?" asks Hughes.
Pam Andrews of University City loves the coconut brittle, noting: "When you hide it in sugar, it's really edible." Adrienne Kasprowicz of Southwest Center City says, "It's not the first time I've eaten bugs, but it's certainly the tastiest."
Pensive at first, Fairmount's Nissa Eisenberg decides the chocolate tastes salty and the chili lime is "sour and spicy."
Are insects coming to your menu?
In the 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner, food stalls sell insects as take-out fast food. The new Blade Runner 2049 ups the ante, with grubs for grub.
You may be thinking: Yeah, I remember what was used for food in Soylent Green — and I'm not eating that either.