Every October the air gets crisp, the leaves change colors, and we launch our highly anticipated Halloween Series. Each flavor represents a spine-chilling spirit of the season—from unloading a trick-or-treat bag filled with candy bars into a butterscotch ice cream to concocting a witches’ brew that tastes just like bubblegum. One of our longest standing flavors on this menu is Don Bugito’s Creepy Crawly Critters, in which the sensation of bugs crawling across your skin is translated by way of toffee-brittle mealworms and chocolate covered crickets tossed in a matcha ice cream. Yes, real bugs. And listen, we get it—insects get a bad rep. But our friend, and founder of Don Bugito, Monica Martinez, is on a mission to change how the world sees (and eats) insects…one mealworm at a time.
Entomophagy, the art of eating insects, existed long before cows, chickens, and pigs in North America. A staple in Mexican Prehispanic cuisine, insects—high in protein, omega 3s, fiber, and amino acids—proved a vital food source for the Aztecs. Growing up in Mexico, Martinez was introduced to these ancestral traditions by her father at an early age, and soon she embarked on a journey to share her culture with the rest of the world.
In 2009, she set out to change the American mindset toward eating insects. "I quickly realized there was no culture of eating insects here," Martinez says. "But then I hosted a dinner in New York City and saw that people were ready."
Today, Martinez raises crickets and mealworms at her urban farm in Oakland. "I compare them to nuts and seeds. They have an earthy, nutty flavor. Mealworms taste just like pecans or walnuts; crickets taste like pepitas." So she approaches them as she would nuts or seeds, toasting them until crunchy and tossing with cayenne pepper, lime juice, and sea salt or melted sugar and coconut.
Not only are insects a delicious protein-packed power food, they’re also better for the environment compared to raising traditional livestock. Martinez’s sustainable, zero-waste farm requires less space than cattle, and uses 80-90 percent of the insect body. A huge number in comparison to traditional livestock that uses only 40 percent of the animal. The other 10-20 percent of the insect is repurposed into a nutrient-dense fertilizer.
Over the past 10 years, Martinez has seen an increase in awareness surrounding edible insects in America, and is excited to continue to see bugs appear in traditional American dishes, like ice cream. In our homage to edible insects, we transform the mealworms into coconut toffee brittle, then coat the crickets in a single origin dark chocolate, before tossing both in a matcha ice cream. Proof that Creepy Crawly Critters are not-so-creepy after all.