Ants: An Acquired Taste

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

There are so many "freaky" eats around the world. Or we think they're freaky because we're looking in with our outside perspective. . . .

here is my personal freaky eat, ants! (photo source, which has beautiful information on them in Spanish)

My family is from the Eastern coast of Mexico, and although we look close to the ocean on this map we aren't. We live right on the border of two states so it's hard for me to choose which one I'm from but these days I lean towards Veracruz.

One of the stranger things my family, and those from our area, enjoys to eat are what we call chicalas, also known as chicatanas. They are large flying ants that normally come out during the rainy season. One of my favorite childhood memories was our grandmother waking us up in the early hours of the night, grabbing brooms and buckets and going out to the street. There, we would wait until hundreds of these flying ants would gather around a street light and hit them with our brooms to disorient the ants and put them in our buckets and plastic bags. While you bend down to pick the ones on the floor, the ones buzzing would hit your back. It wouldn't just be our family but our neighbors as well. After we felt we had enough and the amount of flying ants decreased, we went back inside to count our loot. I don't ever remembering questioning whether or not it was something normal.

Except for the one or two I would decide to keep as a temporary pet, their wings were removed, they were washed, and you would pick one of many different ways to eat them! The easiest is to just roast them in a pan until crunchy and eat them like a quick snack- just add salt & pepper and top with your favorite hot sauce. Or, you can put them into a salsa or mix them into the tortilla dough (though the last might have been a fabricated memory of mine). At this time, a lot of people around town are enjoying them or they can be sold and bought for a nice price.

I will be honest and say that I have never been a big Chicala eater. My dad and sister, on the other hand, are something else. They absolutely love them. I remember one summer my dad stayed in the states while we traveled. On our way back to GA, we had a bag of them (already roasted) in our suitcase. I remember dreading the idea of immigration officials questioning us about ants in our luggage. Luckily, we were fine and they were kept in our freezer for our dad to enjoy. I asked Emily to help me remember whether they took the wings off or not and she said she thinks they kept them on because she remembers them sticking in her throat (they are removed). When I asked about their legs, we decided they stayed on since we remember seeing all the tiny legs at the bottom of the bag or bowl (but they might have just been missed). I was thinking of a reason why I wasn't the biggest fan while she was thinking of why she was, and at the same time we said: "they're so smokey."

Recipe: Chicalas en Salsa Macha

  • chicalas
  • chile verde (serrano/jalapeno)
  • sal

The wings are removed from the ants. They are then washed and roasted in a comal (pan). Next, roast the chiles and grind them on the molcajeteAdd the chicalas, salt, and continue to grind. You can add water if the sauce is very dry and ungrindable. Enjoy! (source)

(picture taken from this blog, I have also taken their recipe and translated from Spanish to English. I had a moment because the blog location is listed exactly like my municipality and state, but it doesn't seem to be the same)

The blog where I found this recipe specifies that this is a (unsurprisingly) pre-Hispanic recipe. I have never thought about it in that way, but I am happy to be able to share in a delicacy that is not only centuries old, but was practiced by my indigenous ancestors. This is important to me because being American-born distances me from Mexican-ness. Then my European-ness, like some of my features, my religion, my language, takes away from my indigenous-ness. But when I eat handmade tortillas, chiles, use a molcajete (photo above) I really do find some magic and resilience in it. ✌🏾

another video of them being cooked:

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