Grasshoppers have taken over Safeco Field, and I don’t mean the actual field where the game happens.
Stadium chef Taylor Park has added a number of items to this year’s menu for the Seattle Mariners’ home, ranging from gigantic short ribs to a conveyor belt-driven donut machine. And apparently, last year’s fried grasshoppers were such a hit, they’re back for a second year.
The food in the ballpark is almost as important as the game itself (or more, depending on who you talk to). But traditionally, game-goers want burgers, peanuts and lots and lots of hot dogs. You’d think the baseball crowd would run away at the very idea of paying $4 for a 30-pack of grasshoppers, but Safeco Field sold over 18,000 of them in 2017. In fact, the bugs were so popular that the stadium had to impose a limit on how many one person could order.
Called chapulines, the grasshoppers come courtesy of upscale Seattle restaurant Poquitos. The bugs are imported from Mexico (they’re a popular snack in Oaxaca), then fried up with chile-lime seasoning.
Now, the baseball stadium is definitely a place where fun, over-the-top foods are encouraged, from three-pound banana splits to this foot-long hot dog filled with tamales. But most of those foods are just larger-than-life versions of existing ballpark fare, whereas grasshoppers are a distinctly new concession.
The fact that these bugs are back on the menu this year just goes to prove that the edible insect movement is becoming more and more the norm (at least in certain parts of the country). The global insects market is expected to hit $1.2 billion by 2023. And while dwindling food resources and a growing population are the main drivers for that number, it doesn’t hurt that a group as all-American as baseball fans are on board.
In fact, it could help. Just as celebrities may be able to help the average Westerner get over the “ew yuck” factor that comes with eating bugs, if more sports venues start serving insects it could be a tremendous opportunity to reach and educate a whole new set of consumers.
And frankly, if forced to choose between a plate of chile-lime grasshoppers and something like a Cracker Jack and Mac Dog, I’d take the bugs any day of the week. Let’s hope that, in time, many sports fans will feel the same.