On January 18, 2016

Free range treats

By Dom Cioffi

I had the opportunity to eat something bizarre recently when a good friend offered me a handful of chocolate-covered crickets.

We were sitting around his kitchen having a cocktail during the Christmas break when he pulled out a small plastic bag. The package was opened, but looked to be mostly full (I took that as a sign that, when first unsealed, those present didn’t think the contents were delicious enough to finish off).

My friend assured me that the crickets were of the highest quality and even went so far as to pull up the manufacturer’s website to read their statement of quality:

“Our oven toasted crickets are hand dipped in Guittard semisweet dark chocolate and are a good source of protein and fiber. No colors or preservatives are added. All of our crickets come from a farm dedicated to raising the highest quality insects for human consumption. Crickets are farmed and raised with a natural diet of fresh carrots and bran.”

My friend emptied the contents of the bag onto his kitchen counter for us to inspect. While the shape was slightly elongated, the actual product didn’t appear much different from your standard chocolate covered raisin. I picked up the most nondescript nugget I could find and analyzed it carefully.

The smell was pleasant; just your standard dark chocolate sweetness. And the product seemed fresh enough, inasmuch as I could judge the freshness of a toasted insect.

I set the chocolate nugget back onto the counter and explained that I had a few questions before I indulged.

The first was whether my friend had eaten any yet. He assured me he had. My next question inquired to his opinion on the product, i.e. the taste, the texture, the overall appeal. He explained that, while he doesn’t see himself ordering another bag anytime soon, he found the experience of eating crickets unremarkable. He added that if no one had told him, he wouldn’t have known he was ingesting insects.

Once I was comfortable with his explanation, I again picked up a chocolate nugget, inspected it for a second time and then casually tossed it in my mouth.

I chewed quickly at first, as if I wanted to unconsciously break down the food product into mush to avoid any detection of antennae or spindly legs. Before I knew it, I had swallowed the entire chunk.

The people present all looked to me for a reaction.

I sat there for a moment, moving my tongue throughout my mouth to dislodge any remaining pieces before swallowing the leftover bits.

To be honest, at that moment I had no opinion. I quickly realized that I had ingested the cricket not for flavor, but to simply get it out of my mouth and into my stomach.

I then reached for another cricket chunk and popped it into my mouth, except this time I slowed my chewing. I savored the flavor of the chocolate and I more closely considered the consistency of the crunchy cricket inside.

Sure, there was a moment when I felt like I could feel a stray antenna glide across my tongue, but quite honestly it had the consistency of a large bacon bit.

Again, those present looked to me for a reaction.

I told everyone that, like my host, I probably wouldn’t be buying a bag anytime soon, but the overall experience was far from disgusting and in fact, after a few more samples, somewhat appealing.

Chocolate covered crickets are about as daring as I’ll get with my food choices. I’ve tried a few other “off kilter” things in my life, but there’s a limit to my experimentation.

The same can’t be said for the star of this week’s feature.

In “The Revenant,” Leonardo DiCaprio pushes the limits of character immersion by feasting on some unspeakable items. But what Leo puts in his mouth is only a part of his commitment to his most recent portrayal.

Starring DiCaprio and Tom Hardy, “The Revenant” is the true story of Hugh Glass, an early American pioneer who endured epic hardships and life-altering experiences to extract revenge upon a man who left him for dead.

This film is directed by Alejandro Inarritu, who brought home the Oscar last year for “Birdman.” Inarritu has proven he’s one of the most talented directors alive by delivering a completely different kind of movie with his next offering.

Viewers should be advised that this is not an easy film to watch. Several scenes are highly graphic in nature and are not for the faint of heart. However, the creative filming techniques and masterful acting overshadow the gore.

I would encourage everyone to see this film not only for the epic nature and intense execution, but also because it is the vehicle that will bring DiCaprio his first Best Actor Oscar win.

A wild “A-” for “The Revenant.”

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at moviediary@att.net.

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