"Well, they sure do taste like protein, don't they?" said Trini, as she crunched a few more times for good measure. She balanced a fifteen-peso bag of dark red morsels in one hand, the other making slight gestures in the air that meant, "I am eating something my son might consider good material for Fear Factor."
After emerging from the tunnels excavated through the great Tonacalli pyramid complex at Cholula, the last thing my sister-in-law and I had on our minds was a snack. Instead, our cravings leaned more toward knowledge, our appetites whetted by the labyrinth of passages that revealed layers of ancient steps, a matryoshka doll of pyramids that were constructed one on top of the other. Most of it still lies beneath the earth's surface, making a sizable hill upon which sits the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios. Fittingly, it is also known in Náhuatl as Machihualtepec, or "hill made by hand." It both fueled our imaginations and piqued our curiosity, raising uncountable questions about this largest pyramid in the world.
But snacks were soon to be had, since as with most places in Mexico often frequented by the public, a patient and parasol-shaded woman sat on nearby steps to offer something tempting and toothsome to the visitors who passed on to other excavated areas. Trini and I stopped to see what might finally convince us, and the woman held out a pepita to try. But our attention was soon focused on something we can't come by up North. The bag was an irresistible invitation into a little entomophagy, a crunchy bulk of chapulines, ready to crackle in all it's flavor-fried, protein-of-grasshopper glory.
Patricio, arriving the next day in Puebla for our weekend of travel and adventure, popped a few back to satisfy a mid-morning appetite. Chewing carefully, he avoided the nuisance of getting a leg or two stuck in between a molar. And we were reminded that though more questions than answers will always surround those ancient people who built their beautiful pyramids, we can taste tiny bits of their world once in awhile. Grasshoppers have been eaten in Mexico for at least three thousand years. We were happy to be part of what we hope to be the next three thousand more.