Where to Chew Chapulines

Naomi, Matt: a couple of adds to your grasshopper string (found here and here) (and guys, I think it’s spelled “chapulines,” not “chipulines”) (They say “Chapultepec,” the wealthy TJ neighborhood, is Nahuatl for “Grasshopper Hill”). Last place I had the crunchy little creatures (and “gusanos,” the fried maguey worms) was at the Escondido eatery, El Tejate, a Oaxacan restaurant (Suite R, 205 West Mission Avenue), last December. Salty, crunchy (the grasshoppers) and squishy, cactussy (the worms), and perfect with a cerveza (both), or a “tejate”(“drink of the gods” – made from maize and the flower of the cocoa plant). Just talked to Lucy Valencia, the owner. Her middle son Julio has made it safely back from a tour of Afghanistan with the Marines, so she’s off down south to Oaxaca to deliver on a promise she made if he returned safe and sound. “I’m going to give thanks to the Virgin of Juquila,” she says. She will climb the hill to a 700-year old village called Santa Catarina Juquila and a shrine to the saint, who some call the “saint of beautiful vegetables,” because “Juquila” comes from “Xiuhquililla,” which means “place of beautiful vegetables.” But don’t worry, El Tejate stays open, and Lucy will be back next week. If you’re not into grasshoppers or gusanos, go for a mole dish. Oaxaca’s the home of that beautiful black - or yellow, or red - gold.

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