My grandmother taught me to cook. She was of the generation where well-bred women stayed home with the kids and spent their free time volunteering, gardening and, of course, cooking. By the time her children were grown and the first set of grandchildren appeared, she was a master of all three.
On Sundays, my parents would wrangle my sister, Tracey, and I from our weekend backyard adventures, force us to bathe and comb the leaves and sticks out of our tangled locks. Then we’d be packed along to Grandma’s house for dinner.
Inevitably we’d be early and I would loiter in Grandma’s kitchen, hoping for a gingersnap animal cookie and generally ‘helping’ her in the kitchen. She taught me kitchen basics in such an unimposing way that my ease with cooking seems more a natural talent than a result of years of quiet lessons.
One warm spring day we arrived a little early, and as usual, I made a beeline for Grandma’s kitchen with my little sister in tow. She handed Tracey and me a couple of jars. “I’ve got a very special job for you today,” she announced. “I’m making Grasshopper Pie and I need you two to go out to the garden and get me as many grasshoppers as you can find.”
I scowled. “You’re making pie out of bugs? Ewwwwww.”
Tracey echoed my sentiments. “Bug pie! Ick!”
“Not to worry. Grasshopper pie is delicious,” Grandma chuckled. “Now run along. We don’t have much time and I need a lot of grasshoppers.”
Grandma’s exceptional talent in the kitchen was equally matched by her gardening skills. Their house was set a little bit back on the lot so that she had a huge front yard with flowerbeds full of seasonal favorites. The backyard was even bigger.
We searched through beds of tulips, daffodils and Iceland poppies. We found lots of pillbugs and millipedes – and even a few snails. Tracey lifted a rock and a swarm of grey sowbugs scurried out from beneath it. I found an ant’s nest full of tiny sugar ants.
But not one grasshopper.
Moving on to the rose gardens, we found shiny black earwigs hiding among the blooms. I saw a herd of aphids, flocked together like tiny sheep watched over by ant shepherds. We found some tunnel spiders in the hedges and coaxed them out of their tunnels by touching their webs with a blade of grass. Tracey saw a butterfly and tried to catch it. “Butterflies taste better than bugs,” she said.
The butterfly apparently disagreed and flew off.
Still there was not one grasshopper to be found.
After about an hour, with heavy hearts and muddy knees, Tracey and I went back to Grandma’s kitchen with our empty jars. “I’m sorry, Grandma,” I groaned. “We tried, but we couldn’t find any grasshoppers for you.”
She smiled and retrieved the jars from us. “Not to worry,” she chirped. “I keep some in the freezer just in case. “Now go find your mom so she can get you cleaned up. I’ll finish in here.”
That night, after the dinner plates were cleared and the big silver coffee service was delivered to the table, my grandmother swept into the room with a glorious mint green chiffon pie. As was her custom, she delivered it to my grandfather who served up the pie and sent the first piece back to her. I always sat on her left, so mine was the second piece.
“What do grasshoppers taste like?” I whispered to Grandma as I poked at the chocolate cookie crust.
“They’re delicious. You’ll see,” she smiled and gave me a wink.
I wasn’t convinced. Pies, in my six–year-old experience, shouldn’t be green or contain insects as a main ingredient.
As soon as all of the slices had been passed out, everyone dug into the pie. I held my spoon tightly and scowled at the slice in front of me. It looked wrong – pie wasn’t supposed to be so… green. It just wasn’t natural. Glancing at Tracey, I noticed that she also had rather suspicious expression. But at the same time, the grownups all seemed to being enjoying their dessert.
My mom looked over at me, the daughter who was normally the first one to wolf down desserts, staring at the dish like it was made of liver. “What’s wrong?”
“The pie. It’s got grasshoppers in it.”
She looked at Grandma and then slowly nodded, a grin widening across her face. “Of course it does. Now eat up. You know how much Grandma loves to cook for you. You’ll hurt her feelings.”
“Just try a little bit.”
I took a tiny piece on my spoon and tasted it. Then I took another bite.
“Grandma! Grasshoppers are yummy!”
She laughed. “Of course they are. Would I make a pie out of something that tasted bad?”
Tracey had been watching this entire exchange. When she saw that I was eating my pie with much relish, she took a bite. And a second. “I like bug pie,” she mumbled with her mouth full.
Grasshopper pie became one of the many popular desserts my grandmother made, and it wasn’t long before I discovered, to my disappointment, that there were indeed, no grasshoppers involved.
Gluten Free Grasshopper Pie
Step 1: Make the crust.
Step 2. Make the filling.
Step 3: Serve.