Crickets and worms on bug museum Thanksgiving menu

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A unique _ or rather "eww-nique" _ Thanksgiving feast is being served up in the Audubon Insectarium's "Bug Appetit" kitchen in New Orleans.

On the menu: turkey with cornbread and mealworm stuffing, wax worm cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie with a crispy cricket topping.

The Thanksgiving holiday fare is being served through Wednesday at the 23,000-square-foot bug museum, the largest free-standing museum in the United States dedicated to insects.

Exhibits there house thousands of live bugs, and insect-infused cuisine can be sampled any time of year in the museum's Tiny Termite Cafe. Specialties include chocolate "chirp" cookies, six-legged salsa made with tomatoes and chunks of crickets, sugared wax worms and spicy Cajun crickets.

Traditional fare, sans the worms and six-legged critters, is also available for less-adventurous eaters.

On Monday, wide-eyed patrons looked on as the museum's "bug chefs" worked at a counter and stove preparing the Thanksgiving eats.

"I tried everything," said Amelia Babin, 61, of Duplessis, La., adding that the cranberry sauce with wax worms was her favorite dish. "I don't know that I'll ever fix it myself, but it was interesting."

Babin's daughter-in-law, Amanda Babin, 32, of Gonzales, La., had family members shoot video as she took her first bite of bug: the six-legged salsa on a chip, which was one of the "appetizers" set out among the Thanksgiving fare.

"I surprised myself," she said. "I watch Fear Factor and Survivor, and I'm the one sitting on the couch gagging. But I had to do it to say I did it."

Some of the children visiting wouldn't partake in the bug dishes, but others went back for second and third helpings.

The chocolate "chirp" cookies appeared to be a crowd favorite.

"They're good," said 5-year-old Francie Kreutzjans, of Fort Mitchell, Ky., who ate several of the cookies flavored with crickets, which the museum's executive "bug" chef, Jayme Necaise, said were a good alternative to nuts for those who suffer allergies. He also notes they're a good source of protein.

Her mom, Dinkey Kreutzjans, grimaced through laughs as her family ate the cookies and crispy Cajun crickets.

"I can't do it," she said, laughing. "But it was fun, and they're going to go home and say they ate bugs in New Orleans for Thanksgiving."

The Insectarium will be closed Thanksgiving day, but reopens Friday. The museum includes thousands of live insects, including beetles, cockroaches, ants and termites. It also has a butterfly exhibit created to resemble a Japanese garden.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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