Entomophagy

A small article in the Sunday New York Times about eating insects piqued my interest, but not my appetite.  Apparently this is an entire food movement that has eluded me.  I’m not sure I’ll jump on board anytime soon, but it is fascinating.

Humans have been eating certain insects since prehistoric times.  In Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand  and North, Central and South Americas insect-eating is common.  Over 2 billion people worldwide routinely eat bugs.   While over 1,000 insect species are eaten in 80% of the world, insect-eating is not currently appealing or acceptable to Westerners. Most of us would refuse to eat an insect unless it was a requirement for collecting a million dollar lottery prize or something equivalent. Currently there are companies trying to introduce the ‘creepy-crawlies as food’ idea into Western diets, mainly as ingredients in products.  Chief among these products is cricket flour.

Why eat insects?

  • Insects are high in protein
  • Insects are high in essential fatty acids, especially omega-3s
  • Crickets and cockroaches are high in B12 and calcium
  • It is a naturally sustainable diet and could be the solution to world hunger
  • Insects are easy to farm on a large scale without damaging the environment
  • According to the UN, if edible insects become part of the mainstream global diet, we can reduce greenhouse gases by 18% and lower the cost of food globally by 33%.

Believe it or not, most of us are already inadvertently eating bugs.  According to the FDA, all processed food (anything that comes in a package) contains a surprising amount of ground up bugs.  Peanut butter has about 30 insect fragments per 100 grams. Chocolate can have 60-90 fragments per 100 grams.  Remember that honey is bee regurgitation, and many food dyes are made from insects.

It might be instructive to remember that not so long ago in America’s Northeast, eating ‘bottom-feeders’ like lobsters and crabs was considered as disgusting as eating insects would be today.  Eating crabs and lobsters was associated with poverty and people would bury the shells in their yard so their neighbors wouldn’t see them.  Lobsters were fed to prisoners and barely considered good enough to be used as bait.  Look at the delicious lobster now!  Maybe there is hope for insect-eating.

A San Francisco-based company called Bitty Foods has launched a baked goods line that uses cricket powder. Their goal is to change the public’s perception of edible insects by making delicious foods as ‘un-buggy’ (as they put it) as possible.

Another company, called Six Foods, makes chips from cricket flour called Chirps. They have 3 times the protein of potato chips (7 grams), are gluten free, all natural and have half the fat.

There is a serious image problem that the proponents of insect-eating need to overcome.  I took a one person survey – my friend Betsy – and she said in NO uncertain terms “You can quote me, I am never, ever voluntarily eating insects!” Well, maybe one of the following recipes will change her mind!

These two recipes come from: Iowa State University Entomology Club

Bee-LT Sandwich

Everyone’s heard that frogs are supposed to taste like chicken but bee larvae sautéed with butter and honey tasting like bacon is taking things to new levels.

Ingredients:

Bee larvae
1 egg white
1tsp butter
¼ tsp honey
1 tomato
1 leaf lettuce
2 slices of bread
1 pinch of salt

Chocolate chirp cookies

If you need a buggy recipe that will look great and be popular with all ages then chocolate chirp cookies is the best recipe for you.

Ingredients:

2 ¼ cups of plain flour
1tsp. baking soda
1tsp. salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup caster sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
1tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
12 ounces chocolate chips
1 cup chopped mixed nuts (optional)
½ cup dry- roasted crickets

Pre-heat the oven to 375°. Mix together butter, all the sugar, the vanilla and beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Beat in the eggs and then slowly add flour, salt and baking soda. Stir in the nuts, insects and chocolate chips. Place rounded teaspoonfuls of the mixture onto a greased baking tray and put in the oven for 8-10 minutes.

For more reading –

Edible: An Adventure into the World of Eating Insects and the Last Great Hope to Save the Planet, Under $14.80.