My friend David Gracer has some news from the world of insect eating! From Dave:
The world has become increasingly interested in the subject of edible insects. There’s frequent mainstream media coverage, conferences, and now two important new developments. World Entomophagy, of Athens, Georgia, has launched a open-sourced website that will become the definitive source of information on entomophagy – a meeting-place for researchers and practitioners with visionary interests and goals. We are at www.worldento.com.
For now, we are seeking all manner of contributions. Although we’re happy to see basic articles such as, What is Entomophagy; Allergy Concerns; Wine Pairings for Insects; How to Prepare your Insects for Cooking; and General Recipes, we are more interested in the cultural and international aspects of entomophagy; the many disciplines involved (such as Entomology, Anthropology, Nutrition, Sociology, Psychology, Literature, Agriculture, Sustainable Studies, History, Engineering, Chemistry, Culinary, Marketing, etc.); and artwork, video, and creative writing. We’re also creating a gallery of cross-referenced images with captions: documentation of edible insects around the world. Eventually we hope to publish original, peer-reviewed scientific papers.
Technical articles are welcome, and authors of such work will be asked to include short summaries in layman’s terms. In all cases we will prominently feature contributors’ names and other information they would like to include. Currently we cannot pay for content; the current budget is set for the site, though we may make exceptions for some articles. We would be happy to discuss the possibility of barter (edible insect products in exchange for articles) or terms for future compensation (within reason).
The other major development is EDIBL – The Environmental Discourses of the Ingestion of Bugs League. This student-group model was founded by Rena Chen, a food-anthropology major at Princeton, in 2010. Other chapters have started at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, the University of Texas, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. There are big plans to continue growing nationally and internationally, to pool resources and increase awareness. While college/university campuses might be the best setting for such enterprises, EDIBL’s founders would welcome other kinds of groups. Hopefully, the evolution of multiple chapters would encourage collaboration, friendly competition, and perhaps conferences.
There are Facebook pages for both “World Entomophagy” and “EDIBL Nation,” as well as Twitter. If social media holds no interest for you, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll answer any questions you have. As the main editor of the site, I’d be delighted to see anything you might like to contribute.
The future of this subject is very bright; consider joining us. According to the FAO, climate scientists, and other experts, there’s a very good chance that humanity’s future will have a lot more bugs in it.
Some time ago, I got an email from a student in the UK working on an Entomophagy project:
“I’m a postgraduate design student studying at the Royal College of Art in London, who is currently knee deep in a project on Entomophagy. Myself and 3 other students have spent the last four months developing a roadmap to western acceptance of bug eating.”
I referred them to Dave Gracer as the local Entomophagy Maven, and then sort of forgot about it. And then….Lo and Behold! They produced this project, with input from Dave and entomologists.
I’m not entirely sure what a Masters Degree in Innovation Design Engineering is, but if it produces results like this, I think we need more of them. Well done!
More about the project:
“Ento is a project by Aran Dasan, Jacky Chung, Jonathan Fraser and Julene Aguirre-Bielchowsky, who are a team working together on the Innovation Design Engineering joint Masters course at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London. We also collaborated with Kim Insu in producing the food, who is a chef in training at Le Cordon Bleu.
This project is the outcome of the team’s motivation to tackle the growing issue of food security in an increasingly hungry world. Discovering the environmental and nutritional benefits of insects as a sustainable alternative to the high energy required to produce other meats, we wanted to see how it could be introduced into Western cultures through design.
It’s not just about introducing a new food, it’s about understanding human perceptions and psychology, then using the design of innovative experiences and strategic thinking to drive cultural change.”
In other words, addressing the mental hangups we have about eating insects, as well as making the food look amazing. Their video addresses some of the ecological benefits to insect eating in a very amusing way.
Ah, the Holidays. The season when introverted curmudgeons like me….are fairly miserable and awkward, actually. I’m not good enough at small talk to do well at holiday gatherings:
“What are you doing for Christmas?”
“Um….lamenting the over-commercialization of your imaginary savior dude’s birth? And avoiding my family?”
Over the years, I’ve perfected a way to free myself from the stress of having to whip up a special dish for the obligatory office potluck. I’ve carefully developed a reputation for insect cookery. I casually make sure everyone in the office knows this.
Since I’m in a new job this holiday season, I made sure to loudly ask my coworkers where the bait shops are in our town. I need a bait shop for the key ingredient in my traditional holiday John the Baptist Bread, you see.
This bread’s name comes from a passage in Mark 1.6: “And John was dressed with the hairs of a camel and with a belt of skins around his loins, and he ate locusts and wild honey.” I skip the camel hair part–I have quite sensitive skin–and substitute in roasted crickets, since locusts are hard to come by in Connecticut in mass quantities.
You grind roasted crickets into flour (a coffee grinder is excellent for this, but you will find the odd antenna in your coffee later on) and mix it with lots of honey to make a very nice little cake. It’s actually quite delicious.
This year I already have gotten word that I don’t have to do any roasting or baking, though. I achieved my goal of being dis-invited to the potluck early–I’ve been instructed to bring only a bag of chips and dip. In sealed containers. WIN!
I don’t just eat insects to fuck with people (although that is an entertaining side effect). Entomophagy, or insect eating, is actually quite common in the world. Insects are the ultimate sustainable agriculture, requiring far fewer resources than other forms of livestock, and they produce fewer greenhouse gas-causing emissions per pound of protein. And they are delicious!
I like to cook with insects to make people think about why they would be excited if I brought shrimp cocktails to the potluck, but horrified if I brought them a grasshopper curry. Both are arthropods, and frankly grasshoppers have a more appealing lifestyle. For some reason, Americans don’t think of insects as food, although an estimated 40% of the world’s population eats insects on a semi-regular basis.
This graphic shows in a nice visual way how most of the food that goes into a cow…does not become part of a cow. It ends up in a little steamy pile behind the cow, since they aren’t terribly efficient at converting grass or corn into cow meat or milk. Insects, on the other hand, are just as protein rich as a cow or a pig, can be bred under your bed (I haven’t seen your bed, but I’m betting you don’t have pigs under there), and have a high profit margin.
Note that the meat processing is where a lot of the profit comes from–which is why what farmers get paid and the price you actually pay at the store are sometimes extremely different. The nice thing about insects is that there isn’t a whole lot of post-mortem processing to do, other than perhaps removing the wings. You don’t need a professional or sharp pointy tools to carve a grasshopper rump roast.
Insects are a great way for subsistence farmers to make some cash–and raise nutritious food without a lot of land, water, or resources. 100 grams of caterpillars can provide all of an adult’s recommended daily protein, along with iron and several important vitamins. That’s a lot cheaper and more sustainable than a steak!
So, while I have been excused from bug cookery for the upcoming potluck, I do still have a secret evil plan to expose my co-workers to entomophagy and convince them it’s cool. I found some big-ass ants on sale.
Seriously, that’s their name: Big-Ass ants. In Columbia, where they are harvested, they are “hormigas culonas.” Big-Ass Ants are leafcutter ants (Atta laevigata), and have long been eaten in Central America. I had some queen leaf-cutter ants, Atta texana, earlier this year courtesy of Dave Gracer when I came up to interview for this job.
(What? You don’t arrange clandestine cookery of edible insects when you have a faculty interview? Huh.) The ones Dave cooked for me were awesome–they had kind of a nutty Chex Mix taste. I could totally see snacking on those like popcorn.
So, when I saw these toasted ants on sale, I made an impulse purchase.
Alas, I did not read the fine print carefully, and so was a tad disappointed when my rather smallish tin of ants arrived. I have photographed them here next to an Altoids tin. They don’t quite have the wonderful taste of the texana ants–they are a bit dry and dusty–but still have a lovely nutty taste. And they do indeed have a lot of junk in their trunk–it’s just about all butt, with a tiny head and legs attached.
It turns out that the Altoid tin is exactly the right size to carry all the ants in–so that I can put it in my pocket and offer up ants as an appetizer at the staff potluck. I am trying to figure out what dip might best go with them–I think hummus would actually be pretty good, with the ants substituted for pine nuts.
Fat Bottom Ants, you make my rockin’ world go round.
It’s been a really great month for entomophagy (bug eating)! Daniella Martin of Girl Meets Bug headlined a big special edition of the San Francisco Weekly that was also picked up by NPR. I really liked this quote from the star-studded array of insect foodies that were interviewed:
“You have to scratch your head, from a logical perspective,” says Zack Lemann, chief entomologist at the Audubon Insectarium in New Orleans. “Why do we eat shrimp and crawfish but not their brethren on land?”
Exactly! I still think Dave’s name of Land Shrimp was a great re-branding of bug food.
I liked this video profile of Monica Martinez, the woman behind the Don Bugito food cart in San Francisco. Her comparison of current attitudes about eating insects to western attitudes about sushi 10 years ago is a good one. I think she’s missed a major marketing comparison, though–eating bugs is the ULTIMATE paleo diet!
BTW, you can find the plans for the Wurm-Haus here.
A wonderful symposium on Entomophagy from the 2010 Entomological Society of America National Meeting is now (mostly) online in a series of videos.
I think one of the most interesting was from a a pediatric nutrition specialist (not an entomologist.) It’s a bit long, and the video quality is dismal, but he tells a really fascinating story of how using insects in supplemental infant feed in Africa can produce great results. It does not, regrettably, have a transcript available. *Cough*
M&Ms are Mealworms and Mopane worms
A fun video about eating insects in Madagascar!
(I have to say, I’m with him on the eel. I’ve never liked them the few times I’ve had them. They taste like they look–slimy.)
Here’s more info on what they were eating from the book Human Use of Insects as a Food Resource:
Pyrops tenebrosa Fabr., known as sakondry, is presently eaten, fried, in the northern part of the island (DeCary 1937). Gade (1985) reports that the sakandry (P. madagascariensis) is a “preferred comestible.” It feeds on lima bean and related plants, and, dried, is much appreciated, especially in the Majunga region.
These insects are relatives of the lanternfly (which aren’t true flies, nor do they light up, just to add to the confusion). Fulgorids are almost as cute as Membracids, and are one of my favorite insect groups. I had no idea they were tasty, too!
Thanks so much to K. Edwards for finding that reference for me!
Need to use up the very last of your summer tomatoes? How about some waxworm tacos?
This video is part of Girl Meets Bug, a project by Danielle Martin. I think she’ll be the next Nigella Lawson
Hey Everyone! I invited David over to announce some exciting entomophagy news–a way to get all the past issues of the Food Insects Newsletter! Here’s what David has to say:
“It’s a great day for those of us laboring in the salt mines of entomophagy: after many months of planning, a bound reprint of The Food Insects Newsletter is finally available to the public!
While some of it has been online for years, this volume includes a great deal of additional material, including editorial introductions and an afterward; nutritional tables; images; and four comprehensive indices catering to a wide range of interests. And hey, just in time for the gifting season! This volume represents a vital part of the available literature on the subject. Do the world a favor: order yours today!
But Wait! There’s more!
This reprint is meant to be the prelude to a renewal of The Newsletter, meaning that new content will be forthcoming in 2010.
The editors – Dr. Florence Dunkel and I – are currently pondering various ways of making this happen. While we have some articles and other material ready to be shared with the world, we are very interested in receiving almost anything that people would like to contribute. This means from entomologists of course, but other folks too — including non-academics. I’m talking about: technical papers, observations, essays, anecdotes, images, and other formats.
Similarly, we remain committed to exploring our subject from a wide range of perspectives: through the lens of entomology, anthropology, sociology, engineering, nutrition science, chemistry, marketing, history, ecology, etc. Please email us if you are interested in contributing!
You can view instructions for getting your copy here: BookFlyer.pdf
The JTB bread turned out pretty good, although it (as usual) tends to rise in the middle to form a dome-shaped loaf, no matter what type of pan it goes into.
I also made Banana Chocolate Chirpy Bread–basically a banana bread mix with cricket flour and chocolate chips in it. That was also a pretty big hit.
Both of these are stealth entomophagy–while the odd head capsule may escape conversion into flour, or leg poke out of a slice, for the most part, you can’t see the insects. It’s where most people start.
The pesto cricket canapés went over very well! I froze a lot of pesto last summer, and had about half a jar left over from earlier this week. I threw some crickets in, put it on bagel bites, and they were eagerly gobbled up.
I also fried up waxworms in garlic butter, and those were very popular as well. (Served on a Triscut for a nice crunch).
Waxworms are kind of like insect tofu–they take on whatever flavor you cook them with. And pretty much anything fried in garlic butter is yummy
So, the usual results–I always say I’ll never do bug food again, since it is a huge hassle to cook for 50+ people, but I have so much fun I get suckered into doing it again. We also had wonderful conversations about what is “normal” and food-animal conversion efficiency, so the basic message definitely got through!
Eating insects is ecologically efficient, and culturally the norm in most of the world.
Read more about Entomophagy (Insects as food)