A long time ago, 50 years or so, I was invited to a party that promised some unusual and tasty snacks, along with the usual supply of beer and other alcoholic libations.
Never one to pass up free food and booze, I showed up at my friends apartment , said hello to everyone, grabbed a cocktail and headed for the snacks. The table was filled with the usual cheese and crackers, veggies, liverwurst and other delights.
The center piece caught my eye, chocolate, lots of it, but not in any form I could immediately recognize. Upon questioning my host, I learned they were chocolate covered ants and grasshoppers.
“Here, try some,” said my host, “they’re delicious!”
I doubt he saw the green leaching into my face as I politely declined, saying I was on a diet.
After a couple of quick hits from my cocktail I looked around the room and saw people eating these morsels. Well, a very few were actually chewing, most were popping them like a pill with a quick wash of liquor.
The vision of stomping on a grasshopper and viewing the results, ruled out any possibility that I’d chew one, let alone put it in my mouth. Forget the chocolate.
A few crunching sounds later, my stomach insisted we go elsewhere, so with my usual aplomb, I bowed out and headed for a nearby watering hole.
It was one of the older bars in our small town, and as I plopped down on the barstool and ordered a mug of beer, I looked across the bar and saw a huge jar filled with pickled pigs feet. My stomach lurched a bit, and I ordered a shot with my beer. That helped calm it down.
A couple of stools down was an old-timer washing down pickled eggs with his beer. I swear, he swallowed them whole. What a fun night out.
Surprisingly hungry, I left the bar and headed for my favorite fast-food place for a hamburger and milk shake.
To this day I can see that tray of chocolate bugs and hear people happily crunching away.
Recently, I happened upon this article from the Evening Standard and it all came back.
Environmental Impact of Eating Insects
The really interesting aspect of the story was the environmental twist, how can eating bugs favor the environment?
Some countries, according to the article, encourage bug farming to help preserve forests.
The bugs killed by pesticides are more nutritious than the crops they feed on, says the writer, and when chemicals didn’t control locusts in Thailand, the government issued recipes and encouraged residents to eat them.
In North Africa, locusts are called “sky prawns”.
The latest issue of Time Magazine has devoted a section to eating bugs. I wasn’t aware of it before writing this blog, but the June 9th online and print editions have some great information. Enjoy.
Bug Farming and Use of Insects in Food Products
Think about it, this could be a billion-dollar industry in the west, which, according to statistics, is woefully ignorant, or just plain nauseated by the thought of having bugs in their food.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says the eating of insects, entomophagy, has been overlooked as a practice of “primitives” by many researchers. The FAO says over 500 species of insects are eaten by humans worldwide.
The FAO is meeting this week, and it will be interesting to see if insects are included in the discussion.
The link to the FAO is lengthy and discusses not only Arthropods but other forms of wildlife as well.
A perusal of the Food and Drug Administration proved fruitless, or bugless, as far as introducing insects into the American food supply. It has set standards for the unintentional addition of insect fragments and eggs in certain food products, but says nothing about insects as a viable alternative form of protein.
The National Geographic has a very interesting article on the subject.
Insects are also being studied as possible inclusion into space travel, both as food and space-based ecosystems. Plants in a space ecosystem would lack several nutrients usually derived from livestock, fish, dairy products, eggs, etc. Insects would fill that nutritional vacuum, and more easily produced in space. The study was conducted by several universities and the Space Agriculture Task Force. You can read it here:
Why not farm crickets, grasshoppers, grubs and who knows what else, prepare them in such a way as to not be obvious, like, who wants to bite into an energy bar and come face to face with a grasshopper? But the consumer must know what he’s eating, that may be a hard sell.
But then, there’s the FDA, which has no apparent standards for insects as human food. That could be a huge hurdle to commercialization of bug farms.
So put junior’s ant farm back where you found it.
Beth Bader at Eat. Drink. Better, take note.
I’ve picked out a few sites that have recipes, and one book called “Man Eating Bugs: The Art and Science of Eating Insects”, available through Amazon books.
Well, it’s been a fun project, but now I’m heading for some antacids.
Image Credit: Evening Standard