Slimy, yet satisfying
Around 40 years ago, the average U.S. citizen didn’t relish the idea of consuming raw fish. Many, in fact, even considered eating raw fish barbaric—something for the uncultured or poor. Now, sushi is a thriving industry. All it took was some clever branding, the California Roll, and time.
My name is Aly Moore and I eat bugs. My goals is to convince you that you should too.
On some level, I think I have always known that I would end up eating insects. As a kid, my mouth watered whenever that Timon & Pumbaa scene came on during The Lion King. Though, In all seriousness, I first became interested in edible insects after a summer I spent building health clinics in Mexico. There, we would eat tacos from the stands open late. My favorites were tacos de chapulín, or grasshopper tacos.
I’ve always been adventurous, and, for me, this was just another food to try. When I returned home, however, my curiosity compelled me to investigate why I’ve never seen bugs on the menu elsewhere in the States. I soon learned about the burgeoning movement of “entomophagy,” the fancy word for “eating insects,” but noticed the lack of resources on the subject. Since, I founded Bugible, now the leading bug blog in North America, and EatBugsEvents.com, a service creating approachable and fun events around eating insects—from bug dinners to wine and insect pairings. My goal is to educate the public about the benefits of eating insects and to reduce the stigma around using these ingredients.
Eating insects is not a “new health trend.” Over 80% of countries – 2 billion people globally – already eat bugs, including countries like France (hello, escargot!). A broader dialogue about edible insects as an industry reemerged with a bang in 2013 after the FAO and UN released a report that suggested edible insects as one of the most promising solutions for a sustainable and healthy protein source to feed the expected 9 billion humans on Earth by 2050.
Over the past few years, Western societies have seen a resurgence of activity in the edible insect industry. Entomo-entrepreneurs are building companies including cricket farms, cricket protein bars, pasta sauces made from mealworms, and even a non-profit called Little Herds dedicated to lobbying and education.
In short, insects are nutritious, sustainable, and can taste great.
For a comparable amount of protein, insects like crickets have more calcium, iron, B12, zinc, Vitamin A, and other micronutrients than beef.. A gram of cricket gives you more protein than a gram of beef. It’s also a complete protein, with the right balance of essential and non-essential amino acids, providing a better source of protein with a lower carbon footprint.
My favorite sustainability soundbite to share is that it takes around 2,000 gallons of water to get one pound of beef from the farm to your table. For the same amount of cricket protein, it takes ONE gallon of water. Talk about sustainable. Crickets and other insects are perfect for urban farming and can be grown anywhere from Detroit to Antarctica.
As I mentioned, cooking with insects is not new. In fact, many gourmet chefs have been utilizing these nutritious ingredients for ages. Copenhagen’s gourmet restaurant Noma (ranked Best Restaurant in the World in 2012 and 2014) is known for its gratuitous use of insects in all varieties of dishes.
As with any food category, certain bugs will be more appetizing to some than others. The most common insects consumed in Western cultures today are mealworms and crickets. These have a nutty taste – a little like chestnuts or soybeans. Insect flavors range all over the map – ants have a lemongrass note to them, scorpions and waterbugs are a bit fishy, sago grubs taste like bacon (actually).
As an adventurous eater, I was never phased by the idea of eating insects. I can see how the concept is initially a challenge for most people not accustomed to the idea. A lot of it comes down to culture, and what we are raised to consider edible. The concept of edibility is one of the biggest factors in acceptance of insects as food. “Edibility” is not a fixed or inherent property, but rather something that is constructed and negotiated by a huge range of influences.
Social, cultural, market, linguistic, and other forces work together to categorize items as “eat me” or “don’t eat me.” Let’s play a game: I’ll list pairs of similar things and you have to figure out what is edible and what is not: plants & vegetables, livestock & pets, snails & escargot… We have insects, but we might need a better classification for edible insects.
Now, I don’t harbor a lofty fantasy where, after a successful marketing campaign, insects suddenly become a staple of the Western diet. I’m excited for the quiet, steady progress the edible insect community has seen. I look forward to the day I can walk down my grocery store aisles and see protein options like frozen shellfish, scallops, shrimp, then crickets. And I eagerly await the day I get to say, “Waiter, could I get some bugs for the table?”
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