How do you feel about government promoting eating insects as a protein source and not mentioning that bugs are part of the processed animal protein in your burger? That’s what a research project funded by the European Commission is touting as an alternative protein source. Backed by 3 million euros, and launched last fall by the European Union, the study is aimed at finding a way to make insects appetizing to consumers. Shocking? Not really. The scientific community has been debating this for years. Scientists contend that as raising traditional food sources becomes less feasible, entomphagy (the act of eating insects) becomes more of a reality to sustain the human need for protein. My question is, how many termites or spiders does it take to make a good, I mean downright tasty double cheeseburger? Hold that thought.
A U.N. Conference held in 2008 in Thailand was the scene of an insect eating research Summit. As far as I can tell none of the superpower presidents or any high ranking diplomats were in attendance, but 36 scientists from 15 countries were and they had some interesting things to say about eating bugs like grasshoppers, crickets, grubs and ants. What may seem like an odd food source to us in our homeland, may actually be a delicacy in another part of the world. In fact, Dutch, Australian and American scientists noted that increasingly more restaurants in their respective countries are popping up with insects on the menu. The research is aimed at showing that eating bugs is not just for emergencies or famine, it might very well be the breakfast of champions at your favorite bistro!
So what countries have what bugs on the menu? In the US, the cochineal, an insect native to South America, is used in red dye for things like red lipstick and red candy. In Japan, hachi-no-ko (boiled wasp larvae) is a popular delicacy you can find all over Japan; like chicken nuggets at every fast food restaurant, on almost every corner in America. In Thailand, fried crickets are a common sight in bars (just like pretzels or peanuts in the US), and in Brazil, queen ants like the icas ant are wildly popular because of it’s mint like flavor.
I remember being a kid perusing the buffet line at a restaurant, or the offerings on a menu, trying to decide what to eat, or, what not to eat, based on what it looked like or what I was told the food was. It was a veritable mine field of chance-by-choice. Ewwww, peas. Fast forward a few years, okay decades, and I eat most of the stuff I wouldn’t dream of touching as a child. That raises an interesting question. What if all this bug eating was the same thing? How will we know what we like if we don’t try it first? I’ve had chocolate covered grasshopper and no, it didn’t taste like chicken. It tasted like chocolate and peanuts. Not bad. That being said, if you have an ant infestation, or cluster flies buzzing about, don’t run to the cupboard for the chocolate sauce, call a professional.