There’s nothing wrong with eating insects
It bugs me that everyone thinks it’s gross
Disgust, fear, shock. This is how most people react to entomophagy, the practice of eating insects. It’s taboo, considered as bad as eating horse meat, if not worse.
But you know what? You’re behind the rest of the world on this. An enormous 80% of the world’s nations are chowing down on this vast resource of low fat protein, which you won’t touch.
Over 1000 species of insect are totally edible, and I hate to break it to you but you’ve almost definitely eaten an insect in one way or another during your lifetime. Red food dye? Made from crushed up cochineal beetles.
Lobsters and crabs are basically underwater insects, yet they’re far more readily accepted in our culture. It’s false, snooty and hypocritical that while we’ll happily eat a crab, we refuse to put mealworms and millipedes on the menu.
Insects are really very good for you. High in protein and low in fat, they could be great snacks or replace meat in some dishes. Buffalo worm stir fry is the future.
There’s another bug bonus: they breed a heck of a lot. In just one month, a female cricket can produce up to 1500 eggs. Traditional farm animals like cows can’t keep up. Creepy crawlies require little space and water, meaning less deforestation. They’re good for you and good for the planet.
At the moment getting hold of them is a little pricey. I paid £30 for 180g of critters as they’re marketed in the UK as a luxury item. However, it’s thought that in the future everyone will be breeding their own critters in the comfort of their own homes.
My bodybuilder housemate was greatly interested in the package which arrived, amazed at the amount of protein in the bugs. In fact, he couldn’t resist trying a grasshopper right away, being sure to remove the wings and legs beforehand.
In terms of preparation that’s as far as you have to go as all the bugs are freeze dried and ready to snack on. They do have recipe suggestions on the back of each packet, however, if you wish to go the extra mile. Grasshoppers fried in honey anyone?
In the end I decide to make mealworm cookies and a buffalo worm stir fry.
In retrospect, I had no idea how much of a challenge cooking these things would be. Terror swept over me as I starting putting the mealworms into cookie dough.
My mind was playing tricks on me, convincing me that they were still moving. But I knew I couldn’t wimp out and ate a mealworm from the packet. There was a strong almond flavour, and one little mealworm certainly packs a punch. I tried as best I could not to be totally revolted.
The stir fry with buffalo worms is one of my favourites as the worms are so small you can’t even feel them in your mouth. The cookies also go down well and have everyone demanding a second helping.
Next up: grasshoppers, the biggest creature we have to tackle. We dutifully remove the wings and legs and eat an abdomen each – the heads are still slightly beyond us. I notice that all the insects so far have had a distinctive taste which comes while you’re halfway through the bug.
So far the worms have been nuttier than the grasshopper, which tastes grassy to me. The rest of the grasshoppers are battered and deep-fried and, once doused with soy sauce, were really crispy and good. My housemate was less keen on these and wouldn’t eat them again, and after a while I agreed with her, they were just too rank to keep chowing down on.
The bugs have been massively challenging in a psychological way. We’ve been bred to avoid food with insects in it. We’re all programmed to see insects as pests, not as dinner.
For me worms and grasshoppers aren’t just something I wouldn’t usually eat: they’re the stuff of nightmares. After we’ve finished eating them, the general consensus on the bugs is: “Not really good but not bad.” We’re along way from seeing buffalo worms as a genuine alternative to buffalo wings.
By the end of the day I can’t face the crickets and delight in an insect-free tea. My optimism about entomophagy is gone, and I am a broken woman. Perhaps all we need is time, to adjust to new eating habits in a world stalked by environmental problems and faddy food cults, but for now I wouldn’t call myself a convert to the bug’s life.