Imagining Better Food

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A culinary student preparing mealworm quiches at the Rijn Ijssel chefs school in Wageningen, Netherlands. Jerry Lampen/Reuters

JoAnna Klein has a nack for getting me to think twice on a topic. My imagination is moving in the right direction. I may be embarrassed by my insufficient progress at cutting meat consumption, but I have made zero headway in the realm of insect appetite. It must change. But even with this story, and its beautiful pictures, my likelihood to indulge in one of these meals is best captured by the biblical phrase about the spirit being willing but the flesh being weak; I get why I must do this, but my body is not cooperating and I am not looking forward to the first such meal:

How to Develop an Appetite for Insects

Scientists who study bugs are thinking harder about how to turn them into good food.

Repeat after me: entomophagy.

It’s derived from Greek and Latin: “entomon,” meaning “insect,” and “phagus,” as in “feeding on.”

Some think it’s the future of food.

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Justin Butner

In 2013, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations released a report declaring the need to swap traditional protein sources for insects to support a sustainable future. The report helped drive an explosion of efforts all dedicated to making mealworms your next meal.

Presenters at a 2018 conference in Georgia, Eating Insects Athens, published papers this month in a special issue of the Annals of the Entomological Society of America. The volume showed how people who study insects scientifically are now spending more time thinking about eating them.

Here are some highlights of what the researchers found:

When Christopher Columbus returned from the Americas, he and members of his expedition used the insect-eating of the native inhabitants as an example of savagery, and as justification for dehumanizing people he would later enslave, said Julie Lesnik, an anthropologist at Wayne State University and author of “Edible Insects and Human Evolution.”

While it wasn’t the only factor, the colonial era deepened the stigmatization of entomophagy in mainland Europe, and in turn among European settlers in the Americas. Further distaste grew as insects threatened profitable agricultural monocultures supported by slavery and industrialization.

It wasn’t always that way. Aristotle loved cicadas. Pliny the Elder preferred beetle larvae. They weren’t that different from insect eaters among other cultures on other continents.

Evidence of insects in written reports, fossilized feces and mummies found in caves across North America, and corroboration from nearly every other continent, suggest humans have valued insects as food for millenniums.

Today, billions of people still consume more than 2,100 insect species worldwide. Even in the United States, Kutzadika’a people, or “fly eaters,” cherish salty pupae from Mono Lake in California…

Read the whole story here.

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