7/15/13 - the virtues of eating insects

In today's selection -- mmm, mmm, good. Grab your fork and knife and tuck your napkin into your shirt, more and more people are now eating insects:

"In 2009, Vij, and upscale Indian restaurant in Vancouver, Canada, had a line of eager diners outside its door from opening to closing seven days a week. What they were all waiting for was the famous 'cricket paratha,' a twist on the traditional Indian flatbread, which rather than being made from whole wheat flour is made from crickets. It takes about 350 crickets to make enough paratha for two people. Moreover, unlike its carbohydrate cousin, cricket paratha has as much protein as a steak, but is three times higher in iron and much lower in calories, fat, and cholesterol. With the right spin and artful camouflage, eating wriggling, squiggling, squeaking, insects is in vogue and getting ever more popular. Not only could buggy dining become chic, it could also become virtuous. ...

Vij's Restaurant roasted and ground crickets into flour to make paratha, an Indian flatbread.

Raising livestock has an enormous and negative environmental footprint. Livestock agriculture requires vast amounts of land and feed and produces more of the greenhouse emissions that cause global warming than cars, planes, and all other forms of transportation combined. Ranching is also a major cause of deforestation worldwide, and half of all fresh water on the planet is used for livestock. It takes an astounding 1,500 gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk, and the water necessary for one pound of steak is double that. A less staggering but still shocking statistic is that it takes fourteen pounds of feed to produce one pound of beef. By contrast, it only takes two pounds of feed to produce one pound of cricket meat. Crickets will eat just about anything, and they consume minuscule amounts of water. Moreover, harvesting insects emits a fraction of the greenhouse gases, like methane, that are belched out by livestock. Insect husbandry can also be done in small spaces and therefore drastically reduces the amount of land needed. Insects could even solve the projected world food shortage.

"The United Nations forecasts that the world's population will surpass nine billion by the year 2050 -- more than triple the number of people that were on the planet in 1950. Westerners consume around 250 pounds of beef and pork combined per person annually. Asian and developing nations consume less, but with increasing modernization and population growth one could conservatively imagine that by 2050 at least five billion people will expect to eat their share of 200 pounds of meat per year. In order to feed this many people this much meat, the world would need to produce one trillion pounds of beef and pork annually, and there is not enough land or nutrients on earth to support this kind of production. ...

"Thailand is the current world leader in insect farming, with about 15,000 farms raising locusts, grasshoppers, and mantises for human consumption. Insects also feature in the diets of rural Laos, Vietnam, Colombia, Brazil, and Mexico. Among the most popular dishes are deep-fried crickets, barbecued larvae, and grilled tarantulas. Without leaving the US, the adventurous gourmet can meet up with Gene Rurka, an ecologically-minded exotic-food chef and farmer from Somerset, New Jersey. Among the dishes he is famous for are teriyaki Madagascar hissing cockroaches, 'wormzels' (baked worms that sizzle into pretzel shapes), banana canapes topped with maggot pupae, and tarantula pops. Rurka served up these items and more, including baked scorpions atop a slice of cucumber with herb cream cheese, when creating the menu for the Explorers Club's hundredth birthday party -- a black-tie affair held at the Waldorf Astoria in 2004 with an 1,800-person guest list. Indeed, Rurka concocts the buffet of 'exotic' hors d'oeuvres that precedes the main meal at the Explorers Club's yearly gala dinner, where in addition to cockroaches and spiders, members can sample rattlesnake, beaver, and sweet and sour bovine penis, to name but a few crowd-pleasers. There is also a cocktail station which has variously featured a martini with a goat, lamb, or calf eyeball garnish (stuffed with an olive or onion too).

"If reading about bug grub has somehow made you hungry, you can learn how to prepare an assortment of delights, from appetizers to desserts, in cookbooks such as David George Gordon's Eat A Bug Cookbook, or Dr. Julieta Ramos-Elorduy's Creepy Crawly Cuisine: The Gourmet Guide to Edible Insects."


Rachel Herz


That's Disgusting


W.W. Norton & Company


Copyright 2012 by Rachel Herz


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