We’re Playing Hide & Seek With Insects

So… we have this weird proclivity to refer to food as “grub,” but get turned off by the thought of eating a grub. Ironic much?

As the cost of animal protein continues to rise and food and feed insecurity becomes more problematic, we need to get serious about addressing our food choices.

Thankfully, most of the world is already eating insects. From Mexico to Asia, two billion people eat a regular diet of insects. In Western cultures, at least it seems to be a growing trend from groups of people as diverse as bodybuilders and environmentalists.

Many are cleverly disguising insects in more familiar forms, like protein shakes. A drink using powdered crickets can have a “pleasant nutty flavor.” Some even say that the protein is more bioavailable than other whey products.

In Oaxaca, Mexico, where people have consumed “chapulines” (grasshoppers) for centuries, the little fellas aren’t hidden at all. Grasshoppers were a dietary staple long before the Spanish conquistadors arrived on the scene. Modern-day Oaxacans toast them with oil, garlic, lemon and salt.

A word to the wise – many of the people I’ve spoken to about edible insects say things like, “Ew! Why would you eat bugs… don’t you know where they’ve been!?” Yes. It might not be the best to eat wild bugs that have collected filth from their diets. It is important to know where the food we are eating is raised. The Oaxacan chapulines, for example, are “semi-domesticated,” collected from managed fields of crops like maize and alfalfa (CBC News).

CBC News reports, “They are harvested in the cool early morning, caught in nets while the critters are drowsily sunning themselves. It’s said that chapulines that have eaten alfalfa are quite sweet, while maize-grazing chapulines are a touch bitter.”

Having tried chapulines myself, I can attest to the delicious nature of their flavor. Seasoned with lemon and lime, they’re better than the best lobster I’ve ever had! I’m also a fan of restaurants that crush up mealworms or crickets into a salt and use this to line the rims of margarita glasses. To me, insects are a delicacy. We have a long way to go to overcome Western aversions, however.

“Feelings of disgust in the West towards entomophagy contributes to the common misconception that entomophagy in the developing world is prompted by starvation and is merely a survival mechanism,” wrote the FAO in 2013.

Thankfully we have a lot of great organizations emerging to help educate Western folk on the truth behind edible insects. Check out some of them here: https://bugible.com/resources/.


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