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Edible Insects: Overcoming the 'Yuck' Factor

submitted on 20 August 2023 by foodndrink.org

Why the Bug-Eating Hysteria?

It's a veritable plague of locusts, this entomophagy movement. The swarms of edible insect evangelists have infiltrated our media, extolling the virtues of bug-based diets as both sustainable and nutritious. And yet, the vast majority of us continue to balk at the idea of popping a crispy cricket into our mouths. Is it the telltale crunch that's off-putting, the sudden awareness of exoskeleton giving way to gooey innards? Or is it simply the knowledge that we're consuming creatures we've been conditioned to view as pests?

A Most Unpalatable Proposal

Our collective aversion to insects as sustenance is, in some ways, baffling. After all, we blithely decimate shrimp by the truckloads, despite their uncanny resemblance to aquatic cockroaches. And we happily polish off oysters, those slimy mollusks that look like they've been dredged from the depths of Davy Jones' locker. So, why the double standard? Do we really believe that insects are somehow less palatable than a crustacean that has been likened to a swimming cesspool?Whatever the reason for our reluctance, it's clear that the bug-eating brigade has their work cut out for them. They must not only overcome our gut reaction of disgust but also convince us that insects are truly the environmentally-friendly, protein-packed superfood they claim to be. But how do they propose to do this? By smothering them in chocolate, of course! If there's one thing that can make anything palatable, it's the silky, sumptuous seduction of cocoa. Even entomophobes have been known to succumb to the allure of chocolate-covered ants.

From the Depths of the Amazon to the Shores of Brighton

But, lest we in the so-called "civilized" world assume that we're the first to grapple with the idea of insect-eating, let's take a moment to remember that our ancestors were gnawing on grubs long before they discovered the virtues of roasting a mammoth. As a species, we've been dining on insects for millennia, and nearly two billion people around the globe continue to do so today. In fact, some cultures consider bug-based meals to be gourmet fare, the sort of thing that might be served at a posh dinner party or a high-end restaurant.Indeed, the Western world is finally catching on. London's cutting-edge Archipelago restaurant has been offering insect-based dishes for years, while Brighton's popular Grub Kitchen has been serving up a menu of sustainable, locally-sourced insect dishes, such as cricket-crusted pizza and bug burgers, since 2015. In the States, edible insect start-ups are popping up like maggots on a dead squirrel, touting everything from cricket energy bars to mealworm pasta. Clearly, the tide is beginning to turn, but the question remains: will the majority of us ever be able to overcome the "yuck" factor?

Practical Tips for the Reluctant Entomophage

If you're considering giving bug-eating a whirl, but find yourself struggling with the innate repulsion many of us feel at the thought of chomping on a cicada, consider the following tips:
  • Start small: Begin with something relatively innocuous, like a chocolate-covered ant or a cricket-infused energy bar. Work your way up to a full plate of grasshopper stir-fry or beetle larva tacos. You may find that what began as a culinary dare becomes a genuinely palatable experience.
  • Channel your inner adventurer: Imagine you're a fearless jungle explorer, sampling the local cuisine as a means of survival or forging bonds with your indigenous hosts. Alternatively, you could pretend you're a contestant on a reality show, performing culinary feats of bravery to win the grand prize. Whatever helps you choke down that first bug, do it.
  • Focus on the positives: Remind yourself of the numerous benefits of insects as a food source, including their sustainability, their nutritional value, and their low environmental impact. If you're the sort of person who likes to virtue signal, you'll be able to smugly inform your fellow diners that you're doing your bit for the planet by consuming insects instead of methane-producing livestock.
  • Pair with complimentary flavors: Just as you might enjoy a nice glass of wine with your steak, consider what accompaniments could enhance the flavor of your insect-based meal. A tangy dipping sauce or a sprinkle of spices can go a long way in making your bug banquet more palatable.

Embracing the Inevitable?

Ultimately, whether you choose to embrace the creepy-crawly cuisine trend is a matter of personal choice, but it's worth considering that our current methods of food production are rapidly becoming unsustainable. The world's population is projected to reach nearly 10 billion by 2050, and there's a growing consensus that we simply cannot continue to rely on traditional livestock farming to meet our protein needs. Insects may not be the sole answer, but they could certainly form part of a more sustainable, diverse, and environmentally-friendly food system.So, the next time you find yourself contemplating a plate of insects, ask yourself: is the "yuck" factor worth risking the planet? If not, then bon appétit, my fellow entomophages.


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