Usually, finding a bug in your food at a restaurant would result in panic and a free meal. But what if the bugs are the food? There are many cultures around the world that have been eating bugs for ages. However, the trend has yet to catch on in America – it appears our palates have yet to develop a taste for creepy-crawlers. It seems, though, that that line of thinking is heading for a change. The U.N. released a report last year highlighting entomophagy (the practice of consuming insects) as a sustainable way of feeding growing world populations. After all, a cricket farm will produce a fraction of the carbon emissions of similar cattle-raising operations. Perhaps the next challenge for chefs in the 21st century will be making insects palatable to Western consumers.
Delicious and nutritious
Bugs tend to be jam-packed with nutritional benefits such as protein, fiber and minerals. In addition, many bugs are found to have a pleasant flavor, that is, if you can get past that texture. African countries are known to consume butterflies and moths in their larval stages for a hearty dose of protein and iron. Crickets and grasshoppers are some of the most popular edible insects, due in large part to the ease with which they can be captured and their ubiquity. Often described as having a neutral flavor, they absorb the flavors of the ingredients they are paired with. Perhaps the most difficult edible insect to get behind are the worms. Plump agave worms are often harvested and added to mezcal as well as eaten while Daniella Martin, author of a bug-based cookbook and advocate for the increased consumption of critters, maintains her recipe for wax-moth larvae tacos is heavenly.
Experimenting with insects
For the intrepid online culinary program student, insects may prove to be the perfect ingredient for experimentation. However, procuring bugs for consumption may seem difficult. One of the most important first steps to creating your own insect dishes is learning about which ones are edible and which aren’t. There are an estimated 1,900 species that are fit for human consumption, so be sure to consult the list before going into your backyard and picking up the first ant to cross your path. One of the safest ways to get cooking bugs is to have them shipped to you from suppliers in the U.S. Fluker’s Farms in Louisiana and Rainbow Mealworms in California may be the best places to start.