If you read my post last week, you’ll recall I promised bug recipes. With the holidays right around the corner, I oblige and deliver.
This first one is very apropos what with OIRED’s annual Christmas-cookie exchange on Thursday – and it’s beginner friendly. Honestly, who doesn’t have dry-roasted crickets on hand? And for those of us with skittish stomachs, it’s only half a cup of bug that has been tempered by chocolate. Apparently crickets taste a bit like pistachio nuts.
Chocolate ‘Chirp’ Cookies
– from Insects are Food
2 ¼ cups of plain flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
12 ounces chocolate chips
1 cup chopped mixed nuts (optional)
½ cup dry- roasted crickets
Pre-heat the oven to 375°. Mix together butter, all the sugar, the vanilla and beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Beat in the eggs and then slowly add flour, salt and baking soda. Stir in the nuts, insects and chocolate chips. Place rounded spoonfuls of the mixture onto a greased baking tray and put in the oven for 8-10 minutes.
Worried about worms in your bread? Consider preempting them with a new spin on an old classic:
Banana Worm Bread
– from Insects are Food
4 oz margarine, softened
6 oz sugar
2 bananas, mashed
8 oz plain flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
½ cup of chopped nuts (optional)
¼ cup of dry-roasted mealworms
Pre-heat the oven to 345° and grease a loaf tin. Mix together the margarine, sugar, flour, baking soda and salt. Beat in the eggs then stir in the banana, nuts and worms. Cook for 45 minutes – 1 hour (until a skewer comes out clean).
Alright, I admit. This last one is troubling my lunch a little. But, to echo Chef David George Gordon from whom this recipe comes, “I can eat anything if it’s deep-fried.”
Deep Fried Tarantula
– from The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook via The Business Insider
2 cups canola or vegetable oil;
2 frozen adult Texas brown, Chilean rose, or similar-sized tarantulas, thawed
1 cup tempura batter
1 teaspoon smoked paprika.
1. To make the batter, beat the egg in a small mixing. Slowly add the cold water, continuing to beat until evenly mixed. Add the flour and baking soda and beat gently until combined; the batter should be a bit lumpy.
2. Let the batter sit at room temperature while heating the oil.
- In a deep saucepan or deep-fat fryer, heat the oil to 350°F.
- With a sharp knife, sever and discard the abdomens from the two tarantulas. Singe off any of the spider’s body hairs with a crème brûlée torch or butane cigarette lighter.
- Thoroughly coat each spider into the tempura batter. Make sure the legs aren’t clumped together before dropping them into the hot oil.
- Deep-fry the spiders, one at a time, until the batter is lightly browned, about 1 minute. Remove each spider from the oil and place it on paper towels to drain.
- Use a sharp knife to cut each spider in two lengthwise. Sprinkle with the paprika and serve.
Try the legs first and, if you’re still peckish, nibble on the meat-filled mesothorax. Be careful to avoid the spider’s fangs, which are tucked away in the head region.
In many other countries, the most unusual thing about these recipes would be the ease with which we can attain all the ingredients. It is estimated that insects are part of the traditional diets of at least 2 billion people. More than 1,900 species have reportedly been used as food.
And with good reason – insects are a highly nutritious and healthy food source with high fat, protein, vitamin, fiber and mineral content. In many cases, they are more beneficial than much of the food we normally consume.
Considering this untapped wealth of nourishment, why do we in the United States in particular have an aversion to preparing, chewing and ingesting insects?
Many people have thought long and hard about this question (see a sample below), but I think it comes down to this:
In our culture, we have the dubious luxury of isolating ourselves from our environment, and we have relatively few encounters with insects – not taking into account the bugs that live in our guts and on our faces. We have come to consider these encounters as invasions; affronts to our clean homes and our vulnerable, private spaces.
Most of these interactions don’t go so well (especially for them I should think.)
We go to great lengths to avoid them, and we certainly don’t want them – and their slime, legs, hairy-crunch-ug – in our mouths!
But it looks like entomophagy – the consumption of insects – might be the best way to proceed.
Here’s a few reasons why:
1) Insects are a renewable resource, 2) eating them will make our bodies happy, 3) insects-as-food require less land clearing and emit fewer greenhouse gases than most livestock, and 4) insects-as-food infrastructure can improve the livelihoods of people in both the developed and developing world.
It will take some time to for us to recover from our cultural conditioning and tuck in to an insect platter with relish. But the more we learn about insects, the faster our revulsion can turn into fascination.
Well, I’ve certainly convinced myself.
But I might have to skip the tarantula.
UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization: A report about cultivating insects for human and livestock consumption: http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3253e/i3253e.pdf
List of Edible Insects:
Insects are Food
Eating Insects: Arnold van Huis at TedEx
Here’s entomophagy advocate David Gracer inviting Stephen Colbert to share a plate of insects (spoiler: he wimps out.)
Should you really start eating insects?
Food insects Newsletter from Montana State University