A Worm in My Salad, please! (or “Bugs on the Menu”) by Carol Kean was first published by Perihelion Science Fiction ezine in 2015.
NOBODY LIKES ME, EVERYBODY hates me, think I’ll go eat worms?
Good idea. You’ll feel better, and not just because “Eat bugs, save the world!” is the Next Big Thing. Chocolate-covered ants or batter-fried tarantulas may be the comfort food you need. Protein bars made of crickets could make you lean and mean (just not as quickly as Popeye’s spinach) if you need to fight off a bully.
Entomophagy (eating insects) is nothing new. Humans have consumed insects, the most abundant life form besides bacteria, for as long as humans have existed. Bugs and worms have nourished (why do I hate that word along with “moist” and “meals”?) indigenous people all over the world. European governments have started promoting entomophagy, but Americans are squeamish to the point of being irrational, prejudiced or phobic.
“It’s not easy for most Americans to see this, but insects are going to be a far bigger part of our menus in the next 25 years,” according to Josh Schonwald, author of “The Taste of Tomorrow: Dispatches from the Future of Food.”
I’m not a vegan or a PETA protester, nor do I trust the World Health Organization’s latest reports on red meat causing cancer. It just strikes me as weird that most Americans would rather eat a conscious, big-eyed furry or feathered friend–pig, cow, rabbit, pheasant, even a beady-eyed barnyard chicken–than the far less attractive or companionable bug.
Crickets are cute (unless they’re chirping in your house), and I like spiders and snakes, but never formed any emotional attachment to one. Growing up on a farm, we named all our critters and they had distinct personalities. The “Ha-Ha Rooster” chased us and terrorized us, so I didn’t mind holding his legs at the chopping block when Mom whacked off his head, but my heart ached when Johnny Boor leaped from the chute (how many pigs can do that?) in his futile attempt to escape his trip to the market. Unlike cat-eating Koreans or horse-eating Frenchmen, we have taboos against eating our feline, equine and canine friends, but none against eating the gentle bovine. One farmwife, however, told me she’d “almost rather eat a person I don’t know than eat one of our lambs.” No doubt she’d rather eat mutton, hers or anyone else’s, than a casserole full of worms.
The average American’s consumption of meat is a historical phenomenon. While the average 17th Century European was lucky to see meat once a week, even an impoverished American consumed two hundred pounds a year–and this was long before the Revolution of 1776. Land grabs, ranches, cattle drives, stock yards, meat factories, railroads–a whole new industry, generated by America’s demand for meat–formed the U.S. economy. European settlers transformed the New World into the biggest meat-producing place on earth.
Conventional livestock is simply not a sustainable food source. Cattle produce more greenhouse gases than the entire transport sector. The amount of water to produce one pound of steak equals that consumed by a family of four for a full year. While bacon, ham, hot dogs, hamburgers and steaks have a forever place in our hearts– er, appetites–there isn’t enough of the “good” stuff to go around. Hunger is a problem here in the United States, not just in famine-plagued Ethiopia. Protein builds stronger children, workers and warriors, and it doesn’t have to come from Bessie the cow or pigs like Babe.
Again: you won’t hear me urging people to give up meat. You can see a “Cowspiracy” video (http://bit.ly/1L1JJ7u) and judge for yourself. As a farm-raised carnivore, I tend to side with Maureen Ogle, author of “In Meat We Trust,” who tweeted October 26: “This WHO meat thing is THE Mother of All Clickbait.”
My spinster aunt who labored forty years at a meat packing plant refused to tell us what really goes into hot dogs. Americans still don’t know, or don’t want to know, if bugs or worms get cooked in with the guts and other body parts of pigs, cows, and chickens. What are we so afraid of? I’d say it’s the nitrites, nitrates and MSG, more so than the meat source, we should worry about.
“McDonald’s Uses Worm Meat Fillers But Can Legally Call It 100% Beef” is a meme perpetuated on Pinterest and all the social media, but snopes.com refutes the rumor. Why were so many scandalized by it in the first place? In 2012, meat product critics terrorized Americans with activist rebranding, calling lean, finely textured beef “pink slime.” Millions had eaten it and liked it until they knew what was in the food they chewed and swallowed. They should care about truth in labeling too.
They may be tiny, ugly, creepy or crawly, but eating more bug and worms, and less poultry, beef, pork and fish, is good for you and even better for the environment. We already use three-fourths of all agricultural land to raise livestock. The oceans are overfished. Disease (and insects!) threaten crop production. It’s all in a book released by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), “Edible Insects: future prospects for food and feed security” (May 13, 2013).
“Gathering, rearing, processing and selling insects can offer important livelihood opportunities for poor individuals living in developing countries,” FAO reports. “Not only will these activities improve their diets, but they can also offer employment and generate cash income through the sale of the produce. It also doesn’t require a lot of experience or sophisticated equipment, meaning many individuals can participate in these activities including women and those living in rural or urban areas that are lacking in available land.”
No matter how stupendous the American meat industry may be, it will not meet the demands of billions of humans multiplying by 75 million people each year. Earthlings will need a new source of protein to sustain the world into the future.
Animal feed comes mostly from crops grown with pesticides and irrigation, fossil fuels and big machinery. Feed made with fishmeal could be made with insects instead, leaving more fish for humans to consume. Insects can eat animal waste or plants that people and livestock cannot.
We already eat bugs whether we realize it or not. The FDA’s Defect Levels Handbook defines the “acceptable” limit of insect infestation in foods you may be eating every day. Aphids in beer? Hops may contain 2,500 aphids per 10 grams. Canned fruit juices are allowed up to 1 maggot per 250 ml, curry powder is allowed up to 100 insect fragments (head, body, legs) per 25 grams and chopped dates are allowed up to 10 whole dead insects. The list goes on. The trick is to keep people unaware that they’re eating these things.
A better idea is to retrain our palates. Even the lowly cockroach has accomplished this. The German cockroach, Blattella Germanica, quickly outwitted their human assassins when sweet baits became popular for roach control in the mid-1980s. Roaches with an aversion to sweets survived and multiplied. (If they can do it, why don’t I acquire an aversion to chocolate? Not motivated!) The cockroach’s aversion to sweets is heritable, and only several years were needed for Blattella Germanica to adapt and boycott the baits. (Science, May 2013. DOI: 10.1126/science.1234854)
Instead of poisoning creepy cockroaches in our homes, we could try eating them instead. Reality TV shows would have us believe ya gotta be naked and afraid to try that. In fact, a brilliant scientist who happens to be one of my favorite living authors has perpetuated the idea that you’d have to be starving in a post-apocalyptic dystopia to eat a cockroach, and even then it wouldn’t taste good. Sorry, E.E. Giorgi, but I have a bone to pick with you for “The House on the Cliff” even though I gave it five stars as part the Immortality Chronicles (reviewed in September 2015 Perihelion). The citizens of Astraca “sucked ants for breakfast and chewed on hay straws for lunch because that was all we had. We had roaches, too, and my brother claimed they tasted delicious roasted on an open fire. Even as starving as we were, I don’t remember enjoying the roaches.”
Giorgi may need to be indoctrinated with Cricket Bitters, “the gateway drug to insect cuisine,” as Ana C. Day blogs. Ease your way into entomorphagy by drinking insects with your booze, then build up to eating them.
Just don’t let me think about how awesome the immortal cockroach can be. They’re among the oldest living creatures on earth. Survivors. Unkillable. How many other creatures can live for several weeks after being decapitated? What else can survive the fallout and radiation of nuclear war? If a star within ten light years of Earth turned supernova (blew up), cockroaches would be one of the few land-dwelling species preserved from extinction (David Seargent, “Does God Love Cockroaches?: And Other Idle Musings,” Tate Publishing & Enterprises, 2009).
David George Gordon was working on his 1996 book “The Compleat Cockroach” when he first realized how truly edible cockroaches are –full of protein and crunchy, as those who step on them already know. Gordon’s “Eat-A-Bug Cookbook” includes recipes for all bugs, not just roaches. A revised and updated version includes new recipes and photos of dishes that actually make bugs look delicious.
Gordon’s advice for easing your way into Entomophacy:
— Begin with crickets, crunchy and light
— “We eat chicken eggs, and that’s kind of weird when you really think about it.”
— Tarantula legs “are full of this long white muscle, and people are always surprised by how chewy they are.”
— “I singe off the hairs, dip them in tempura batter and then deep-fry them… I’ll eat anything deep-fried!”
“80% of the world eats bugs in some form,” Gordon said in a Business Insider interview. “We’re really the weirdos because we don’t eat bugs. Western ideas about taste are pretty narrowly defined.”
Unlike the 1982 film “Victor Victoria” in which a starving singer (Julie Andrews) sneaks a cockroach from her purse and into her salad in hopes of eating for free, this might be a more likely scenario for future diners:
“Waiter! There’s a worm in my salad!”
“Just the one? I’m so sorry. How many mealworms do you wish?”
Ah, but if you’re in Saigon, worms may be the most expensive item on the menu. A family friend who ate big, fat worms in the jungles of Vietnam during the war had no idea what a costly delicacy they are.
“How I love them raw . . . with just a pinch of salt . . . and a dry white wine,” a fox mumbles under anesthesia after persuading a mouse dentist to extract a tooth in “Doctor De Soto” by William Steig. The fox was dreaming of raw mice, but that line is steal-worthy as a meme to inspire Americans to crave worms like those Vietnamese gourmets do.
World class chefs such as Jose Andres incorporate bugs into their elegant dishes. Entomophagist pioneer Monica Martinez has launched the first all-bug street food cart. New “entopreneurs” keep popping up with restaurants that include bugs on the menu and businesses that supply them.
Unfortunately a 1977 movie, “Worm Eaters,” destroyed the chance to educate and inspire people on entomophagy. Fortunately, the movie was so reviled by film critics and the general public, hardly anyone watched it or remembers it.
In the 2013 Fantasy/Thriller “Snowpiercer,” the lower classes were fed insect cakes. In many science fiction movies, the insects turn the tables and eat people. (Amazon link to the DVD:
In 2010 edible insects “were nothing more than an academic idea in the US,” according to entomophagist Meghan Curry (Bug Vivant http://bugvivant.com/ ). “Today, this industry is booming, with a new startup joining the edible insect industrial complex just about every week.”
Insects are as natural to eat as fruits and vegetables. They’re a more complete form of protein than many livestock alternatives. Insects offer almost as much fat, protein, vitamin, fiber and mineral content as fish or livestock. House crickets average 205 g/kg protein, very comparable to beef’s 256 g/kg. Insects are also rich in essential amino acids and omega-3 fatty acids. Mealworms contain as much unsaturated omega-3 and six fatty acids as fish and even more than beef and pork. Some are also surprisingly high in iron. Locusts contain up to 20 mg/100g iron while beef supplies only 6 mg/100g.
Insects have shorter life spans and can be grown quickly and farmed in large quantities in small areas. They multiply faster than rabbits and need far less feed, water and space. Insects produce a fraction of greenhouse gases such as methane and ammonia. (You-tube is full of spoofs on bovine flatulence). Insects are cold-blooded, maintaining their internal body temperature far more efficiently than warm-blooded creatures. They don’t need to convert anywhere near as much feed into edible body mass. So why do we prefer to eat our barnyard animal friends without ever even tasting a gourmet bug dish?
Thanksgiving turkey will cost more this year due to the 2015 bird flu pandemic. Chickens and turkeys were slaughtered by the millions, many of them baked alive in over-heated barns as the cleanest way to kill them. Note: insects are less likely to transmit zoonotic infections to humans than pigs (swine flu, anyone?), cattle (mad cow disease) and other warm-blooded creatures we eat. Insects might not be for everyone, but they may become a vital part of global food security.
“I love bugs. And as the first person to popularize their eating in America, I take special pride in seeing their appreciation soar,” says gastronomical globetrotter Andrew Zimmern. “Head to Mexico City and taste the myriad ways the chefs there cook up ant eggs, maguey grubs, nopales worms… then call me and tell me I’m wrong about their legitimate worthiness as basic comestibles.”
Next Millennium Farms, a company that launched in 2014, is North America’s largest supplier of edible insects for human consumption. “When we learned of the many people living in food-insecure countries and communities who were at risk in the future, “ says Darren Goldin, one of three brothers who got their start raising food for reptiles, “we felt a responsibility to do something.” Now with two farms, 60,000 square feet in total, and a 2,000 square foot processing plant, the brothers produce 8,000 pounds of raw crickets per week or 2,000 pounds of processed cricket powder. “Our products will help feed nutritious and cost effective food to the poor, malnourished, and food insecure, as well as preserve the environment and broaden the horizons of food lovers around the world,” Goldin says. (Alex Karn, “Peterborough This Week” November 2, 2015)
Innovation in agriculture http://www.mykawartha.com/community-story/5970893-innovation-in-agriculture/ via @kawarthanews
Have I myself made worms and bugs a staple of my diet? Not yet. I need to connect with suppliers, now that I’m finding out who they are. Last I’d heard, mealworms cost $20 a pound, while filet mignon is $14 a pound at Sam’s Club. Until bugs become part of the food industry the way meat did in America, with mass production lowering the cost, I’ll have to breed my own food supply. When I figure out how to start my own worm ranch and hide it from the husband and kids, I’ll start sneaking grubs and bugs into casseroles. I might find a quick way to dig up enough grub worms to fill a skillet, but only after the husband stops fertilizing and “pesticiding” a lawn full of non-native grass. A reformer’s work is never done.
French-fried worms, anyone? Try it. You’ll like it.
# # # # Recipes and additional information below
David George Gordon’s Cricket Recipe (via Business Insider; buy the book via amazon)
Preparation of crickets for any recipe:
– Crickets should only be purchased from reliable sources. Keep crickets as fresh as possible.
– Chill your crickets before cooking. Keep them in a plastic container or storage bag in the refrigerator at least for an hour to slow down their metabolism, inducing a state of hypothermia, to keep them from jumping or wiggling when removed from container. You can also freeze them an hour or more to definitely kill them, guaranteeing their immobility.
— Drop chilled crickets into a pot of boiling water sized to hold the quantity you’re cooking. Add a few pinches of salt. Boil for about two minutes to ensure cleanliness. Remove and let cool, then place in storage bags in the freezer or use right away for any number of recipes. All crickets should be sanitized like this prior to eating.
Dry Roasted Crickets
Served as a snack for any number of persons
25 — 50 live crickets — or however many you wish to cook/serve
Salt, or any preferred seasoning that can be shaken or sprinkled onto crickets after roasting.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Arrange the crickets on a cookie sheet, making sure none of them overlap. Bake at low temperature for about 60 minutes or until the crickets are completely dry or dry enough for personal taste.
At the 45-minute mark, test a cricket to see if it’s dry enough by crushing with a spoon against a hard surface or between your fingers. The crickets should crush somewhat easily. If not, place them back inside oven until crisp.
Once roasted and cooled, place a few crickets between your palms and carefully roll them breaking off legs and antennae in the process. This ensures clean and crisp crickets without legs or antennae getting in the way.
Salt them or use any seasoning you wish. They are very good and healthy to eat as a roasted snack. Eat them on the spot or place them back into the freezer for future use.
Cricket Flour (¼ – ½ cup of crickets to every cup of flour works well)
Break off the antennae and legs by gently rolling the cricket between your hands.
Once you collect enough crickets in a bowl proceed to crush either using a mortar and pestle or rolling pin on a hard surface.
Gather the crushed crickets — they should look like small specks (usually of dark brown color) and blend them well into the flour of your choosing. Once you’ve blended the crickets with the flour you’re set to use it in any way you wish.
Same: Add Bullet Items?
- “We’re constantly slammed by orders. We simply can’t keep up,” said Bachhuber, a Wisconsin native who’s had a long interest in urban farming. “The speed at which people have been willing to eat bugs is crazy. It’s cool.”
— Oakland-based Tiny Farms is trying to address supply crunch by developing more efficient ways to mass-produce crickets and other bugs. It eventually wants to create a large network of insect farms to supply food makers such as Don Bugito and Bitty Foods.
— “The goal is basically to make it easier and cheaper to produce industrial-scale volumes of insects that can be used in food products,” said Daniel Imrie-Situnayake, a software engineer turned entopreneur. “We’re really just scraping the surface in terms of figuring out what the potential is for insects to be part of our food system.”
Source: ‘Entopreneurs’ try to convince public that insects can be deliciousTHE ASSOCIATED PRESS Wednesday, April 15, 2015, 12:34 PM
Top 5 selling edible insects:
Chinese Armor Tail Scorpions
7 Piece Bush Tucker Banquet (20% saving)
- Ana C. Day blogs: “The European Union is cofinancing the PROteINSECT research project that is exploring the use of insect protein in food for people or as animal fodder.”
- Nanna Roos coordinates GREEiNSECT, a project at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, which investigates how insects can be farmed in Kenya.
- Grub Kitchen, in Pembrokeshire, south-west Wales, is intended to make people think about their food, even the dishes that look like they wouldn’t look out of place in the Bushtucker Trials.”
- Scientists are investigating the potential uses of insect oil, rich in essential fatty acids oleic acid, linoleic acid and linolenic acid. Overcoming ‘the yuk factor’ may be difficult, but termite fat is already used for frying in east and west Africa, and grasshopper and soldier fly oil is said to have a pleasant fruit aroma. Cockroach oil on the other hand smells like vomit – uses would be limited to industrial lubricants or paint.
The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook, Revised: 40 Ways to Crickets, Grasshoppers, Ants, Water Bugs, Spiders, Centipedes, and Their Kin by David George Gordon
Top 50 Most Delicious Insect Recipes (Book 19) by Julie Hatfield http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ERCB646/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_4Kcowb1TQB48A
Eating Insects. Eating insects as food. Edible insects and bugs, insect breeding, most popular insects to eat, cooking ideas, restaurants and where to buy insects all covered by Elliott Lang
Raising Mealworms 1-2-3: How to Breed and Raise the Easiest Feeder Insect By Life Cycle by JM Daniels
Josh Schonwald, “The Taste of Tomorrow: Dispatches from the Future of Food”
Edible: An Adventure into the World of Eating Insects and the Last Great Hope to Save the Planet http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00E3E4XN4/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_qBcowb10RQACY
The House on the Cliff in the Immortality Chronicles:
Harman Singh @Entopreneur From by-product to high quality insect protein from @insectrearing http://ow.ly/TfNhn
Harman Singh @Entopreneur Why crickets are the better choice over beef/animal ag. Watch @Cowspiracy http://bit.ly/1L1JJ7u
@AlltechSpain: Feeding 9 billion people by 2050 will require a 19% increase of #water in #agriculture http://futurefood2050.com/water-infographic/
It’s More Nutritious For You to Eat a #Bug Than a #Steak http://sco.lt/4ziR2P
Entomophagy: Edible Insects and the Future of Food
Insects as a protein alternative and solution to our world’s food crisis.
Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, think I’ll go eat worms!
Big fat juicy ones,
Eensie weensy squeensy ones,
See how they wiggle and squirm!
Down goes the first one, down goes the second one,
Oh how they wiggle and squirm!
Up comes the first one, up comes the second one,
Oh how they wiggle and squirm!
I bite off the heads, and suck out the juice,
And throw the skins away!
Nobody knows how fat I grow,
On worms three times a day!
Breeding Invertebrates for Fun and Food by Gordon Ramel
how to easily breed everything from the more usual Tarantulas, Whip Scorpions and Stick Insects, through various beetles and lepidoptera to to the Crickets and Hoverflies you need to feed them. Written by a professional biologist with more than a decades experience breeding a large diversity of invertebrates for one reason or another this book will be invaluable to any invertebrate hobbyist or secondary school science teacher … includes instructions on how to make your own nets, pooters, and cages including specialised nests for different species of ants.