High in protein, nutrients and minerals, cheap and readily available—that’s everything consumers are looking for in a food, right?
With 1,900 species to choose from, there is an infinite variety of food preparation ideas with the main ingredient being ants, grasshoppers, cockroaches, termites and worms. Researchers who study hunger causes, population growth and diminishing food resources want consumers to know that these dishes can taste good.
In May, Nordic Food Labs in Denmark announced that major funding ($630,000 USD) was awarded to their lab and University of Copenhagen to expand their insect gastronomy research center. Collaboratively, they have taken a new approach to making insects more appetizing to Westerners who currently cringe at the thought of eating an ant in any manner. The project, “Discerning Taste: Deliciousness as an Argument for Entomophagy,” has been funded by The Velux Foundation’s supporting programs for sustainability and the environment.
From the Chimpanzee’s Mouth
Forty years ago, British primatologist Jane Goodall observed something no one had seen before. A chimpanzee grabbed a twig, stripped off the leaves, came upon a possible nest and did his version of a termite inspection—then he dipped the homemade stick into the mound, caught some termites and picked them off for a snack. Wildlife photographer Bill Wallauer lived with the chimps in Tanzania for 15 years. He said he too eats termites on occasion. They taste like cashews.
Researchers and chefs alike are hoping it won’t take long for Westerners to catch on. Famous chefs across America have begun to proudly present insect-rich dishes in their restaurants, where diners often just need a push of encouragement. For example, at the famous and ambitious restaurant Rivera in L.A., the cocktail menu includes a Donaji, which features artisanal Oaxacan mescal and grasshopper salt (mescal is the Mexican alcohol that houses a worm in the bottle).
Also in L.A., Bricia Lopez’s Guelaguetza restaurant serves sautéed grasshoppers (chapulines a la Mexicana). And in Washington, D.C., the James Beard Award-Winning Chef Jose Andres makes grasshopper tacos at his restaurant, Oyamel. Andres sees eating insects as a matter of survival and a gastronomic experience, reports the New Yorker.
What’s on the Menu?
Tickets sold out in advance to two nights of “Exploring the Deliciousness of Insects,” held at London’s unique art museum, Wellcome Collection. Taking the perceived inedibility of insects to another level—edible and delectable—takes some coercing. That is precisely what Nordic Food Lab’s Director Michael BomFrøst has set out to do. Alongside Benedict Reade, Head of Culinary Research and Development at Nordic Food Labs and ambassador for insects, Professor Marcel Dicke, BomFrøst offered education about insect cooking and the benefits of bringing it to the table at the event.
The evening’s menu items included:
- Aperitif of anti-gin & tonic (gin made out of wood ants)
- House cricket broth with grasshopper garum sauce
- Oatmeal worm stout to drink
- Butter-roasted desert locusts (great bar snacks)
- And for desert, beeswax iced cream
Food futurologist Morgaine Gaye explains that if people see a cool, edgy brand producing something like insect burgers or insect meal sausages, and we see it endorsed by a celebrity or chef, it could get people to actually taste it and then becomes more normalized.
Everyone is optimistic. Look for Nordic Lab’s version of Chimp Sticks at a restaurant near you.
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