What’s worse than finding a maggot in your apple?
Half a maggot.
As a child, and someone who is still a little squeamish, I was always half fearful of this joke. It’s actually probably why I never ate any of the apples from the orchard at home. So goodness knows why I found myself agreeing to attend the Wellcome Collection’s event, ‘Exploring the Deliciousness of Insects’. As far as I can tell, that’s a great big lie there in the title.
Organised by the Nordic Food Lab (a non-profit organization who takes the realms of gastronomy to places no one’s been or ever really wanted to go before) and Marcel Dicke (an insect-eating ambassador), the main message behind the evening was to change people’s perceptions about eating insects (after all, they eat them in 180 countries already) and the often-discussed issue of feeding the growing population. Indeed, we heard a compelling argument – as a substitute for protein (they contain almost as much protein as lean beef), insects take up less space, have a higher yield and are more cost efficient to grow and harvest.
It seems as though there was a mover and shaker already around, even before the animal protein crisis; Vincent Holt and author of the 1885 publication ‘Why not eat insects?’ It didn’t catch on. Will it this time? Will we even have a choice?
For many people, it’s the beady-eyed look of the insect and their many legs that are the deterrent. Yet, we already some rather rank-looking animals. Take the oyster, or the snail, for instance. Why would we not eat some shiny green bug over a gloopy grey mess?
Ok, I’ll let you into a little secret. We’re already eating insects.
Red food dyes (e.g. E120) are often made from Cochineal. Little bugs that are ground up and put into your cupcakes, strawberry yoghurt, marshmallows etc. But what about the ones that get into your food by mistake? It’s called the Food Defect Action Levels and states the amount of insect matter that is allowed in food. Wheat flour, for example, is allowed up to an average of 150 insect fragments per 100g before the authorities get involved. But who checks this? Scary thought, huh?
Even better, insect diseases aren’t, as yet, transferable. So there’s no chance of catching Mad Cow disease, or Bird Flu or anything else.
So why don’t we already eat them? Because most people are a total wuss. And as a result, there aren’t that many insect suppliers around. It’s changing in the Nordics, and the Wahaca Southbank Experiment had some grasshoppers on the menu, but we’ve still got a long way to go. There’s a huge opportunity for a budding entrepreneur to take the world by storm here….
Exploring The Deliciousness of Insects – the Menu
But here’s what you’ve been waiting for. More details of the little Jiminy Crickets and turgid larvae that were dished up.
Would I do it again? Yes, definitely. For some. The moth larvae mousse was good if I didn’t think about it, I can imagine chowing down on some ants over peanuts anyway (and they’re better for you) and a pack of grasshoppers would definitely be a feature in my kitchen cupboard. By far the worst were the bee larvae. They were squishy, rather flaccid and if you poked them too hard with the cocktail stick, their insides burst out.
So what should you do when presented with a plate of fried grasshoppers? Say yes. After all, they won’t kill you. Who knows, you may even like them…
The Wellcome Collection always has some interesting events on. Take a look at their events calendar here >