Posts Tagged ‘David George Gordon’

From Cringe to Crave… Video of my Ignite presentation, with alternate ending…

October 22, 2014

A few weeks ago, I went onstage at the High Noon Saloon to deliver an Ignite presentation (20 slides in 5 minutes) on the theme of “Attainable Sustainable.” I spoke very quickly about how I overcome my aversion to eating a very attainable and sustainable (but not commonly appreciated) food…

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I think it turned out pretty well. I had a lot to cram in there, and there was way more left out than put in. I’ve been writing a lot about entomophagy recently. (My first draft was over an hour long.)

Also, my last slide (slide #20) did not make it. In the moment, I panicked thinking I miscounted my slides, so I ended abruptly. But I didn’t miscount. My slides were cut short due to a technical issue with the computer.

So in the spirit of a Quantum-Leap/Back-To-The-Future-type ambition to put right what once went wrong, I will go through how I would have wanted it to end.

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…Now I encourage you all to take your own journeys. Because eating bugs is not so weird, most of the world already does it. And it’s sustainable and paleo, and kosher, and gluten free, and no more grosser than many things we eat now.

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And there are now bars with cricket protein, and a cricket flour you can bake with, and resources with the Eat-a-Bug Cookbook and Daniella Martin’s Edible.

It’s just a matter over that cultural aversion. As with a lot of things we wouldn’t normally do–like karaoke, giving an Ignite presentations–a little alcohol helps

I wanted to conclude by making clear that there are way more palatable edible insect foods out there now than what I made with my own cooking, like energy bars from Exo and Chapul, savory snacks from Don Bugito,  candies from Hotlix, and cool flour and baked goods from Bitty Foods.

Many thanks to the folks at Ignite and Sustain Dane for putting together such a cool night of folks talking sustainability from a variety of fun and unique angles. Check them all out here.

And also thanks to Cheri Schweitzer, top-notch Madison restaurant consultant of Credible Consulting, food safety expert, and instructor for WWBIC’s very worthwhile “Business Planning for Your Food Business,” who recommended I try to do this thing.

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I was in the news over the weekend…

September 2, 2014

Over the weekend, The Capital Times published an article from a long, rambling conversation I had with food/culture reporter Lindsay Christians

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Cap Times also put together a pretty cool image gallery for the few items I brought in. Lindsay was game to try the cookies, Cricket Canape, and Cricket Leather (the last 2 from Daniella Martin’s Edible). The Superworm Tempura (from David George Gordon’s great Eat-A-Bug Coookbook) although pretty awesome-tasting when freshly fried, had become a tepid room temperature. She understandably resisted the urge to try those.

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Photo credit: Mike DeVries

Apart from wishing I still had my beard for the picture, I think it turned out pretty well. Although I’m not too comfortable with the title “entomophagist.”

Also, when she asked, “You said earlier that there are “so many good reasons” to eat bugs. Can you explain some?”

I responded, “Definitely environmental and nutritional reasons,” and then I go down a rabbit hole of feed conversion rates and agriculture stats to elaborate on the environmental benefits.

The “nutritional reasons” I spoke to in my overlong response were not included in the article. Although I’ve written about some of these benefits in previous posts (“Sustainable Paleo” and “No Mad Mealworm Disease“), I’ll add here the awesome table published in the UN Insect Food and Feed Report comparing the protein content of the most common edible insects and reptiles to that of cattle (as well as lobster, shrimp, and prawns).

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Pound for pound, crickets, termites, silkworms, cicadas, and grasshoppers have equivalent offerings for protein to the red meat gold standard.

The UN report also has numbers on amino acid profiles, which also compare nicely.

Bonus: Where insects have comparable amounts of protein and amino acid offerings, the have comparably less–and even minimal–saturated fat. You can check out chapter 6 for all the details…http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3253e/i3253e00.htm

But, whateves. I do go on. I’m surprised how comprehensible the interview did come out, given how prone I am to digression. Admittedly, I was a little out of it from the bug party I hosted the night before.

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Post-interview, mid-hangover selfie 

Some mentions were included for a lot of the folks and groups who have helped me so far in just the very early thinking and planning for a edible insect business, including…

Unfortunately, some important folks who have helped this along weren’t mentioned…and that may be their preference when it comes to a bug-eating article. Nonetheless, I’ll mention them here because they’re awesome.

  • Cheri Schweitzer, top-notch Madison restaurant consultant of Credible Consulting, food safety expert, and instructor for WWBIC’s very worthwhile “Business Planning for Your Food Business” whose Facebook post about trying some cricket cookies got the media attention that prompted the interview.
  • The Evening MBA Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and in particular, the class of 2015, who have all been surprisingly game with the idea of a US entomophagy business and have provided thoughtful input and only occasional jokes.

And to my good friends and “very supportive” girlfriend who have bravely tried my few insect food experiments. Hopefully, they’ll get better. I’ll soon have a few pounds of homegrown mealworm to deal with.

Seriously, I need a brave, open-minded chef/food expert. Anyone know any?

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My attempt at chocolate-covered crix were kind of a mess…

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but the superworm tempura were awesomepants.

Why Eat Bugs #8: Great For Gatherings!

August 22, 2014

I hosted my first “bug night” to test whether edible bugs are a good addition to a social gathering.

I invited over a small group of four friends who were game, and one very supportive girlfriend.

To prepare, I visited PetSmart again. In addition to the wax moth larvae I’ve already successfully experimented with privately, I grabbed a few boxes of live crickets and superworms.

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It’s oddly pleasant to travel with cricket song inside your car.

I also bought a lot of alcohol.

I was getting pretty excited putting together the menu and working with all these new ingredients. In my enthusiasm, I sent out a pic to my guests in advance of the event.

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I do not advise this.

Guest reactions ranged from backtracking to reluctant acceptance. For example…

  • “So is eating bugs mandatory tonight? I may just stick to the wine.”
  • “Jesus… I’m gonna have to be all kinds of messed up to eat that, like Tyrone Biggums on Fear factor kind of messed up.”
  • “I’m still in….I’m sure I’ve eaten worse in my life.”
  • “Still in as well [crybaby emoticon]”

Nonetheless, they all showed up.

In addition to items that unintentionally had bugs in them (guacamole, salsa, chips), the menu also included:

  • Cricket Leather: From Daniella Martin’s Edible, a fruit roll-up type of thing made of apple, cranberry, honey, and cricket flour (roasted and ground crickets).

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  • Cricket Canape: Also from Daniella Martin’s Edible, an aesthetically-compelling hors d’oeuvre of a lightly-fried fresh fig, goat cheese ball, and topped with a more-fried cricket.

 

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  • Wax Moth Larvae Tacos: Again, inspired by the Don Bugito food cart in San FranciscoI’m getting pretty good with this one.

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  • Crickets on a Log: My own quasi-literal interpretation of the childhood treat with celery, peanut butter and chocolate -covered crickets.

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As guests arrived, some felt they were taking a big step by joining the party. Here’s one literally taking that step, with a six-pack in hand…

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There was giddy excitement as everyone gathered around the table filled with bugged treats…or I could have been projecting my own giddy excitement. Nonetheless,  the table setting did attract attention. Many pics taken and posted.

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And all items were enjoyed, for the most part. The cricket leather and wax moth larvae tacos were hits.

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Although I thought it would be a harder sell,  the superworm tempura also went over well. All were eaten. However, a guest remarked that one puffed-up worm exploded in his mouth, surprising him and making it hard for him continue to chew. For future reference, give your guests warning of potential juicy bursts.

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I thought the canapes were the most aesthetically awesome. But with the in-your-face cricket garnish, they were the least indulged in. As the night wore on–even after several drinks–everything was eaten but for 2 lonely figs.

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“You’re lucky I like goat cheese so much.”

Edible insect do indeed make for a nice addition to a gathering. Although, you do need to gently prepare your guests and be careful how you manage the evening. And alcohol helps. Nonetheless, great conversations were had, fun pics were taken. Have a bug night, too!

Why Eat Bugs #7: Easy to Cook (But Awkward To Get)

August 18, 2014

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I cooked my first batch of bugs.

Not lobsters. Although New Englanders playfully refer to lobsters as “bugs.”

I cooked terrestrial arthropods, not the more culinary-acceptable aquatic arthropod.

I decided to start my insect-cooking journey with the wax moth tacos popularized by the Don Bugito food cart in San Francisco and featured in Daniella Martin’s awesome entomophagy treatise, Edible: An Adventure into the World of Eating Insects and the Last Great Hope to Save the Planet.

First, I had to figure out where to get the bugs to eat.

I figured it would be the same place you would get bugs to feed a pet lizard.

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It’s weird to think of a grocery run to Petsmart. I’ve never had a lizard—or anything—to buy bugs for. I decided to call ahead.

I called PetSmart on the west side and was connected with live reptile department. I asked, “Do you have waxworms?”

The Petsmart guy says, “Let me see.” He puts me on hold. 3 minutes pass. I’m weirdly giddy. He returns, “Yes”

I ask, “Are they alive?”

He says, “Yes.”

I ask, “Are they wax moth larvae?”

Hey says, “I don’t know. It just says ‘waxworms.’ What do you want them for?”

“Um… for an iguana,” I lie.

“Iguanas don’t eat waxworms. They should only be eating apples. You should not be feeding your iguana waxworms.”

At this point, I should hang up. But I can’t help defending my treatment of this non-existent iguana. I dig in deeper, “Oh, I don’t know what kind of lizard it is yet. It’s a gift.”

He responds with preachy helpfulness, “Well, you shouldn’t start with an iguana for a beginner. Iguanas or chameleons, no way. There are many other lizards that are much better to start out with. I have 18 years experience handling lizards. I can set you up properly. Why don’t you come in. I’m here till 8“

“Okay,” I lie. And hang up.

I realize I’m going to have to go in. To avoid Overzealous Lizard Man, I go to the Petsmart on the other side of town.

It’s an easy enough transaction. I am careful not to ask questions.

David George Gordon’s Eat-A-Bug Cookbook suggests freezing the waxworms over night to humanely kill them and any bacteria. I freeze them for 3 days just to be sure. Plus, I’m not eager to do this.  Despite all the reasons I’ve accumulated as a pre-emptive self-persuasion to eat bugs, I’m still beholden to my culturally-constructed food avoidance. Plus,  it seems a little different to actually have to cook them.

Nonetheless, here’s my journey…

STEP 1: Poured a strong drink.

photo 2STEP 2: Opened up the waxworm container, took a deep breath, and a big gulp from the strong drink.

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STEP 3: Cleaned up the bugs from the wood shavings.

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STEPS 4-6: Fried up onions, peppers in olive oil. Added the waxworms. Fried the shit out of them. In the hot oil, the waxworms stretched out and became orzo-like, and then crinkle-cut-french-fry-like.

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STEP 7: Drained bugs. Took a deep breath, and another big sip from the strong drink.

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STEP 8: Made it look pretty on a tortilla. I added guacamole, queso fresco, tomato, fried waxwoms.

photo 5STEP 9: Enjoyed.

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They tasted like a fried crunchy meat with a soft nuttiness. Completely pleasant. I had 3 of these. It was very easy to cook. Like frying up some tilapia or shrimp for tacos.

Now, I’m feeling a little more ambitious. May invite some friends over next. But this could be the strong drink talking.

Why Eat Bugs #6: No Mad Mealworm Disease

August 13, 2014

Do you ever think about the young dance instructor who is now paralyzed after eating an E. coli-tainted hamburger?

I do. Habitually. I think about her every time I am about to handle any raw beef, chicken, or pork. I feel like I’m playing a russian roulette (albeit a lower risk version) by just touching some hamburger that could devastate my life. images (2) The UN Insect Food and Feed Report notes how the extreme conditions of industrial livestock production and processing (the crowding, filth, cannibalism) has led to a rise in antimicrobial resistance and the spread of horrendous zoonotic diseases (a disease is an infection/infestation shared by humans and animals): mad cow disease, swine flu, bird flu, foot and mouth disease, SARS.

And then I think about when an outbreak is discovered, how it leads to the extermination entire herds of at-risk animals.

The scope of waste is breathtaking.

It’s also another great reason to add bugs to the grocery list.

Although the UN report notes how “insects for food and feed have not been sufficiently tested to determine the risk that they will transmit diseases to humans,” it also adds “because insects are taxonomically much more distant from humans than conventional livestock, the risk of zoonotic infections is expected to be low.”

In their dissimilarity, what effects them most likely will not affect us.

However, bugs are often associated with disease. And there is good reason for that. Some insects can serve as biological taxis (like mosquitoes, ticks, flies) for blood-bourne diseases like malaria, chagas disease, lyme disease.

But we’re not eating mosquitoes, ticks, flies. At least, I’m not. But some people do. (I might.) termite-mushroom-22023577 Recently, I asked a local miller about the possibility using his facility to produce cricket flour. In his polite dismissal of my inquiry, he led with food safety and bacteria concerns.

Although I backed off, I wanted to say that he’s already grinding bugs. Which he knows.  And the government allows it. From the FDA’s Defect Levels Handbook, it permits 75 insect fragments per 50 grams of flour. The government is well aware of the safety of eating insects and already approves of set (and significant) amounts of insects in commercially-available foods. For example, it permits…

  • 60 aphids in 3 ounces of broccoli (less than half a serving)
  • 10 or more fly eggs per 100 grams of tomato juice (a small juice glass?
  • over 20 or more maggots of any size per 100 grams of drained mushrooms (a cup of drained mushrooms is about 150 grams)

BONUS: Both Danielle Martin’s awesome Edible and David George Gordon’s great Eat-A-Bug Cookbook explain why ketchup bottles have that second paper label around the neck of the bottle. “Before modern homogenization equipment was used to process foods, the darker-colored bug parts would float to the top of the ketchup bottle, leaving an unappetizing black ring”(Martin). So the second label was originally intended to “cover up the carcasses” (Gordon). download

This is all to say, we’re already eating bugs in a major way. And those bugs are not what’s in our food that makes us sick.

Also in Gordon’s cookbook, he notes how bugs are like chicken or pork. They do have to be thoroughly cooked to eliminate bacteria. Any mass-produced edible insects would have to follow the same health and sanitation regulation that all traditional food and feed items currently do. Edible insect startups would be well-advised to go above and beyond with meeting these regulations.

So, when I begin working with my batch of wax worms for my first-ever Don Bugito-inspired wax moth tacos (I will be hosting my fist bug culinary night), I can at least not worry about an arthropod spongiform encephalopathy.

I just need to worry about how I’m going to get them to eat the tacos.

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