Posts Tagged ‘edible’

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

articlepic

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.

gallery1

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).

image

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.

cap

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?

choccrix

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

tempura

but the superworm tempura were awesomepants.

Advertisements

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.

bugbox

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.

photo 1

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).

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 1 photo 2

  • 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.

 

unnamed

photo 2

photo 4

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

photo 5

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

photo 1

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…

photo 2

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.

photo 1

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

photo 4

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.

unnamed (1)

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.

photo 3

“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

photo-axx

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.

photo (4)

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.

photo 1

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

photo 3

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.

photo 1

photo 2

photo 3

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

photo 4

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

photo 5STEP 9: Enjoyed.

photo aa

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 #5: Apocalypse-Avoidance

August 7, 2014

download (2) In Daniella Martin’s hip treatise for eating bugs, Edible, she imagines a fantasy fast food restaurant where in addition to what you order, you also get the by-products of what it took to make your order. So when you get your burger, you also get…

  • 1,000 gallons of contaminated water
  • 4lbs of manure
  • The carbon residue from the use of 1 gallon of gas
  • 200 cubic ft of a feed lot that will take years to restore

Topped that off with a large toxic methane plume. Want to change your order? A McRib would also get you…

  • 600 gallons of contaminated water
  • 5lbs of pig shit
  • Smaller methane plume

Finally, a McNuggets 10-piece comes with…

  • 150 gallons of contaminated water
  • 1lb of feces
  • Less methane

This is all to say that our daily food choices have a significant environmental impact we do not appreciate.  And of course conventional animal protein production overall adds up to a huge impact on our land and water…

With a population set to grow almost 30% in the next 35 years, we’re going to need to double current food production (according to UN estimates). Not only is there not enough land to support this increase, the ecological impact to already-limited water resources would be devastating. Like Mad-Max-post-apocalyptic-water-wars-type devastating. mad-max What if we could increase food production while decreasing the environmental impact to land and water? Large-scale insect farming could be that solution. Although the exact numbers on the water to raise insects in a farm setting are unavailable (but Youngstown’s Big Cricket Farms may soon have answers…), it can be assumed they would be significantly lower. Consider the drought-resistance of mealworms and crickets. And consider Pat Crowley, a water conservationist who came up with his cricket energy bars—Chapul—to show how a protein source could be produced using minimal water resources. See their neat chart (and order some bars…Mark Cuban has…). waterconservationdiagram

 

Awesome chart by Nick Hiebert at the University of Manitoba

 

 

And then consider land use. Crickets don’t need to be grown on the prairie, and perhaps it may be more risky to due to pesticide exposure. It’s already been shown the advantages of urban honey production. Insect husbandry may be a way to reclaim abandoned industrial and urban spaces. Tiny Farms has already designed and offers cricket farming structures you can setup in your own garage–and who knows, eventually in multi-story cricket protein production facilities.563946_orig BONUS: Instead taking all the corn we’re so great at overproducing and putting it into obesity-  and diabetes-inducing high fructose corn syrup, it can be fed to protein-enriching crickets who are efficient corn-processing machines.

So perhaps when you order your McCricket of the future  (or of the now if you’re in NYC), you can avoid the methane plume, walk off with a fraction of the water. Don’t know about the cricket poop. Yet. Grasshopper Slider.jpg