Posts Tagged ‘wax moth taco’

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.

Advertisements

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.

download (3)mmm