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Beetle Juice

Monday, 24 February, 2014

Illustrations by Clare Weber

MEDIA_fly_693x473According to the internet, you will eat around 10 spiders in your lifetime, mostly while sleeping. Whether or not this claim bugs you, it’s very likely that we’ll all be eating a lot more of our arthropod friends soon.

Edible insects are actually a well-established source of nourishment, regardless of the predictable ‘ew gross’ knee-jerk reaction of the Western world. Entomophagy, or insect eating, is currently a daily reality for around two billion people, mainly from South-East Asia, Africa, as well as Central and South America.

It turns out insects are an incredible source of high-quality protein, fats and minerals, and are far cheaper and resource-effective than raising conventional farmed animals. With overpopulation upon us, climate change looming, and uncertainty about future arable land, devouring those crickets, beetles and caterpillars might actually be a sustainable solution.

MEDIA_ant_596x399And now eating insects can be chic, too! Like a locust swarm of biblical proportions, bugs are literally sweeping the world’s hippest eateries, with top Danish restaurant Noma, various Parisian bistros, and a handful of trendy Sydney joints now serving up hearty insect fare. And they’re causing quite a buzz.

A friend of mine related the taste of a Mexican deep-fried cricket to—hold on to your seats—fried food. Who doesn’t like fried food? For one food critic, bee larvae were ‘sweet and gooey…like a melted lolly’, with another labelling a whole-roasted scorpion as ‘herbal, a bit musty, and pungent’. And with apparently 1,500 varieties of edible insects to choose from, I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!

MEDIA_beetle_548x687Personally, I would have no issue wolfing down roasted crickets with chilli, garlic and lime if it weren’t for one small issue: I’m a vegetarian.

Oops.

As a vegetarian/lapsed vegan, eating animals poses a bit of an issue; and insects are most definitely animals. But if insects are a future food whose cultivation and consumption are so much more sustainable for an overworked planet, then who am I to say no? And if indeed insects feel no pain, then surely they are a delicacy both carnivores and herbivores can enjoy?

A vegan friend of mine won’t have a bar of it. She argues that the idea of organising animals, no matter what size, into a sort of hierarchy where chickens are a no-go zone but crickets are acceptable is how humans got into trouble in the first place.

It’s definitely a strong point, and one to which I can’t give you an answer.  Perhaps it’s something to reflect upon the next time you see a fly in your soup.