Sunday, February 3, 2008

This Bug's For You

Edible bugs, according to last week’s New York Times Magazine, are making a comeback. Writer Sam Nejame explores the new fascination (and long history) of eating insects. When asked why Americans don't include more -- or any -- insects in their diet, Florence Dunkel, the current editor of the Food Insects Newsletter, blames simple social aversion.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have a social aversion to them. I have close to zero interest in trying insects. I am, however, fascinated by the fact that a Food Insects Newsletter exists, which yes, we do have at the New York Public Library. The Newsletter, which began in 1988 and is published out of the Department of Entomology at University of Wisconsin, Madison, has helped foster a community of scholars and scientists interested in consuming bugs. They make some valid arguments. According to their first issue, "...the prevailing opinion among those most knowledgeable about the situation in specific regions is that edible insects not only continue to be nutritionally important but could make an even greater contribution to human nutrition if supplies were increased or better distributed seasonally."

While searching through our collection of edible bug cookbooks I came across Creepy Crawly Cuisine by Julieta Ramos-Elorduy, a biology professor from the National University of Mexico. If you only buy one book dedicated to insect consumption, buy this. Even for someone like myself who has no interest in bugs, I thought some of the recipes sounded...edible. Ramos-Elorduy also includes nutritional information on these critters, all of which -- you'll be happy to know -- are very Atkins-friendly. She also describes what the insects taste like, and some sound downright tempting. For example, wasps resemble pine nuts, stinkbugs resemble apples, and Nopal worms taste similar to fried potatoes.

If you’re not interested in preparing bugs at home, try to score a ticket to the annual Explorer’s Club gala at the Waldorf-Astoria. When I went a few years ago, the insects were served atop rice, like sushi. For more of their recipes, try The Explorer’s Cookbook, so that after you’ve perfected insects, you can move onto snakes, lions and giraffes: A regular Great Adventure safari.

Wasp Salad (from Creepy Crawly Cuisine)
1/2 lb. larvae and/or pupae of bees or wasps
1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 c. peanut oil
1/4 c. honey vinegar (or other vinegar)
1/2 lb. mushrooms, finely chopped
1/4 head lettuce, finely chopped
1 can hearts of palm, chopped
1 mango, peeled and cut in pieces
1 t. salt, or more to taste
1/8 t. pepper, or more to taste

Fry the larvae in the olive oil at medium heat until they are crunchy. Place in a serving dish and add the peanut oil, honey, vinegar, mushrooms, lettuce, hearts of palm, and mango. Mix well, adding salt and pepper to taste. This salad makes an excellent accompaniment to the main course dishes.

Fried Katanga Termites (from The Explorer's Cookbook)

Trap them, put them in a jar, and seal with a tight screw top. When they are dead, simply dump in a frying pan rubbed with olive oil. Fry just a few seconds until crisp. Serve while hot. Goes wonderfully well with ice cold tequila.


Bad Home Cook said...

Erm. Thanks for that...informational post. But I don't think I'll be ingesting any bugs, chocolate-dipped or otherwise, in the near future, thanks. Not intentionally, anyway...

Elizabeth said...

The salad *for* WASPS is, of course, the Waldorf Salad. Or maybe a nice wedge of iceberg with maytag blue cheese dressing.