Insects don’t appeal to me. I know a lot of people around the world — two billion, actually — eat beetles, larvae, grubs and crunchy things like grasshoppers, ants and crickets. But I don’t want to think about my croutons crawling around in the dirt before I sprinkle them on my salad. Grasshoppers look too much like…well, grasshoppers. Maybe something less anatomical like Bug Butter would be something I’d try. But I don’t want to see a picture of Jiminy Cricket on the label.
Insects are the next food revolution. I remember the look on my grandmother’s face in the 1970s when I presented her with a package of pita bread for making sandwiches. Back in the day, pita bread was radical. So was tofu. Organic was a communist plot to put American farmers out of business. Middle Eastern, Asian and Mexican cuisines were considered healthier than the standard American diet of meat and potatoes. But in the 70s and 80s, the older generation thought those foreign foods were un-American. Vegetarians were brainwashed by a vast left wing conspiracy. Enter globalization and today whole sections of the grocery store are devoted to Middle Eastern, Asian and Mexican foods. You can get hummus, sushi or tacos almost anywhere. Most restaurants have vegetarian options, guacamole is a Super Bowl tradition, and Walmart is the biggest retailer of organic foods.
Cooking and eating insects is becoming cool. Yes, it sounds creepy to me, too. But there are many good reasons to jump on the insectivorous bandwagon. The World Health Organization says insects are a super food that could address the triple threat of hunger, agriculture pollution and climate change. It takes less land and water to grow edible insects than cows and hogs. They don’t fart methane. We don’t need 200 million acres of chemical crops to feed them. And edible insects are more nutritious than four-legged meat. Think of it. Grubs, the other white meat.
Still, mealworm pizza gags me. But there was a time when some considered raw fish gross, too. Disgust is cultural. I have a vintage cookbook called Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking, published in 1947, that includes recipes for beaver, muskrat, possum, raccoon and woodchuck, the backyard meats a happy housewife could prepare in her own kitchen from carcass to fricassee, complete with instructions for removing scent glands and wiping hair off raw meat. Imagine Martha Stewart smiling at the camera and saying, Muskrat, it’s what’s for dinner.
Our disgust will pass. Already there are insect cookbooks and ready-to-eat bugs for sale online. Enjoy them as a snack, grind them into flour for cookies, or surprise your guests by sprinkling them over the green beans. Think of them as a conversation starter. Frito-Lay Roachitos, Nabisco Locust Snaps, and Orville Redenbacher Pophoppers — it’s only a matter of time. I’m considering the chocolate covered crickets myself. Online reviews reference Nestle’s Crunch and Kit Kat bars. I love chocolate, and you know what they say — Crickets, betcha can’t eat just one.