The Growing Popularity of Insect Cuisine

Global Food Phenomenon Is Healthy & Green, Scientists Say

Posted by on Oct 2

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Crickets, grasshoppers, ants, cockroaches, cicadas... these are names that may strike fear into a majority of the U.S. population and don't even come close to whetting the appetite of the average American. But more studies are showing that "insect cuisine" is not only a rising trend in Western culture, but may also become part of a health-conscious dietary lifestyle in the long run. They take no extra energy to cultivate and produce minimal pollution-causing waste.

The term entomophagy refers to eating bugs for one's meals. Many peoples around the globe are already seasoned entomophagists, especially common in (but not limited to) third-world countries. In 2008, scientists at the University of Mexico discovered that 1,700 species are eaten in at least 113 countries across the world, usually as a substitute for meat.

Popular cuisines include ground ants as a bread oleo in Columbia, fried grasshoppers in Mexico, fire-roasted beetles and dragonflies in Papua New Guinea, wasps and rice in Japan, and Thai-style crickets and white sea worms.

Some American chefs are using the trending opportunity to attempt gourmet insect cuisine, like entomophagy chef and cookbook author David George Gordon. One of his sample dishes is scorpion kabobs and orzo with cricket nymphs, and he says it's one of the most popular on his menu. "I once even had a kid who came back for fifths and said it was better than anything his mother ever cooked," he said.

"In our culture, we have real abhorrence of insects and their relatives," Gordon added. "But if you think about it, they're not so different from their aquatic cousins — shrimp, crab, and crawfish."

Studies also show that eating insects can be higher in essential nutrients and lower in fats and cholesterol than many standard proteins. For example, 100 grams of crickets contains 121 calories, 12.9 grams of protein, 75.8 milligrams of iron, and only 5 grams of carbohydrates. Grasshoppers have 20 grams of protein and just 6 grams of fat, while fire ants have 13.9 grams of protein and 3.5 grams of fat.

So how quickly will the entomophagy trend reach into modern American culture?  "Not soon enough," says NYU food historian Gabriella Petrick. "Restaurants do well because it's novel, but people's food habits do not change quickly."

Even Chef Gordon admitted, "With all the traveling I do, when I come home, I just want to eat ribs."

Sources: Discovery's Planet Green
UK Telegraph

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