That fifth-grade bully who forced you to eat worms might not have been so cruel after all, according to a new UN report which suggests that insects hold the key to good health, a better environment, hunger eradication, and establishing world peace. (Okay, maybe they didn’t claim it could bring about world peace, but it is entirely logical—well-fed, healthy people are the key to happy nations.)
The paper, released by UN’s Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO), gives a high-five to critters for not only being packed with nutrition—they’re a magical combination of high protein, B vitamins, calcium, and minerals, yet super low in fat—but also for appeasing environmentalists (they require far fewer resources to raise than livestock and produce a fraction of the greenhouse gasses). And if the folks at the Daily Beast are to be believed, they’re pretty tasty too (with cicadas, grasshoppers, locusts, and ants being common favorites).
Whether or not you like the way this is going, chances are you’ve already eaten some bugs yourself even if you weren’t aware of it.
But this is all old news for the bastions of haute foraged cuisine, like René Redzepi’s Noma, which has been doing all kinds of wonderful things with insects: fermented cricket paste, live ants with yogurt, and lemony wood-ants sprinkled on cabbage and creme fraiche. Last we heard, Redzepi’s Nordic Food Lab team was busy serving wax moth-larvae mousse, cricket broth with grasshopper garum, beeswax ice-cream, and chimpstick with ants at a two day pop-up restaurant at Pestival, an insect appreciation festival held in April this year. (You can watch them experimenting and serving surprisingly delicious looking insect fare in this video.)
If that wasn’t enough, there’s also French chef David Faure’s insect-themed tasting menu at his Michelin-starred restaurant, Aphrodite, in Nice. Highlights include cricket popcorn and nutty ‘mealworm’ tones in the cod dish. Closer to home, Santa Monica’s Typhoon offers a silkworm larvae dish on the “Insect” section of its menu alongside cricket and scorpion dishes, while Toloache in New York City serves chapulines (grasshopper) tacos.
Whether or not you like where this is heading, chances are you’ve already eaten some bugs yourself even if you weren’t aware of it, possibly in chocolate (in which the FDA allows for up to 60 insect fragments per 100 grams), peanut butter (30 insect parts per 100 grams), fruit juice (allowed five fruit-fly eggs and one or two larvae per 250 milliliters), or some other everyday food.
As the world’s resources diminish and the population grows, it seems clear that insects need to crawl out of the realm of Fear Factor and onto our dinner plates. Will you welcome them to the table?