My first attempts at feeding insects to friends and family did not go down well. “What the hell is wrong with you?” asked my wife when I revealed that the tomato and oregano-flavoured cracker bites we had been munching with our G&Ts were made from crickets. “Hang on, I’m vegetarian!” cried our friend – which prompted a slightly testy discussion on whether insects count as meat, how many thousand arthropods equate to one mammal and considering almost all industrial agriculture involves the mass slaughter of insects, what’s the difference?
I then tried some Crunchy Critters dried mealworms on my seven-year-old. “It doesn’t taste of much,” he said. His friend wasn’t wild about his grasshoppers either. “The legs are weird.” But connoisseurs insist that dried specimens from a packet simply cannot compare to free-range, seasonal arthropods roasted in their own oils. “The fresh ones are much tastier, of course,” says Dr Monica Ayieko, senior insect researcher from the western region of Kenya – and one of an estimated two billion people who regularly eat insects. “I love the smell of roasting lake flies or crickets. It’s a nice savoury smell. This is one thing we pride ourselves on in Africa – we always eat fresh food.”
The only unqualified success I had was with my nine-month-old, who seemed almost as keen on desiccated buffalo worms as he is on, well, just about anything he can shove into his mouth. And that’s just as well. If the evangelists for eating insects are to be believed, orthoptera, larvae and any number of the 900+ edible species of insects could form a regular part of his future diet. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has urged that we all make more of this “underutilised” resource. And given the issues of food supply sustainability, it may not be a question of choice. [Continue reading…]