Skip to comments.Chew on This: You Aren't Eating Enough Bugs (Sauteed Cockroach? Yummy)
Posted on 07/12/2010 9:53:00 PM PDT by nickcarraway
Americans aren't eating enough insects, and that bugs foodies like Andrew Zimmern.
Zimmern, host of the popular Travel Channel series "Bizarre Foods," travels the world tasting the local vittles in various countries. Some are quite foreign to American taste buds, and, at least in the case of insects, he thinks Yanks are missing out on some good eating.
For instance, one of Zimmern's favorite snacks is a handful of chapulines, a taste treat from the Mexican state of Oaxaca that combines dry-roasted grasshoppers with lime and chili. Another is an Ecuadoran dish where coconut grubs are marinated in orange juice before being grilled.
"I was on a trip once where someone made those for us, and I'll tell you, everyone there couldn't get enough," Zimmern said.
The idea of eating insects upsets many Americans stomachs, but they are commonly eaten in other parts of the world, such as Asia, Latin America and Africa. In fact, DailyMe.com reports that dishes like boiled bee larvae, green tree ants and yanagimushi worms are currently all the rage with Japanese gourmets.
It's a trend that Zimmern hopes will infest the West for a variety of reasons.
"Should we be eating insects instead of Doritos?" Zimmern asked rhetorically. "Yes, but it's a chicken-or-egg thing. The fact that we don't is illustrative of how far Americans are removed from our food sources. We've forgotten that our ancestors ate from necessity. As a result, we've become reliant on four or five food companies who only serve us center-of-the-animal foods.
"My grandparents used to go to the butcher shop and buy chicken heads and necks for soup. Now, you have to go to ethnic stores to get those, and the supermarkets only sell boneless breasts from the center of the animal."
Although Americans might thumb their noses at insects, there are many reasons why Zimmern thinks they should be a part of their diet.
"They are replenishable, and they are an inexhaustible supply of protein once people get over the psychological barrier," he said.
Zimmern is not alone at touting the potential bounty of goodness that comes from turning meal worms into a meal of worms.
Biologist David George Gordon, author of "The Eat a Bug Cookbook," says more people eat bugs than not.
"Everywhere but the European nations, the U.S. and Canada eat bugs," Gordon said. "We're the weirdos because we don't. Somewhere along the line we decided not, but they're no weirder than oysters."
They just might be healthier as well.
"Insects are high in protein," he said. "One cup of crickets contains only 250 calories and six grams of fat, plus the exoskeletons -- which is where the protein is -- have lots of fiber."
Each variety of insect has its own unique taste, but overall, Gordon said, they tend to have subtle flavors more akin to crabmeat than steak or pork.
"Really, it's like serving seafood," Gordon said. "And that goes with the wine served with it. Think a crisp chardonnay or sauvignon blanc. With grasshoppers, you can try something stronger like sangria."
Is your mouth watering? Well, assuming that it is, Gordon admitted that getting grubs for your grub in America isn't easy.
"They're relatively cheap to raise, but because insects are not being raised commercially except as pet food or fish bait, the only way you can get enough to eat is to wait for a swarm of locusts to come by or stake out a termite mound," he said.
But not everyone is ready to jump on the bug-eating bandwagon.
Brian Malarkey, who came in fourth on the third season of "Top Chef," isn't exactly champing at the bit to eat insects on his own time, much less add grasshoppers or grubs to his menus.
"I'm sure I've eaten some bugs on my motorcycle or in my sleep, but consciously not so much," he said in an e-mail interview. "[At my restaurants] we have great fish, meat, produce etc. ... Insects are more of a 'I have nothing else good' sort of thing. But if you cook it, I'll try it."
In addition, Dr. Naheed Ali, a medical doctor specializing in health and nutrition, says that while many people around the world eat insects, there are reasons why they shouldn't replace corn chips as snack foods.
"Insects aren't better than chips," he said by e-mail. "Most potato chips today go through intense manufacturing processes that make them as less contaminated as possible just before the bag is opened. For obvious concerns, chips don't spend an entire lifetime out in the wild like insects do. Some insects contain viruses, bacteria or poisonous toxins used for defense purposes."
Gordon acknowledged that diners shouldn't necessarily eat any bug they catch, but noted, "You wouldn't want people eating raw chicken either."
He continued, "I recommend cooking insects like you'd cook pork or chicken. However, the fact that many people consider insects as vermin -- even 'green people' -- shows a latent, blatant hatred for insects.
"For instance, people consider cockroaches to be dirty, but they're actually very tidy and are constantly grooming themselves."
This "insect-ism" doesn't sit well with English teacher David Gracer, another grub gourmand. He says if Americans were smarter, they'd start eating insects now and not later, when circumstances could make it necessary.
"We can't keep on doing what we want without paying the consequences," Gracer said. "What raising cows and pigs does to earth's environment is to the planet's health as a diet heavy on cake and ice cream is to the human body."
Ideally, Gracer would make his diet at least 75 percent insects. He said his favorite species is the stink bug, which despite its bad-smelling name has a pleasantly bitter and herby taste that he compares to cilantro and kale.
But despite Gracer's love of insects, he doesn't think they're going to become an American staple the way sushi did in the 1980s.
"Yeah, sushi did catch on, but I argue that it's only with 30 percent of the population," he said. "But while some people used to have a problem with raw fish, sushi had two things going for it: It was the national cuisine, and, raw as it was, it's still fish."
Gracer said that for bugs to become the next food group, there would have to be a situation where the foods that Americans currently eat become too expensive.
Right now, it's the other way around.
"A box of 1,000 live crickets -- the most widely available bug -- is surprisingly expensive considering how cheap they are to raise," Gracer said. "Part of that is because the U.S. cricket population is being infected with denso, a virus that kills them but is harmless to humans."
It remains to be seen whether insects are going to become a part of the American diet. Still, Zimmern holds out hope that, in the words of Sam Cooke, a change is going to come.
"I am optimistic," he said. "Thanks to TV and the Internet and, yes, shows like mine, people are broadening their scope. You have no idea how many people tell me, 'I went down to Mexico on a cruise ship and tried chapulines because of what you said, and they were really good.'"
Shrimp, lobsters, clams and oysters are enough.
No. Uhuh. They are creepy crawlies. Don’t like them in my house. Don’t need them in my belly. When we run out of chickens, cows and beans I’ll Think about it. Then again there is always cake:)
Derived from Pecorino Sardo, casu marzu goes beyond typical fermentation to a stage most would consider to be decomposition, brought about by the digestive action of the larvae of the cheese fly, Piophila casei. These larvae are deliberately introduced to the cheese, promoting an advanced level of fermentation and breaking down the cheese’s fats. The texture of the cheese becomes very soft, with some liquid (called “lagrima”, from the Sardinian for “tears”) seeping out. The larvae themselves appear as transparent, white worms, about 8 mm (1/3 inch) long. When disturbed, the larvae can jump for distances up to 15 cm (6 inches), prompting recommendations of eye protection for those eating the cheese. Some people clear the larvae from the cheese before consuming; others do not.
Appearance and taste Yaroslav Trofimov, writing in the August 23, 2000 edition of The Wall Street Journal, describes the cheese as “a viscous, pungent goo that burns the tongue and can affect other parts of the body”. Susan Herrmann Loomis reports an encounter (in a 2002 Bon Appétit article):
“He grabbed a piece of pane carasau, the traditional flatbread of Sardinia, rinsed it quickly under water to soften it and went to a large glass jar on a side table. He opened the jar, scooped out a mound of what looked like thick cream, and folded the bread around it. …When he was finished I asked what he had eaten, and he got up to show me. Inside the jar was pecorino, busy with small, white worms. I’d heard about this cheese, but this was the first time I’d gotten so close. … A friend of his … said, ‘It’s formaggio marcio [literally, “rotten cheese”], cheese with worms. It’s a delicacy. It’s the most beautiful gift you can give a Sardinian shepherd.’”
The cheese is typically consumed with Sardinian bread (pane carasau) and Cannonau, a strong red wine.
As a food service professional, I say with some sort of clue that Andrew is a flake. A nut. Not carrying a full deck. Shriven on sense. Despairing of discretion. Loony. (insert Daffy Duck screw+ball picture here).
I will try anything, but there is a damn good reason that humanity doesn't rely on insects directly (bees excluded) for food. About 40K years of reasons.
Beef, goats, sheep, wheat and apples were more desireable to hundreds of generations than cockroaches.
Rant off /maybe. What a maroon.
Well, there you go. Real bread doesn't have to be FRIGGING RINSED! Mexicans have flat bread (tortillas) that is perfectly pliable a week after cooking.
Don’t forget, it was rinsed and softened before being smothered in maggot-infested rotten cheese. I’ll stick with the grasshoppers and sangria. Or maybe Ripple.
Almost three decades later I STILL have nightmares about my first low rent apt and all the roaches.
Then there was a young man in KV’s WChair classroom that had them crawling out of his chair.
I almost DIED, felt so sad for the guy.
KV did not stay in that program long due to it was the wrong program for him.
Moved out of Cali 20plus years ago and have never seen a roach since.
And no fleas.
Hadn’t even seen earwigs up here untill just a few years ago. Probably migrated.
Much rather deal with huge seagull wet poop falling from overhead in flights.
Speaking of eating shows.
I have a new favorite tv show.
Andrew Bordain Noooo Reservations.
I watch it every chance I get.
He is really manly looking.
Speaks straight up, nice voice and visits places I will never see in this life.
Way far out places.
He was showing how the locals make Palm Wine and it reminded me of my one summer in PI deep south “nipa palm wine” and viniger.
I have nipa palm viniger in the cupboard.
He did a great episode with Ted Nugent.
I like when Bordain goes to the jungle cause he only wheres shorts.
Slimy, yet satisfying.
Is this part of the health care plan?
LOL, my grandaughter bought a candy bar and was doing something else while she opened and started eating it, then she looked down and saw that there were maggots on the candy and she was afraid she might have swallowed some of them, she tried to make herself throw up, she couldn’t but she was really grossed out. She thinks it is funny now but at the time she was freaking out.
Instead of putting the grubs on your plate, you can put 'em on a hook and catch a mess of panfish.
Much better nutritional return on your investment.
Of course, this Zimmer-dude will still b*tch because I don't eat the heads, guts or scales.
Ugh thanks for the nausea James lol
That is about the grossest thing. Ever. Even grosser than the placenta he ate straight out of the raw egg in the orient on one of his shows. It’s consumed there as an “aphrodisiac.”
Ok, look, I’m not saying this isn’t gross, but ‘in case of emergency’, along with lead investments and home gardens, it would be good to know which proteins crawling on 6 or more legs are edible. For the last few months I’ve been imagining catching, skinning and eating squirrels and other rodents. Andrew is a weird guy, but in case of emergency, he would know what critter bugs will get you through the winter, or through the food shortage. Luckily, I live an old house with no shortage of critters or bugs. Or lead.
I’m also learning about wild herbs and weeds for medicinal and dining purposes. I want to make damn sure I’m around to send at least a few ‘enemies of America’ to their final reward.
There are versions of the British SAS survival handbooks that you might find useful.
I get your point entirely. It’s wise to be prepared for any eventuality.
Thanks for the info! That handbook may beat once-a-week survival lessons! :)
The SAS is the best in that regard.
Even the US S.E.A.L and Marine survival techniques were derived from the SAS manual.
When communists take over, history shows that famine is sure to follow.
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