If their culinary merits aren’t reason enough to get your diet buggin’ out, the United Nations issued an official report acclaiming insects’ environmental and benefiting health. Not only does eating insects provide rich levels of protein and calcium, but farming them requires a great deal less water and energy than traditional livestock.
The Witte Museum during its Salud! Culinary Nights dinner series, presented chefs Stephen Paprocki, Jeff White, Chris Cook and Ernest Lopez (pastry chef at Eilan) for an evening of buggin’ out. The chefs were joined by Dr. Harry Schafer, the museum’s curator of archeology, as he discussed how insects played an integralrole in the People of the Pecos hunter gatherer way of life. Meghan Curry, founder of Bug Vivant, revealed how edible insects are used in kitchens around the world today and how they will sustainably feed future generations. They all came together to educate attendees on the nutritional benefits of eating insects.
Entomophagy goes hand in hand with a different relationship to the planet than the one that most people have right now.
Insects offers one possible solution to the global problem of food shortages, over-farming, and depletion of natural resources.
Even if you’re a hesitant eater, the nutritional value is pretty compelling.
Dinner consisted of a spinach salad with goat’s milk ricotta cheese, roasted beets and “caviar” containing mixed hymenopteran larvae and Pizza Pissaledière made with meal worms and Texas goat cheese. Food was paired with beers from Houston’s Karbach Brewery.
Whether chefs, farmers, bug enthusiasts, sustainability experts, or simply adventurous eaters, people are catching on to eating insects.
But if you’re more adventurous, try sprinkling mealworms on a salad like croutons.
But forget the sustainability for a moment. These things taste good. And they’re good for you.
Look at sushi in the early 80’s when the trend appeared on American menus. People were freaking out. “Raw fish” is “Yuck”, now, its mainstream. – Stephen Paprocki
MC: Well Stephan, I guess you are an entomophage – in other words, you eat insects. When did this all start for you?
I got an email about from Meghan Curry of Bug Vivant and she asked if I would be interested in making some recipes using insects.
MC: You had my curiosity and I jumped at the chance, but how do you get others that think its yucky to indulge?
Look at sushi in the early 80’s when the trend appeared on American menus. People were freaking out. “Raw fish” is “Yuck”, now, its mainstream.
MC: The nutritional facts are there, but do you really think its possible for people in the USA to join in and see bugs as a sustainable, ecologically viable food source?
The demand for animal protein is growing, but the amount of land and water necessary to produce it isn’t there. Insects are a great alternative because they require a lot less water, have a shorter gestation time and can thrive in crowed conditions.
MC: Some have said, cows and pigs are the SUVs of food. Do you see people getting wise and learning to live within their means environmentally?
I believe that the more people are educated and do their part, the faster we will create an entire ecology of living that promotes sustainability.
MC: Insects are pretty easy to raise. So, do you see this as a recipe for solving many of the world’s problems?
With an anticipated 9 billion people living by 2015, bugs can be an alternative food source.
MC: For that hesitant eater that understands the nutritional value and wants to brave it, where might they start to blend in crickets or mealworms in their diet?
I believe everything cooked right taste good. If you were blind folded at the last dinner, you would have said the food tasted great and seasoned perfectly. Unless you know you were eating bugs, you would not have known.
MC: In arguing your case for insect consumption, what is you plan for educating consumers and chefs alike about the benefits of nature’s smallest creatures in the future?
We are just now scratching the surface. It is fun to see what other chefs do and play with using insects. I know a few other chefs became believers that night, and have already seen it used in other restaurants menus since that night.
MC: Ok Stephen, we all want to know. Is there a line in the sand for you, a bug you will not eat?
I’ll try anything once. You never know, when it comes to food, you never know where you are going to find your next favorite dish. It took a brave person to eat the first oyster, and I’m glad they did!
People are catching on to eating insects. Entomophagy isn’t the only option for more ethical and sustainable eating. But bugs really do taste good. And they’re good for you.
Photos and Video by Beau Vincent