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Posted at 12:32 PM ET, 12/ 2/2010

Lunch Break

By Ezra Klein

Seldom is the question asked: Why not eat insects?

By Ezra Klein  | December 2, 2010; 12:32 PM ET
 
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Comments

if the best thing that a person can think of doing, with a swallowtail butterfly, a dragonfly, or a ladybug, is to eat it....then i feel sorry for them.
and if a person is living in a place where these insects exist, then i think they can find herbs, grasses and other things to consume.

imagine, frying an iridescent blue dragonfly.
or butterfly wing tempura.
more and more, i am convinced that many people are out of their minds....or their hearts.

Posted by: jkaren | December 2, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

nasa's astrobiology press conference will be livestreamed at 2/e.t.
on the arsenic eating bacteria....
http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html

Posted by: jkaren | December 2, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

I went on a botanical gardens tour in Costa Rica, and the guide pointed out a termite mound and said the termites were edible. So, I dipped in a finger, pulled out some termites, and I was absolutely surprised at how DELICIOUS they were!

They were small and crunchy and popped in your mouth, a lot like caviar does. But instead of caviar's fishiness, they popped and let off this really deep cinnamon flavor, with a bit of pepperyness and maybe even chocolate. It was amazing, and I immediately wanted to put them on top of really good vanilla ice cream. So, so, yummy.

After this, I was convinced the next big foodie adventure would be insects. Yes, they are very ecological, they are healthy, they're probably pretty cheap to raise, they're almost never poisonous, and they have a "stunt eating" aspect that appeals to the kind of people who bring new foods into the mainstream.

But frankly, these little termites had something that fish eyes do not. They are freaking delicious in a non-acquired taste kind of way. You'll try them the first time to be a showoff, and then order them a second time because you're like "holy cow, I actually LIKE these." And you'll say to your less adventurous friends "seriously, dude, you should try this, you'll like it. I swear, it's not like the time with the fish eyes."

And if it's true of these little termites, it's got to be true of other insects. Odds are I didn't randomly stumble upon the only decent-tasting bugs in the world.

I am still genuinely shocked that nobody has brought these to Momofuku Milk Bar, because they'd be huge sellers once people got over the initial shock. They are freaking DELICIOUS!

Posted by: theorajones1 | December 2, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

I personally haven't eaten insects, nor have I had a chance to try them prepared by someone who knows what they are doing. For me the most disturbing part of insects as food is the concept of eating the entire animal -- guts, brains, and all. But if I'm ever lucky enough to go to Oaxaca, Thailand, Korea or another insect eating place I'll seriously consider trying them. Or if I go to Washington DC's Oyamel, an upscale Mexican restaurant in the Jose Andres restaurant empire, I can order tacos made with farm-raised chapulines (grasshoppers) from the normal menu ( http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/food/2010/07/09/grasshopper-tacos/ ). Or in the Los Angeles area, a restaurant called Typhoon in Santa Monica, California also has insects on their normal menu (crickets, silkworms, scorpions, and sea worms).

The anthropologist Marvin Harris devotes a chapter in his book "Good to Eat" to insect eating, exploring the many reasons why insects can become a taboo or reviled foodstuff (cleanliness, difficulty to collect, cultural attitudes, etc.). For example, Harris writes "The reason we don't eat them is not that they are dirty and loathsome; rather, they are dirty and loathsome because we don't eat them." (note that "we" is referring to Europeans and Americans of European descent) Harris claims that the European rejection of insects as food comes from a time long before indoor plumbing or before anyone made the connection between germs and disease. In those days, a locust living in a meadow or a spider living in the forest was probably a lot cleaner than meat from the farmhouse or local butcher. And yet, because of cultural norms, insects were considered "dirty."

Finally, the KCRW radio program Good Food had a good interview on insect eating recently with a woman who raises her own insects for food on her balcony in L.A. (available for download on their website: http://www.kcrw.com/etc/programs/gf/gf101002critter_fritters_kug ).

Posted by: meander510 | December 2, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

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