Cultures around the world use insects as a staple protein in their dishes. Requiring less natural resources than livestock, these creepy-crawlies are able to provide a high amount of protein at a cost significantly less than that of animal proteins such as beef. At the 2017 Arizona Insect Festival, I was able to experience the taste of these protein-rich critters firsthand thanks to the “Insects as Food” booth.
This booth showcased mealworms and crickets in its dishes. Unfortunately, when I got to the booth, they were out of cricket cookies, but they still had mealworms galore.
At first thought, the idea of eating mealworms made my stomach turn. This came as no surprise since the closest thing to a bug in my Americanized diet is lobster. Though as it turns out, there’s already a great deal of insects in our food.
The Food and Drug Administration’s Defect Handbook outlines what levels of certain contaminants for various foods are acceptable. One such level that is outlined is the proportion of insects allowed in our foods.
For instance, frozen broccoli is permitted to have up to 60 aphids per 100 grams of broccoli. Cornmeal is allowed to have up to one whole insect per 50 grams. Apparently, without my knowledge, insects have been a piece of my diet for years now, though this was the first time I consciously made the choice to consume insects.
Something I’ve always felt adamant about is that if people somewhere in the world enjoying eating a certain food, there’s no reason I can’t as well. After all, people don’t choose to continually eat food they think is disgusting. Except for haggis. Seriously, I’ve never met anybody who enjoyd haggis. The one time I tried haggis, the Scottish gentleman who bought it for us strongly declined the invitation to partake in this amalgamation of sheep organs. After eating it, I understood why.
Anyways, back to the bugs.
After being sauteed with onions, these mealworms looked like, well, mealworms. But I came to the festival to eat some insects, and that was just what I was going to do. These mealworms were plated on a tortilla chip with the option of red or green salsa.
As per the suggestion of the kind folks working the booth, I went with the red.
Once I was mentally and emotionally prepared, I took the plunge and shoved the whole chip into my mouth. To my surprise, it was really good!
Honestly, I could hardly taste the bugs aside from the onion flavor they had absorbed in the sauteing. Bugs are definitely well within my budget, unlike chicken or steak — though that may be more of a revelation regarding the current economic state of the American college student than a shift in perspective. If this is what eating bugs means, I can get on board with this.
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