While insects have been on the menu in most parts of the world since time began, they’ve been a bit slow to catch on in America. But recent stories in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and other major publications point to a growing acceptance of “The New Sushi.”
Eating bugs is nothing like it was when I was a shirtless, barefooted boy roaming the rural landscapes of Nampa, Idaho. Back then, it was widely known that one must first bite the head off, then suck the juice out, and, finally, proceed with consuming the remainder of the insect according to one’s personal preference.
No one questioned this.
Nowadays, it’s completely different. Adults—probably with no regard for a bug’s juiciness or general delectability—are choosing exactly which of the nearly 2,000 edible insect species are the most desirable and wholesome for children to consume.
For kids, this could be cause for concern. But, in fact, it’s a good thing. That’s because the adults making these decisions know the difference between our ubiquitous (and famously juicy) household cockroach and the cultivated (high-class) variety of roach appearing on the official list of parent-approved insect species.
At least kids don’t have to worry about wine pairings. Not until they’re much older. By then, they’ll be making their own rules about edible insect species. And maybe even the specific etiquette of entomophagy.
This year, snacking on periodical cicadas (not to be confused with locusts, please, no matter how timely) has become more popular than ever before. Cicadas are widely known as “The Shrimp of the Land.” But the species with red eyes is especially appealing: Their translucent wings are decorated with delicate orange veins. Most attractive! And if you find one that has recently molted (before the exoskeleton has hardened) you are in for a rare treat. This succulent morsel is considered the filet de buf of the insect world.
But aren’t cicadas dirty, like all bugs? No, and neither are grasshoppers. These creatures are vegetarian, which means they’re a thousand times cleaner than an oyster (or any of the myriad other bottom feeders that survive by ingesting the decaying flesh of deceased animals). Salmonella? Don’t bother looking for it on insects unless they live in a chicken barn.
But all insect-loving kids have tradition-loving moms. And, in the United States, not all moms are enthusiastic about feeding bugs to their children. A few holdouts remain. Okay, a few million holdouts.
Nevertheless, an unmistakable trend has been observed all over America: Little by little, the insect-averse among our much-venerated mothers are showing an ever-increasing acceptance of the nutritious insect. As fathers, all we need to do is give them a little more time to knock back their martinis. (Or, in a few cases, one helluva lot more time.)
Dads should thoroughly understand the Mom Factor before feeding insects to their children. (Is it really necessary to state this?) The importance of getting Mom’s buy-in on bee-larvae mayonnaise cannot be overstated. The same is true even of the seemingly innocuous cricket energy bars that are definitely trending. But many experienced moms will know all about the common-sense appeal of crickets from having fed their children’s neglected lizards.
Moms. May they live a thousand years.
Okay. Let’s get practical: For most dads, a successful family bug-eating initiative proceeds slowly and with much patience.
So start with lobsters. Huh? Yes, lobstermen call them bugs. Always have. That’s probably because a lobster is just another bilaterally symmetrical arthropod with exoskeleton and segmented body. So? Dip the meat in butter! Yum!
And, of course, the very same “Yum!” goes for countless other bilaterally symmetrical arthropods, plenty of which—and I was going to say “plenty of whom,” but I don’t want you to start giving them names—do not live at the bottom of the ocean or any other charnel house.
Next on your family’s dinner table? How about crickets?
Crickets are the easiest insects to purchase online and in grocery stores. They’re the perfect protein ingredient not only in power bars but in every type of cookie imaginable (many of which, you must admit, would otherwise have nutritional value of less than zero).
Conclusion: The wise father, regardless of which insect species he selects for his family’s bug entree, proceeds ever so slowly, one segmented body at a time, showing his family the utmost patience. Also showing them the soy sauce, a ramekin of melted butter, and—for the especially queasy—wasabi (Chinese horseradish), which can kill the taste of anything imaginable. Anything.
If you take this kind of gradual approach with your family, it won’t be long before Mom is serving up juicy, high-protein insects (maybe even arachnids) to the whole family, including yourself!
Image is by the author.
To find a list of restaurants with insects on the menu, visit http://www.entomophagy.com/