Welcome Back to the Lab!

What did you have for breakfast this morning? Cereal? Eggo waffles? Pan-fried scorpion? If consuming insects has never crossed your mind, then you’d be considered the minority. Western culture has long shunned the practice, but worldwide, insects are consumed with gusto. For the next few issues, we’ll take a look at the practice of entomophagy, it’s impact on the globe, and why westerners should probably get over their squeamish eating ideals. But first, let’s take a look at a few popular dishes from around the globe.

Enthusiastic entomophagists at the 2019 Bug Appetit fundraiser

Chocolate Chirp Cookies

For those of you that are still squeamish at the thought of eating bugs, we’ll start out with an insect-based food that might be easier for you to digest: the chocolate ‘chirp’ cookie. Commonly made from dried and ground crickets, this cookie is hardly distinguishable from its classic counterpart (and boasts an impressive serving of protein to boot). Ground cricket flour is often the gateway ingredient into entomophagy; you’ll be on your way to more adventurous eating in no time!

Kunga Cake

Ever ridden your bike through a swarm of gnats and consumed a few in the process? For many cultures, consuming insects can be the solution to significant problem, specifically the challenge of living in areas where insects are hyperabundant and tend to swarm. Enter, the kunga cake; a popular dish in east Africa that is made by compressing millions of midges (small flies) into a cake or patty.

The cakes can be consumed as is, or even grated and used as a seasoning, much like parmesan cheese (they are described as being rich in umami flavor, that ever-desirable flavor you get from MSG). The midges form huge swarms in east Africa, and local populations have an ingenious way of collecting them: just coat a cooking pan in oil, waft the pan through the swarm. Voila. Lemons into lemonade. 

Roasted tarantula

While consuming tarantulas and other arachnids is technically known as arachnophagy, 8-legged delicacies are consumed around the world as much as their 6-legged counterparts. Fried scorpion is common street dish in southeast Asia, but in South America, one indigenous tribe has mastered the ultimate arachnid snack: roasted goliath bird-eating tarantula (Theraphosa blondi)

The Piaroa are native to the Orinoco Basin in Venezuela have long been consuming the largest spider in the world. According to Rick West, a tarantula expert reporting for National Geographic, “The white muscle ‘meat’ tastes like smoky prawns, while the gooey abdominal contents are hard-boiled in a rolled leaf and taste gritty and bitter […] The three-quarter-inch fangs are used after the meal as toothpicks to remove T. blondi exocuticle from between one’s teeth.”

Now, who’s hungry?

Until next time, thanks for visiting the lab!

Bug Wrangler Brenna