It started out innocently enough: My husband Tyrone and I were looking for a way to improve our children’s
nutrition without consuming beef, pork, or more poultry than we presently eat. Sending the children to public school with textured vegetable protein burgers and miso soup turned out to be more of an exercise in defending our lifestyle choices (to teachers and classmates alike), and more than any first grader should be expected to take on. We home school now, but that’s another story.
By the time Creepy Crawly Cuisine arrived, I had already taken the children on a field trip to the University of Minnesota’s Entomology Department. We learned that the reason insects are so common in diets around the world is that they are extremely high in protein and nutrients, and provide an excellent source of unsaturated fat. Most insects can be consumed in all of their growth stages (egg, larva, pupa, and adult), and their complete biomass is usable. There is virtually no waste, as compared to fish, of which 40 percent is waste.
Recently, a former co-worker of mine, a nurse practitioner, stopped by our shop. When she reviewed the nutritional values of insects compared with foods commonly consumed by North Americans, she had to admit she was impressed. If we could just get over our culture-based biases! David George Gordon, author of The Eat-A-Bug Cookbook, believes this bias, now nearly a social taboo, occurred primarily because early European settlers viewed insects as competition for their crops. Because they perceived Native American’s relationship with nature as barbaric, so was their choice to consume grasshoppers, ants and caterpillars. In contrast, it is widely reported that during locust “plagues” in regions of northern Africa, the locusts are collected and stored for later use, usually for important celebrations. It’s all in how you choose to see things.
While the pictures in Creepy Crawly Cuisine show tasteful displays of mealworm spaghetti and mango-grasshopper chutney, trying to find stinkbugs for stinkbug pate’, or a third of a pound of live leaf-footed bugs for pizza was next to impossible. We settled for two recipes that we found in Entertaining With Insects by Ronald Taylor and Barbara Carter. All we needed were mealworms and crickets.
“What kind of pet are you going to feed these to?” the checkout clerk sweetly asked the children. They looked at me, and I handed her the recipes for oatmeal-mealworm cookies, and crickets & mushrooms over rice… “Well, honey is bee vomit!!” our 3 year old said indignantly, as the woman dropped the recipes and stepped away from us in horror. We had already prepared the children to expect that a lot of people would probably have the ssame reaction, because this would be something new to them. Our family agreed that this would be our way of helping people expand their consciousness.
We city dwellers rarely handle our food while it is alive. Because the mealworms were packed in sawdust (this is no longer the case), we had to transfer them to our bug ranch, which we had filled with oatmeal and a slice of potato. We let them alone for a few days to get the sawdust out of their systems. As another exercise in opening minds, we kept the bug ranches at our shop, on the front counter next to the register. When asked what they were for, one of the children would pull Man Eating Bugs by Peter Menzel and Faith D’aluisio off the shelf, open to the beautiful pictures of insectivores around the world, and announce proudly, “This is our dinner”.
Purchasing from the pet shop can get expensive, but we recently found a wonderful supplier called The Rainbow Mealworms CompanyThe Rainbow Mealworms Company, that will ship to the public at great prices. I spoke to Cindy at Rainbow Mealworm and she was totally unfazed by my request. She says they have been providing edible insects for quite some time.