Who's up for some grub?
Picture a Saturday afternoon at the movies. You’re ordering your popcorn, like you usually do. But instead of the traditional popcorn in your bag, you discover a large quantity of bug larvae. Needless to say, that theater would be reported and closed, probably within the week. But, as with the standard system of measurement, America finds itself the odd one out. Many South American moviegoers crave a heaping helping of hot, buttered bugs with their films. In fact, most countries consume insects willingly. They are cheap, easy to obtain, and packed with vitamins and nutrients. So, why do we believe that creepy-crawlies belong under our shoes and not in our stomachs? Entomophagists (bug eaters) like Lisa Sanchez are trying to change that mindset.
Lisa Sanchez of the Lancaster County Parks and Recreation department dedicates herself to nature, and she gives environmental presentations for homeschoolers, public schools, and pretty much anywhere else in the community. One topic that she is passionate about is bug consumption. Last Thursday, she presented to a group of students from the Asian Culture Club and the environmental science classrooms.
|Sanchez prepared the bugs and worms much|
in the fashion that one would prepare any
number of foods
Here in Lancaster, we tend to have a horrible stink bug problem, but most animals do not consume these pests, so it is hard to control their growth. However, there is something we humans can do: cook them up and eat them. It may sound a bit far fetched, but ingesting invasive species is a great way to curb population growth while avoiding the harmful effects of pesticides on the surrounding environment. According to Lisa Sanchez, stink bugs taste just like cilantro when cooked, making them a great garnish for your next Mexican meal.
Sanchez gave out many tips about different insects and how they taste. She also explained the benefits of eating insects. This is a virtually untapped food source in America. With so many starving people in this country, it truly is astounding that we do not take advantage of this cheap, obtainable resource.
If you have read any of Elke Arnesen’s environmental articles, you would know that traditional animal proteins take up a lot of land and water. Bugs, however, are extremely high in protein and take up an infinitesimal amount of space, and because there are so many of them, it would take a tremendous amount of harvesting to exhaust this food source. Lisa Sanchez made this information available to students, and she also wanted them to experience the wonderful world of entomophagy firsthand.
Sanchez raises insects and eats them whenever she finds them in her backyard. However, it was easier for her to buy live crickets and mealworms from the local pet store instead of collecting enough bugs for all of us adventurous eaters. She tossed the worms in the pan, where they wiggled and popped, and the crickets in a pot with a lid, so they would not escape. The smell was surprisingly reminiscent of popcorn, and I found my mouth watering. I was actually looking forward to sampling them.
Most of the students watched with a mixture of fascination and revulsion, and when the snacks were served, they were pretty hesitant. However, once one student decided to take the plunge and did not look completely disgusted, the others, including myself, took their first bite. Most tasters were indifferent, saying that they were just crunchy and did not taste much like anything. To me, they tasted like any cheap, salty snack that you would pick up. They tasted relatively normal. I had tasted crickets before, but the ones I had sampled were covered in artificial flavoring and tasted stale. The crickets Lisa Sanchez cooked were freshly made and locally caught, both attributes that you want your food to have, and they tasted better because of it. Many students were eager to come back for seconds.
So, even though you may feel a bit hesitant about trying a daunting food, taking that risk may pay off in the end. You may end up liking the dish, and you broaden your life experience by sampling it. Plus, eating insects is friendlier to the environment in general compared to other meats, and you can get a good meal out of some of the bigger beetles and worms (although it might take some time before most of us become that adventurous). Hopefully, Americans can learn to embrace this protein, and with Sanchez’s help, bugs could definitely be part of our future.
Full video from the tasting experience courtesy of Lillian Murr (via Google Drive)
--Lillian Murr, LSNews.org School News Editor