“On Eating Insects” Is a Gamechanger for the Bold and the Adventurous

Photo: From “On Eating Insects: Essays, Stories and Recipes” (Phaidon).

51G+jYBmEML._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_“Despite insects’ status as the most successful class of animals ever to have walked, flown, squirmed, hopped and swarmed about the planet, humans have not been generous in bestowing superlatives upon them. In western food traditions, insects are never the heroes and always the villains: pestilent forces of famine, disease and contamination,” Mark Bomford writes in the introduction to the new book, On Eating Insects: Essays, Stories and Recipes, set for publication on May 1, 2017, from Phadion.

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Because, let’s face it, so much of Nature’s infinite miracles are just downright repulsive. We are biologically hardwired to be disgusted and adverse to countless things that could potentially make us sick. But, at a certain point, our tastes and preferences become conditioned by the social norms in which we live. In India, the cow is holy. In parts of Asia, the dog is meat. Insects have long been eaten outside the East, recognized for their nutritional value and sustainability.

Specimen samples from fieldwork in Australia. Picture credit: Chris Tonnesen

Specimen samples from fieldwork in Australia. Picture credit: Chris Tonnesen

In 2008, Rene Redzepi and Claus Metyer founded the Nordic Food Lab. a non-profit, open-source organization that investigates food diversity and deliciousness. Bringing together chefs, scientists, artists, and anthropologists, the Lab takes an approach that combines science, humanism, and sustainability to culinary techniques from around the world. As the industrialization of food has created tremendous harm, both to the environment and the human body alike, new solutions are needed to old problems.

The Lab’s primary goal is “deliciousness.” They’re not trying to sell “Tastes awful but it’s healthy,” as so many fads and trends do. They understand, inherently, that the key to transforming the human diet is by appealing to the palette. On Eating Insects is absolutely crawling with data and details, providing a rich wealth of insights into infinite possibilities.

In addition to the essays and stories that provide wisdom gleaned from history, research, and experience, the beautifully-illustrated book provides a panoply of recipes for everything from the Hornet Highball, made from Japanese hornet liquor and whisky to the Bee Larvae Taco, which bridges the flavors of Sardinia, Japan, and Mexico.

Hornet Highball, recipe by Josh Evans. Picture credit: Chris Tonnesen

Hornet Highball, recipe by Josh Evans. Picture credit: Chris Tonnesen

Imagine serving Spicy Cricket and Asparagus at your next dinner party, allowing your guests to discover for themselves the next superfood­—one that has already been promoted on “Shark Tank.”

What On Eating Insects reminds us is of the power of presentation and the necessity of appealing to the senses. The combination of flavors and beauty transform the way we see the creepy crawlies that haunt our dreams. Were you to gaze upon a lobster, not knowing how it tasted, you might feel the same sense of taboo that ants and grasshoppers give you—but the fact that it was introduce into your diet as a delicacy, a pricy one at that, served up with melted butter, you will yourself to forget the screams of the creatures dropped live into boiling pots.

See how it works? Food is simply a matter of adaptability. The human animal was designed to taken from the infinite bounty and create that which appeals, because the practice of cognitive dissonance works on jut about everyone.

Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Whitewall, The Undefeated, Dazed Digital, Jocks and Nerds, and L’Oeil de la Photographie. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.