Once upon a time, when I was very young, there was a department store to which my family would trek once in a while. In that store, there was a food department. And in that food department, there were shelves filled with exotic imported edibles. And on those shelves, there were insects. No, the place wasn’t infested; to the best of my knowledge, the place passed all of its health inspections. But it did carry grasshoppers in jars and chocolate-covered ants, and the idea of anyone eating grasshoppers — did you cook them or just munch ’em out of the jar? — or Crunch bars in which the crispy rice wasn’t rice, well, that caused many a nightmare.
That experience sat in the back of my mind until this week. I’m not sure what, exactly, is going on, but I encountered not one but two articles this week on eating bugs. According to experts, it’s good for the world.
Take this piece at LiveScience.com about entomophagy — that’s what eating bugs is called by the more educated than I am — and how it can help combat climate change. This is not a joke, as best I can determine. They suggest that eating insects is good because “Bugs are high in protein, require less space to grow and offer a more environmentally friendly alternative to the vertebrates we Westerners prefer.”
How is it good to eat bugs? There’s the methane effect. The U.N. says that 37% of methane emissions (and 9% of carbon dioxide, and 65% of nitrous oxide) in human-related greenhouse gas emissions are from the livestock sector. Long story short, insects produce less of everything. And if you — I say you, because I’m not having any of this — stop eating beef and pork and switch to healthy, satisfying bugs, and they can reduce livestock production by 30%, they can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, you’d have lower risk of heart disease, and we’d save the world, or something.
Needless to say, this is not likely to happen soon.
More immediate is the problem of stink bug infestation, which is happening all over the eastern U.S. WUSA-TV in Washington reports that the National Wildlife Federation’s David Mizejewski is suggesting a simple way to help reduce the stink bug population: eat ’em.
Yes, stink bugs are edible, but it is not suggested that you eat them fresh, since they, um, stink. Roast them first. The article has recipes for stink bug pate and stink bug tacos, and I’m certain that they’re high in protein and perfectly edible, and I would not eat them in a million years. Call me a typical Westerner with an unrefined palate and narrow culinary world view, but bugs in general and stink bugs in particular… no. Not on a bet. I’m sure the food I eat on a daily basis has enough insect fragments for my Minimum Daily Requirement of bugs, and I know they use crushed insects in some food dyes, but I’d rather not KNOW I’m eating bugs. Tell you what: YOU try them and tell us how they taste.
Image: Flickr/Mike Keeling