Eating bugs sounds pretty icky right? Wrong!
Eat the Beetles!: An Exploration into our Conflicted Relationship with Insects by David Waltner-Toews takes a fascinating look at an alternative food source for humans that will potentially solve the problem of our shortening resources and unsustainable agriculture. Told in a memoir/travel writing style, Waltner-Toews produces a witty and personal account of his travels around the world and his experiences with eating insects, along with the different types of ways they are cooked and prepared by different countries.
The very thought of insects has made our skin crawl, raised the hair on our arms and left us dry mouthed at the mere mention of them. We’ve grown up seeing them portrayed as terrifying mutant monsters in horror films, for instance, Eight Legged Freaks, where we follow a nest of gigantic spiders that terrorise a small town of people, stealing them away to have their organs and tissues sucked out by their terrifying queen. We’ve taken note from a young age of the revulsion displayed by adults when faced with any bug that flew their way and the horror of finding one lurking in the house. It’s not so surprising then, that eating one would repulse most people; me being one of them. However, after having an enlightening conversation with a friend of mine, I began to see eating insects as a new and exciting food opportunity; the friend being a lifelong vegetarian, strictly no meat whatsoever, but insects? Yes please! To be more specific, it was a locust she tried and apparently, I’m told, they taste absolutely wonderful. She likened them to eating a heavily seasoned roasted peanut except with a prawn consistency… If my veggie friend can eat insects, and enjoy them, why not the rest of us?!
Once seen as the great enemy of human civilisation, destroying our crops and spreading plagues, a new perspective is shown in Eat the Beetles! where insects are the marvellous pollinators of our food crops and a potential source of commercial food supply. From upscale restaurants where black ants garnish raw salmon to grubs used as pub snacks in Paris and Tokyo.
‘The menu included larvae, silkworm pupae, and silkworms… we snipped off the ends and the larvae dropped out… we made tea from the faeces of worms that had fed on cherry blossoms. The tea was cherry-scented and, if you didn’t know where it came from, light and tasty.’
Apparently, bugs aren’t so different from ourselves. Did you know that ‘insects were here millions of years before us?’ That they ‘created us, and their DNA is part of who we are?’ Knowing this new nugget of information begs the question of whether our loathing towards a species that reflects our own is truly logical.
Could the world, a decade from now, be filled with bug eating humans? Waltner-Toews fully believes this to be the case as he states that ‘we will get over the wave of insects as a hot new trend among foodies’ and eventually, ‘billions more of us will deliberately eat insects’. An extremely positive outlook to say the least and definitely a possibility, although I believe that altering the type of food the majority eats comes with difficulty, with much needed advertising to achieve that goal. However, given the fact that utilising insects as a food source has so many benefits for our environment, and supposedly tastes delectable, our eating habits may well change.
For those brave enough, who want to try something a little offbeat and controversial, Eat the Beetles! supplies an array of exotic insect delicacies to sample. What better excuse to change your diet plan than this one? Even if you think your feelings about eating insects won’t change, Eat the Beetles! promises an engrossing, humorous and intelligent narrative, sure to bring about a thoughtful debate on what is deemed acceptable to eat and what isn’t, in addition to expanding one’s knowledge of a largely unexplored area.
“This will inform and fascinate readers of food history, gastronomy, epidemiology, and ecology, as we begin to understand more about the lives of insects and the important roles they play in our society.” — Booklist
Eat the Beetles! : An Exploration into our Conflicted Relationship with Insects by David Waltner-Toews is published by ECW Press on 22nd June 2017
(£13.99, p/b, 276pp, 9781770413146)
Post by Sarah