A sustainable foodie future - let them eat bugs
I have a challenge for the foodies of Australia.
Yes, you - the ones out there who’ve been glued to Masterchef, thrilling the neighbours with your medallions of immature ovine, steeped in a garcon’s thimble of the reduced subcutaneous oleaginous lipids of the common or garden canard, garnished with a frisson of cresson.
I think it’s time we stepped it up a notch. You may think you are adventurous, perhaps even original.
You are mistaken.
While this may cruel the pitch for my upcoming cookbook, The Naked Entomophagist, I have but one challenge for you in 2011.
Seriously, let’s make things really interesting this year. There’s only so many times we can reinvent that hackneyed reality-TV model - the manufacture of faux tensions as the soundtrack builds up, the clock winds down and Matt Preston starts to salivate on his cravat.
So I’m offering this solution for free. For the ``challenge’’ ingredient this year bung a plate of crickets in front of them and see what they can come up with (crickets are actually a bit of a cop out - they fry up great in a wok with just some hot oil).
With one fell swoop, we can start a new cookbook publishing phenomenon (all rights reserved), sort out the locust plague, and perhaps save the environment.
You see insects, despite our cultural bias against eating them (which is a minority position by the way) are a great source of protein, and are arguably the most environmentally friendly source of animal protein we have access to.
Dutch professor of entomology Marcel Dicke argues in a presentation recently posted on the TED website, that insects could be a key to being able to supply the world’s burgeoning population with protein.
People in the developing world are aspiring to increase the 25kg per year of animal protein they consume per year to the 80kg we enjoy in the West.
This would demand an increase in meat production which is simply unsustainable.
If more of us were to turn from beef croquette to cricket croquette now and then, we’d approach a sustainable food future.
The fact is, as Dicke points out, insects are abundant - much more abundant than we are in terms of biomass. They are a good source of calories - Dicke estimates"1kg of grasshoppers has the same amount of calories as 10 hot dogs or six Big Macs’‘.
And, ummm, sorry to tell you this, but you’re eating them already.
As any primary producer will know, it’s not uncommon for the occasional lizard to get blended into the cabernet sauvignon, or a few locust bits to be blended into your tomato soup.
Dicke argues that pretty much any processed food contains insects, to the point where ``you are eating at least 500 grams per year’‘.
Sorry if you’re a strict vegan - I’ve probably buggered your day.
Insects are also a great converter of energy.
``If you take 10kg of feed you can get 1kg of beef, but you can get 9kg of locust meat,’’ Dicke says.
And there’s plenty of them - more than 6 million species, with more than a thousand regularly on the menu around the world.
It seems Australians are only content to eat an insect if it’s a tequila-soaked worm at the bottom of a bottle of mezcal.
But our reticence to chow down on our six-legged friends is simply a product of the times - apparently in an effort to appear exotic, eating bugs was all the rage in Victorian England.
And Vincent M. Holt’s tome, Why Not Eat Insects was first published in 1885. Obviously didn’t catch on.
Well I say it’s time for change. This year, come round to mine for Australia Day . I’ll chuck an extra witchetty grub on the barbie for you.
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