December 15, 2012 § 2 Comments
“Most of the world already eats insects,” says Arnold van Huis, entomologist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands and collaborator with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. “It is only in the western world that we don’t. Psychologically we have a problem with it. I don’t know why. . . .”
These comments from van Huis appeared in The Observer, in 2010. Two years later, it seems that we westerners are not much closer to wide-scale acceptance of edible bugs. In a post last month, I had fun writing about entomophagy, but for people like van Huis, the eating of insects is a very serious topic.
It’s a serious topic for the folks behind the Ento project, too. If they have their way, insects will be an accepted part of our menus and shopping lists in the next ten years. Seriously.
The team behind Ento is made up of four postgraduate students at London’s Royal College of Art and Imperial College London. They are Aran Dasan, Jacky Chung, Jonathan Fraser, and Julene Aguirre-Bielschowsky, working with Kim Insu, a chef-in-training at Le Cordon Bleu.
They’ve put together a video, explaining their goals and methods, embedded below. In it, they lay out reasons for why we should all be eating insects, including the following:
- The rapid growth in the world’s population requires us to look into alternatives for meeting the increasing demand for sustainable foods.
- Compared to cattle, edible insects can provide nine times the amount of protein for the same amount of feed.
- Insects are also lower in fat than beef.
- Raising insects uses much less energy and space than traditional livestock and produces far less greenhouse gases.
But even with this information, and even though over 1000 different insects are already being eaten in 80% of the world’s countries, we in the West have a general disgust at the thought of eating bugs. Van Huis, a westerner himself, understands this. “It is very important how you prepare them,” he says. “You have to do it very nicely, to overcome the yuk factor.”
That’s where Ento comes in. They have developed a “roadmap,” consisting of 6 steps for introducing edible insects into the mainstream, culminating in the year 2020:
2012: Travel to festivals and markets to grab the attention of “adventurous eaters”
2013: Create the first Ento restaurant, serving insects in the form of innovative “entocubes”
2015: After opening more restaurants, market entocubes in “takeaway entoboxes” for lunch
2017: Sell a line of “ready meals” in supermarkets
2018: Introduce Ento ingredients for use in cooking
2020: Sell fresh insects as an accepted staple in the supermarket meat aisle
This seems like a rather aggressive plan, so I asked Fraser how things are going so far. He tells me that they are in the process of developing the roadmap above into a business plan. “Festivals and markets will still be a major goal for us in 2013, but we have also added event catering and pop-up restaurants to our plans.” All this to create a buzz about Ento. “Primarily we want as many people as possible to experience our food in a fun and social context,” he says.
So when will the first Ento restaurant be open for business? “As we improve our recipes and refine the Ento brand, a London restaurant will be our next major milestone,” says Fraser. And at this point in the progress, the restaurant opening is still on schedule: “We can’t reveal much about it at this stage, but it is in the works for later next year.”
And even though the group sees overcoming westerners’ aversion to entomophagy as a major obstacle, Fraser believes that once eating insects becomes more popular, then will come the biggest challenge: keeping up with demand. “At the moment we use external suppliers to source our insects, and currently the infrastructure base is quite small,” Fraser says. “This is why we proposed the creation of an adaptable network of urban farms that could meet the growing demand requirements as insects become accepted by more and more western eaters.”
The Ento team’s 10-year plan seems rather aggressive, but in an article in the design magazine Core77, they point out that something similar has happened before: Just three decades ago, they write, “tourist guides warned British tourists about the strange and off-putting Japanese habit of eating raw fish.” But now, sushi has become a global phenomenon.
Maybe, with the help of these creative students, it won’t take quite so long to get us eating bugs.
(Damian Carrington, “Insects Could Be the Key to Meeting Food Needs of Growing Global Population,” The Observer, July 31, 2010; “Case Study: Ento, the Art of Eating Insects,” February 27, 2012)
[photos from Ento, used with permission]
December 11, 2012 § 4 Comments
Back when I was a kid, waaaaay back before self-serve soda dispensers, we used to ask our friends behind the counter for an “Around the World.” That meant we wanted a little bit of every flavor in one cup. Can’t say that it tasted so great, but it was fun. I see that others call it a “Suicide” or “Swamp Water.” As I said, it wasn’t the flavor that made us order it.
This past weekend, my family and I were at a Burger King that had a “Coca-Cola freestyle,” serving over 100 flavors of drinks out of one machine. It’s just one example of how our kids’ globe is shrinking. My Around the World recipe had only about six ingredients. Now there’s a lot more “world” available for them to go “around.”
So much for my intro. What I’m really looking at in this post are other kinds of recipes—ones that don’t make an Around the World, but ones that come from around the world. Want to cook up some piri-piri sauce, vartabit, or bun ho? Here are some recipe sites I’ve found that will show you how, and take you on a world tour along the way. (Each of these sites is searchable by ingredient, recipe name, or country, and a couple have background information on each region and its food.)
And in honor of the tradition that’s become a part of this time of the year—putting pumpkin flavor in just about everything that’s edible—here are some pumpkin recipes, one from each site:
- Picarones (Pumpkin Fritters) – from Peru
- Pumpkin and Coconut Cream Soup – from Thailand
- Ponkie – from Ghana
- Sweet Pumpkin – from Afghanistan
Who knows, maybe Coca-Cola will take a cue from Maine Root Handcrafted Beverages and add another soda flavor to their drink machine: Pumpkin Pie.
[photo: “Pumpkin carrot soup with cheddar, fried apples & pumpkin seeds,” by Blake JaBB, used under a Creative Commons license]
June 16, 2012 § 6 Comments
Earlier this year we were with a group of missionaries who were asked to name the worst food in their host country. One lady, who had spent time in Belgium told us about a raw hamburger dish that I remember her calling something like “American beef.” No, not American beef, but American something. . . . Then I saw this article from Public Radio International. Filet américain. That’s what it’s called. Of all the dishes named by the missionaries, this is the one that most kicked in my gag reflex—just to hear about it. Some people eat it with a raw egg on top. That’s just going too far. The author of the article voices his own fear of this Belgian favorite, but not for health reasons. Rather, he’s afraid he’ll actually like it. And then, one thing would lead to another . . . .
Try it once, and soon you’re asking for it regularly at lunch, along with half a liter of red wine. And then you’re having coffee after, along with a digestif. Your afternoon productivity, what’s left of it, starts to slump. Like a good Belgian, you simply shrug your shoulders. . . . Six months go by, and you’re slipping out after you’ve finished a plate for a few quick drags on an unfiltered Lucky Strike. You try to go grow a handlebar mustache. . . .
And then you apply for Belgian citizenship because you know you’ll never get your filet américain fix back in the US.
Maybe it’s not an unwarranted fear, that you’ll become addicted to something that disgusts you. One of the foulest foods in Asia is the durian. Most people can’t even stand the smell. But, they say, try it once, you hate it. Taste it the second time, it’s tolerable. Try it again, and it’s your favorite.
I have a theory. One day our great great great grandparents were going through a famine, and they were forced to eat something that no one had ever needed to eat before. Out of necessity they got used to it. And then when times got better, they still kept it as part of their diet. Maybe it didn’t taste good, but it felt right. It became part of them, part of their story. And then it became part of everyone’s story, kept alive, if by no one else then by the person who could always get attention with “No, I really do think it’s good. Watch me eat some.”
Having grown up on a farm in the Midwest US, I learned to like a few things that might make my city friends squeamish: cow tongue and heart, calf brains (well, I never really enjoyed that one), and Rocky Mountain oysters (fried calf testicles). But I don’t have to go back to old-time examples of Americana to find foods that could gag my international friends. Take for instance a new item soon to be introduced on Burger King’s menu. I’d love to see what my non-American friends would think about their recently announced sundae: vanilla ice cream topped with fudge, caramel, and that all-américain favorite topping, bacon.