Guess Who’s Crawling to Dinner?

As distasteful as it may seem, bugs are a widely valued food source the world over, with a nutritional value that outweighs aesthetics.

| June 2019

grasshopper
Photo by Pixabay/Dominic Alberts

In Western Civilization, particularly the American branch, we have a well-developed antipathy for any animal food that does not look like a chicken, cow, or salmon. “Bugs” in particular are traditionally regarded as vermin and not nutrition, because although mostly not harmful in themselves, historically some have been vectors of disease. In addition to those diseases with which they don’t inoculate you directly, some insects will carry other diseases from old source to new victim on their hairy little feet and through their disgusting habit of eating feces and carrion then regurgitating in the egg salad at the Fourth of July picnic. But there is far more to the invertebrate realm than ticks, flies, fleas, and mosquitoes. As many as 10,000,000 species exist of insects alone, with only about a million having been classified. Among those, the bad actors are well known but taint the reputation of the whole class.

“Bugs” from mollusks and myriad larvae to insects and arachnids have a real public relations problem with cultures that have been raised with the old testament health laws – very practical but very restrictive – as the basic tenants of wholesomeness. A man in a starvation situation may have to either lower his standards or broaden his horizons (depending on your point of view) to keep fueled. To sustain life, if you don’t have the food you love, then you’d better learn to love the food you have. It’s that simple.

Enlightened Entomophagy

The term entomophagy comes from the Greek entomos (insect[ed]) and phagein (to eat) and refers to the consumption of insects as food. As applied more broadly, it refers to eating other crustaceans as well, plus mollusks, as long as they are not found in the market, as are the socially accepted crabs, oysters and shrimps.



But there is very good news: a large segment of the Earth’s population is way ahead of the West when it comes to putting nutrition ahead of esthetics, and much of their advantage is purely in their perception. Why would we pay premium prices for crab and run from a spider? Why would we excitedly put on a special bib for a feast of crayfish but never do more than stomp on a cricket? Or take 10 minutes with wrinkled brow and pursed lips deciding on the best wine to go with that plate of escargot and go “eeewww” when we see slime trails of slugs across our back porch or over our nylon tent? Why was the North American practice of harvesting grasshoppers by burning meadows to simultaneously remove their wings and roast them regarded as truly aboriginal, but when John the Baptist lived on locusts and wild honey he was the ultimate survivorman?

Even a rhetorical question deserves an answer, and in this case it is simple and obvious: Our Western distaste and reluctance for bugs as food is because we have consistently confused the critter, which very seldom has any harmful effect as food, with the deadly microbes that may be carried by his distant cousin.

Teagin
8/29/2019 5:15:58 PM

great read!


Teagin
8/29/2019 5:15:17 PM

great read!


Amanda
8/18/2019 11:17:33 AM

The proper word is 'tenet', not 'tenant'.







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