Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

July 8, 2013

Bug cuisine

By Dick Platt
Corsicana Daily Sun

— The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) issued a report in May which provides a comprehensive assessment of insects as food for humans and livestock. In case you didn’t know it, “entomophagy” refers to the consumption of insects by humans. Animals that eat insects are referred to as “insectivores.”

The title of the FAO report is “Edible Insects: Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security.” The report estimates that, by 2050, there will be nine billion people on the planet and makes the understatement “...We need to find new ways of growing food.” In addition to researching new ways to induce humans to eat more crickets and such, they are exploring new ways of using insect protein to feed livestock, farmed fish, and poultry. I guess this means that, in the future, even strict carnivores will be getting the benefit of bugs.

The report also states that among other benefits, “...insects take up little space, can be raised on waste, and research indicates they emit few greenhouse gases...they can be nutritious, with high fat, protein, vitamin, fiber and mineral content...” Gee, the more you read about bugs, the more appealing they become, right?

A noted entomologist (bug scientist) at the American Museum of Natural Science named Louis Sorkin is a proponent of bug-eating and he says, “You have to get people to, I guess, swallow it here in the Western part of the world.” (Pun intended, I’m sure.)

He continues, “I think most people here probably don’t like insects, because they look like insects. But if you cook the insects, dry the insects, and grind them into flour, more people would consume it.” Beetles account for the most commonly eaten group of insects and Sorkin says, “I happen to like more the immature beetles, the grubs. They’re softer. They don’t have the exoskeleton and they are more flavorful, but to each his own.”

Mr. Wikipedia informs that, Entomophagy can be divided into two categories: insects as a source of nutrients and insects as condiments.” Well, who knew? Reminds me of that old gag where a diner asks the waiter what are flies doing in his soup and the smart-aleck waiter replies, “It looks like the breaststroke to me, Sir.” In Mr. Sorkin’s world the answer would probably be, “Why, they are the condiments, Sir.”

Believe it or not, about two billion people around the world consume insects as part of their traditional diets but I guess it is fair to say the fad has not quite caught on in the Western World. There are about 1,400 known species of arthropods, including arachnids, that are edible to humans. Some of the most popular varieties eaten around the world are slugs, crickets, cicadas, grasshoppers, ants, various beetle grubs and larvae, caterpillars, scorpions, and tarantulas.

So where am I going with this semi-disgusting rant? You will never catch me dining on insects and arthropods — no matter how much pressure to do so comes from the United Nations, noted entomologists, and the two billion bug-eaters around me!

Wait a minute — come to think of it, I already am a bug-eater of sorts and perhaps you are also. Did you know that the arthropod family not only contains arachnids (spiders, scorpions, mites, and ticks) and myriapods (centipedes and millipedes), but also various crustaceans? That’s right crustaceans — as in crab, lobster, and shrimp. How I love those critters! In fact, I made The Little Woman (she does not like that name) and I a big pot of arthropod bisque just last night. And I don’t care if you call them crayfish, crawdads, or mudbugs, you can’t beat a big old crawfish boil dinner.

Another of my favorites from the creepy-crawly genre is escargots. These are just plain old snails with a fancy French name. Whatever — when you scampi them up in tons of garlic butter and mushroom caps and then sop up the juice with garlic toast, you have got some mighty fine eating.

Talking about eating this stuff reminds me of my dear-departed sister-in-law, CeCe. She just would not eat any kind of fish or seafood, and the thought of eating crawfish or snails absolutely disgusted her. “I’m not eating anything that leaves a snotty trail across the driveway or lives in the drainage ditch out back!”

I’ll now close this slimy rant with a few silly bug riddles. What do you get when you cross a centipede with a parrot? A walkie-talkie! Why are frogs so happy? Because they eat what bugs them! What did one frog say to the other frog? Time is sure fun when you’re having flies!

See ya...

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Dick Platt is a Daily Sun columnist. His column appears on Tuesdays. Want to “Soundoff” on this column? Email: soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com