Imagine your next venture out to a local, trendy restaurant—sipping on your Sazerac, some oysters or truffle fries already consumed, and awaiting your next course of sauteed Japanese baby bees. It could happen: According to Dana Goodyear, writing in the New Yorker, ‘entomophagy,’ or eating bugs, is the next big culinary trend in the United States.
Already, we’re seeing cocktails made with grasshopper salt and tacos stuffed with fried grasshoppers, Goodyear notes. But of course fancy chefs want to make a name for themselves with unusual fare, and the hip and haute are always clamoring for new, ‘exotic’ dishes, right? Bug couture would be pretty easy to dismiss (and laugh at)—if there weren’t actually some good reasons for it. I mean, it’s certainly eco-friendly! “We need to feed humanity in a sustainable way,” José Andrés, who won this year’s James Beard Foundation ‘Outstanding Chef’ award, said in the New Yorker piece; as our society’s love affair with meat grows a little colder, bugs provide a ready source of protein.
Besides, “most of the world eats bugs,” Goodyear points out. Our American aversion to the habit is more a matter of cultural conditioning than logical taste preference. Not all bugs are fit for eating, of course (and backyard bug grubbing isn’t recommended; bugs meant to be food should be raised under certain sanitary conditions), but grasshoppers, slugs and caterpillars could be better for you than beef. Consider this:
• Insects are high in protein, B vitamins and minerals such as iron and zinc
• They’re low-fat
• They’re not only easier to raise than livestock, but they produce less waste.
Over 1,000 edible species have been identified, according to entomologists Marcel Dicke and Arnold Van Huis (writing in the Wall Street Journal ) and “three Dutch insect-raising companies, which normally produce feed for animals in zoos, have set up special production lines to raise locusts and mealworms for human consumption.”
No matter how nutritious bugs are, though, could they really move beyond novelty item in the U.S.? “Not long ago, foods like kiwis and sushi weren’t widely known or available,” Dicke and Van Huis write. “It is quite likely that in 2020 we will look back in surprise at the era when our menus didn’t include locusts, beetle larvae, dragonfly larvae, crickets and other insect delights.”