What’s for lunch? barbecued palm weevil larvae

Last night at dinner my seven-year-old son found a hair in his food. Cue disgust, laughter, barf sounds echoed around the table. Except the hair was mine. I’d just made dinner in a mad weeknight rush and forgotten to wear my hair net. Well, actually, I don’t ever wear a hair net, though there are some in these parts who wouldn’t mind if I did.

Now, I’m not thrilled to find hair in my food in a restaurant, but at home, it hardly seems to warrant the kind of revulsion it elicited around the family table.

Just wait until I start serving insects.

I’ve been following the research over the last couple of years about the possibility of the world getting its protein from bugs. The FAO held a meeting on eating insects in 2008 and is apparently creating a policy paper on the subject. There was also the Science article with the unforgettable title “For More Protein, Filet of Cricket” that looked at encouraging countries to add insects to their food-security plans. The EU is apparently spending millions of Euros as I write exploring supplementing the continental food supply with insects. And (like everything else in the world that’s even vaguely interesting), there’s a TED Talk on the matter here.

Researchers invariably discuss the high nutritional value of insects—they are an excellent source of protein, fats and micronutrients—and the lower environmental impact of farming them (let alone harvesting them in the wild).

They point to the fact that there are more than 1,000 insects eaten by choice around the world. Eighty per cent of nations eat bugs in some form—that’s 2.5 billion people enjoying bugs as part of their regular daily diet (mostly in Latin America, Africa and Asia where they tend to grow big and as a result are easier to harvest).

In fact, according to the FAO “A number of insect species are considered to be an exquisite meal, such as barbecued palm weevil larvae or roasted termites.”

And if that grosses you out entirely, this piece from GOOD points to the likelihood that you won’t actually have to see all the little bitty legs and antennae at all—in the future, we’ll be eating bugs disguised in food as “animal-based proteins.”

Still, if bugs are to become mainstream in the parts of the world where entomophagy isn’t common, we (and by that I mean my children) are going to have to face our disgust and accept that it’s more social construct than taste.

I wonder if it would help to tell them about the trace amounts of bugs (not to mention random rodent hairs) in some U.S. government-approved foods.

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