Buggin’ out

Some two years back I was sitting in a car in rural Amhara in Ethiopia when the air suddenly went black. Hundreds upon hundreds locusts, those short-horned grasshoppers, swarmed past us like thick smoke. The locals kept it cool. This happened on a regular basis, I was told, and luckily locusts do not usually cause damage for farmers. However, there was something ominous about the whole scene.

In general, we often find insects, not just locusts, a bit ominous and disgusting. Just the thought of them can make us shiver. In reality shows of the early 2000s one of the most horrible challenges given to the contestants was a bowl of cockroaches waiting to be eaten. Bugs disgust us.

But could they also be considered as delicious food?

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Our association Future of Food organized, together with Unibugs, an academic association devoted to promoting insects as food, a cooking evening with an extremely bug infested menu.

It was new to me. I am not used to the idea of eating bugs.

In the west , and increasingly elsewhere in the world, freedom and wealth culminates in a good steak. Often meat is synonymous to power, and protein has been sold to western consumers as a magic ingredient we are always in dearth of.

What if the source of that protein would instead of livestock be insects? Insects are very efficient in converting feed to body mass, leaving behind cattle, pigs and chicken.

Although insects have long been collected from forests as a source of food by many people around the world, their widespread farming is still quite uncommon.

In Finland alone, selling insects as edible items is currently against the law. There is simply not enough evidence of their health effects. This is not completely far fetched; just like with mushrooms, you want to know what you’re eating.

But surely health isn’t the only reason. We also find insects unsuitable for our diets because we are not used to the concept of them as food. Our perception of food is different. But perceptions can change , and there are already actors in the exciting field of insect farming. The time might finally be right for bugs.

At our cooking evening, we were joined by Sirisee Oy, a Finnish company specialized in cricket farming. Another company called Nordic Insect Economy is launching itself as Finland’s first entomology company dedicated to raising insects ethically. Entocube specializes in selling equipment needed for producing insects.

Our menu contained cricket pizza, larvae pesto, fried crickets, larvae falafel, honey larvae oatmeal cookies and rocky worm road. I found some of the foods a little bit dry, but that’s just a matter of playing around with the ingredients. My absolute favourite was lightly fried crickets with coriander and lime. A perfect snack, better than popcorn. I see a lot of potential here.

My dad was there too, just like me, cooking insect food for the first time in his life. Baby Amos was still too young to taste the bugs, but he’ll get there in no time.

Would you eat bugs? Should we eat bugs? Is it ethically okay?

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All photos by Atte Penttilä. You can find more of his photos here.

2 thoughts on “Buggin’ out

  1. Wow. I have to say I couldn’t do it. You’re brave Laura. You described some of the food as dry and the lightly fried crickets as delicious, but was there a moment when you felt at all put off by the thought of eating bugs? And if so, do you think that thought clouded your judgment on whether it was actually delicious or not? If you had no idea you were eating bug pizza, what would your experience have been?

    1. I didn’t think I was brave until you wrote that! I didn’t think it would be an issue for anyone to taste bugs, but you are right, it is quite a step to take when you are not used to it. There was a brief moment of disgust when I thought of what I was eating but it didn’t last more than a few seconds. I truly did find the fried crickets delicious. As for the other dishes, I found that the insects acted more as compulsory protein, not so much as a delicacy themselves..then again how often do we eat any regular dish (like Finnish macaroni cassarole) thinking how delicious the meat in it is? I think deliciousness comes with finding the right ingredients that go together, seasoning it the right way and enjoying it in great company. 🙂 I encourage you to taste bugs one day if you are even a bit curious. I heard there are some insect farms in the U.S.

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