Thursday, June 9, 2011

Would You Eat One?

Yummy! Grasshoppers.
What you see over there to the left is a mess of grasshoppers ready to eat. I don't know if I would have known what these were had they not been identified in Boing Boing's entry today. (At a quick glance, they look like crawfish.) Seems that La OaxaqueƱa Bakery and Restaurant in San Francisco has been banned by the city health department from serving its famous grasshopper tacos. Not because grasshoppers are gross, but because they are not from an FDA-approved source. They are, in fact, straight from Oaxaquena, Mexico, where they are sold everywhere and eaten in swarms, if you will pardon the expression.

So, OK, what is an FDA-approved source where a hard-working restaurant owner can get some hoppers? Well, there is no FDA-approved source. Next!

Aside from the Kafka-like mess this restaurant finds itself in, I find myself wondering about the cultural boundaries that surround food that humans consume. Entomophagy--eating of insects by human beings (can you believe there's a word for it?)--is not only verboten by the cultural norms of this country and Europe, but the very notion of eating a bug causes lots of people to gag. I would be willing to bet that the vast, vast majority of Americans would not even try eating a  tasty insect.

Once again, as in health care, the Western World is out of step with the non-Western world. According to Wikipedia, 80 percent of the world regularly eats insects, and if you want to be technical, arachnids. Over a thousand different kinds of the former and over 1,200 of the latter.
Some of the more popular insect and arachnids eaten around the world include crickets, cicadas,grasshoppers, ants, a variety of beetle grubs (such as mealworms), the larvae of the darkling beetle or rhinoceros beetle, a variety of species of caterpillar (such as bamboo worms, mopani worms, silkworms and waxworms), scorpions and tarantulas. Entomophagy is sometimes defined broadly to include the practice of eating arthropods that are not insects, such as arachnids (tarantulas mainly) and myriapods (centipedes mainly). There are 1,417 known species ofarthropods, including arachnids, that are edible to humans.
Now the question is, given the chance, would you eat one? Or several? I can say positively that I would. Hell, I'm from South Louisiana. If you can eat a crawfish or an oyster, you can eat a bug. Besides, they are good for you. Loaded with vitamins and minerals and protein. Unsaturated fat in some. And think about this: isn't eating insects more ecologically sound than depleting the oceans of fish and feeding half the grain  grown in the world to cows?
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