In the Western world, people typically associate eating bugs with a childhood dare or a bet gone wrong. But before you get squeamish at the mere thought of it, a little reminder that humans have been doing it for centuries. For our hunter-gatherer ancestors, insects were an important part of their diet. And for around half of the world’s population, chowing down on insects still isn’t all that uncommon.
Is it time for us to get with the program? Brazilian top chefs are leading the charge by including bugs on their menu, as illuminated in a recent article by Heriberto Araújo and Anna Veciana on The Guardian.
Ants, apparently, taste similar to ginger (I’ve heard they can be spicy too). After discovering this on a trip to a remote region in the Amazon state, chef Alex Atala, owner of São Paulo’s D.O.M. (which was ranked among the world’s 50 best restaurants) started serving them up as a delicacy. As in, “golden Amazonian ants over a coconut meringue” and “a raw Amazonian leaf-cutter ant on a pineapple cube.” For those who remain cautious about eating creepy-crawlies, baby-steps might be the way to go. São Paulo offers a softer option, courtesy of a burger bar aptly called ‘Meats’, which offers “a fat-free meat burger seasoned with vinaigrette of ants.”
As the human population continues to grow, it’s predicted that maintaining a diet rich in meat and dairy products is unsustainable. It’s likely that we’ll start looking for alternatives, although judging by our reaction to having bugs on our plate, it might take the Western world a while to come around to eating insects. A US student tried ‘the diet of the future’ for 30 days, with mealworms, waxworms and crickets forming the bulk of his diet. Needless to say, it was only a 30-day thing, and even though he claimed it wasn’t all that bad (“it was pretty good”), I’m not convinced.