Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Tiny Tim:

The article title was "Insects as Sources of Proteins for Man: Valorization of Disgusting Resources" by Eraldo Medeiros Costa-Neto, Interciencia 28(3) pp. 136-140 (in Portuguese). How could I not read this, as I prepare for Hurricane Isabel?

First, I have to confess that I have indeed participated in entomophagy. And not of the involuntary, nocturnal type, or even the agonized coughing type when one inhales a fast flying thing while running or cycling. This was the purposeful eating of insects. And they were yummy.

In an area of Colombia called Santander, there is a particularly large ant that is deep fried and then salted. You can buy little bags of them from street vendors. I've even bought vacuum-packed cans of them. They taste like bacon bits. Once you get past the fact that they have heads, big fat abdomens, and thoraxes with six legs, that is.

I first encountered them when I was about six or seven years old, at an outdoors Christmas party we would go to every year. I thought they were smoked peanuts. My father had a good laugh at my expense when he asked if I knew what I was eating -- but I put my mind to it, just like falling off a bicycle, and I made myself go back and have some more. I've been an ant fan ever since.

I took one of those cans to England with me to give to the rest of my family, and I used to take bags of them to Canada to school. Needless to say, few others tried them. But some did, and they joined me in feasts of ants on melted cheese toast, ants on salad, and ant sandwiches.

In any case, the article was fairly predictable: yes, insects are a good source of protein; yes, insect consumption varies with culture; and yes, insects could be better used to feed humans. There was an interesting discussion of insect-based economics and possibilities as animal feed. But the general western answer is still going to be... yuck. Boiled locust and roasted witchetty grubs? No way. We'll leave that for reality TV, thank you very much.

The most interesting part of the article turned out to be the references. A writhing selection for your delection:

  • Allport S., 2000, The primal feast: food, sex, foraging and love. Harmony, New York. 260 pp.
  • Blum M.S., 1994, The limits of entomophagy: a discretionary gourmand in a world of toxic insects. in The Food Insects Newsletter 7(1):1 p. 6-11. (I note: 'gourmand' and not 'gourmet', and the fact that there is a newsletter dedicted to entomophagy...)
  • DeFoliart G.R., 1995, Edible insects as minilivestock in Biodiversity and Conservation, 4, p. 306-321. (yee haw, git along little bees)
  • DeFoliart G.R., 2002, The human use of insects as a food resource: a bibliographic account in progress. (I nearly fell off my chair when I read the note at the top of this page about the author's health... sorry).
  • Krajick K., 1994, A swarm of tasty treats. in The Food Insects Newsletter 7(2):1 p. 3-4. (mmm... just run through it with your mouth open!)
  • Pemberton R.W., 1995, Catching and eating dragonflies in Bali and elsewhere in Asia. in American Entomologist 41, p. 97-99. ("M...yesss, they were particularly good last year. Don't you think so darling?" --- "But not as good as Phuket, sweetums." -- "Oh, I had forgotten that trip...")
  • Rose M., 1993, Tanajuras fritas: um prato muito apreciado. in Jornal do Comércio, 16 maio, p. 12. (Ant queens --apreciadas, but by whom? -- perhaps a good place to use the Spanish-Portuguese faux ami "exquisito!")