Why are journalists so excited about eating bugs? This might sound like a preposterous question – a random assortment of nouns and verbs – but you can’t move across the internet without stumbling into articles about the joys of insect eating. ‘Why Aren’t We Eating More Insects?’ asked the New York Times last year. ‘Bugs are the protein of the future,’ added HuffPost. ‘Humans will eat maggot sausages as a meat alternative,’ insists the New York Post.
What is going on here? And should the Spectator USA get in on the action?
Such articles always point out that people across the world eat bugs. The New York Times piece references the ‘legacy of the late writer and TV host Anthony Bourdain’:
‘…who was always game to try something new, however disconcerting, because he respected the fact that in another culture, it was beloved.’
Fine. I respect the fact that people enjoy eating bugs. If we should respect people for what they do eat, though, should we not respect people for what they don’t eat? If the special esteem that foodstuffs hold within a culture is of value, what about a special aversion?
Still, such pieces often make the valid point that animal agriculture as it stands is cruel and wasteful. Intelligent animals live in cramped conditions, separated from their children and often viciously abused, while vast amounts of land is dedicated to producing feed to sustain their short, miserable and gaseous lives. Yet one does not have to eat insects to eat more ethically. There are beans, lentils, chickpeas, green peas, soy, tempeh, seitan, nuts, quinoa, buckwheat, seeds and potatoes, after all. Why bugs?
We at the Spectator USA asked our marketing manager why journalists keep hopping on this trend (and if you doubt this is a real trend here are some more links.) What she said surprised us. Partly, it is about being sensational in the attention market of the internet. Posting ‘eat more beans’ might get two likes and a retweet but posting ‘eat more bugs’ is guaranteed to bring in hundreds of responses. This was a valid point. The next reason was more subtle and compelling, though: it is high status to overcome the disgust responses that the rubes display. People who are more sensitive to disgusting images, studies have shown, tend to be more conservative, while people who are more open to experience tend to be more liberal. Crunching cockroaches and munching on mosquitos, then, is a good way to separate yourself from the backwards masses, a good way to mark yourself out as a modern, cosmopolitan and forward-looking person.
When we heard this argument, we jumped aboard the bug bus. We don’t want people to think we are narrow-minded, low status entomophobes, too stuck in our ways to embrace the glorious diversity of edible insects. What are we? Bigots? Squares? No, we’ve joined the insect army and we want our loyal readers to enjoy the extra-succulent delights of exoskeletons. To that end we have prepared a few simple recipes to help you fit more bugs into your diet. Bon appetit.
Blend one cup of ice cream with half a cup of milk and then throw in a handful of maggots. These luscious larvae add a delectable creaminess to the shake. You can garnish with strawberries, or blueberries, or worms.
Fried spiders add a special crunch to a salad if they are mixed with lettuce, peppers, cucumbers and radishes. Readers should be warned, however, that their abdomen contains a gooey paste of organs, eggs and excrement. Some diners might find this off-putting, though others might discover that it adds a juicy zest to a salad.
Ants have a fairly neutral flavor on their own, but mixed up in tomato sauce they add thick, hearty and nutritious substance to a pasta dish. Layering sauce and lasagne sheets makes for a healthy, classy meal. You could serve it on a date or at a family function and your guests might never realize what is in their meal – unless you tell them!
Replacing boring old rice with nutty, crunchy, protein rich lice is a great trick for athletes. Just don’t ask yourself whose head they might have been sucking from before they reached your plate.
OK, this one is still in development, but you get the picture. There are endless ways of eating and enjoying insects and we should not let out idle bigotry (bugotry?) from getting in the way. Just don’t ask us what we’re going to move on to promoting once eating insects becomes too common. Frankly, we are still trying to digest our lunch.