“You’re invited to the Bug Banquet,” the email read. Ewwww! Must I go? I am psychologically averse to insects, but as a good sport, I’ll try.
The Bug Banquet is a culinary exploration of entomophagy, the practice of eating insects. It was created as an “experience” to help guests enjoy insects as food. Founders Chloé Bulpin, a senior at at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), and Alex Gandarillas and Matt Kominsky, two Johnson & Wales University culinary students, believe in the power of visual imagery to educate.
The intriguing menu was served cocktail style and the presentation was gorgeous.
- Pesto Flatbread: cricket pesto, mozzarella and artichokes
- Tempura Skewers: crickets, silkworms and scallions with a spicy sriracha sauce
- Watermelon and Waterbugs: compressed watermelon, apple and waterbug
- Spicy Silkworm: Korean-style marinated silkworms with hummus and roasted cauliflower
- Dark Chocolate-Coated Crickets
- Sundae Shooters: waterbug ice cream, caramel, and banana
- Several different cookies and tarts made with cricket flour
How did the creations taste? The comment most often overheard was, “I would never have known.” Ground crickets in pesto tasted “like escargot.” Waterbugs had a “floral extract that is not off-putting.” Roasted crickets tasted “like roasted fava beans with a crunchy outside and a mushy middle.” Dark Chocolate-Coated Crickets were “reminiscent of a Ferrero Rocher candy.”
As it turns out, insect-fortified foods are a hot new food category. Cricket flour, which is some combination of pulverized crickets, cassava flour, rice flour, coconut, and xanthan gum, is a great source of protein. It is also high in essential fatty acids, and minerals like iron, calcium, potassium, and zinc. Crickets contain fiber in the form of chitin, the main component of the insects’ exoskeleton. Because of the chitin, cricket flour carries an allergy warning: people who are allergic to shellfish may also be allergic to insects.
Entomophagy devotees remind us that sustainability is the best reason to eat dried bugs. Compared to traditional livestock, insects can be farmed on far less land and emit fewer greenhouse gasses. Crickets are 65 percent edible protein while cows and chickens are around 30 percent protein. Plus, crickets produce 80 times less methane than cattle!
It takes about 2,000 gallons of water to produce a single pound of edible beef, but only one gallon of water to make one pound of edible cricket protein.
Sustainability aside, eighty percent of the world eats insects and traditionalists want to make sure that the practice does not disappear as food regimens westernize. Eating insects is popular Africa, Oceania, Asia, and Latin America. With the culinary expansion of Americans, why shouldn’t it be popular here, too?