I Ate Bugs And Here’s What Happened
BY ANTON GLAMB
For quite some time, I’ve been hearing that consuming insects can be a good source of protein. Globally, this is nothing new, as it is estimated that 80 percent of the world’s population intentionally eats insects, while 100 percent of the global population eats insects unintentionally.
Until this past week, I have tried savory dried crickets and scorpions, as well as chocolate-covered ants — you know, the kind of thing that’s packaged as a gimmicky item at a gift shop. But there are some interesting things to consider about eating bugs: One, a 2015 study conducted by Oxford University researchers found that insects are packed with more nutritional value per pound than beef or fish. In addition, because insects are so biologically different than humans, some believe that the viability of a disease jumping from farmed insects is extremely low — which cannot be said for beef (E. coli), chicken (Salmonella) nor pork (Trichinosis).
Despite the rational benefits of eating insects, bugs are generally considered gross in our culture. But last week, I thought I’d give it a try. I decided to start with silkworm pupae since I had seen chrysalis on the menu a while ago at Café Duck Butt. My friend nabbed a can of the silkworms from her grandfather’s house, and I found a recipe for how to marinate and roast them in the oven. The description sounded amazing, like a crunchy snack with a light nutty flavor that was like a mix of flavorful mushrooms, chestnuts and roasted soybeans. My mouth was watering thinking about it, and I could hardly wait for it to be the hit of the next potluck.
Unfortunately, as soon as the can was opened, I was hit with a musky aroma. I imagine what I was experiencing must be similar to the way people who don’t eat meat are repulsed by the smell of it. Just as lamb, fish, shrimp, pork, beef and chicken all have a unique smell, these pupae had a strong one, and I didn’t like it.
The recipe said that soaking and rinsing the larva several times would get rid of the unpleasant canning taste, but I think that this is just the way that they smell, kind of like mothballs in the distance. I marinated them in a mix of sriracha, soy and sesame oil and tried one. I’d hoped that roasting them would bring out the hidden goodness in these critters, but the taste was just as bad as the smell. When it burst in my mouth, I felt some liquid but there was also an odd dry texture like rolled-up butterfly wings.
The smell filled my entire apartment, and it took a few hours for it to clear. That night, I had nightmares about being surrounded by bugs and imagined them crawling in and out of my mouth and nose, coupled with flashbacks of the scent of roasting pupae. I figure they’re an acquired taste and am willing to give them another try, but I definitely need a breather before I give bugs another bite.