I have a vivid memory of the second before being pushed off a bridge as part of the King Swing attraction in Nanaimo BC. Some instants of anticipation are burned into our memories with a clarity that the experience itself sometimes lacks. I had such a moment at my birthday party this year. It was the instant where I held a worm in my hand, and knew I was about to put it into my mouth. By the time I’d got to the cricket, (about half a strong drink later) it wasn’t quite as traumatic.
If you’re still reading, consider that, in many parts of the world, insects are a nutritionally rich staple, requiring relatively little labour; it’s dense protein that doesn’t promote deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions. The practical reasons for having insects as part of one’s regular diet speak for themselves. The yuck factor is undeniable. So if you’re not still reading, I totally get it.
At the risk of using an inappropriate metaphor, I planted the seeds of this idea almost a year ago with a friend who’s passionate about food security and the environment. It was a lot to ask of a friend, and she came through brilliantly with fried mealworms and caramelized crickets. It was definitely one of those experiences where thinking about it was a lot worse than doing it, especially if I hadn’t known what I was eating. Tastewise, the dominant flavours were fried oil, and sugar respectively, and how could that be bad? I’d had nearly a year to get used to the idea, which helped. Still, I downed my first drink pretty fast while trying to work up my courage.
I eat meat, but it’s always part of an animal. A large part of the gag reflex for me was knowing I was about to eat an entire organism: somehow cheese and yogurt just don’t count. Luckily for me though, I didn’t have to confront the reality of their death, an aspect of carnivorism we’re also usually spared. I’d expected my friend to order a bag of insect flour on line and make fritters or something. That’s what I would have done, but she showed me my own cowardice. She went to a reptile store and bought live things, arranged their death, washed their dead, segmented little bodies, then worked with them in a context where the sight of an insect is normally a cause for alarm at the least.
Was it gross? Yes. Did it taste gross? No. Did it make me think, “Yum, I gotta get me some more of these!”? No. Was it less revolting than the smell of the snails being eaten on the other side of the kitchen? Yes. Would I do it again willingly? Only after the apocalypse.
Phrases You Just Don’t Hear Every Day, But That Came Up At My Birthday Party
- “Do you want to try the mealworm or the cricket first?”
- “This piece has the entire insect embedded in the caramel; this one just has a leg.”
- “Wanna down a draft of Raid first?”
- “Is there nothing you wouldn’t do?”