Wednesday, August 24, 2011
There was a fascinating article in The New Yorker recently about "entomophagy," or eating bugs. It's pretty well known that people in many cultures around the world eat certain types of insects, worms and grubs. This article examined the possibility of widening the appeal of entomophagy by bringing bugs into the Western diet.
Apparently some Westerners are already pretty comfortable eating them -- the article described, for example, a young couple in Los Angeles as they cooked and ate a whip scorpion. (To their knowledge, no one had ever eaten one before. The writer, who had sampled other insect-ish dishes, called it "far too much bug for me.") A chef in L.A. was shown going to extreme measures to get a certain kind of ant's eggs from Mexico, to serve them in his restaurant. A woman made chocolate chip cookies with crickets.
I'm sorry to say I had exactly the same, tired response you'd probably expect -- BLEAH!
There is simply no way I'm eating bugs. Yes, I realize honey is excreted from bees. Yes, I realize there are undoubtedly bug parts in virtually every processed food we eat. But that's a far cry from whipping up a batch of mealworm flour or maggot grits, in my book.
I have always considered myself a fairly adventurous eater. But I realize now that's only within a relatively narrow, and largely vegetarian, parameter. I don't eat a lot of canned, frozen or otherwise prepared foods. Only since I met Dave have I started eating meat that I declined for years, like beef, pork and lamb. (I gave up my vegetarian leanings to allow him to more fully explore his culinary desires.) I still shy away from veal and lobster -- lobsters are simultaneously cute and big bugs, two qualities that kill my appetite for them.
Dave has asked me to consider eating organ meats, bone marrow, blood sausage, offal and all kinds of shellfish. So far I have mostly declined. I like scallops, but other mollusks seem pretty gross to me. And although I occasionally eat them, I'm not crazy about shrimp and crabs. It's that insect thing again -- I'm much more likely to eat a crab cake than a crab leg, for example, because it doesn't look like a crab. And I have never eaten whole softshell crab.
On the other hand, I can't think of a plant that I wouldn't try. I've happily eaten seaweed, marigolds, all manner of mushrooms, mysterious fruits and fibrous root vegetables. None of that bothers me.
I'm just naturally not a meat person. And bugs, as far as I'm concerned, are meat.
(Photo: A flower seen on my walk to Shepherd's Bush on Monday.)