Culture

Roasted crickets and toasted ants – coming soon to a bistro near you

Many readers may be old enough to remember a time when we were young and the dollar was strong, and one of the glories of a trip to Europe was the splendid cuisine available for a song at many a roadside bistro or ristorante.  Everything tasted so much better there — from the simplest fresh green salad to the most heavenly bouillabaisse. 

Well, that was then.

Coming to European restaurants soon will be insects — long popular in Asian foods — and not the kind you can swat or squash.  You’ll be paying for these insects because they won’t be trying to alight on your food.  They’ll be your food, if the mighty culinary forces of the European Union have any say in the matter. Bye-bye Boeuf Bourguignon and bonjour, Soupe a la Moustique (mosquito soup.)  According to today’s Telegraph in London:

Experts in Brussels believe insects and other creepy crawlies could be a vital source of nutrition which will not only solve food shortages but also help save the environment.

They have launched a three million euro (£2.65 million) [$4,243,184.45] project to promote the eating of insects while also asking national watchdogs like the UK’s Food Standards Agency to investigate the issue.

Proponents of entomophagy – insect eating – argue that bugs are a low-cholesterol, low-fat protein food source.

Yes, well that’s why they’re in favor of eating insects.  But the rest of us?  Are we all to become entomophagists?  The Telegraph actually assigned a reporter to taste bugs at a London restaurant ahead of the times.  You can just imagine the moment in the newsroom, when the assignment editor is looking for just the bloke for the taste test.  Today, it was Adam Lusher who was at the wrong place at the wrong time.  Here is a bite of his findings:

Chocolate covered scorpion: roasted for 20-30 minutes at 180-200C, cooled and dipped in dark chocolate. Served on its own rock.

My scorpion, I am assured, enjoyed a happy life – they are ethically farmed in China, with plenty of stones to hide under.

It just doesn’t seem that happy as I raise it to my mouth, tail curled as if to sting, pincers open ready to nip.

Presentation somewhat unsettling then, especially as it comes with a warning to chew thoroughly. Otherwise the sting can stick in the oesophagus, “which can hurt”.

At least the venom has been removed to comply with UK safety rules. Elsewhere, says Graham Belcher, the restaurant manager, they keep the venom and when the sting nips your throat “that’s when you die. Bon appétit.”

As I crunch in, I’m not getting much taste, just a quick lick of chocolate. But I am getting texture, a lot of texture. I am getting thin, spindly legs (eight of them, since scorpions are arachnids, not insects), hard, unidentifiable fragments of exoskeleton.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have my next meal outside the United States at that Dominos Pizza on the moon.