What’s “Food,” Anyway?



At boarding school back in Jamaica, we usually had oatmeal porridge at breakfast. Unfortunately, the school was far in the mountains, way beyond the existing power lines at that time, and there was no refrigeration. So, by mid-term, the stored oatmeal would be invaded by weevils.

I can still see those tiny white weevils in my mind’s eye, lying in state on the surface of the porridge. I could eat the oatmeal and weevils, scoop off the weevils and eat the oatmeal – or go without my porridge. I went without when I wasn’t starving but there were times when hunger prevailed. I somehow managed to get past the weevils and force some porridge down my throat.

Silly me! Apparently, those weevils would have been good for me.

I just read an article by Sarah Gray, in Salon.com, suggesting that insects (are weevils insects? I suppose so) are “the next superfood.”

And I suppose I should have seen it coming.

My sister Elizabeth recently toured parts of Asia, and she reports that eating insects is common in countries like Cambodia, where food is hard to come by. Fried tarantula, for example, is a delicacy.

And I read somewhere long ago – probably in one of those Tarzan books – that our ancestors, the Great Apes, dug up fat, juicy grubs and munched on them.

Disgusting? Why?

We eat the flesh of other animals. If you stop to think about it, how disgusting is that? But we humans got used to it over time, and now we (most of us anyway) don’t give it a thought as we cut into a juicy steak or carve that Thanksgiving turkey.

Furthermore, I understand some insects are considered a delicacy even in Western culture. Those well-heeled sophisticates who enjoy snails and frog’s legs also prize chocolate coated ants and crickets, I am told.

Do they know something we commoners don’t?

If the article in Salon.com is to betrusted, it seems they do. The article states .

 Both the video (produced by AsapSCIENCE) and University of California, Riverside (UCR) report that insects are a good source of proteins,essential minerals, vitamins and fat. There is also an argument to be made about their sustainable farming. “There is a strong case in favor of mass rearing insects for food as this practice is probably less environmentally damaging than other forms of protein production,” University of Riverside, California has written.

As the world’s population soars and its resources dwindle, humans will inevitably be forced to broaden their definition of  “food.” You can probably expect to see canned crickets in your grocery store in the not-too-distant future.

What? You would never eat insects?

Dream on. You alreadydo.

Here’s an excerpt from the Salon.com article that should give you pause:

It has been estimated that the average American eats about two pounds of dead insects and insect parts a year. These bugs are in vegetables, rice, beer, pasta, spinach and broccoli. The US Food and Drug Administration has allowable insect parts per certain food types. For example, beer which is made from hops, can contain up to 2,500 aphids per 10 grams of hops!!!

And you thought the weevils in my porridge were disgusting.

Click for the Salon.com article.

Click for more on eating insects.