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The Gateway Bug: What was your first bite like

Hi lovely entofans and farmers and connoisseurs!

I've been fascinated by edible insects for quite some time now, but haven't had the chance/opportunity to sample any. I'm currently trying to understand and explore why people eat it and how we could get more people to enjoy insects as food - I'm currently at university and am writing a feature/article (just my own indepedent work, not coursework, I study economics, not the culture of food :D) about this. I'd really appreciate your input on this:

  • What was it like when you first ate insects?
  • Didn't you find it gross or repulsive? If yes, what helped you overcome it?
  • What's the taste like? Could you imagine eating/do you eat it regularly?
  • Any tricks/tactics you've successfuly used to make people around you try bugs?

I'll be incredibly grateful for any responses.

(If you want to know more about me: I study in Scotland, but I'm originaly from Slovakia. I'm in my senior year, studying economics. I've written "stuff" in some shape or form since forever - writing longer-form, well-researched articles is something I am trying to get better at at the moment, and this is a part of that learning process.)

Comments

  • Hi matusluptak, - Biting bugs probably links the brain into our jaw motion. The initial giving way under compression & then slight shift of a bug's internal mass as it's exo-skeleton loses uniformity registers in our mouth's tempro-mandibular joint nerve juncture.

    The way teeth chomp down & then, as a bugs resistance alters, how the teeth shuffle over that crushing "shell" is a pattern our nervous system is programmed to recognize. Most probably the result of how long ago humans groomed one another & in theory the bug findeer would chomp down on any free food found in each others hair.

    Look at how little children like gum drops, which have a core that wobbles around when a gum drop is worked on. Soft center candies with their firmer outside are another pleasing edible on this same pincipal; we work the mouth, trigger both jaws & alert the brain all is good.

    Parents in U.S.A. used to buy young kids a small box of tiny black licorices covered in white glaze, called "Good'n'Plenty", at the cinema to keep them pacified in public. There were many in the box & short oblongs - just like some larvae are, come to think of it.

    Adults in U.S.A. buy as gifts boxes of assorted chocolates to give to other adults which usually include some filled chocolate samples. On Valentine's Day nothing says you care like chocolate covered cherries & marzipan covered chocolates. Hey, anybody elses mouth starting to water ?

    Toasted marshmallows, uniformly gooey inside their thin covering, might be the best comparison from my childhood memory of how I instinctively delighted in an edible that triggers an ancient neuro-kinesthetic pathway. Of course the 1st time I ever ate a toasted marshmallow everybody was sitting around a camp fire at night. The first time I ate a bug was on a dare.

  • Wow! Thanks for that post. It's poignant and just, wow. Beautiful. I've never thought about this sensation/contrast between hard shell/soft inside before.

  • I ate ants raw off the ground from ages 4-6. I didn't eat bugs again until I was around 14, having chocolate covered crickets and mealworms at the bio dome in Montreal.

    Ants as I recall we're sour, probably why I liked them. Always had a "sour tooth".

    Crickets are truly pleasant, tasting to me like grass. Very subtle and tends to take on the flavours added to it.

    Mealworms to me just tasted like chocolate with a crunchy something inside.

    Nowadays, I wouldn't bother chocolate coating anything and consider bugs more like any other protein. Mmmm bugs!

    The one insect I have yet to try but am very curious and eager is maggots. Truly a survival food, and impressively simple to get.

  • edited January 2015

    my first were grasshoppers, they were caught late in the season, so didn't have much to them. the second time I ate grasshoppers, they were considerably better. At first, there was the ick factor, then searching for taste and trying to make sense of it. Kinda grass like, but mostly tasted of spices (chili and garlic).

    What got me over it were my kids, didn't want to instill the yuk reflex in them, so had to hide my own reaction. They don't think twice about eating bugs, haven't learned not to, yet.

    Now, I can enjoy insects, and I look for subtle flavors. I like mealworms, very tasty and perfect texture, crunchy and nutty. I think they are the pefect starter bug, and I would even grind them to let people start without having to see it. I think part of the repulsion comes from seeing bugs in the food. Of course, once you are used to the idea of eating them, it doesn't matter. It's one of the reasons why I think cricket powder is taking off.

    I'd like to try big grubs, I think some would be very good, they are mostly fat and remind me of cooked shrimp.

  • I've never had any inhibitions toward trying new foods as long as they are non-toxic and reasonably sanitary. Random childhood bug eating aside, the first farm-reared bug I tried, came from a candy store (mealworm lollipop) and didn't taste like anything, much to my disappointment (I was 10 years old at the time).

    Nine years later I got my hands on some dried mopane. This experience was better. Although the flavour was extremely boring, the texture was pretty interesting, a bit like popcorn with a spongy interior. After the mopane, I started buying all sorts of bugs to explore their flavours and textures - leaf cutter ants, scorpions, grasshoppers, etc. I cooked all of them in different ways to compensate for their bland flavour - except for leaf cutter ants, which had the most wonderful citrus aroma to them.

    Interesting thing is, I actually suffer from mild arachnophobia (spiders and scorpions scare the shit out of me), but if I can put it on a stick, grill it and eat it, it doesn't scare me at all.

    I travel a lot and am of the impression that whatever is eaten regularly by people somewhere in the world is legit food. Bugs are like any other food item (I don't make much distinction between bugs, crustaceans and mussels). Prepared right - it is delicious and beautiful. Would love to try witjita grubs and sago worms.

    People seem to be most interested in trying insects if you can make the subject matter interesting and the taste delicious - get them past any "ick-factor" with a good story and a great eating experience. In 2008, I published a cookbook for a niche market in Sweden, that included recipes for fried scorpion, mopane stew and snails. Since then, several people have told me they actually tried those recipes because they sounded interesting.

    If you've never eaten insects before, buy a packet of leaf-cutter ants. If you feel discouraged by their appearance, try the kind dipped in chocolate. Edible (http://edible-shop.com) is UK-based and offers some pretty good ones.

  • 2011 read on leaf-cutter ants may indicate why flavorfull is from having so many symbiotic relationships. Quote: "...fungus these ants grow... harbor ...at least 3 established mutualists and 1 specialized pathogen ..."

    After intro it gets technical, but there's a paragraph about them having 21 genes for royal jelly in there; which may add to their flavor. Free full text = http://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article?id=10.1371/journal.pgen.1002007

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