I have a close friend who likes to refer to himself as an ‘insect revolution enthusiast’. He is one of a growing number who firmly believe that insect-based food is the future of the culinary world, and I’m joining the ranks.
Everyone already knows the night markets of Asia are crammed with skewered cockroaches and giant water bugs. In Korea, forget cups of warm sweetcorn, word on the street is that there’s nothing like a nice, steaming cup of boiled silkworm larvae to refuel while on the go. But insects are wriggling up in the world, from roadside carts to white-clothed tables: D.O.M restaurant in Sao Paolo serves raw Amazonian ants on cubes of pineapple and currently holds ninth place on San Pellegrino’s list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
On a recent road trip, conversation turned to a series of ludicrous what-would-you-do-if hypothetical questions. ‘What if you were stranded on a desert island – how would you find food?’ To which the insect revolutionary passionately declared, ‘I would dive into the nearest bush and see what bugs I could find.’ Musing happily, ‘Grasshoppers taste like a less fishy version of fried whitebait.’
Perhaps, faced with impending starvation, many of us would reluctantly do the same, but I have to wonder what it would take for Dubai’s fine-dining masses to embrace bug-filled fare before the world actually runs out of food and forces our hand.
On the menu at Zuma, if placed tactfully between the sliced yellowtail and tuna tartare, would an appetizer of deep-fried grasshopper with ponzu butter and pickled garlic begin to sound appealing? Or if given a fancy French name at Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire – grasshopper en papillote with bay leaf foam, wasp-sting reduction and a micro herb veil – would it pave the way for bloggers to begin extolling the wonders of molecular pestronomy? Would the city’s foodies race to be the first to claim discovery of this unchartered food movement? (Much to the derision of Bangkok and Shanghai natives who pipped us to the post years ago.)
It’s possible my judgement is marred by the fact there is virtually nothing I could be presented with that I wouldn’t taste out of sheer curiosity. The adage ‘mind over matter’ is often quoted in these discussions, and as far as I’m concerned – unless it’s really rotten – I’ll eat it. If a bag of fried, crispy crickets taste as crunchily satisfying as salt and vinegar crisps, I’ll happily select them for my meal deal.
But still, I’m throwing down the gauntlet. It’s time for the world’s chefs to get creative and get on board with the revolution – or buzz off.
Sofia Vyas is our features editor. We wondered what she was doing digging around in our plant pots...