The Future Food Salon describes itself as "a celebration of food in an arts-soaked setting that explores with enthusiasm what we will be eating in the future." This is not untrue! But it would be perhaps more descriptive to say the Future Food Salon is like a book reading at which you eat bugs. Lots of bugs.
I headed out to the far west side of Manhattan yesterday evening, to one of the many airy, modern, vaguely industrial event spaces that seem to be all there is between 18th and 34th Streets, west of 10th Avenue. Given that I don't think anyone can actually live out there, I think I've spent about as much time as anyone in that part of town; in addition to art galleries, it's where tech companies introduce and demo new gadgets, and, I guess, it's where you'd go to see Andrew W.K. get zapped with a million volts of electricity. But yesterday I was going to eat bugs, not play with new cellphones.
The event was cheerful and moderately drunk; the bartender was pouring, like, completely full-to-the-brim glasses of wine, possibly to counter any trepidation the guests had about eating toffee that was intentionally covered with bugs. The hosts were a mixture of Future Food Salon people (enthusiastic Torontonians) and do-gooders interested in promoting sustainable bug-eating (mostly from Austin, Texas), and the guests were a nice mix of journalists, photographers, NYU students who had come out to see the panels that preceded the tasting, and a few excessively stylish people who looked like they'd wandered in off the street and might be heading to eight or nine gallery openings after this. I was there for the bugs.
The eating of insects as food is called, sort of clinically and unappetizingly, "entomophagy." It's not unusual outside of North American and Western Europe; in Mexico, for instance, chapulines, or grasshoppers, are a favorite bar snack and taco filling. But here, eating bugs is pretty much limited to reality TV shows.
That could change, as we're looking at a near-inevitable food crisis brought on by factory farming. Factory farm animals, like cows, pigs, and chickens, consume massive amounts of grain, water and land, and require the deforestation of huge swathes of the planet. A 2009 study estimated that factory livestock is responsible for 50 percent of the world's man-made greenhouse gases. It's no surprise, then, that scientists and others have been looking to alternatives, from lab-grown meat to, well, bugs.
Entomophagy has a lot going for it. Bugs are high in protein, so they're a good replacement for mammal or bird meat. They eat less food, reduce our need for pesticides (because, um, that would kind of defeat the point), and contribute minimal greenhouse gases. Many types of insects (like mealworms) don't even require water, since they get enough from their food. Insects are also easy to raise at home, and don't take up much space. At the Future Food Salon, I was shown a mockup of an in-house cricket enclosure, designed to be placed on your counter next to your microwave and toaster oven (pictured above). It worked pretty much like a tiny chicken coop--a cricket coop, you might say. Click through to the gallery for a seven-item hors d'oeuvres spin through the wonders of bug-eating.
As a vegetarian, I'm very interested in entomophagy, as odd as it sounds. I make no illusions of the massive amounts of insects that must be killed when harvesting the plants that I consume daily, especially given the raw amount that I consume (which would likely be proportionally higher than a non-vegetarian).
*(as an aside: insect mortality for vegetarians would make an interesting study)
Of course, the leading reservations that I have when it comes to the consumption of animal meat is the suffering of the animal when being raised, the method in which the animal is killed, and the intelligence of the animal.
It seems that entomophagy doesn't suffer from the problem of ill-treatment during animal raising, and intelligence isn't much of a concern. Thus my main concern is the suffering of these creatures when they are killed. Popping something that is living into a pan of super-heated oil is not something I would wish on my worst enemy, nor wish on a reasonably simple insect.
Do you have any information on how these insects are typically transitioned from living creature to food?
Since many users and what appears to be PoPSCi ok with the use of marijuana with possible (hype) reasons of it being healthy, just get you animal\bug really high off marijuana (mellow) prior to killing it, so you do not have to feel bad about killing it and both enjoy the benefits of eating meat\bug and the health aspects (hype) of the marijuana in the animal.
Bon appetite and enjoy!
I attended the meetings, was one of the speakers during the morning session on entomophagy, as well as consumed crickets during the Future Food Salon tasting. The crickets used in the tastings had been frozen during their processing. Freezing in arthropods is one of the most humane methods. In a natural setting during change of seasons from autumn through winter, insects are frozen which causes antifreeze chemicals to be produced (in those that do this), but this process is triggered over a period of time measured in days and months but not if they are quick frozen in a freezer. Freezing causes no pain in insects; their metabolism is simply slowed down until totally frozen. If frozen for 10 or 20 minutes or so, the crickets "wake up" after thawing, but for longer periods of time it is not a process that can be reversed.
Thank you very, very much for the information! It gives me some hope and gives me something to look into further. I find entomophagy very exciting and certainly would certainly like to make this as humane as plausible if I am to consider this a viable option.
@seanlumly - all the bugs at this event came from us (World Ento) Every single bug was slowly frozen to death in their homes. We do it over a period of time so that they don't feel any fear, pain, or panic. They just sort of shut down into hibernation mode at a certain temperature and then we lower it further past freezing to kill them quickly and painlessly.
This is very encouraging, and I'm very happy that your company has a focus on humane treatment of these creatures. For customers like me (though we may be few), it means a great deal!
I searched for your site, but it appears to be down at the moment. What types of insects do you carry? I am interested in trying something out at some point.
ne peuvent pas profiter de mon repas
Every year the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science holds a BugFest (September 21 this year). One of the biggest draws is their Café Insecta. Local restaurants and chefs(including myself) prepare dishes utilizing various insects. We have done dishes like "chirps and salsa" (toasted cricket corn flour) and a cricket moon pie with mill worm filling. I make a point to run the dish at my restaurant during the week before the event. I think most guest are going more for the shock value, until they taste the dish. By far crickets have been the favorite bug of choice. As a chef, I am willing to try any thing at least once. I love crickets. They taste like toasted pistachios. Hopefully people will realize that a shrimp isn't any thing more than a sea roach and will not scoff at a plate of land crawling snacks.
Together with Elke Grenzer of the Culture of Cities Centre, I host the Future Food Salons. I am the founder of Alimentary Initiatives. Our first Salon in this series was in Toronto, with the second one described here in Manhattan. We are planning more in Austin and Montreal among other cities.
Crickets are a great gateway bug for people keen to try them. And we're very fortunate to have companies like World Ento to sell ready to cook crickets as well as Chapul which makes tasty high protein bars from the crickets. Jakub Dzamba, our featured speaker for the series, is also working on cricket reactors (farms) that can sit on your kitchen counter. We're hoping to have the prototypes in testing by the fall with a view to launching the product next spring.
If you are interested in inviting us to come to curate a Future Food Salon in your city, festival or museum, please don't hesitate to get in touch. We'd love to come! alimentaryinitiatives.com
But you don't once mention "what it is like to eat crickets?"...what like CHICKEN?