You know that whole “the population is exploding and soon we won’t have enough food to feed everyone” thing? No? Well, it’s a big issue. We need to figure out more sustainable, widely-available meal sources that do not further strain our already overtaxed earth. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has an idea for how to address this, one that relies on a natural source (no test-tube meat here) that is protein-rich, nutritious, and already a regular feature in diets worldwide. To good to be true? That all depends on how you feel about eating bugs.
Yeah, bugs. The FAO’s 200+ page tome is titled “Edible insects — Future prospects for food and feed security.” And they have many solid arguments about why you should get over yourself and start snacking on crickets.
A couple of San Francisco food entrepreneurs are making compelling products that could have us all tasting critters. La Cocina-backed Don Bugito has become a well-known presence — creator Monica Martinez’s “prehispanic snackeria” serves up bugs in taco and chocolate-covered forms, among other approaches. Her stand’s massive line at last year’s Street Food Festival certainly indicates a level of interest, or at least curiosity amongst San Francisco eaters.
I’m more inclined to start with an entry-level bug eating experience. Megan Miller’s Bitty Foods is taking a different approach to insect-enhanced cuisine. “ I want people to think that bugs are boring!” she says of her line of baked goods and mixes made from dried and ground crickets. “I initially approached this as a marketing problem; how can we repackage and rebrand insects?”
Megan first ate insects when traveling in Latin America and Southeast Asia; she was struck by how ingrained they were in other country’s cuisines. It was an interesting challenge, too, to try to overcome the aversion we Westerners have towards eating bugs.
Hence, the flour. She opted for crickets because they’re commercially farmed in the U.S., and come with positive associations of “warm summer nights, and chirping sounds.”
“Some insects have understandably negative associations. But it’s kind of unfair to apply that to all of them. That’s like saying all fish are unclean,” she explains. “Some insects are particularly delicious, and really, don’t look less strange than lobsters or crabs. I mean, we already eat escargot.”
While some of her motivations stemmed from cultural curiosity and a historically adventurous palate, Megan says that giving back to hunger initiatives is her big picture goal. She’s already making inroads in the education factor of Bitty Foods; she spoke at TedX in New York on Tuesday, and has gone to a number of schools to lecture as well.
“Kids are really into eating bugs," she says. "That part hasn’t been a hard sell.”
Bitty Foods will be available in San Francisco “very soon.” Sign up here to be the first to know when you can get some.
Photos courtesy of Megan Miller (above)