“Why do we eat shrimp and crawfish but not their brethren on land?”
November 5, 2011 1:05 PM   Subscribe

The San Francisco Street Food Festival is an annual Summer event in the Mission District that features around 60 different Bay Area vendors and is attended by tens of thousands of foodies. This year the usual mainstays were joined by Don Bugito, which served up insect-based dishes and billed itself as the first "PreHispanic Snackeria." When the food truck commences permanent operations this month, it may be the first eatery in the country devoted exclusively to preparations involving insects. But they're not the only entomophagy pioneers in San Francisco, where Bug Cuisine is Booming. So just how tasty are insects? (Via)

* Addendum to the SF Weekly article: Eating Insects with San Francisco's New Mavens of Bug Cuisine
* Girl Meets Bug ("The Eco-Logical Alternative") run by Daniella Martin, who was interviewed in and photographed for the SF Weekly article.
* Don Bugito is the brainchild of Monica Martinez. The Don Bugito page of her site is linked above)
* NPR: Insect Cuisine Is All The Buzz
* PRI on Don Bugito
* The Youtube video linked above is from Future of meat: edible bugs as low waste, homegrown protein, by Fair Companies.
* Rosanna Yau runs the MiniLivestock blog. "...Ms. Yau's thesis project at California College of the Arts, in which she is exploring 'how branding can be an effective tool for redefining an obscure subcultural practice, such as entomophagy [i.e. insect eating].' The aim is to try to elevate insects as a viable protein in our burgeoning, gourmet food culture by branding them as "MiniLivestock," and by cooking them discreetly into the crusts of cheesecakes."
* Via MiniLivestock, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has been exploring insects as a sustainable food source, and have now devoted part of their website to the project.
* TED: Marcel Dicke, Why Not Eat Insects?
posted by zarq (30 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I wanted to also note (with no small amount of amusement) that the Grubstreet article about Rosanna Yau's MiniLivestock project was tagged "blechtacular." Other articles with that tag make for some fun reading.
posted by zarq at 1:07 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hey everyone, the ocean is dying, better get used to Land Shrimp.

(I've had fried bugs before, they taste like the oil they're cooked in, not unpleasant and better than shrimp, to me)
posted by The Whelk at 1:19 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Forgot a link: Girl Meets Bug has a Youtube Channel.
posted by zarq at 1:20 PM on November 5, 2011

If you think about it - what they are, what they eat, appearance- shrimp, lobster, and oysters are, to the uninitiated, pretty challenging concepts too. So, from that viewpoint, it's certainly not unreasonable to experiment with eating insects.

For myself, something like grubs in a taco mix would be an easier sell than whole mature insects. Still a touch of ewww! there, sorry.
posted by Artful Codger at 1:20 PM on November 5, 2011

And yes, any qualms about eating insects can be refuted with one word: Lobster.
posted by The Whelk at 1:21 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't know why I can eat lobster, crab, snake, brains and tripe but land crawling insects are hard to nerve myself up for.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:22 PM on November 5, 2011

Huh... so, roach coaches serving roaches?
posted by indubitable at 1:24 PM on November 5, 2011

while smoking roaches, it's infinite roach recursion
posted by The Whelk at 1:28 PM on November 5, 2011 [6 favorites]

"And yes, any qualms about eating insects can be refuted with one word: Lobster."

You need to go way up the evolutionary chain before you get to the point where crickets and lobsters have a common ancestor. It's not the same sort of animal at all. Lobsters are more closely related to barnacles than crickets.
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:34 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

More in external appearance and squick factor, there's a reason they're called "bug".
posted by The Whelk at 1:38 PM on November 5, 2011

When we run out of gasoline and viviparous meat becomes a legendary luxury of the past, folks who can prepare and eat arthropods will have one heck of an advantage.
posted by Renoroc at 2:02 PM on November 5, 2011

I've eaten dry-fried insects in Cambodia, and they were apocalyptically terrible. Took me ten minutes to convince the little old ladies that I was in fact interested in trying them, and my god was their skepticism appropriate.

posted by aramaic at 2:04 PM on November 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

OK, well, just thinking ahead here - which is healthier for me - vat-grown beef or farm-grown cockroaches?
posted by newdaddy at 2:16 PM on November 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

We don't eat insects because they're fucking rank. And I don't eat shrimp or prawns either, because they're sea insects.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:17 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've seen Bear Grylls on TV eat bugs, typically live bugs. I've also seen him drink his pee a couple of times. I wasn't brought up to do either.
posted by found missing at 2:41 PM on November 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Fine but the bugs are no where nears as energy efficient as soy or seaweed, so it's way way down my list. I've seen on Univision spots on restaurants in Mexico City that have been exclusively serving various maggot and grub dishes. Go for some exotic cuisine tourism.
posted by sammyo at 4:01 PM on November 5, 2011

Yeah, I just had shrimp scampi for dinner, and I'll happily eat a lobster or a clam, but I'll save the bugs for when my fighter jet crashes behind enemy lines or I'm being hunted for sport on some exotic island, thank you very much.
posted by bondcliff at 4:02 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

To me, the more a food resembles its living self the greater the gag factor. I've grown to accept eating crabs and lobster from the shell, although it took growing up in the Chesapeake Bay area and many more years of exposure to develop that. I still can't do crayfish though.

However, I will say that if I were given a bib and an appropriately sized shellcracker I'd dine on bugs. Assuming they tasted as good as lobster. But I'm pretty sure they aren't even close.
posted by chemoboy at 4:05 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

A bug chef came to our local natural history museum once and cooked up a feast. He started with pan fried crickets. They were prepared simply with a few spices. It's important to remove the legs otherwise they will get stuck between your teeth. The taste was nutty as was the texture. Think toasted sesame seeds.

Next were the meal worms on apple slices. They burst open when you bit into them spewing their insides all over your tongue. I have to say they were my least favorite. There wasn't a strong flavor that I could notice but the soft texture combined with the crisp tart apple was interesting.

Finally he ended with fried dragonfly. They were cooked in light batter and looked beautiful when they were finished. They very much reminded me of Trader Joe's Vegetable Bird's Nests in appearance and taste. Pretty much anything fried in batter tastes the same but the delicate exoskeleton added an extra layer of crunch. They were easily my favorite of the three but I would eat any of them again given the chance.
posted by euphorb at 4:09 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I promised myself I wouldn't vomit ... I promised myself I wouldn't vomit ...
posted by chemoboy at 4:12 PM on November 5, 2011

I don't know why I can eat lobster, crab, snake, brains and tripe but land crawling insects are hard to nerve myself up for.
posted by BrotherCaine

If you crack open a lobster, or a crab, there's some kind of meaty stuff in there. Any bugs I've squished have mostly goo.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:30 PM on November 5, 2011

I took my friends to an amazing izakaya in Kyoto a couple years back. The owner of the place is an avid hunter, so a lot of the menu is based off of things that he, or his hunting circle, kills. The thing is, we're a big group of gaijin, so it kind of devolves into a 'will they eat this' test of manliness, or some nonsense. It was all in good fun, and that's when I learned that bear, in jerky form, is quite tasty, and that raw deer is not.

And of course, the bugs. He gave us two dishes, one of sauted bees, the other of fried crickets. The bees were just mushy, and had very little flavor. The crickets were really all carapace, and very crunchy/chewy. And euphorb is right about the legs (which weren't removed). Not only did they stick in our teeth, the were just thin enough to get in there, but thick enough to hurt.

As StickyCarpet mentions, bugs are mostly goo. Pretty nasty goo. Shrimp, crab, lobster, all of those 'sea bugs' that people are trying to say are the same as larvae and grubs? The all have flesh underneath that shell, and the flesh is varying degrees of tasty. If larvae and grubs and cockroaches and whathaveyou were just as delicious as the seafood we already eat, we would have discovered that a long time ago, and we'd have shows where tattooed and angry men search tenements and garbage dumps for roaches, rather than get on boats and go look for crab. Delicious, delicious crab.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:01 PM on November 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

I've eaten insects when I was backpacking in Thailand. I even tried a kind of grub--and it was the best tasting of all. Here in Japan, in the countryside, people will eat various insects; one dish I've seen several times on TV is bees/hornets. Especially the grubs. Fry them up in some soy sauce and mirin. But it's always presented as "Get a load of these rednecks and their wacky insect food!", so most Japanese would find eating insects pretty weird.

In any event, insects are good proof of the butter and garlic rule. Which goes something like, if you don't know how good a food will taste, just cook them in butter in garlic--they make anything taste good.
posted by zardoz at 5:02 PM on November 5, 2011

I love seafood of all kinds - there hasn't been anything (aside from some fermented stuff; fermented shrimp paste is all kinds of awesome) from the sea (which is not unsafe or unheard of for humans to consume) that I haven't enjoyed or at least tolerated.

The only land bug that I've tried were silkworms. The flavour was not particularly unpleasant, but there wasn't really any "meat" aside from the kinda chewy skin.

Are there any land bugs with "meat" inside of them?
posted by porpoise at 6:23 PM on November 5, 2011

Ate a couple of deep fried (small) scorpions in Beijing. They tasted like pork rinds with legs. It was a bit freaky when I felt the tail slide between my lips, I admit.
posted by bearwife at 10:27 PM on November 5, 2011

Also, have really enjoyed eating mopane worms in Africa. They are delicious -- delicately salty, chewy, a perfect snack food.
posted by bearwife at 10:29 PM on November 5, 2011

As Martinez says, this is not totally uncommon in Mexico. Here's a pic of the fried crickets I had last time I was in Mexico city. I'll give Don Bugito a try next time I'm in San Francisco!
posted by vacapinta at 1:33 AM on November 6, 2011

One problem is that modern people, divorced from their environment, can t tell a tasty beetle grub from a fly maggot (hint: does it have a head?).

to anyone who has ever looked, they are simple to distinguish, but people nowadays know more about brands of products than the world around them.

most maggots signify shit and rotting flesh, which are wisely avoided. I ve always thought that s the source of the chauvinism against eating bugs.
posted by eustatic at 4:37 AM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

As a little kid In Mexico, the grown-ups dared me to eat fried grass-hoppers. They taste a bit like dried shrimp. I would totally eat them again... Oh and Bear Grylls... Mostly fake.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 5:40 PM on November 6, 2011

My SO and I have an idea for a start-up involving "Jungle Shrimp."

Just take a guess.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:12 AM on November 7, 2011

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