It's a bug's life. Until it's not.
A lot of people eat insects. Several cultures around the world, C list celebrities on reality TV shows, bikers with their mouths open, lots of people. Thanks to Smokeworks on Station Road in Cambridge, I am now one of those people. Not a multicultural celebrity biker. Not yet anyway. We’ve all heard that eating insects is where the human culinary menu is heading. They’re high in protein, take up a crazy amount less space than cows and chickens, pound for pound it’s much cheaper and much more better for the planet as we don’t have to cut down hundreds of trees to make space for mooing future burgers. When you think about it, insects lay hundreds to millions of eggs at once because very, very few of them will grow up to have insect infants themselves, with all the birds, frogs and shoes put to kill them. If those same eggs were laid in a farming environment, it’s flipped over and most of those offspring will survive to reach the point where they can have little baby bug for their own or they end up in a sandwich.
Having said all this and truly believing that the human race will soon be feasting on the McWoodlouse or Kentucky Fried Cricket, we’re not there just yet and many are unprepared for what may lie ahead, myself included.
For a limited time, one of our favourite local eateries is offering a alternate menu of bugs, creepies and the occasional crawly. Off to Smokeworks we go then, I guess!
I start with Meaty BBQ Beans ft. Queen Leaf Cutter ants. Not too bad, nice tasty beans interspersed with pulled pork and the odd “bean” that’s a little too crunchy, revealing itself to be an ant or two. An odd sensation but nothing to spoil a meal. These I could see catching on.
Next up, in Old Bay seasoning was the Armour Tailed Scorpion. Yes, I said scorpion. The Old Bay seasoning was delicious. However, if you’re anything like me you’d assume that a scorpion, (technically an arachnid, I know but we’ll forgive Smokeworks for bundling it in under the insect umbrella), would be crunchy and, like me, you’d be entirely wrong. Psyched-up for a crispy crunch I was instead greeted by a smoosh. Very little resistance and a bit more fluid that one would have liked for something from the desert. This may be a little harder for the general populous to swallow, (tee-hee.)
My final bit of “food” rested on a small salad. As some of you may know, I don’t shy away from spicy foods so the fact that this was covered in Vlad’s Blood Hot Sauce was not the issue. The issue was that this was a Giant Water Beetle, about the size of my thumb, with a face that had been staring at me for the last quarter of an hour. A face on a head that, once bitten into, instantly fell off and started to roll around, exploring my mouth as I struggled to get my teeth though the remarkably tough wing casings. You know how you used to get those toys at Christmas that were wrapped in plastic that was almost impossible to open so you’d try and open them with your teeth? You’d occasionally end up with little bits of plastic in your mouth? Just me? Well if you never did that, imagine that you did. Now imagine those little bits of plastic are half an inch long, covered in hot sauce, in your mouth and used to be alive. That’s the experience of the water beetle. No taste to speak of, just lots of chewing to very little avail and a small amount of gagging. I can’t imagine these being more popular than chicken nuggets.
I washed all of this down with a Squashed Frog Shot. A mix of Midori, Grenadine and Baileys. A bit lumpy and not bad tasting, although I can’t think of much that would taste bad following that meal. I’m still sold on insects becoming a bigger part of the everyday diet but I’m even more certain that the chiefs of the future are going to come up with some innovative ways of making some of these more palatable.