A "Future Food Salon" Puts Bugs on the Menu

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A “Future Food Salon” Puts Bugs on the Menu

Curious eaters gathered for a chance to taste the future. And the future tastes like crickets.

20130419jarobugs

20130419jarobugs

Typically, the sound of crickets at an event means it’s a less than stellar one. But at Thursday’s Future Food Salon, the little insects were the stars of the evening.

Held at Gallery 345, the Alimentary Initiatives and Cultures of Cities Centre event was focused on the future of food, with a heavy emphasis on entomophagy—which, for the uninformed, is the eating of insects.

By the year 2050, the world’s population is expected to reach nine billion people. This means more mouths to feed, and more clearing of land to support food production. The amount of land necessary to feed one North American person meat for just one year, for example, is 549 square metres, according to research compiled by the Future Food Salon’s keynote speaker, Jakub Dzamba, a McGill PhD student and cricket connoisseur. Livestock, such as cows, pigs, chickens, and other animals we raise for meat and dairy, require—in addition to vast amounts of land—water, energy, and feed.

Because of this, insects are emerging as a viable alternative to livestock consumption. Bugs are already being eaten in other parts of the world, including places as close to home as Oaxaca, Mexico. According to Dzamba, these creepy crawlies have benefits beyond the environmental. They also pack a protein-filled punch.

“They actually have a protein content similar to beef,” Dzamba said while touting the benefits of cricket consumption. “Plus, the fibre content is much higher.”

Because the shells of crickets aren’t digestible, they pass through the digestive tract, making them a good source of insoluble fibre. With this in mind, Dzamba recommends eating crickets ground and added as protein powder to a variety of dishes.

Aruna Handa of Alimentary Initiatives counts herself as an insect-eating enthusiast. She also sees the wider benefits of entomophagy.

“Insects are so tasty, they’re so sustainable, they’re so versatile for cooking,” she said. “And we wanted to celebrate that.”

Guests at the Future Food Salon were offered a tasty spread of cricket-based dishes. The bugs came intact, spiced, and dry-roasted, but were also presented in canapés prepared by Urban Acorn Catering, as well as atop cookies. Cookie Martinez had prepared an even more daring dessert option: crickets drizzled in chocolate.

Urban Acorn Catering chef Daniel Holloway cut his cricket teeth only weeks ago, but found them easy to use in dishes.

“They have the consistency of popcorn, and the taste of almonds, so I found them very easy to work with.”

The canapés he and co-owner and chef Marie Fitrion prepared for the salon included “Chick & Chirp” burgers, which consisted of chickpea patties made with cricket flour; buckwheat crepes stuffed with pickled cabbage, dried crickets, and rhubarb; and a garbanzo blini with carrot mousse, which was the “buggiest” of all the options, with several whole, roasted crickets on top of each mini chickpea pancake.

If causal observation can be considered an adequate gauge, it seems that the future is not far off, at least for Toronto. Salon guests happily munched cricket-laced and -topped dishes throughout the evening, many (this writer included) going back for seconds, thirds, and fourths.

All photos courtesy of Urban Acorn Catering.

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