I had my first piece of sushi in college. Now I eat bugs.
Growing up in a small town in rural Michigan in the 80’s and 90’s, sushi was never on the menu. It wasn’t in the grocery stores, the restaurants, or my dinner plate. Sushi was an exotic dish eaten by people in a land far away and completely foreign to me. Fish mostly came in a can, was mixed with mayonnaise, and served on white bread.
In the early 2000’s I graduated high school and moved off to college in Ann Arbor. Suddenly, I was surrounded by many cultures, new ideas, and had much to explore. I went to epic Bollywood movie nights, tried in vain to learn Cantonese phrases from hall mates, dated a young Jewish woman, tried out for the rowing team, and of course made it to my 8:30AM classes on the distant engineering campus. Oh, and I ate sushi for the first time.
It came up in conversation with my hall mates freshman year that I never had sushi. It definitely didn’t appeal to me either. The idea of eating raw fish triggered a major disgust factor. Though, in the spirit of exploring new ideas and cultures, I was willing to give it the ol’ college try.
We organized a group and treated ourselves to a night out sampling sushi. The first thing my friends offered me was the California roll: the gateway roll for sushi noobs such as myself. Its simple construction of cooked crab meat, avocado, rice, and seaweed, was an easy sell, all familiar and nothing raw.
The dinner progressed from the gentle introduction of the California roll to less tame options. Eventually, I graduated from the comfort of the rolls to bonafide fish flesh on rice, even eating something to which my friend remarked cautiously, “I’ve never seen that before.” I still don’t know what it was.
After satisfying my curiosity and friends’ cajoling to try everything on the menu, we left and I promptly directed the group to a pizza-by-the-slice joint as a palate cleanser. I still had to satisfy the daily requirement of the familiar college staple.
While I wasn’t sold on sushi my first night, over time I grew to tolerate it. Ultimately, it became a treat I crave and enjoy.
Since that experience in college, I’ve continued exploring the world’s culinary delights and will eat almost anything, including insects. That’s right, I went from never having tried sushi until my twenties to eating insects. I even launched Bug Out Bar, a startup that makes protein bars using cricket protein!
To those who cringe at the idea of eating bugs or insect-based food products, first, explore some of the nutritional and environmental benefits of insects. They surprised me and inspired the launch of our company. Second, think back to the first time you tried a new food, sushi perhaps. Channel that experience and think of crickets as the gateway bug and cricket protein bars as the California roll of edible insects.