Despite insects being eaten across the globe by at least 2 billion people, eating insects has not gained widespread acceptance in modern Western culture. Still, from ancient Roman elites eating beetle larvae to Nicole Kidman raving about fried grasshoppers, we find examples of eating insects throughout the history of Western culture.
Historical Consumption of Eating Bugs in the West
National Geographic discusses the evidence for these latter examples:
“The ancient Romans and Greeks dined on insects. Pliny, the first-century Roman scholar and author of Historia Naturalis, wrote that Roman aristocrats loved to eat beetle larvae reared on flour and wine.
Aristotle, the fourth-century Greek philosopher and scientist, described in his writings the ideal time to harvest cicadas: "The larva of the cicada on attaining full size in the ground becomes a nymph; then it tastes best, before the husk is broken. At first the males are better to eat, but after copulation the females, which are then full of white eggs."
The Old Testament encouraged Christians and Jews to consume locusts, beetles, and grasshoppers. St. John the Baptist is said to have survived on locusts and honey when he lived in the desert.
In the mid-19th century Maj. Howard Egan, a superintendent of the Pony Express in Nevada, observed a Paiute Indian hunt where the quarry was neither bison nor rabbit, but rather the wingless Mormon cricket.”
The story doesn't end with the ancients and Native Americans.
Edible Insects and Hollywood
It's not just ancient history that provides examples of entomophagy in Western culture. This Vogue piece explores Nicole Kidman's "special" talent, eating insects.
Interestingly, she refers to them as "micro-livestock" which is exactly what they are, except they convert feed much more efficiently than traditional livestock, use less land and water, and emit less greenhouse gases.
On eating fried grasshoppers, Kidman boasts, “These are amazing. These are exquisite. Grasshoppers, I recommend them to anyone.”
Of course, not all accounts of eating insects by Hollywood are presented with the same enthusiasm as Nicole Kidman's endorsement. Take the movie Snowpiercer for example. In it, survivors of Earth's second Ice Age live on a luxury train that ploughs perpetually through snow and ice. The poorest residents of the train live in squalor and are fed bars made with a mystery ingredient which they find out to be bugs.
In one scene, the poorer class on the train offer Tilda Swinton's character, one of the characters from the train's upper class, to try one of these bug protein bars. Let's just say, the scene isn't selling anyone on the appeal!
While some actors are pretending to eat bugs in a dystopian future, other actors are making big bets on bugs in real life.
Robert Downey Jr., aka Iron Man, founded an investment group, The Footprint Coalition, that is committed to using advanced technologies for the good of the environment. Recently, Footprint Coalition joined additional investors in funding a $372M Series C round for Ynsect, a French insect farming startup with ambitions of expanding operations to North America and Asia.
Late Night Bug Chef
You can see some of his creations in this clip of him on The Late Late Show With James Cordon.
See what ants on a log really look like!
Professional Athlete Goes Ento-vegan
It's not just celebrities and chef's that are experimenting with insects. Increasingly, athletes are turning to insect protein as a sustainable and humane source of animal protein.
Jabar Westerman is a professional football player who practices what some call ento-veganism. Ento-vegans eat a plant-based diet and add in insect-based foods as well.
Vice followed Westerman around in this mini-documentary where he cooks a homemade dish of caterpillar meatballs for a teammate.
Edible Arthropods Already On The Table
Like insects, shrimp, lobsters, and crabs are all arthropods. Arthropods are invertebrate creatures having an exoskeleton, a segmented body, and paired jointed appendages.
Westerners are already eating the insects of the sea! Why not eat their cousins?
Cricket Protein Bars, An Easy Entry Point
At Bug Out Bar, we're working to build acceptance of insects as a healthy and sustainable food source in the US. We're building upon what other cultures already accept as food, as well as the history and intrigue surrounding entomophagy in the West.
We think we've made one of the easiest entry points for American consumers to try insect protein, our chocolate brownie protein bar made with crickets.
We use cricket protein powder, honey, and plant-based ingredients to create a decadent protein bar with balanced macronutrients and a low environmental impact.
If you're ready to see what all the fuss is about...