From ant eggs, silkworms and more

By Pushpesh Pants |
Dec 13 2021 12:32 IST

New Delhi [India], Dec. 13 (ANI): Entomophagy is a word that has suddenly entered the gastronomic lexicon in the West. Literally translated, it means consuming insects for food. Gourmet diners and innovative chefs refer to this category of ingredients as ‘Novel Foods’.
Ironically, there is nothing new or new about this activity. Humanity has been self-sustaining, sometimes surviving more than two million years on an insect-based diet. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors could not afford to forego such an important source of nutrition. The creepy crawly creatures are a valuable source of protein, fats and micronutrients iron, copper, zinc, riboflavin and amino acids.
What is hyped as an emerging trend – the wave of the future, etc. – has been part of lore in Africa, Asia and Latin America for millennia.
What has brought the concept of entomophagy into vogue is the concern and fear of international organizations such as the FAO anticipating severe food shortages in the coming years. There is no denying that the diets of the affluent Western countries with an emphasis on red meat, saturated fats and refined sugar have placed an unbearable burden on the planet.
The breeding of animals and poultry and the culture of fast food leaves an ecological footprint that cannot be sustained. It is in this context that the ‘plagues’ offer hope for the survival of our race and the restoration of Gaia mother earth – back to health.
Scientific journals are awash with peer-reviewed research papers convincingly claiming that the cost of “farming” insects not only for animal, poultry or fish feed, but also to meet humanity’s daily nutritional needs is much lower. than wasting scarce resources in breeding animals for the table.
It is estimated that just over two billion people around the world eat insects unrestrained. Countries where insects are consumed and tasted range from Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam to China, Japan and Korea.
The list includes Mexico, Brazil, Canada and Australia. Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Zambia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Ghana and most countries in Africa consume insects. In fact, about 60 percent of the rural African diet’s daily protein intake comes from insects.
Insects are not just the staple of the abject poor, drought-stricken or famine-stricken. It is also not difficult to overcome the disgust or disgust factor. Actually, the problem is created by language. We use words to describe insects as vermin, vermin, insects that scare us off. The French solved the problem long ago by describing a wide variety of flies, cockroaches, insects and spiders with the elegant term Le bestiole. In sub-Saharan Africa, edible stuff from the insect kingdom is called Chiswa, Intuga, Ishwa, none of these names evoke a sense of disgust. These relate to the taste and texture of what one bites and chews.
Cockroaches and crickets fried crisp are popular as bar snacks in Thailand. In India, stir-fried silkworms with finely chopped onions, garlic and roasted chili powder are also a popular snack in many states in the Northeastern region.
Sneha Lata Saikia an enthusiastic home cook serves (stir fried silkworms) sometimes with muri when they are ‘in season’. The dish called Amrui tup prepared with red ant eggs is ritually eaten in Assam during Magh Bihu celebrations. In Chattisgarh and Jharkhand, chaapar chutney, prepared with yellow ant eggs, tantalizes the palate with a refreshingly different sour taste. Unless you’ve been told what it’s made of, you can’t shudder in disgust or protest. In the tribal belt in Orissa, chutneys and achaar are prepared with ants and their eggs.
Clever cooks also resort to another trick: they mask the insect in familiar clothes. Ant eggs are soaked in butter in Mexico, locusts are draped in chocolate, and some insects worm their way (excuse the pun) into an alcoholic drink like mescal.
To return to the emerging trend. The FAO has really gone to great lengths to popularize Entomophagy. It has funded a project to tame palm larvae. It has also inspired some food processors to develop and market insect-based products.
FassoPro in Burkina Faso is such an entrepreneurial venture. The adventurous foodies try out the ‘Novel Foods’ in the Netherlands and the USA. However, the promise of billions of insects much larger than homo sapiens to ensure food security and nutrition can only be realized when flours and fats can be mass-produced from this source.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the above article are those of the author and do not reflect those of ANI. (ANI)

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