Exotic foods are all the rage these days, with people looking to bring a little adventure into their culinary worlds via a series of spices and herbs that don't exactly grow in our back gardens. Our tendency towards the new, the fashionable and the exotic is also reflected in the unusual (sometimes downright alarming) ingredients some of the companies in the cosmetic industry use when preparing the latest versions of their face and eye creams - viper venom and snail slime among them. In keeping with this trend, an even stranger addition to the list of "things experts say we should at least try to do" is eating... well, insects.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization held a conference earlier this year in which it discussed entomophagy (the whole concept of eating insects as food even has a scientific name) and reached the conclusion that eating bugs is not only a fast way to adopt a diet that's rich in nutrients, but also the perfect strategy to reduce pests and put less strain on the planet's increasingly scarce resources. In other words, the fastest way to deal with, say, locusts, is not spraying an extra-strong brand of pesticides, but rather eating the insects. It's not without precedent - when Thailand was unable to control its locust problem, the local government encouraged locals to eat the offenders and even distributed a series of delicious recipes.
Apparently, experts say, we fancy Americans and Europeans are pretty much the only ones on the planet who dislike the idea of snacking on grilled caterpillars and find stir-fried crickets a revolting idea. In 113 countries around the world, eating insects is a serious business: no less than 1,700 species of bugs have made the leap from leaves, flowers and tree bark onto the plates of eagerly-awaiting restaurant guests. However, at least for the moment, there's a pretty slim chance that Westerners will go for the "Sago grubs wrapped in banana leaves" special at their favorite restaurant. As one representative of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization put it, "we need to get the food into a form where someone doesn't have to look the bug in the eye when they eat it". Well said indeed. What do you think?