I think many of us lead lives sheltered largely from the vagaries of the natural world, subject mostly to atmospheric phenomena like “the weather”, and the occasional household interloper like mice, but folks of the gardening disposition, or those who otherwise spend a lot of time poking around the outdoors, know there’s a lot of things out there that don’t sit neatly where we’d like them to remain. I think this is a large part of what makes people uncomfortable with insects in general: they just show up, and there’s not much that can be done about them.
Bugs in food, in particular, is one of those things that many of us don’t really have to deal with anymore, at least in the sanitized industrial landscape of Western Civilization. For the most part, this is a good thing– it helps prevent food spoilage, and is mostly healthier (although I’d like them to stop spraying poop water on spinach… there’s only a few ways for E. coli to get onto vegetables, since it’s an intestinal bacteria), but I think it also makes us a little fussy. Like most kids, I didn’t like bugs touching my food (or worse, bugs in my food), but I’ve mostly gotten over it. I don’t know whether it was my summers at the Ag Station, or just getting older and realizing that there’s not many insects that are truly “unsafe” to eat, but it’s a lot easier to eat outdoors when a gnat in your coffee doesn’t ruin your morning. I suppose I should point out that I still have an expectation of cleanliness regarding restaurants and such… but I’m more relaxed about the idea of ants walking on “whole” foods from the field like fruits and vegetables.
But I’ve never eaten bugs as an entree yet! I should give it a try sometime– maybe I’d like ’em. Folks with their eyes on the future of civilization have already made some recommendations to start trying to adopt insects as a more wide-spread part of our diet, since they’re an easily-reared source of protein that’s usually not as ecologically demanding as conventional animal husbandry. It’ll probably be a while before affordable frozen crickets start to show up in the grocery store, but the Bug Blast is coming up at the Burke Museum, and I suppose that means there might be a possibility of finding edible insects there.
UPDATE: August 18th, 2014
I usually leave these posts alone after I finish them, but this popped onto my radar today, and it seemed somewhat topical to this week’s comic. It’s another comic about eating bugs (drawn by Jenn Manley Lee and written by Audrey Quinn), but it contains actual information and research!