In a classic episode of Seinfeld from 1991, Jerry famously declares that he thinks the worst part about being blind would be "not being able to tell if there was bugs in my food. How could you ever enjoy a meal like that?"
Fast forward nearly three decades and opinions, at least here in the United States and also in Europe, haven't changed much. Insects are meant to be eradicated, not fricasseed, and on the rare occasion that they're ingested, it's either because of a mistake or a dare. But Joseph Giraldi, executive producer of Bug Bites, a series of short cooking videos where insects feature as the main ingredient, thinks Westerners' attitudes — and palates — are finally catching up with the rest of the world.
"The idea behind Bug Bites was to expand our audience's awareness of something that, to many of the world's cultures, is actually quite common – eating insects," says Giraldi. "We thought an exciting way to tell this story was through bite-size, easily digestible, five-minute episodes featuring some of the country's foremost experts in bug cooking, showcasing their recipes using a variety of insects."
The five-part series will be available for streaming starting Monday on SmithsonianChannel.com and Smithsonian Earth. For the chefs who are cooking up bugs in the five-minute episodes, the rise in "foodie culture" and environmentally friendly food sources may be helping to pave the way for insect acceptance.
"In Western countries, the aversion to bugs is out of proportion," says David George Gordon, author of The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook. "There's also a misguided perception that in the cultures where bugs are eaten, that they are eaten only out of desperation. The truth is that these insects are prized in other parts of the world, they aren't regarded as creepy-crawlies." Escamoles, the larvae and pupae of a specific type of ant native to parts of Mexico and the Southwest, are a good example: The ant eggs are a delicacy with a price tag to match, sometimes up to $100 per serving in a fine-dining restaurant.