Post by Maria Godoy, The Salt at NPR Food (7/18/13)
Oh, Jiminy Cricket, you've never looked more scrumptious.
OK, so that photo isn't Jiminy but a close relative — a katydid — on a kabob. It's one of several enticing images of insect cuisine included in the new, revised edition of The Eat-A-Bug Cookbook, by avowed entomophagist (i.e., bug eater) David George Gordon.
When the book landed on my desk the other day, I couldn't help lingering over its arresting cover photo of an arthropod dipped in chocolate sauce. Rather than being icky, the image was — dare I say it? — almost appetizing. And in a culture where "food porn" – glamorized photography of meals – has become inescapable, I wondered, is this what it will take to get the world to embrace insect cookery?
Well, not really — 80 percent of the world population already eats bugs, as Gordon writes. In fact, bugs are on the menu, he says, pretty much everywhere except the U.S., Canada and Europe. In other words, we're the weirdos.
But, as we've reported before, plenty of people are trying to change that – from Dutch epicures to the U.N.'s agriculture arm. Insects are nutritious, plentiful and better for the environment than other sources of protein, like beef cattle, advocates say.
While such arguments may sway the minds of the well-intentioned, they don't exactly make mouths water. That's where books like Gordon's come in.
Less earnest than cheeky, his cookbook aims to lure you to try bugs the old-fashioned way: by making them sound – and look – like epicurean delights.
There's advice for catching and growing your crunchy protein source. And of course, there are plenty of recipes – chocolate fondue, curried stews, soups and latkes, among others — designed to please the palate and tempt the eyes.
"The bugs in my recipes look good," he says. "They are visual as well as gastronomic delights."
"Presentation," he adds, "is everything."
The book is sprinkled with fascinating historical, cultural and scientific tidbits, too. Including the fact that, far from being the latest "eco-friendly" food trend, bug-eating has had advocates in the Western world for centuries.
In 1885, Gordon tells readers, Vincent M. Holt penned a manifesto, Why Not Eat Insects?, exhorting his fellow Englishmen to tackle hunger among the peasantry by turning to Britain's abundance of creepy crawlies.
Like Gordon did more than a century later, Holt also attempted to lure gourmands: His treatise included two sample menus for eight-course dinners, with fancy-sounding fare like Fricasse de Poulets aux Chrysalides (boiled neck of mutton with wireworm sauce).
"Alas," Gordon notes, "no recipes were included in his book." It's a mistake The Eat-A-Bug Cookbook doesn't repeat.
So, dear reader, do these images go any ways toward swaying you toward a spider for supper?
* Images reprinted with permission from The Eat-A-Bug Cookbook, Revised by David George Gordon (Ten Speed Press, © 2013). Photo Credit: Chugrad McAndrews
Copyright 2013 NPR.