Insects du Jour

Crawling with flavor

A bowl of dried Manchurian scorpions

A bowl of dried Manchurian scorpions

As the global population rises, a key to addressing food scarcity, malnutrition, and environmental degradation could be simple, if squirmy: eat more bugs. Edible insects are rich in protein, low in cost, and typically sustainable to produce. To that, attendees of the UW’s Cooking with Insects workshop in April said: “Bug appétit!”

The hands-on cooking demonstration and tasting — sponsored by the UW Departments of Food Science and Entomology, Wisconsin Union, and Global Health Institute — aimed to reduce the stigma of eating insects and demonstrate that flavor doesn’t have to be sacrificed. “We had to do something on the culinary side, because that’s how you get people to actually change their eating habits in this country,” says Valerie Stull PhD’18, a postdoctoral researcher at the Global Health Institute.

The event was part of a three-day Swarm to Table series, which included research presentations, a tasting session with Wisconsin craft beer pairings, and an insect-themed art show. The Mission to Improve Global Health through Insects (MIGHTi), a research project led by Stull, organized the series.

During the cooking workshop in Babcock Hall, UW students and other participants learned techniques from visiting chef Joseph Yoon, the executive director of Brooklyn Bugs. The Tex-Mex dishes each included at least one of these ingredients: roasted crickets, superworms, silkworm pupae, black ants, mealworms, adobo chapulines (Spanish for grasshoppers), and Manchurian scorpions.

At the end, participants — some eager, others more hesitant, but all having fun — tasted their creations. The consensus? Compliments to the chef.

“A lot of people go in expecting that insects are disgusting,” Yoon says. “[But] imagine the first time that someone ate a banana. They took a bite into it with the skin on — disgusting! But then they realized it had a pleasant middle and thought to peel it. We’re still at the stage of eating an unpeeled banana with insects.”

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