Insects on the menu
Yesterday I returned home from a writers’ conference at Yale University in New Haven where some locals raved about the city serving the best pizza in the world. After being underwhelmed by their legendary pizza, I was tempted to conclude that these New Haveners hadn’t even crossed the Atlantic, let alone visited the Mediterranean. I am happy to be back now in the homeland of Mediterranean cuisine and have just celebrated with a meal at my local bistrot scoffing a succulent pizza topped with rocket and white truffles accompanied by an obligatory glass or two of rosé wine.
I am still mulling over the United Nations’ recent edict that we should all be eating more bugs. They have gone further saying that insects could provide the solution to world hunger. Insect proponents argue that the environmental benefits are substantial. For starters, arthropods are cold-blooded so efficient at converting food into protein. Furthermore, these mini livestock don’t take up space for rearing. Apparently, two billion people around the world are already dining on over 1,400 insect species. Japanese diners love hachi-no-ko (wasp larvae), while palm weevil larvae are popular in the tropics.
So why do Western diners remain to be convinced? To find out more, I went along to restaurant Aphrodite (www.restaurant-aphrodite.com) in Nice where Michelin-starred chef David Faure has just launched his own insect-inspired menu. Following a trip to Asia, he began researching the possiblity of putting bugs on the menu. At first, he wanted to source scorpions and tarantula spiders, but (perhaps fortuitously) failed to find a supplier. Instead he discovered Toulouse-based company Micronutris that produces organic worms and crickets. These two critters are the ideal starter pack for bug virgins. Fried worms taste nutty, while crickets have a popcorn flavour.
Faure has wisely kept the bug content to a minimum in his Alternative Food menu. So I delved through a wonderland meal of worm-pronged pea cubes and crickets in foie gras and popcorn before finishing with a whisky-jellied cricket dessert. Tellingly, my food-writer guest left me to dine alone on bugs as she ordered a beautifully prepared salade niçoise. While we dined, she presented me with a gift of some edible damask butterflies to decorate future cupcakes. Edible decorations – now there is a food trend that is easy to please.