Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The REALLY 'Other' White Meat

Food fascinates me.  So much revolves around food - culture, traditions, taboos about what one can and can't eat that changes from society to society, the physiology behind what we eat and how we feel about it....

For example, here's a quote from "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan:
“He showed the words “chocolate cake” to a group of Americans and recorded their word associations. “Guilt” was the top response. If that strikes you as unexceptional, consider the response of French eaters to the same prompt: “celebration.”
Crazy!  I think about things like that often, especially given the responses people give us when some of the things we eat strike them as strange.

People are often flabbergasted that we eat DUCK eggs!  Apparently as far as the average American is concerned, the only edible egg is a chicken egg.  Anything that can't be found at the corner grocery store is not 'normal' and is eyed with suspicion, like it might be poisonous or leap off the plate and viciously attack at any moment.

I definitely have my own cultural food-baggage.  The thought of eating brains really turns me off, but I've heard they can actually be quite delicious.

When early colonists came to Australia, they regarded the aborigines as destitute because they observed them eating witchetty grubs.  Surely only desperation could make somebody eat GRUBS!  But apparently they taste a lot like rich scrambled eggs, since they're full of buttery fat.

In fact, science suggests that simple exposure to unusual foods is enough to overcome our personal distaste to pretty much anything.  When Jeffrey L. Steingarten was made the food critic of Vogue magazine, he realized that his personal dislike for certain foods (such as anchovies and kimchi, a fermented cabbage dish from Korea) were now serious liabilities.  He deliberately ate one of his hated foods every day for 6 months, and learned to love every one of them!

I was reminded of all this when my dad forwarded me the NY Times article about energy bars made from crickets.
"Greg Sewitz, 22, and Gabi Lewis, 23, began making protein bars out of crickets when they were roommates at Brown University.  
According to the two men’s research, the insects are 69 percent protein by dry weight as compared with 31 percent for chicken breast and 29 percent for sirloin steak; they provide more iron than beef does and nearly as much calcium as milk. They produce one-eightieth the amount of methane that cattle do, and need one-twelfth their feed, based on 100-gram portions of each. And they can reproduce quickly and don’t require acres of grassland to graze. 
They overcame the ick factor of freezing them, roasting them and blending them in a Vitamix. “There were cricket parts all over the place, and our roommates got a little weirded out,” Mr. Sewitz said. 
But their reward was their first batch of cricket flour, a dusty brown substance that resembled brown sugar and didn’t taste like much. They combined it with almonds, dates for binding, honey for sweetness and raw cacao nibs for crunch."

What an awesome idea!!  I love the idea of demystifying an unusual food (in this case crickets) by reducing their visibility (via grinding them up into flour) and using them with a more familiar format (energy bars).

Since we're all eating insects ALREADY, why not relax and give some a try for your next snack?  ;-)

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