"We need to focus on building insect colonies for micro-farming purposes," Dennis says. "Just as with any other food, the public needs a safe and reliable source" for large-scale, human-consumption-grade insects.
But that still doesn't clear the psychological hurdle of ickiness. Van Huis suggests grinding insects into "patties" — so that the bug parts are less pronounced: "Could insects be made more acceptable by processing them into something unrecognizable (such as the ever-mysterious fish sticks, or hot dogs)?"
They'd certainly be a leaner cuisine. Whereas 100 grams of ground beef contains 23.5 grams of protein, 288 calories, and 21 grams of fat, 100 grams of cricket contains less than 13 grams of protein, 121 calories, and 5.5 grams of fat.
Another alternative would be to manufacture some type of insect flour "to be used in breads [and] crackers," Dennis adds.
"I think it's possible to turn people's minds around," says van Huis. With an air of bemusement, he adds, "We've also learned to eat shrimps."
Dennis takes it a step further. "Maybe packaged crickets should be referred to as lawn prawns and people might embrace the idea of eating them a bit more."
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Assorted vegetables, chopped
1. Buy the mealworms and go through the whole production of picking them out of the bran (see above).
2. Rinse them. Do not freeze.
3. Prepare a stir fry however you want. I made mine with broccoli, green peppers, onion, garlic, stir-fry sauce, and chili-black-bean sauce, in case you care. Also make some rice.
4. Once the veggies are almost cooked, toss in the mealworms.
5. Stir with veggies for a few minutes (until you're sure they're dead).
6. Derive great joy and amusement from "setting the table" — complete with candles! — for your mealworm dinner.
7. Eat the stir-fry. Make comments about how you can barely taste the mealworms, etc.
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My Sunday-night supper included stir-fried mealworms. It was delicious. The squirming bugs, larvae form of the mealworm beetle, Tenebrio molitor, came in a count of 100, still alive, about an inch long and the diameter of a knitting needle. I separated them from their packaging, rinsed them, and — as per online recipes I'd found — tossed them into a steaming wok of vegetables and stir fry sauce; they only needed a few minutes to cook.
Warning for people who want to try this at home: if the mealworms are still alive when you add them to the pan, prepare for about 30 seconds of frantic squirming. I liken this to the "scream" of a steamed live lobster.
Aside from the wriggling, this culinary experience was relatively benign. Mealworms, like many other edible insects (there are more than 1000 edible species in the world, according to the UN's FAO), have a vaguely nutty taste. Yes, there was a brief bursting sensation on the teeth and tongue as I bit down into the first one, plucked straight from the pan, covered in salty brown sauce. Like a grape snapping open between my teeth, but much smaller and much less juicy. There was no gross goo once the skin broke. Just a few chewy bits, and down it went. The mealworms, in taste and consistency, were like a cross between crunchy Chinese noodles and small slivers of cooked cashews.