Bug-eating: a whole gastronomical experience

EntomoMiam serves a variety of gourmet insect-based snacks, including roasted almonds & grasshoppers, a tomato and mealworm tapenade, and a cricket and mushroom shortbread. CATHERINE REYNOLDS/The Concordian

The Montreal Insectarium recently introduced entomophagy

With the climate rapidly changing, water is becoming less and less accessible. As the need to change the way we eat becomes more and more apparent, food industries are shifting, presenting new forms of food. 

Chef-consultant Daniel Vézina, commissioned by Espace pour la vie, developed a series of edible insect snacks. Between Nov. 2 – 5 these snacks were served at a kiosk at Le Central. 

“Insects have a lot of vitamins, and proteins, it’s very relevant to make people discover them,” said Elena Zumaran Vasquez, operations coordinator for Les Amis de insectarium. 

Zumaran Vasquez explained that her organization specifically works for insect consumption, a practice known as entomophagy. It’s owing to this collaboration with David Vézina that she now believes more strongly that people are more willing to eat insects: “People don’t necessarily see them, they are presented in a different form,  where they are integrated into the food.”. 

Though insect-eating is not part of Canadian culture, it is a common snack in some countries like Thailand and South Africa. In Thailand, for instance, is it typical to eat fried grasshoppers, crickets, and even worms. 

The tasting at Le Central offered four sample foods. There were green hard candies, made from ant sugar and balsam fir. The flavour of the ant sugar was not very strong and did not taste any different from the candies we are used to. 

For salty snacks, there were seaweed chips creamed with a tomato tapenade, mixed with mealworm and seaweed dulse. Apart from being extremely salty, they were good. 

The second salty snack was the one that people most feared eating. It was caramelized lime almonds with whole grasshoppers. This was the only tasting with a whole insect in it; and despite their sour lime taste, they tasted good. Nevertheless, I’m not sure if I would eat them like I would eat a bag of chips. 

Zumaran Vasquez noted that the reactions to the tastings were quite diverse. 

“There’s a lot of positive feedback and a lot of interest. At first people are reluctant, but most of them end up trying [it].” 

The insects were so processed with the other ingredients that it was barely noticeable that one was eating insects, except for the almond snack, where the grasshopper was in its complete form. 

Despite the original idea behind the snacks being the high nutritional value of insects, these bites were so mixed in sugar and salt that it begs the question, would people even eat these if they were not processed with so many unhealthy ingredients? 

A suitable analogy would be that of vegan food industries sometimes trying hard to imitate a taste, only to end up making an extremely unhealthy product. Is the avenue of making foods universal for singular palates through imitation necessarily good, or should the food industry shift entirely to proposing foods completely different from what we know? 

The crowd of people lined around the kiosk all seemed to enjoy the snacks. Some were more reluctant at first, especially with regards to the almond and grasshopper snack, but after tasting them, many people were pleasantly surprised. 

It was only fifteen minutes subsequent to the tasting that my palate tasted strongly of insects. The unfamiliar lingering taste of grasshoppers stayed on my tongue longer than I would’ve liked. 

It is indisputable that insects offer a great nutritional value and fill you up. Perhaps our Canadian bodies merely need to adapt to changing gastronomies and the possibility of insect consumption. 

Photographs by Catherine Reynolds/THE CONCORDIAN

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