ROME – Grasshopper dumplings, bee larvae tacos and moth mousse are just some of the recipes featured in new cookbook that aims to end Western disdain for eating insects – which are increasingly seen as a nutritious and environmentally friendly food.
Hundreds of species of insects are eaten around the world, mainly in Africa and Asia, but people in the West generally recoil from the thought of being served crickets, termites and mealworms – even though they are a rich source of nutrition.
In addition, insect farming is likely to require less land than traditional livestock and produce fewer greenhouse gases, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said in 2013.
However, nutritional benefits alone will not be enough to persuade squeamish Western palates to swap beef, chicken and pork for bugs and wasps, said Roberto Flore, co-author of On Eating Insects.
"If we want to integrate (insects) in our European diets we need to talk about taste before discussing proteins," said the Italian chef from Sardinia, who is also the head of culinary research and development at the Nordic Food Lab.
"If an insect is consumed it means it tastes good," Flore told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The Nordic Food Lab was started in Denmark by the co-owner of Noma, a Michelin-starred restaurant which is often described as one of the world's best eateries, with the aim of "investigating food diversity and deliciousness".
Flore said he, and co-authors Michael Bom Frost and Josh Evans, decided to write the cookbook about insect-eating or entomophagy because so little work had been done on the subject in the West.
Published next month, the cookbook features essays, stories and recipes from field research in Kenya, Uganda, Mexico, Thailand and other countries where parts of the population consider insects a delicacy.
"We hope to bridge cultural differences," said Flore, adding most people who have tried his dishes were surprised to find insects so tasty.