Hummel column: Welcome to the beetle buffet
I know readers of this column are forward-thinking folks who tune in to what experts predict will be happening in the future. That's why I report to you now that studies show that the market for edible bugs will be worth up to $1.2 billion by 2023. Around two billion people are already eating insects.
"Not in this country" you say. But if you go to Safeco Field in Seattle to watch the Seattle Mariners baseball team, you will find that grasshoppers are a popular novelty snack there. Grasshoppers may never replace popcorn at the ballpark, but they're available. My guess is that the more beer they sell, the more grasshoppers the fans will chomp down.
Or, if you need a celebrity to model insect eating for you, it is reported that Angeline Jolie regularly eats crawly critters as part of her diet.
It is true that most of the people eating bugs in this world are from distant places outside North America and Europe. But, 80 percent of the globe's population eats insects. The argument in favor of this practice (entomophagy) includes good protein content, an inexpensive solution to world malnutrition, bridging the gap between poor and wealthy nations, decreasing land pressure resulting from livestock production, environmental protection from reduced water pollution, reduced greenhouse gas production and profitability.
As a result, entomophagy is big business in other parts of the world. In Thailand there are 20,000 insect farms mostly raising crickets and palm weevil larvae, although there are 1,900 known species of insects raised or used elsewhere for human or animal food.
They include critters we know: bees, wasps, butterflies, cockroaches, mealworms, termites, scorpions, grubs, silkworms, caterpillars and even butterflies. They are prepared in interesting ways: deep fried grasshoppers, pizza with sprinkles of whole roasted crickets and mealworms by the bowl.
For those of us who haven't experienced the taste delight of deep fried cockroaches, our stomachs turn over and we make sour faces when we imagine some of the possibilities: would a bowl of crispy crickets snap, crackle and pop like a bowl of rice krispies? Would you eat them with milk? Add sugar? Could you make mini-hotdogs out of caterpillars? Would you add relish, ketchup or mustard? Would you put soy sauce on earthworms?
If your edible worms are eaten after their "purchase by" date, would there be new worms in the old worms? Will angle worm soup replace noodle soup? Would butterfly wings ever replace drummies?
Other questions arise: wouldn't it be a safe practice to see if your puppy would eat part of your grub hotdish before you feed it to your family? Do bugs promote bad breath? What effect do bugs have on tooth decay? If we all eat insects, will birds, snakes and anteaters starve to death? Did John the Baptist eat locusts and honey? How did he catch the locusts? Would onions make the conversion to bugs more palatable? What could be more embarrassing than a cockroach stuck between your teeth?