Can bugs be the answer to our growing food supply and environmental problems? In her book, Edible, Daniella Martin makes a compelling case for the need to ease the western world into the idea of consuming insects as an alternative to meat.
What I really enjoyed about Martin's book, was the plethora of factoids. My reading was constantly interrupted, as I had to share little tid-bits with my husband. For example, did you know that Japan has the world's biggest, deadliest species of Hornet and that dozens of people die a year from attacks? Whoa. As I read about Martin's travels around the world, I learned a lot about about cultural customs, geography and entomology. Martin writes about her travels in a humorous and engaging voice. For the most part, I felt entertained as I learned more about insects in this book, than I ever did during several years of Biology.
Most interesting, were the sections where Martin visited various laboratories that are running experiments with insect protein, including how to gauge which products will potentially work in western cultures, both for taste and appearance. I enjoyed reading about the restaurants and chefs around the world who specialized in bugs. Martin likened eating insects to eating sushi several decades ago. Sushi took awhile to catch on in popularity outside of Japan, but now it's incredibly popular in America and Europe. Could bugs be the next big thing?
There were a few minor issues that I had with her book. Primarily, I took issue with her Epilogue, which is a summary and argumentation for the need to eat insect protein. It's not that she didn't make many valid points during this section, but even though she approached it cautiously, I think that vegans might really take issue with her dismissal of the vegan diet as a healthy lifestyle. I'm not vegan, but I pictured my vegan friends up in arms with that section. The epilogue brought down the pacing and took me out of the fun that I was having with the first 2/3rd of her book. It shifted gears from a fun adventure, to a thesis paper. I was already sold on the idea of insect protein, I didn't need this additional form of argumentation.
The very end of the book is a quick users guide to eating insects. There are recipes and a break down of how to harvest common insects. If you're looking to pursue it, this looks to be a great starter resource. I've tried bugs once (ants and crickets) and I would be up for eating them in the future, even pursuing them as a real dietary addition, but as a beginner, I think that trying it out at home might be a bit intimidating. I was intrigued by the idea of these clubs that have insect eating parties. They sound like a safe way to explore something that is quite frankly a foreign concept. I liked that Martin addressed the foreignness of bugs in the western diet and the difficulty of changing cultural held ideals.
I have to fess up and admit that I finished the book before bed last night and I had a dream that I had a pet tarantula. Normally, a dream about a tarantula would be classified as a nightmare, but something about Martin's book shifted my perspective!
Edible is a worthy read and I'd love to go to one of Martin's lectures at our local Natural History Museum.