November 4th, 2011 | WEEKEND

Peabody presents “Edible Insects”

Looks tasty.
Looks tasty. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

On the menu this weekend at the Peabody Museum: ants and crickets.

The unorthodox menu is part of Edible Insects, an event which will be held at the Peabody this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Edible Insect will include games for children, live insect displays, a talk on ‘Fossils and Live Arthroprods’ and an ‘Edible Insect Café’ featuring award-winning head chef and owner of Miya’s Sushi in New Haven, Bun Lai.

The modern day aversion to bug eating, or entomophagy, is due to an “alientation from nature”, said David Gracer, the event’s host and assistant editor of the Food Insects Newsletter. People often forget that many natural cycles are the direct results of insect behaviors, such as pollination and waste disposal, he explained. Most insects are actually closely related to crabs, lobster and shrimp, all of which are also arthropods, noted David Heiser, the Peabody Museum’s head of education and outreach.

The tradition of entomophagy should be nothing new to locals. Though it was never popularized, entomophagy has been present in western culture since the days of the Greeks. In Connecticut, when the 17-year cicada hatched, cicada larvae were enjoyed by locals “with relish”, Heiser said.

Insect connoisseurs will maintain that bugs are better — better for you and better for the world. Insects are nutritionally superior to more common sources of meat such as beef or chicken, said Gracer, explaining that crickets for example generally provide more in terms of carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals and less in terms of fat than beef.

Gracer also predicts that man’s reliance on bug-based foods will grow over the next century because insects are more sustainably farmed. Raising insect protein requires less energy and water than raising the same amount of animal protein.

“You can raise a bunch of mealworms in a tub on your counter, you don’t need acres of land,” Gracer explained.

Moreover, these household ‘pests’ are packed with flavor. Gracer describes the most commonly consumed bugs, crickets and mealworms, as crunchy and nutty due to their high protein content. Grasshoppers meanwhile taste “vegetal, like a leafy green”. Ants contain acids which given them a “citrusy flavor”. This weekend’s menu includes crickets, insect paella and more.

While visitors make a meal out of insects, next door, bedbugs and other arthropods will be dining on people. Saturday’s Edible Insects is meant to bolster attendance for the Peabody’s Invasion of the Bloodsuckers Exhibit with the idea that “insects bite you, you bite insects”, Heiser said.

The temporary exhibition, which features bedbugs and other blood-sucking arthropods, will run through Jan. 8.