Centuries of civilizations have relied on insects for sustenance or flavor. And yet, the gourmet-driven resurgence of critter consumption is a relatively new Western phenomenon. Phaidon’s recently published “On Eating Insects: Essays, Stories and Recipes” acts as a guide for those looking to navigate the field of bugs. From a holistic standpoint, the book addresses how each creature tastes and how they can be used and prepared for dining purposes. The recipes hail from the Nordic Food Lab, a non-profit organization dedicated to food diversity discovery—and deliciousness. Further, the book includes a range of thoughtful essays that investigate the greater cultural significance of eating insects. This is no passing craze. From toasted cricket bitters to the book’s Moth Mousse, insects will continue to be a food source. And this is an ideal way to familiarize oneself with where we’re at.
Michael Bom Frøst, Josh Evans and Robert Flore authored the work. Sensory scientist Frøst directs the Nordic Food Lab, while Evans managed the Insect Project at the Nordic Lab, where he was a researcher for four years. And Flore, an explorer, heads up culinary research at the Lab. Together, they’ve avoided sensationalizing the study and delivered a work of insight with applicable uses. Some 120 illustrations accompany the texts, which range from field stories to bee larvae ceviche dishes. Demonstrating its thoughtfulness upfront, the book begins with terms and then segues into the politics behind the industries trading and selling insects for various uses. Some elements are certainly eye-opening, and many are mouth-watering. Altogether, it’s a thorough introduction.
“On Eating Insects” first crossed our cultural consciousness through the Snacky Tunes podcast, hosted by NYC-based cultural advocates (and twin brothers) Darin and Greg Bresnitz. The weekly podcast addresses “the cultural convergence of music and food” and its hosts continue to enlighten listeners on gastronomic and auditory developments. For installment 10 of their tangential weekly playlist, known as the Chef Music Monday Playlist, the Bresnitz brothers invited co-author Evans to select the tunes. The (free) On Eating Insects playlist features songs that Evans listened to while writing the book. It might not help the faint of heart (or skeptical) to prepare one of the recipes within the book, but it certainly sheds light on one of the author’s inspirational interests.
“The books about eating insects that we’ve encountered over years tend to skew more into the realm of cultural curiosity, or simply, ‘look at how weird this is,'” Greg explains to CH about their interest. “When Phaidon and Josh Evans approached us about ‘On Eating Insects’ we quickly realized how different and even important this book is. Josh and his team at the Nordic Food Lab took the approach of real intellectual and philosophical research. The result is a book that should be required reading for anyone who’s interested in the future of food,” he concludes. And we agree.
Images by David Graver