Entomophagy

And cynophagy.

Obviously -phagy refers to Greek word phagia (yes, I know it’s romanised), which means eating. Cyno on the other hand comes from the word kunos which refers to the word “dog”. Entomos, naturally, means insects in this instance. So eating dogs and bugs. [Theophagy would be eating gods. Antropophagy is a fairly common term referring to consumption of human parts. Cytophagy would be eating cells. Autophagy eating oneself. Rhinophagy eating noses. Heterophagy would mean eating others who are different from you but of the same type. Homophagy would mean eating the same as you are but not in a reflexive sense. Coprophagy means eating shit. A “coprophaggot” is someone who eats shit.]

So far, I’ve eaten some dog meat and two types of insects: silkworm pupae and some species of adult water bugs. The dog was your run of the mill mix, I only ever saw the meaty parts of it. It had a gamey taste to it. Finding out the type of the insect was actually quite difficult since the locals here just call them by a local name: laobie. The problem was that the “bie” in question generally means “turtle”. After some googling I found out that the insect was a type of water bug. However, I don’t know exactly which species.

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Puppy: Pwees don’t eat me… Me: Omnomnomnom!

The silkworm pupae were not very tasty. The don’t have much flavour to them, at least when you first taste them and you don’t know what to expect. Their shells are quite soft and they don’t have any hooks or thorns. Water bugs, however, do have hooks and thorns. Their shells are quite thick. They are equally mild in taste but I need to mention that the after taste, of the ones I had, was mildly uric (as in urea as in urine).

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The sausages and meatballs were disgusting.

The crunchy texture of the insects is not very appealing to me. The chitinous shell tends to stick everywhere and bugs often have very sharp edges which might irritate one’s mouth. So if entomophagy is to become a trend in the future, I strongly suggest crushing the bugs into a pulp and making nuggets out of them. Not for aesthetic reasons because those are quickly overcome by habituation but for reasons of convenience. The locals here are much more accustomed to going through some trouble at the dinner table to get to the foody parts. Imagine if you had crayfish or lobster at every meal, you need to work a little to eat. It is commonplace to spit the inedible parts out of your mouth or do the same pre-emptively.

“Western” crowds are generally more used to eating stuff that is convenient to eat. I mean sure, you’ll have to cut pieces out of your stake which would be weird here, but at least most of the stake is edible. Chicken toes are not very convenient to eat. Don’t get me wrong, of course there are types of foods in every country that are a bit difficult to eat or require some assembly. What I am saying is that based on what I’ve eaten here, it is much more common having to eat around stuff and getting bits that are mostly cartilage and bone or skin and fat. In fact, imagine if someone made some fish stock or chicken stock to cook some vegetables in but they’d never filter the stock and would serve the stock and the vegetables as such.

A side note on the cuisine: they don’t really have ovens here. The kitchen has a steaming oven and some woks. Stuff can also be grilled, in which case they are lathered with a honey and water mixture for caramelisation, but they don’t really use ovens. When the woks are used, stuff is usually boiled in a good amount of water which slowly reduces. Except when making scrambled eggs. With meat and potatoes one would rarely, if ever, see a brown or black surface if it comes out of a wok. The cooking oil of choice seems to be cheap soy bean oil which isn’t the best of options from an overall health perspective.

Coming back to entomophagy and cynophagy, though dogs and insect are consumed here, they don’t exactly form the back bone of nutrition. Neither have I seen people eagerly consuming them, so it would be a stretch to say that they’d be really special occasion delicacy either. It seems that in these parts they are to some extent mildly curiosity items, even if there is nothing special about them. It’s just food that one doesn’t eat too often.

Insects are an excellent choice for an animal based protein source and in all honestly, it is difficult for me to understand ethical arguments against the practice of eating bugs. But then again, I’d be willing to eat dead humans as well. However, I do understand certain arguments against farming and killing animals for pleasure. I don’t necessarily agree with all of them but I understand them and they are generally coherent. Explaining why exactly an insect, or some other simple member of the animal kingdom (like a sponge), should be considered a moral object is a bit more difficult.

EntoCube is a very good idea. Insects are very efficient at converting plant matter into animal matter, if you prefer the latter (so efficient that locusts have been a common plague through times). Surely eventually I’d like to see massive warehouses cultivating huge 1000 square metre slabs of nicely marbled beef without any need for a central nervous system but before we get there, entomophagy is a solid option. I’d just like to see them going towards the direction of convenience. We like sausages and nuggets. And we obviously don’t really care what’s in them as long as they taste good.

A fun fact: the legislation governing food safety doesn’t state that certain foods shouldn’t have any insect parts or insects in them. They just limit the amount those foodstuffs should contain such things (without reporting that they contain insects).

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