Book Review

The Eat-A-Bug Cookbook

by David George Gordon

Ten Speed Press, P.O. Box 7123, Berkeley, CA 94707. Phone (510)845-8414. Published 1998. 101 pages. Paperback. $12.95.
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Reviewed by Robert Chambers (9/1999)

This is a useful book -- provocative and humorous at the same time. The author points out that our relatives, the other primates, all love to eat insects, as do many primitive peoples as well as people in other cultures. The Native Americans used to set prairie fires and then eat the roasted insects they found in gleaning the burned ground. Insects are high in protein and vitamins, especially B vitamins, with little carbohydrate, so they supplement diets that are largely based on grains. In addition they have a substantial amount of lysine, mostly absent from grains.

Of course there are some differences between the various kinds of bugs, shown in a table of nutrient values. And the author cautions that brightly colored bugs -- especially red, yellow and orange -- may be bad and should be left alone. However, he also mentions that insect parts are common in many popular foods, so the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has set up acceptable limits. Your peanut butter jelly sandwich meets these standards if it has up to 56 insect parts in it.

The recipes are organized by the kind of bug. Part One on crickets, grasshoppers, locusts and such discusses how to catch and store the insects and then gives various recipes for cooking them. The hard parts are chitin and are usually not swallowed unless softened by appropriate marinades. These insects can be purchased at pet food stores, reflecting the growth of an industry raising them to feed to exotic pets. Next comes a section on social insects -- termites, ants and bees -- that are attractive to the cook. This is followed by home and garden pests: worms that live in the pantry, grazers al fresco, and of course the omnipresent cockroaches, all of which are discussed and made palatable by the author's intriguing recipes. Finally there is a section on spineless critters including silkworms and scorpions.

Quite a variety of asides discuss aspects of catching, cooking and eating bugs. There are also lists of references, sources of insects for purchase, and organizations that put on insect events at which bugs are available to sample.

I think this book is a good value and that more eating of insects should be encouraged. My own limited experiences eating larvae and scorpions have been pleasant enough.

© Copyright 1999, California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc.
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