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According to an op-ed essay published last February in The Wall Street Journal, insects require less feed, less water, and less space than conventional livestock--and produce less waste.
"Not long ago, foods like kiwis and sushi weren't widely known or available," Marcel Dicke and Arnold van Huis wrote. "It is quite likely that in 2020 we will look back in surprise at the era when our menus didn't include locusts, beetle larvae, dragonfly larvae, crickets, and other insect delights."
After a bug-happy summer, Dicke and van Huis are looking prescient. Increased environmental awareness and growing interest in culinary experimentation this year converged in waxworm tacos and grasshopper fritters.
Entomophagy, or insect eating, was the subject of a widely discussed New Yorker feature, while museums, conferences, restaurants, and fairs across the country hosted insect-cooking demos and all-bug meals. Angelina Jolie announced her children ate crickets "like Doritos." Local author David George Gordon, who's been working the edible insect circuit since he published The Eat-A-Bug Cookbook in 1998, says the practice has "kind of gone ballistic."
"It's hilarious to me," says Gordon. "Its time has come."
Gordon isn't sure cricket consumption can stem environmental problems caused by overpopulation--"the real thing is to stop having babies," he says--but he considers entomophagy "cool."
Pound for pound, insects have as much protein as ground beef, but Gordon concedes few diners want to ingest a quarter-pound of grasshoppers. He treats insects as "enhancements," an approach he'll showcase at a Café Racer banquet tomorrow night. Gordon is planning to prepare brioche with mealworms; grasshopper kebabs; orzo with crickets, and an ant pear salad.
"Having a bug banquet doesn't mean bugs, bugs, bugs," he says.
Gordon has staged insect meals in 37 states and three foreign countries, but has never before cooked a sit-down bug dinner in Seattle. The Feast of Saint Gratus--timed to coincide with the feast day for the patron saint of insect-phobes--will also feature an insect-themed art exhibit and a display of mounted insects.
For a new edition of his cookbook, Gordon is now refining his recipes. "Now I know exactly what size crickets I want and how many I need," he says. But he's staying true to his original "axiom," which holds that insects shouldn't be obscured by preparation. As much as he liked a ground-up grasshopper dish he helped develop for Vij's in Vancouver, he prefers "to have insects omnipresent."
"The flavors are kind of hard to describe," he says. "Grasshoppers have a green pepper-like flavor and crickets have a mild shrimp-like flavor. But a lot of flavors you don't find anywhere else."
Tickets to the 7 p.m. event at Café Racer are $20. As of this afternoon, there were 10 seats still available.