Is Scotland ready for edible insects?
New university research has shown that despite TV shows like ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, which highlights the consumption of insects, Scotland is just not ready to embrace entomophagy.
Entomophagy is the consumption of edible insects. Two billion of the world’s population currently eat insects as part of their daily diet. People in Asia Pacific, Australia and Africa are known to view certain dishes, which include insects, as delicacies, and in places such as Vietnam and Cambodia, children often eat grasshoppers and crickets as snacks during school hours.
Despite sweet insect lollipops being sold in top London stores and bags of barbeque flavoured crickets now available in Harvey Nichols in Edinburgh, it appears that the Scots are still hugely resistant to indulging in insect cuisine.
Maybe our fear of eating ‘beasties’ is down to the fact that, as a nation, we are not that used to big creepy crawlies. The swarm of midgies is not going to be a meaty enough treat to sustain a strapping Scotsman. However, anything with longer legs than a daddy long legs is maybe just too much for the Scots to swallow. Even though we have got our heads around haggis, and all that it constitutes, our chefs, and even real foodies, are still not brave enough to go beyond their comfort zone.
Adam Roe, currently Student Vice President at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, conducted the study of entomophagy for his final year dissertation. Adam, who is a graduate of QMU’s International Hospitality and Tourism Management degree explored the perceptions of Edinburgh-based chefs with regards to using insects as part of their culinary offering.
Adam explained: “During my travels to Thailand, I was fascinated to see the incredible range of street food on offer in Bangkok. The locals ate a wide range of insect based snacks such as water bugs, scorpions and grasshoppers. It was interesting to learn about their food culture and I was intrigued to see workers, dressed in business suits, picking up bags of deep fried insects to munch on their way home from work.”
Adam was keen to explore the acceptance of insect consumption with chefs in Edinburgh. He said: “Earlier research has identified Western consumer perceptions as a current barrier, but I wanted to find out whether chefs had an appetite to include insect cuisine on their menus.
“I discovered that chefs in high end restaurants were nervous about the damage to their restaurant’s reputation and didn’t feel that there was a consumer demand for edible insects in Scotland. Ironically, Noma in Copenhagen, known to be one of the world’s finest restaurants, serves live insects, such as ants, from time to time.”
Adam continued: “Chefs also felt that they were not educated and experienced enough to safely prepare and serve insects. However, one French chef in particular, was more enthusiastic about embracing insect cuisine, and showed his willingness to offer an edible insect tasting experience.”
Grasshoppers, which were deep fried and served with fish sauce and seasoning, became one of Adam’s favourite insect dishes when he was touring Thailand. However, the same cannot be said for scorpion, which he disliked intensely. Adam said: “It has a creamy sour taste which was rather off putting, but I persisted in trying different insects. When I returned to Scotland I continued to experiment with various ingredients and dishes. I’ve incorporated mealworms into chocolate brownies – that was a big hit – but my beef stew with mealworm flour didn’t go down well with my dinner guests.”
Adam concluded: “Although I may feel enthusiastic about entomophagy, my research shows that Scotland just isn’t ready for bugs on plates. It’s now over to TV shows, possibly with celebrity chefs to create a more favourable image of insects in gourmet cooking and trendy street food.”
Bernie Quinn , Senior Lecturer in International Hospitality and Tourism Management at Queen Margaret University, added: “Adam has conducted a fascinating insight into a food phenomena that there is currently little knowledge of in Scotland. His findings are perhaps just a little too cutting edge for our top chefs – unpalatable even!”
Adam Roe will present the findings of his study: ‘An exploration of the perceptions of chefs regarding entomophagy in Michelin and Rosette awarded restaurants – case study of Edinburgh’s finest chefs’ at Council for Hospitality Management Education conference at the University of Ulster on 4th May 2016.
What insects have you eaten? Leave a wee note below and let us know!