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Gastronomy of the bug

'Nobody knows how to prepare an insect', Ben Reade proves with some tasters that bugs can in fact be damn delicious. How should we be go about this bug-eating? A full house in the MC Theater is eager to learn in the workshop The Culinary Bug Adventures of Ben Reade.

Ben has not been in a country longer than ten days for the past half a year. Mostly he travels to Africa and Latin America for the job. This former chef is now Head of Culinary Research and Development at the Nordic Food Lab in Copenhagen. His passion has not much to do with insects. Ben: ‘I’d rather eat vegetables’. With a major sustainability grant they started their culinary world trip. 

Why need plates?
White cloths and spotless plates. Our idea of gastronomy needs some rethinking, Ben orates. 'Why do we even need plates? It does not get better when you are eating honey straight from the honeycomb.' Of course insects can be poisonous, so on their trips they eat very small quantities. If it taste good they will start jamming aka guerrilla cooking. ‘When you have tasted variations of a certain insect you start to compare and get better in tasting, it is like wine really.’ Their goal is to add value to the food system wherever they are, with creative recipes and setting up restaurants.

Have a bite
Ben is a comfortable, interesting and very comic speaker including a minor Scottish accent. He brought some of his little friends along, but ‘please stop eating when your mouth starts to feel burning’. Everybody is more than happy to try when some deep fried termites and bee larvae’s are being passed around. Pepijn sits in the back of the room and carefully scoops the final larvae out the tasting bowl with his finger. The queen of termites is actually the best Ben has eaten in years. ‘And I’ve eaten a lot of weird stuff’.

Grannies are awesome
So how do we prepare them? Obviously you have to break off the legs ‘to keep it from running away’. Then you take the wings off and recapitalize it together with the guts. Basics! Bugs are good for coloring food, the protein and iron and their fat. Particularly to use in all kinds of sauces. There are Michelin star chefs who are working with insects, but for Ben the knowledge of a local granny is just as important. In Europe insects are not that great as they prefer it hot and wet.

Anti mass-production
It is not Bens or the Nordic Food Labs goal to introduce a new mass production method. 'I just want to show what you can find around you and how we work in the field of bugs'. The Netherlands is quite the precursor when it comes to insects. Farming them though is not what Ben agrees on as mass-production is never sustainable. Roel works for slow food magazine and is ‘especially intrigued by his vision on anti mass-production‘. So we should not be shared or condescending about eating bugs. But to eat them we’d better chase Ben to the Amazone.

Text: Marlou Kusters
Photo's: Maartje Strijbis

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