Perhaps there is no more startling evidence of the cultural divide between East and West than that which is on display in Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, with scenes of Japanese families intentionally bringing large bugs into their homes and children playing with pincered beetles like living action figures. Using insects like an anthropologist’s toolkit, the film uncovers Japanese philosophies that will shift perspectives on nature, beauty and life, and just might make you question if your ‘instinctive’ repulsion to bugs is merely a trick of Western conditioning.
Some of you may remember a few posts I did a while back when the film Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, directed by Jessica Oreck, made its way to SF back last summer. The screening in SF only lasted a few days at the Kabuki Theater in Japantown, so if you missed it, now is your chance to see the debute of Beetle Queen ON TV!
I was excited when Jessica blogged about MiniLivestock and asked me to be a Beetle Queen guest blogger*****. I also had the opportunity to spend some time with Jessica while she was here for her SF screening. We had a good conversation over dinner about or varying projects and passions, made a trip to Paxton Gate, and did some hanging out in the Mission District. Overall, good times with a passionate, down-to-earth person with an interesting and beautiful film that I highly recommend.
Içás, or queen ants, taste like mint? Maybe the Girl Scout Association should look into making some special edition Thin Mints, yeah? It’s interesting that although many Brazilians enjoy eating içás, many are embarrassed to admit that they do eat them because the food is often a tradition reserved for poorer families. On the opposite side of that perception, in northern Colombia, locals are exporting their “hormigas culonas” or big-rear queen ants, to France, Britain and other countries, where they are dipped in chocolate. Although some residents in Brazil say they could use the money, they are also concerned about preserving tradition and the ant population, which they believe does not involve shipping their food to other interested countries. Read the rest of the article here: Pesticides Threaten Ant-Eating Tradition in Brazil.
Mr. Ferraz, 72, says he receives almost daily phone calls asking him to start delivering ants to far-off towns. He said he looked into exporting them at some point but gave up because the Brazilian export laws for food are too complicated. Beyond that, he said, “I don’t think making deliveries would be good for the quality of the tradition.”
He grew up eating içás at home and taught the tradition to his children. Then, 20 years ago, he held an içá festival that drew more than 400 people. The festival’s success inspired him to create an arts and crafts center dedicated to the tradition.
Today he shows off table mats, dishes, cups, his apron and paintings on a wall of his restaurant that all feature the queen ant. Other artists are designing toys.
Slowly, Mr. Ferraz was able to help break the stigma that used to surround eating içás, which had been seen as a tradition reserved for poorer families. “Many people would say they were embarrassed about eating içás,” he said. And yet, he said, every October and November “the entire town would smell like frying ants.”
Earlier this year, I received an email from Professor Arnold van Huis from Wageningen University, Netherlands. Prof. van Huis was gathering information for the “World Inventory of Activities on Edible Insects for FAO” because the United Nations has been seriously considering exploring insects as a sustainable food source, and wants to start formulating a strategy to promote human entomophagy in both developed and developing countries.
With this newly launched website, we will be able to stay informed and learn from such entomophagy-related efforts such as the “Edible Forest Insects” project in Laos PDR, which is currently headed by the Forestry Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The site provides some basic information on the use and potential of edible insects and interesting links, which include the proceedings of the workshop “Edible Forest Insects: Humans Bite Back held in 2008 in Chiang Mai”, and an information flyer promoting the contribution of edible forest insects in assuring food security. Thanks Prof. van Huis and his Phd student, Joost Vanitterbbeck, for the update!
So, I was watching Letterman last night and to my surprise, Salma Hayek starts talking about how she likes to eat chapulines and ant eggs. The Late Show even flashed a “Salma’s Insect Recipe” on the screen right before they cut to commercial, but it was too quick for anyone to actually write it down. If I find it, I’ll post it for you guys.
So what’s next? Salma Hayek as the celebrity endorser of entomophagy? It just might work.
You may remember my post not too long ago about Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo.
Awesome director and human being Jessica Oseck has this beautiful documentary coming our way to SF July 9-12 at the Kabuki Theater in Japantown. I know it’s a ways, but I wanted to let you all know that they just added SF to the list of screenings around the world. I’m definitely going to go see it and you should too! See you there.
Finally posting this TED Talk. Prof. Dr. Marcel Dicke is the colleague of a professor I’ve been in contact with in The Netherlands. I contacted them last summer before I went to Amsterdam for summer school, and he and his PhD student were kind enough to offer to meet me and show me their insect facilities, but alas, my lack of direction and time schedule wouldn’t allow me to make the trip to Wageningen. Oh well, maybe next time…
They’re using a lot of chocolate to mask the insects, but what can you do? Eating insects is still new to most and people love chocolate…including myself. Dark, please (cause I’m now older and more refined…not really).
I’ve had the same surprise reaction as Dr. Dicke when finding out that more people than I expected have eaten insects. Perhaps it is just the people I’ve had conversations with in the Bay Area…many have traveled around the world and maybe have tried eating an insect or two while abroad. Others remember trying them as children in elementary school or family-oriented events such as zoos or science museums. Although many people who I’ve talked to have tried an insect in the past, they were mainly in situations where they hardly frequent. When asked if they would eat them in again in the U.S., most responded with a no because we don’t eat insects here. Maybe one day, eating insects won’t just be an exotic excursion, but become “as American as apple pie” (whatever that means).
Want to get rid of your fear of insects without facing the real deal? In an upcoming edition of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, the journal describes a study of six females who all have a fear of cockroaches were given augmented reality helmets to wear, where they would experience simulated cockroaches. This is an AR version of exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is a method used by psychologists, which introduces patients to their fear in small doses with the goal to eventually cure their phobia. The participants faced high levels of anxiety during the simulated experience similar to if they were faced with real cockroaches. That is as far as the study has gone for now. The folks at NeoAcademic question whether AR exposure therapy works as well as traditional exposure therapy. They say if it does, it opens up the possibility of simulating other phobias that are difficult for therapists to expose to patients without risk or high cost, like fears of falling, flying, heights, and dead things.
There was a segment on KQED hosted by Michael Krasny yesterday with guest anthropologist and author of Insectopedia’s Hugh Raffles. I wrote in a question asking Hugh if he thought it would be possible for people in the U.S. to seriously adopt entomophagy. Hugh, being a vegan, quickly and briefly responded by saying he believes we shouldn’t eat any living creatures since they all have feelings. Question avoided and burned by another vegan! It’s cool, I’ll still read his book.
Getting things in the mail is pretty awesome. Insects are pretty cool too. So I got a nice tofor this week. Hopefully I have time to do some light reading after thesis presentations are done next week. Thanks to buddy and classmate from Soap-Simple.com for giving me the heads up about this new release by Pantheon Books.