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Friday, December 16, 2016

The Future Of Global Cuisine - Updated

With apologies to Barnes & Barnes and their 1980 song Fish Heads, when it comes to eating insects, the United Nations predicts that by 2050 insects will be a major part of our culinary diet - eat them up, yum!

Apparently some chefs are coming up with all these new recipes that depict a grasshopper curry, buffalo worm nuggets and chocolate mealworm spread.

I think the point of each, is that the consumer won’t really be able to taste the protein that insects provide when covered in chocolate or curry or covered in a breaded panko flakes. Seriously… some people have a curry so spicy hot that I doubt they know what meat they are actually eating as they spray their inflamed tongue with the handy water hose they keep beside them at the dinner table. My folks were like that… I never saw the point of eating something you couldn’t taste.

It’s why I enjoy Japanese food. Even with sauces, most Japanese cuisine allows you to actually taste the main ingredient.

Even though I am 23+ years removed from my life IN Japan, I still manage to eat the food at least once a month—WTF is it so expensive here in Canada?!

While in Japan, during my second year there, I was able to taste and enjoy to superb Japanese dishes: Hachi-no-ko and Inago.

Okay… I don’t know what the dishes were called, but they did use those two main ingredients: baby bees (aka bee larvae) and grasshopper, respectively.

Look, 23 years ago, bees disappearing from the planet did not seem like an issue.
See what the buzz is all about: Hachi-no-ko
Anyhow… both hachi-no-ko and inago were delicious. Extremely delicious.

To me it’s just a simple matter of realizing that it is food.
People have been eating insects to survive for a long time. Page scanned from a 1971 Gold Key comic book I bought a couple of months ago, but just read today: Korak, Son of Tarzan.
If you were in a survivable plane crash or your car broke down while out in the extreme boonies, you would eat whatever you could find—even the fish meal from that airplane food cart that miraculously survived.
Inago-no-tsukudani - delish! See those delicious drumsticks? Lip-smacking!
Seriously… would you starve because you found the concept of eating insects repugnant? It’s all in your head, and once you get over that, it’s all in your stomach… except for maybe that one grasshopper leg that gets stuck hanging over our lower lip.

It always happens.

I was at an Ohtawara-shi (Ohtawara City) matsuri (festival) in Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture) when one of the women in my beginner’s English class I taught on the side of my regular JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme day job… and motioned for me to come over with quiet shouts of “An-do-ryu sensei!”

Obviously I wasn’t a very good English teacher to these adults. 

She showed me what she was selling in a pot on a burner at the kiosk… I looked at it, and she made this hopping motion with her fingers.

I looked again. It wasn’t kangaroo, and it wasn’t rabbit… it was what looked like grasshoppers in a stick, brown melange…

She scooped up a few into a small bowl and offered it t o me with a pair of wooden chopsticks.
Before I left for Japan, I was the kind of guy who hated to try different things. I had to be forced to play a musical instrument (okay, it was the accordion, so I had a good reason), and to do judo and soccer… and all were things that I excelled in (I did switch from accordion to piano - but when I was 16).

I was a standard meat and potatoes guy. The only ethnic food ate was Chinese and Chef Boyaredee (and defrostable mini pizzas)… heck,  I never even ate Japanese food until the night before I left for Japan back in 1990.

But… after begging my dad to let me stay home and not going to Japan the late night before I left (nerves, and a complete desire to not go to Japan), are promising my dad that I would go for the year, try and do everything and then decide if I liked the country… well…

I really did promise myself that I would. If you can’t believe in yourself, why should anyone believe in you?
Despite what people think, the image above of the man having "shot" a three-foot (one meter) long grasshopper in 1937, is a fake. No, really. I looked it up. Too bad, because that grasshopper looks like it could feed a family of five for a week.
After leaning how to use chopsticks a couple of weeks into my stay in Ohtawara, and learning that I really, really, really, really, really liked the taste of sake (Japanese rice wine), and that food tastes really good when you don’t know what you are eating, so why should you change your mind when you do learn what it really was… well… I ate everything that was put in front of me in Japan.

I’m not so rah-rah-raw on Japan that I will tell you that raw sliced cow-liver (gyu riba) or horse meat (basashi) was delicious… or squid guts (shimotsu kari, I think), but I did eat whale (it’s okay, but why?), snake, bear, fugu (poison blowfish), and the smelliest, foul-tasting thing that foreigners think is the devils stool… natto (fermented soy beans)… and I hated it at first, but tried it again, and hated it again, and tried it again and again until I realized it wasn’t that bad.

Then I started eating it and enjoying it, because the alternative was to not have lunch at school and to go hungry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry.

The point is… you have to put away your preconceived notions of what ever it is you have about everything—including insects as food.

You’ll recall that the necessities of life are: food, shelter and clothing. Food is always #1.

Get ready for the future. Tomorrow… the cool way to eat your bugs…

Until then, here’s a brief snippet from one of my all-time favorite movies, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World:



Moshi-moshi mushi (telephone greeting “hello" insects),
Andrew Joseph

2 comments:

  1. Made Chili for dinner last night and thought of you. I could see myself adding bugs to it (chopped up no legs or visible larva-like body parts) -- and the crew would probably eat it if it didn't change the texture. Extra protein. Mmm-mmm good.

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    1. Always glad to be thought of. Chili... I made it ONCE after I came back from Japan... and it sucked for some reason. Not spicy at all, despite my best intentions. But... once a week in Japan... a huge pot was made... I add cinnamon to the meat when browning it. Yeah... protein. Mmm is right. LOL!

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