Foraging as a delicious interface between healthy living and interest-led learning

To be honest with you, our little family of three had run low on animal protein intake these days. All the joy of eating meat, organs, marrow and bone broth fading – true: just temporarily – into what seemed a further and further memory, take away the pig lard we have used as the sole cooking grease in the household for many months now. Regarding what follows here, we had a quite similar experience to what they describe in this great Sierra article as “nothing overcomes the bug/barf barrier like the combination of hunger and ready availability”.

Well, just almost: we have tossed around the idea of befriending insect eating (entomophagy) for awhile, beyond the theatrical ingestion of the occasional tiny wiggle-worm found in fruit and into the both logically and ecologically well rounded diet our family wishes to have some day. You know, it does happen – to us open-minded people over and over again – that necessity brings the future you wish for a bit closer, surprisingly close. Those times it’s up to one’s wisdom to embrace, rather than shy away from unfamiliarity.

Here is what Nina Munteanu, a Romanian Canadian ecologist and novelist pulled together about the potential role of insects in the future of our diet as humans’, in her short but informative blog post five years ago. It is perhaps a hesitant approach to a topic far and long ago removed from the discourse of western type, so-called civilized societies, nonetheless characterizes well modern squeamishness across much of the Caucasians dominated part of the world.

And in part it is exactly this standoffishness that is needed to be overcome here, if we are to give pragmatic, yet creative answers to some of what by now are urgent ecological challenges. Challenges that throughout the many millennia the devolution of producing food has entrenched us into, from first turning the soil with a stick all the way to the industrial agriculture as we know it today. But no more digression from our story…

 

Like one should never go to a restaurant and try to enjoy a gourmet meal when already starving, I also used my spontaneity at the most proper time. When we could already eat, but before our lunch-ready stomachs would have started to growl. Inviting our daughter with, I grabbed two lidded jars and stepped outside the kitchen building for what was my second entomophagous hunt ever.

Here is a sampler, well, pretty much the entire harvest of my first such foraging in almost 2 m (6 foot) tall grass:

the first harvest A few grasshoppers and praying mantises quick-fried in lard.

This time my intuition led us to the short, scythed grass between the kitchen building and the compost pile for easy and enjoyable access of the hunting grounds:

foraging in shorter grass

I gave my daughter the larger jar, the collector bin, and in my hand with a small catcher jar, we started walking slowly through the area, side by side, one of my legs stretched out as a toe rake, brushing through the grass blades.

It only took a few steps and Csermely’s jar started to become really animated with grasshoppers, some of them the curious looking nosed grasshoppers (Acrida hungarica) and we even captured a cricket – her grub:

animated harvest

It was heart-warming for me, her father to see Csermely take such a delight in the hunt, but what really melted me, was when we caught one of the largest insects of the day and seeing the excitement on my face, she bent over and kissed me overjoyed.

We were both novices to this, equal partners in learning patience, concentration, swiftness in action, letting go of what wasn’t mature enough, gentleness with our prey and probably a whole slew of other things we weren’t even aware of at the time.

But it all paid off:

insects fried in lard Our harvest quick-fried again in hot lard for a few minutes under lid. These insects made for wonderful crisp garnish without having to add a single grain of salt to enjoy.

Here’s what Csermely’s lunch plate looked like with but a few of the insects she ate, with amazing appetite and no preconceptions, prejudices whatsoever:

fried insects on rice

In such a situation, when a family introduces all new food into the children’s diet, I think it’s very-very important how we parents react to the novelty, behave in those critical moments. That’s not to say to be fake, but we should be very careful of not making grimaces or use words that evoke disgust in the child’s mind.  We ate quietly, sharing honest compliments about the flavorful crunchy food and watched her chow the insects down one after the other… It was an awesome experience – to all of us.

Taught and learned about providing for ourselves a healthy, nutritious meal straight from the wild, right outside our kitchen. Driven by curiosity, excitement and yes, a bit of necessity, too. What could be a better teacher?

Take David George Gordon, the Bug Chef’s riddle from his newly published (July, 2013) book, The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook, Revised: 40 Ways to Cook Crickets, Grasshoppers, Ants, Water Bugs, Spiders, Centipedes, and Their Kin to your heart (along with the many delectable bites he offers, to your stomach) and remember as a rule of thumb when out there arthropod hunting for your meal: “Red, orange or yellow – forgo this small fellow. Black, green or brown – go ahead and toss him down.”

Although at first glance it seems like numerous edible insects (for practical reasons let’s reduce the larger arthropod group to these species now) of those approximately 1,400 around the world come from the ones that live in relative closeness to our everyday human activities, inform yourself prior to foraging for insects, just like you would with wayside herbaceous plants or mushrooms!

Come on, awaken from the awe, gather a bit of courage, then a few grasshoppers and start snacking on something healthy! Oh, don’t forget to invite your children to the fun!

 

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About Roland

Roland has thirty-seven years of life, over twelve years of living - that is how long he has been married - and three and a half years of raising life experience. He was lent further enlightenment over what wholesome living means as his family of three went gluten-free on January 1st, 2013 and when even more recently they cut out A1 dairy and potatoes from their diet.