Dr. Brian Fisher, an entomologist and curator at the California Academy of Sciences, has studied and identified countless species of ants around the world—making for a career that has earned him the singular title of “ant man.” For nearly 30years, Fisher has been conducting field work in Madagascar, studying Malagasy ant diversity and advocating for an insect-focused approach to nutrition and natural conservation. Here, Fisher tells us why eating insects is a healthy practice for both our bodies and the planet.
In recent years, there’s been a growing interest in edible insects as a sustainable source of food. Could you tell us a bit about some of the environmental and health benefits?
In our Western cultures, we’ve entered into this conversation about insects mostly from the point of view of sustainability. Now, more and more, it’s in terms of health benefits, and we’re learning that if you eat insects, you can actually absorb more micronutrients, and iron, and others than you would if you ate a steak. More than that, you’re getting improved gut microbiomes. That’s really important, and a big advantage [from] eating insects. So this goes beyond sustainability, and that’s really interesting from a Western cultural perspective, where it’s clear we have a huge impact on the planet, and with a rising population, it becomes more evident we need to find alternative and sustainable food sources.
How did you come to study insects as a source of food?
I was on the ground in Madagascar, and it’s a different world, where people are more concerned about what they’re going to eat tomorrow. As a biologist, I was more concerned about how we were going to preserve the forests, and I was realizing that to preserve forest means also reducing bushmeat consumption. That comes right back to people, who, because of absolute need, are going to have to cut down the forest to grow a crop for one year, even that means it’s only going to grow from one year. So we had to find a new food source. The population’s growing, climate change impacting [things]—we have migrations of people across Madagascar moving to new areas. They don’t have more land to cut down forests and grow food—they don’t have more pasture to raise more cows. They needed an immediate solution. Insects are really the only sustainable option, and on top of it, the country already has had a huge, important history of eating edible insects. Every good housekeeper keeps dried crickets and locust powder on hand, in case of need, and it stores well.
What are some ways insects are prepared in Malagasy cooking, and how would you describe the taste?
Every insect is different—that’s what’s so cool. There’s one we call the “bacon bug,” because, yes, it tastes like bacon. It’s traditionally cooked with leafy greens and added to rice, but because it tastes like bacon, you can do so much with it: It amends so much to our Western or European palates, because we recognize that taste. Cricket powder is another traditional staple, ground to a fine powder and used as a component that adds a tasty roundness to sauces. They also grill fresh whole crickets and eat them, but the disadvantage of that is that they don’t store very well or take up space, so most people will boil then dry them after gathering them up, and grind them up to store.
They also prepare the cocoons of the silk moth, which are native species in Madagascar and are so tasty, and also part of a zero-waste model. They take the silk for their traditional local silk industry, and then these pupa, the stuff inside this cocoon, the baby larvae, is edible, and when you open it up, it looks like curdled milk. Traditionally, you can just fry them up and eat them. It tastes like veal brains.
What would it take to implement insect farming on a larger scale around the world, and what challenges lie ahead?
We’ve had hundreds of years of developing how to raise a cow, and eighty years’ worth of research on a chicken. But we’re just beginning to do this research on insects, so there are a lot of efficiencies to be gained in learning how to grow them faster, with less inputs, to yield a better product, and so forth. With Covid exacerbating so many issues related to hunger and our lifestyles, I think there’s a window for people to actually rethink what is required to keep our society functioning—that we’re not simply an entity away from Mother Nature, but a part of it. We’re connected. And that means we have to rethink our relationships in terms of sustainability and our food and agricultural systems.
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First came the sourdough craze; next, homemade cheese. Ricotta, to be specific. Since pandemic times, home cooking has ta recent episode of At a Distance. “For me, it was so wild how far away we had come from that, as a species—the fact that most people don’t know how to htry this recipe), requiring only two ingredients: milk and lemon. Add a bit of patience, which is something we could all stand to pract
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With Memorial Day weekend behind us, summer has officially begun, and for many home-growers, this signifies the busiest Kitazawa Seed Company, founded in 1917 by a Japanese American family, sells some of the best, and offers more than 500 seed varieties of dento yasai, traditional heirloom varieties of a diverse array of Asian vegetables used in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese cuisines, Browse the extensive catalog to learn about all the delicious varieties, and pick up some recipes for dishes such as sunomono, a simple and refreshing cucumber salad, and kinpira gobo, a savory side of burdock root sautéed in sweet soy sauce.
Thirty to forty percent of perfectly good, fresh produce grown in the U.S. goes to waste each year simply due to bruisinTerroir in a Jar, a company with a serious mission to reduce food waste and put profits back into the hands of growers.
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The ongoing Covid-19 closures have brought the unimaginable to so many local and small businesses across the country andFamily Meal, a site and Instagram account of recipe cards featuring dishes from their favorite local restaurants. All are available for download, with suggested bagna cauda from Popina, challah from The Lighthouse, and lou rou fan from Win Son.
Between homeschooling, working from home, and/or cooking at home more than ever, many of us are spending our days stayinan automated, open-source system called FarmBot that’s been slowly cultivating a fan base of users online. Controlled using an app, and assembled from a kit of parts, t
Daytime drinking is on the up—hey, it’s 5 p.m. somewhere (not that we can keep track of time these days, though the #HandMarkingTime Stories on our @slowdown.tv Instagram at least help us remember which day of the month it is). But if you prefer not to risk getting a hangover, or weakeningDram Apothecary makes a version of the increasingly popular drink in a range of flavors, such as cardamom and black tea, using CBD extrWild Mountain Sage) and switchels, as well as a set of CBD tinctures that you can either drop directly on your tongue, or add to any drink
The ongoing Covid-19 crisis has put a sudden and massive halt on the restaurant industry: Bars, small businesses, mega-c“morbidly high business death rate.” (There’s an episode of our At a Distance podcast on this very subject with Esquire food and drinks editor Jeff Gordinier coming out soon.) As wholesale restaurant suppliers now find their client bases on
As people everywhere settle into new home-cooking routines, finding resourceful ways to make their pantry goods stretch victory garden. Luckily for apartment dwellers without a backyard or access to much green space (more than half the world, basically), all you need is a corner of a countertop to grow some fresh herbs indoors. Better still, and for the botanEdn. The company makes wifi-controlled kits that come with a built-in LED grow light; simple seed pods for no-fuss, soillesSmall Garden order placed—a welcome reminder, in these uncertain times, that your efforts to stay indoors can make a difference for
Self-quarantine and social distancing in the age of the coronavirus are not to be taken lightly, and if, like us, you’refor your own safety and for the safety of others—you may be asking yourself what to stock your pantries with. Add to cart: DADA Daily, a line of tasty and healthy snacks that are neither heavy-handedly survivalist nor overprocessed and, not to mention, so don’t be that bulk-buying, toilet paper-stockpiling jerk.
As the daughter of Slow Food pioneer and Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters, Fanny Singer has had her share of Proustian Always Home: A Daughter’s Recipes and Stories (Alfred A. Knopf), offers a warm and sensorial portrait of her mother, and of an upbringing that often revolved around
Dimes, the all-day café, bar, and market founded by Sabrina De Sousa and Alissa Wagner in downtown Manhattan, has always doneDimes Times: Emotional Eating (Karma Books)—which she says is the first in a series of more publications to come.
Rich Shih, founder of the blog Our Cook Quest and co-author of the forthcoming book Koji Alchemy: Rediscovering the Magic of Mold-Based Fermentation, is a self-taught cook and fermentation expert who makes everything from takuan pickles to fish sauce from scratch, twekoji, the source of umami in fermented ingredients like miso, soy sauce, mirin, and more.
South Korean cinema has been on everyone’s lips this week, in the afterglow of director Bong Joon-ho’s triumphant OscarsParasite, the grand finale to a months-long award spree that began with a Palme d’Or win at the Cannes Film Festival last year. making history in more ways than one. By his second acceptance speech, Bong, whose reactions were being duly memed, was ready to hit the bar. His exact words: “I’m ready to drink now, until the morning.” A total mood.
Zach Mangan, founder of the specialty Japanese tea importer, gallery, and café Kettl, tells us what to look, smell, and taste for in a top-quality matcha.