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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Ghetto Gastro, the Bronx-based culinary collective working at the intersection of design, art, and social justice, has cooked up a taCRUXGG, includes a range of everyday appliances—a blender, a coffee maker, a toaster oven, an air fryer, and more—with matte-bEp. 2 of our Time Sensitive podcast), have released a rotating double waffle maker, which promises to yield perfectly browned, crisped edges, nooks, and crannies. True to Ghetto Gastro’s mission to igniKnow Your Rights Camp, a campaign founded by athlete-activist Colin Kaepernick. Consider the cookware, designed to be left out on the kitchen
Aishwarya Iyer never thought she would found an olive oil company. At least her background in start-ups and venture capi So Iyer decided to make her own, and launched Brightland in 2018. Using olives from a family-run farm on California’s central coast, the Los Angeles–based company makes extra-v
Sichuan cuisine, named for the subtropical province of China where it originates from, is characterized by a diversity omálà (a portmanteau meaning “numbing and spicy”), is marked by deep and pungent, peppery notes that you not only taste but fethe U.S. considered Sichuan peppercorns to be contraband; nowadays, you can find the little pink orbs in trendy cocktails that play on its citrus and camphor-like aromas. As thThe Mala Market, an online purveyor that stocks top-grade ingredients directly from Sichuan province. Here, in one fell swoop, you can blog of recipes to kick-start your culinary adventures.
Chefs and restaurant owners everywhere have had to rethink their business models this year, as social distancing and new
Several months into the pandemic, the restaurant industry remains among the hardest hit in the U.S., with scant evidenceparticularly those run by BIPOC entrepreneurs, who have been disproportionately affected by coronavirus-related losses—their fates lie directly in continuing sales. Eat Okra app, founded by New York couple Anthony and Janique Edwards in 2016, which gives a boost of visibility to Black-owned b
The 20th-century futurist, theorist, inventor, and architect R. Buckminster Fuller was a tireless visionary and radical thinker who wrote dozens of books and proposed theoretical designs advocating for Synergetic Stew: Explorations in Dymaxion Dining, a collection of recipes and anecdotes originally compiled by Fuller’s friends as a surprise gift for his 86th birthday
Tamy Rofe, a sommelier who owns Brooklyn’s farm-to-table-y Latin American restaurant Colonia Verde with her husband, Felipe Donnelly, operates by a matra borrowed from her mother: “La comida compartida sabe mejor.” In English, it means, “Food tastes better when shared.” From the eatery’s lived-in aesthetic to its signature Sunday general store,” selling and even delivering nearly every ingredient on its menu alongside prepared meals and grill boxes—a way for Co
Lexie Smith is an artist and baker, though it’s only relatively recently, after years of working in restaurant kitchens and balanciBread on Earth. Her work often takes on various forms, from performance and installation to photography, writing, and publishing, all
After years in various kitchens, working his way up from dishwasher to cook, and ultimately chef de partie at Eleven Madison Park, Matt Jozwiak left the fine-dining world behind in 2017 to start Rethink Food NYC, a nonprofit organization that partners with restaurants and grocery stores to reduce excess food and make nutritious, Ghetto Gastro and Jozwiak’s former boss, chef Daniel Humm—as collaborators in its mission to fight food insecurity and foster a more
Extolled by New York City’s finest restaurants, from Daniel to Eleven Madison Park and abcV, as well as a growing coteriDavocadoguy, is seemingly everyone’s go-to guy for the best avocados. He keeps his supply consistently stocked and perfectly ripene