Edible: An Adventure into the World of Eating Insects and the Last Great Hope to Save the Planet (book review)

What is it that we are all seeking here at TreeHugger? At its root, don’t we just want to know that we are living a life that humans can continue to live, in balance with the planet, for as many generations of humans as may follow us?

If that philosophy rings true to you, then pause in your perusal of today’s offerings here to order Daniella Martin’s book Edible: An Adventure into the World of Eating Insects and the Last Great Hope to Save the Planet.

© Courtesy of Amazon Publishing

If you are hesitating, still thinking “yes, I am a TreeHugger, but I draw the line at eating bugs,” Daniella’s contagious enthusiasm about edible insects has the power to make you think again, to make you want to “taste the revolution for yourself” as she puts it.

Edible explores the history of insects in the human diet, and roams from South America to Asia examining insects in cultures around the world. “Cheetos are technically made of yuckier stuff than this,” she resolves after a moment’s surprise at Oaxacan children’s love for red grasshopper treats.

She humorously imagines customers at a fast-food restaurant called McImpacts, where customers are served up all the wastes and by-products of their meal, proving that charting the relative footprints of our foods need not be dry and boring.

The examination of our bug bigotry may be the most mind expanding aspect of the book. “It’s a simple fact that many of the bugs we hate the most are the ones that eat what we eat,” she observes before questioning the torturous deaths to which we condemn many insects with our widespread use of pesticides. But don’t get me wrong here. Edible is not extremist or condemning, but an exploration of the truth in search of the right answer to the question of how we as humans can live a good life in balance with nature’s wondrous bounty. Ultimately, should we not find balance in using all the edible options available to us as omnivores?

© Courtesy of Amazon Publishing

People seeking healthier options in their diets will be drawn to the nutritional facts presented. The rich protein, complete in all the essential amino acids, in bugs is the least of it. From unsaturated essential fatty acids to vital nutrients like calcium, zinc, iron, and vitamin B12, bugs beat meat by a mile.

Advocates of the popular Paleo diet may not like how she traces our evolutionary tree back to insectivores and examines scientific evidence that suggest that insectivory (eating insects) underlies the evolution of the human brain and possibly even our propensity to walk upright. Anyone eating meat like a caveman without bugs in the mix must examine the hypocrisy.

Vegans seeking health or planetary balance or ethical treatment of animals may be swayed by her arguments for bugs over industrially processed supplements. For those who choose to follow the detailed instructions on how to farm their own insects, Daniella offers sage advice from Harman Johar, founder of World Ento:

You may feel an attachment to your first generation,” he says. “When we first saw those baby mealworms coming up, we felt so proud, like grandparents. But the feelings of love disappear after the third generation.

Laced with anecdotes full of the wisdom of various proponents of eating insects and such rich descriptions of the taste and texture of many bug-based dishes that you will feel you have been missing out, Edible is both a quick read and a valuable resource which will certainly be consulted often by an army of new proponents of this incredible source of nutrition. Even those it cannot claim as converts will be more interesting around the dinner table after consuming this fact-filled frolic through the world of eating insects.

Tags: Food Miles | Food Safety | Food Security | Insects | Recipes