The joys of adding insects to your daily diet

by Kai Chan

The food options at Princeton are rather threadbare:  The dining halls serve the same things day after day; Frist is simply atrocious; and the so-called eating clubs are places where I shudder to dine — but I’m happy to mooch a meal there if you care to invite me.  So what’s a person in this one-tiger town to do if she’s looking for a gastronomic adventure?  Before you shout “Go to Burger King!” let me say, “B.K. R.I.P.”  Thus, we are left to grovel at the feet of the administration for a tastier menu selection.

So what would I place on the menu?  Here’s my idea:  I suggest that we start serving insects.  Think about it.  Remember all those cicadas from last year?  Well, if people would open up their minds — and stomachs — instead of viewing the swathes of cicadas as some biblical-proportion plague, one would instead see a smorgasbord of asparagus on wings (yes, they taste like asparagus).  And what a delicacy they are — they only come around once every 17 years!

You can also take pride, when munching on a bug, in knowing that you are helping to control the pest population.  Plus, you’ll never have to worry about the supermarket or restaurant closing early again.  There are a lot of tasty creatures (squirrels too!) to be found on campus 24-7.  This is especially good for students on a budget.  Heck, instead of joining a club as a sophomore, you could join an insect coop and save yourself some money for more important things in life, like an MP3 player.

Okay, there a few downsides.  For one, some of these critters are downright creepy-looking, and after you’ve eaten them your mind might be ravaged by the thought of creepy things crawling in your stomach.  Worse yet, maybe you’ll have nightmares where these creepy things get their revenge and dine on you like in cheesy B-movies.  But this is a minor price to pay for the gastronomic bliss of eating nature’s bounty.  Besides, once you get accustomed to eating bugs they won’t seem so creepy anymore.  Take, for instance, oysters and escargots. Now if you ask me, these things are truly gross — though I do relish them!.  Yet it is acceptable and fashionable to eat these slimy (and expensive) molluscs.

For those of you who are food snobs, I will attest that insects are really scrumptious.  I’ve had the pleasure of dining on grasshoppers in Bangkok, tarantulas in Chang Mai and water beetles in Guangzhou, to name a few.  And no, none of them taste like chicken.  Stir-fried grasshoppers are flavourful and are a good alternative to potato chips.  Tarantulas taste like crab and make great pets when they’re not roasted.  But truthfully I wouldn’t recommend water beetles; they taste like rubber.

On a (more) serious note now, I often find myself craving Cantonese food, which Princeton sorely lacks.  Dim sum — which literally means “touch heart” — is a great morning ritual where small food items, akin to tapas, are pushed around on carts.  The names of the dishes are called out in Cantonese; thus the language-challenged are often left to peek under the lids to discover what’s being offered, so it also happens to be an amusing experience for the novice.  My favorite dim sum (har gau — shrimp wrapped in flour paste and then steamed in a bamboo basket) comes in fours, so I’d like to dedicate this column to four Princetonians who’ve added flavor to my Princeton experience:  Yoko (“Oinkster”) Kubota ’05, Wade Pfau *03, Guillaume Sabouret GS and Austin Starkweather ’04.  Blame Austin if you don’t like my articles, since he’s the one who originally got me involved with the ‘Prince’.  May your rice/gohan/riz/fàn bowls always be full!

I hope that I have tickled your brain with my columns.  Comments and criticisms are most welcome.  In fact, I enjoy a good debate and would be happy to sit down over a coffee with anyone who’d like to argue the finer points of same-sex marriages, the Israel-Palestine conflict, affirmative action, etc.  I might even take an opposite opinion, even if I agree with you, just for the sake of a good debate.  Cheers!

Kai Chan is an economics graduate student from Toronto, Canada.

The Daily Princetonian: “The joys of adding insects to your daily diet”

Published: Wednesday, May 4th, 2005