Has Meat Met Its Match?
July 28, 2014 — The future of food arrived at Waitsfield Elementary School — a tiny brick throwback in Vermont’s pastoral Mad River Valley — just after lunch on May 15, 2014, in a handmade straw basket on the shoulder of Rachael Young. The cafeteria was still full of kids, so Young slipped into the kitchen as surreptitiously as possible. “Let’s see if we can do this on the sly,” she said to me. “I don’t want them to see anything ahead of time.”
We unpacked in a far corner of the kitchen, shooing away the occasional set of prying eyes. While I spread a ramp-knotweed pesto onto tortillas and cut them into eighths, Young found a pan, fired up the stove and dry-fried the main ingredient. “You may get a really weird smell in a moment,” she apologized. “It has something to do with the chitin when it’s heated. But it still tastes great!”
Eating Insects for Dinner Could Save the World
Rachael Young has been getting a lot of attention for her culinary explorations. But the founder of the pro-entomophagy organization Eat Yummy Bugs is, more than anything, a conservationist. "It informs everything I do," she says.
Much of what Young does these days is spread the word that not only are insects delicious, but eating them on a large scale could have huge health and environmental benefits and open up profitable, sustainable avenues of commercial agriculture. The first step, she says, is to get past the cultural stigma attached to eating insects — a task for which she is well prepared.
Young, 33, knows that the revolution of insect eating will never arrive unless bugs can be prepared in tasty, non-icky ways. Which is why she teamed up with chef Mark Olofson and the adventurous spirits at Burlington's ArtsRiot to host a "bug dinner": a showcase of just how tasty bugs can be.
How to eat yummy bugs
When Rachael Young was a kid, the produce on her dinner plate came from her father's garden. She was a stickler for looking over the greens to remove the hidden critters from her food. She didn't want to encounter any bugs once the food traveled from fork to mouth.
Fast forward a couple of decades. From dedicated vegetarian, Young has become a dedicated bug eater, and she's whipping up recipes she hopes will convince the rest of us to sample mealworms, crickets, and all other types of insect proteins. Eat Yummy Bugs is Young's business, and it grew out of a love of her home state and a desire to conserve the land and the waterways.
Young wants people to 'comfortably use insects in culinary creations' because she considers the effect of meat production on the planet so deleterious. While she's always had a vegetarian mind-set, in her home area of rural Vermont there's a strong agricultural community that has viewed cows and other livestock as livelihood. Young wants to expand the agricultural norm to include bugs: in addition to being nutritious, Young considers them a renewable resource that reproduce exponentially and need much less water, food, and space than cows, chickens, and sheep.
Do I Dare To Eat A Bug?
When you sit down to dinner tonight, chances are you won’t be digging in to meal worms or crickets or any other insects. But if Montpelier environmentalist Rachael Young has her way, you just might.
Young is on a mission to, as she puts it, "educate the Western public" and dispel the taboo that hovers over the consumption of insects. "Because most of the world eats bugs, it's clear that [they're] a real food," she told Vermont Edition's Ric Cengeri. Not only are insects a viable source of protein, Young says, but raising them is less resource-intensive than raising animals for meat. And the taste is starting to catch on. "Insects are the new darlings of the avant-garde food world," NPR recently proclaimed.
Young arrived to her interview with a platter of insect confections for sampling, and discussed why and how bugs can make excellent, and even tasty, meals.