With corn tortillas filled with roasted mealworms topped with guacamole, chocolate ‘chirp’ insect protein cookies and crunchy raincoast crisps with roasted crickets and humus on offer, Camosun College anthropology instructor Nicole Kilburn is proving that eating insects can be great for the environment as well as for the taste buds.
Kilburn and nearly 40 students in her popular anthropology of food course are inviting the public to a special event to sample various foods using insect ingredients and to visit interactive displays that challenge cultural reactions to eating bugs. The second-ever ‘Pestival’ of edible insects takes place on Monday, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the second floor of the Wilna Thomas building at Camosun’s Lansdowne campus.
“It’s time for the world to start thinking of insects as an ingredient,” said Kilburn “We have several teams of students who can show people how to add insects to their cooking and come up with nutritious and delicious creations. And as an added bonus, we’re exploring the logistics of growing insects as food as a form of food security, their nutritional benefits and environmental footprint.”
Student organizer Chloe Mumford remembers the first time she ate an insect during Kilburn’s class. “Once I got past the fact that I was placing an entire creature in my mouth – wings, legs and eyeballs included – it was actually pretty great. It tasted kind of like a mix between a sunflower seed and Rice Krispie square texture-wise, but the flavour was mild and when mixed with the right ingredients, it was delicious,” she said.
When the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization published an influential report on the merits of growing and consuming sustainable insect protein in 2008, the idea of adding bugs to the menu was practically unheard of in North America.
“A lot has changed since then,” says Kilburn enthusiastically, noting that in the past few years a number of companies have sprung up to take advantage of growing local demand for food with a smaller environmental footprint. “Two billion people around the world eat insects regularly and it’s normal for them, so let’s evaluate why we in the west don’t eat insects and start the conversation about how we can incorporate them into our diet.”
When Kilburn and her students organized the first Pestival in 2014, tickets sold out almost immediately. This year, the expanded event aims to provide more opportunities for the community to get involved and to move from the theory to the plate on what it means to eat and think sustainably.
“We’re a community college and that means that engaging with the community is important. Organizing the first Pestival was a great opportunity to have students do more than just a term paper and to engage in something that actually we’re starting to talk an awful lot more about as a society. This year is going to be bigger and we really want to challenge people to try new things.”
Pestival tickets are $5, available online at Eventbrite.ca or at the Lansdowne campus bookstore.