Buzzing: Celebrities who eat insects
Howdy all, how have you been? This week’s issue is my first guest post, and a really fun one with lots of celebrity videos 😎 I hope you enjoy it!
Celebrity endorsements will help normalise insects as food
In Other News: Courses & conferences
Test Corner: Spaghetti al aglio e olio, with crickets
A couple of weeks ago, actress Drew Barrymore tried insects on her TV show. In the video, you can see that she’s very much gearing herself up for it, shoving handfuls of bugs in her mouth before realising that they’re actually tasty. “I’m not kidding, it’s totally delicious,” she says with her mouth full. “What do they taste like?”, her co-host asks. “Like a crunchy treat,” she responds, slightly surprised.
Barrymore is not the first celebrity to have tried insects, and certainly not the most confident. Last year, fellow edible insect enthusiast Anders Engström of Bug Burger wrote a great post about the best edible insect celebrity endorsements, which I thought was a brilliant idea. I really do think celebrities will be key to make edible insects mainstream, either as influencers or through advertising. Can you imagine the buzz if Nigella Lawson or Gordon Ramsay included a mainstream recipe including insects in one of their TV shows?
Anders has kindly allowed me to reproduce his post here. My favourite celebrity moment is Angelina Jolie asking her kids if they’d like to share a spider. Which one’s yours?
1. Robert Downing Jr
In recent years actor Robert Downey Jr is most famous for his role as Tony Stark, the brilliant inventor/billionaire who became the superhero Iron Man. This role, and many others have made Robert Downey JR a wealthy man and he has decided to put his money and his name to good use and help save the environment. In 2020 he started the Footprint coalition with the idea of finding new tech that can save our planet, and then together with other investment partners fund the company behind the technology.
In November 2020 it was official that French insect farm company Ÿnsect received funding from the coalition. And in February 2021 Robert Downey JR made a big splash when promoting edible insects (mealworms) on The Late show with Stephen Colbert.
2. Nicole Kidman
The American magazine Vanity Fair invited celebrities to be part of a series of films where they showed off their “secret talents”. Nicole Kidman’s talent got a lot of attention, three times more views than Tom Hanks “I know how to change ribbons on old typewriters”-film. Nicole ate insects, four different species, and she even ate them alive… (which I don’t recommend). Extra credits for calling them “micro livestock”, and adding that eating insects isn’t weird at all, 2 billion people eat them regularly. But few of these 2 billion people eat insects with the same flair as Australian actress Nicole Kidman.
3. Gordon Ramsay
Always good when chefs treat edible insects with respect, and it is great to see that one of the world’s most famous TV chefs Gordon Ramsay has done this several times. At least the last couple of years. When he was served Casu marzu, Sardinian maggot cheese, in 2008 he was a bit skeptical, but in 2010 he learnt that the best chutney in the world is made with ants… in 2019 he made scrambled eggs with worms in Peru and when going to Cambodia he made a serious attempt at hunting, frying and eating tarantulas. He appreciated the legs.
4. Salma Hayek
Born and bred in Mexico, a country where over 500 insect species are traditionally eaten, actress Salma Hayek knows how to eat them. And she has several times shown the rest of the world how great insects taste. In 2007 she visited Ellen DeGeneres and showed an excited audience how to eat chapulines. In 2010 she explained to David Letterman why she eats insects and in 2015 she showed her fans on Instagram how to eat crickets. Looking forward to Salma setting up her own edible insect brand! (she should!)
5. Angelina Jolie
In early 2000 the American actress Angelina Jolie spent a lot of time in Cambodia filming Tomb Raider. The visit made a big impact on her and she adopted a boy and became a first-time mother. She also brought home Cambodian culture and cuisine, and in many interviews claimed that she and her kids eat crickets. When visiting Cambodia in 2017 a TV crew from BBC filmed her when the family ate tarantulas and scorpions. A widely spread film clip that made her one of the eat-insects-celebrities.
In Other News
Joseph Yoon of Brooklyn Bugs stars in this great video on Gastro Obscura; there is a lovely segment of Yoon enjoying the Brood X cicada buzzing last spring, as well as great insight about what motivated him to cook insects. Yoon is running an online cooking course with parent company Atlas Obscura in April. The four-lesson course starts next week.
📅 I hope you’ll indulge me in some personal announcements: I am moderating a webinar on insects as food and feed next week; it is jointly organised by IPIFF and NACIA. Join us if you can, it’s free. I am also speaking at the Royal Entomological Society Insects as Food and Feed conference at the Natural History Museum in London on 27 April.
🧪 Fera Science, a UK research organisation on food and the environment, has invested £1 million in a new insect lab at its base in York.
🐛 French mealworm company Ÿnsect expands to the US market by acquiring American mealworm company Jordan. (Reuters)
🥡 London (or UK) based readers: Yum Bug now have a market stall in the very trendy Brick Lane market if you fancy an insect bite.
Test Corner: Spaghetti al aglio e olio, with crickets
Our parlsey plant was looking particularly bushy last week so I thought I should make something with it and I remembered seeing this recipe a while back on Yum Bug’s website. It’s a simple, classic Italian dish, with spaghetti served with gremolata, a sauce made of parsley, garlic, lemon and olive oil.
This version also adds chilli, which I am always partial to; I also happened to have some sriracha crickets in the cupboard, which I thought would just make the whole dish sing.
I think I went slightly overboard with the garlic but overall the dish was fantastic. Not only is it super quick to make, I thought the crickets were a brilliant addition: great umami flavour, which meant I didn’t have to add much salt, and a soft crunch. Because my crickets were already flavoured, I added them straight from the pack and didn’t bother frying them (one less step in the recipe!).