Grub's Up: Adjusting our Palate to a Plate of Insects

06 September 2013

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While some Australians sitting down to the their morning ritual of toast, fruit or cereal would be unable to fathom the idea of popping a nutritious worm into their mouths, more than two billion people around the world include insects as part of their daily diets.

Food security is an ongoing source of conflict and concern in many parts of the world, and communities are making the most of their resources by eating insects.

In Australia, discussion is turning to whether our menus can include a heavier presence of invertebrates – and how our palates would go in adjusting!

The South Australian Museum is hosting an adults-only event that offers guests an exciting discussion about entomophagy – or eating insects – with top figures in science and cooking, followed by an insect feast by renowned Bistro Dom Chef Patron Duncan Welgemoed.

Crunch away on crickets and other tasty invertebrates, drink South Australian wine (Jauma), beer (Lobethal) and cider (Lobo) and be entertained by Triple J Unearthed band Carla Lippis and the Martial Hearts. The event will take place on Friday, 13 September at 7pm.

The panellists include Professor Phil Weinstein, Professor of Ecosystem Health at the University of South Australia’s Barbara Hardy Institute; Bistro Dom Chef Patron Duncan Welgemoed; Professor Andrew Austin, Director of the Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity at the University of Adelaide; and Kristen Messenger, Invertebrate Ecologist, Bugs n Slugs, Conservation Education Services. It will be moderated by Professor Chris Daniels, also of UniSA’s Barbara Hardy Institute.

South Australian Museum Acting Director, Professor Andrew Lowe, is a biologist and will be introducing the panel on the night. He says, “This event is a perfect example of where the South Australian Museum stands out among other venues in the State. We are combining cutting edge science with outstanding food expertise to examine an important social issue, and we’re doing it in an environment that is warm, inspiring and entertaining.”

Guests will hear perspectives of both scientific and food industries in considering a crunchier sort of diet.

Chef Duncan Welgemoed grew up in South Africa, where one of the staple foods were Mopane worms. “You’d collect them off the dew of the grass, dry them on corrugated iron, spice and salt them and then leave them to dry for a couple of days. Usually you’d rehydrate it in a sheba, which is traditionally a tomato, chilli and onion concoction - and serve it with wild spinach.”

Having worked in top restaurants in Paris, London and now Adelaide, Chef Welgemoed has been exposed to various cooking methods that include scorpions, maggots, bee waste products and other insects as part of the menu.

At Bistro Dom on Waymouth Street, he has served roasted ants and crickets.

“That’s the big thing with insects – it has to be delicious. The western world considers it taboo and sometimes I’ve had resistance, but I’ve stuck to my guns and people have really enjoyed the food.”

The restaurant sources insects from an edible bug shop in New South Wales: “There is an ant nest and the owner uses a ‘bug hoover’ to get them out.

“Insects are sustainable and a high source of protein and vitamins. Having a couple of insect farms producing thousands of insects to feed people is just brilliant. I can’t see any negatives in changing Western countries’ perceptions.”

As food trends go, hesitation can often give way to fully embracing certain foods, such as sushi. Whether people will be willing to swap their juicy beef steak for a bowl of crickets is yet to be seen. However, Aboriginal Australians traditionally survived in good health from a diet including many insects, such as witchetty grubs.

Chef Welgemoed and the scientists agree, the possibility of more restaurants and households putting bugs on the menu is a conversation that needs to be had.

Join us for a unique and essential evening of considering how we can best adapt to challenges in food security, and enjoy fantastic cuisine and entertainment with your friends.