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Around Town: Insects, they’re whats for dinner now

Wisconsin State Journal

By Samara Kalk Derby

Insects may be the food group of the future but at the Madison Children’s Museum, their time is now.

Rooftop manager Julie Butler raises insects to incorporate them into museum programs demonstrating insects’ value as a sustainable food.

“Why is eating an insect any more weird or gross than eating a slaughtered cow?” Butler asked.

“It’s the wave of the future,” she said. “Just like 20 years ago everyone thought sushi was weird and gross, and now it’s on every street corner.”

Butler said the museum is teaching children to eat insects because they don’t have “all the arbitrary cultural hang-ups that grown-ups have.”

Grown-ups got in on the insect action Friday night at an Edible Insect Banquet, which was held during the third annual Sustainability Sideshow, part of the series of night-time parties for adults at the museum.

Chef Dave Heide, who owns the Fitchburg restaurant Liliana’s and was trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Minneapolis, prepared a menu of mealworm “crab” cakes, crispy superworm “chicken” salad gougers, waxworm tacos, cricket bread pudding, and chocolate- covered crickets.

Heide said Friday night’s dinner was a first for him. He had never cooked with insects and procured all of his “secret ingredients” from the museum.

“I’m all about trying new things, things that are outside the norm,” Heide said as he fried up the worm cakes in a makeshift kitchen on the museum’s lower level. He said he tried out all of the insect recipes himself first before foisting them on museum diners.

“You get people who do the ‘ewws,’ so we wanted to do something that tasted good and wouldn’t freak people out,” he said. “My original thought was that this was a neat gimmick, but it wasn’t bad.”

Matt Feifarek, a member of the Madison chapter of Slow Food who was dining with two others Friday, agreed that the worm cakes weren’t so bad. “It tastes like fried food,” he said.

Insects, it turns out, are a sustainable food resource eaten by people around the world, including parts of Africa, South America, Asia, Mexico, Australia and the Netherlands.

The idea of supplementing a diet with insects, called “entomophagy,” is gaining traction as the world’s population continues to balloon. Insects are thought by many to have the untapped potential to address world food shortages.

Not only are insects high in protein, they require little room to raise, and they are more environmentally friendly than other protein sources such as beef and chicken, said the museum’s Jonathan Zarov.

The Children’s Museum holds insect-eating events at least once a month, Zarov said. Last year it had a bug-eating station at its spring golf outing. And it is working on a Beer & Bugs event for July, but no date has been set.

The next edible insects event for kids will be held at noon May 23 at the museum’s rooftop clubhouse.

As Gail Hutchison bit into a waxworm taco Friday night, she admitted that seeing the worm inside the tortilla was a bit shocking. She called the worm a “little bitter, maybe a little nutty,” and quickly added that she would do it again.

Quipped her tablemate, Sara Nics: “In 20 years we might do it again.”

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