Ready to Eat Insects?

Are you ready to eat insects? We used to sift the mealworms out of flour. Now, I guess we should release them into a frying pan as an alternate source of protein. Whether we do, or don’t, embrace this trend will come down to whether we’re ready to eat insects.

grasshopper

I’m not sure why this idea seems foreign. We eat all sorts of things that are gross when you sit and think about them – hearts, livers, intestines, brains. We consume a tasty rind on cheese without a second thought even though it may have live mites in it. We drink wine enhanced by the fungus Botrytis cinerea and serve it with salami dry-cured using penicillium. And yet when my sister noticed that the reason for the high protein content of the protein bar she was eating was crickets, she put it down…in the trash can.

Humans are weird creatures. We’ll eat food full of harmful chemicals we can’t pronounce but avoid natural foods that are healthy because we can’t get our mind around eating bugs. Makes you wonder if our minds work right.

Perhaps the best introduction of a new protein is in something sweet like a brownie or cookie. Or how about a gummy? Biblical Protein sells strawberry gummies made of locusts.

Insect protein doesn’t have to stand on its own. It can be combined with traditional protein sources like beef or chicken. If grasshoppers truly have a nutty, mushroom flavor, they probably won’t stand out in many dishes as anything other than additional depth of flavor.

One concern for those of us with food allergies and sensitivities will be whether our system can tolerate these new proteins. In one study, 94% of participants that reported having prior allergies, also reported symptoms indicative of an allergic reaction after consuming grasshoppers and water bugs seemed to be the most likely insect of those studied to cause an allergic reaction.

I don’t know whether food sensitivity also increases the chance of an adverse reaction to adding insect protein to your diet. There will continue to be studies and anecdotal reports to follow as our knowledge base increases.

Even if you’re not ready to consider alternate sources of protein right now, I believe there will be an increasing number of products containing them available. It will be interesting to see whether how these products compare in taste, texture, and price to plant-based alternatives as well as to traditional protein sources.

If you’re adventurous, adding a little ground fly larvae to the kid’s cookies could be fun! And early introduction may be the best way for the population to get ready to eat insects.

I can’t really imagine moving to insect protein in 2023, but now is a great time to begin reviewing habits and determining the changes we are willing to embrace. And insect protein is something to keep an eye on, especially for us label readers.

Am I ready to eat insects? Not today, but I’m not ruling it out in the future.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Our Thanksgiving Recipes Are Safe From AI for Now!

Looks like our Thanksgiving recipes are safe from AI for now! There’s a running joke in my family about not angering the bots because they will come for you…or your job. Artificial intelligence has now entered the recipe creation game. So maybe it’s not really a joke?

It’s certainly tempting to include AI to generate inventive ideas, ingredient lists and measurements, cooking instructions, and photos! That would save us a ton of time. At Cooking2Thrive, we test, test, and retest our original recipes. We taste them hot. We taste them cold. We tweak and sometimes start over from scratch. No matter how efficient we make the process, it is time consuming!

From years of experience, we know that 1/8 tsp of this or that can make a difference. And we measure until we get consistently delicious results. But we also know that cooking is both art and science. Sometimes your senses let you know that today you need less moisture in a batter because it doesn’t look or feel right even though you carefully measured. How can this be?

My previous job involved press checks of four-color process printing. For years, the control boards on sheetfed presses have had the ability to record readings so that you can use them on a reprint to get consistent color. But ask any good pressman whether he relies on a recording to match a previous run and he’ll tell you, no.

Why? As one pressman told me – you go make the temperature, humidity, paper surface, and mechanics of the press exactly the same and I’ll use a recording for consistent color. Otherwise, those levels are meaningless. I have to adjust for conditions that exist today. His job is part art and part science as well.

And the same principles apply to cooking. Cooks and chefs must adjust to the conditions that exist in the moment. If we don’t, the result won’t be as good. Some people may find that frustrating. They may be more tempted to include AI in their cooking in the future.

Currently, artificial intelligence can gather data from millions of sources, add personal preference, and create something innovative, but it cannot simulate the perception that lets a cook or chef know that something’s not quite right. That’s the art of the job. It’s intuitive and incorporates all the senses.

Artificial intelligence may learn to incorporate something that mimics the art of cooking at some point because it’s always learning. And I can see using some AI functions as tools at some point. But I’m not sure how AI will ever inject the love that we know makes food taste better. Is artificially generated love the same as real love?

Whoa, let’s pull that question back or we’ll be into many more areas than cooking. With Thanksgiving upon us, many are pulling out family recipes. Others are looking for a new idea to impress the in-laws. All of us are recognizing the time we must carve out to create the meal.

While it may be tempting to rely on AI to save us time, don’t expect equivalent results this year. Traditional recipes are the safe bet for now so stick with those. And don’t forget to add the love!

Is Familiar Better?

Last night, I ordered steak, baked potato, and broccoli from a chain restaurant and I began to ask is familiar better? It was late. I had just returned from 3700 miles of driving. I was tired, dirty, and hungry. I was grateful a restaurant was open.

From the first bite, I recognized the taste and smell even though I’d never ordered that meal from this restaurant before. The moment seemed weird until I was struck by the fact that much of the food from chains simply tastes the same. That’s what was familiar – the taste of chain food.

Is it the same? Possibly. A shared distributor could mean I would eat the same steak at 3 different restaurants within a few blocks of each other. And if it comes pre-seasoned, of course it’s going to taste the same.

Is there some particular food additive that homogenizes flavors? Also possible.

Or could it be that the food is the same because several brands are owned by the same corporate parent? That could be as well.

Whatever the reason, I’m pondering whether familiarity makes food more appealing?

There’s something that pulls people into popular chains over and over again. Some theories say it’s added fat and sugar that causes us to crave prepackaged food. And much of the food in chain restaurants is at least partially preprepared.

Others might say the food is the best ever! And maybe it is. I relate better to fresh food prepared on site because it agrees with my tummy more. Or maybe I’m picky.

I could come by pickiness naturally. My mother took a strong stance on saltine crackers and vanilla wafers. According to Mom, the only good saltines were Nabisco Premium Saltines. Anything else was inferior and not allowed in our house. Keebler Zesta® – not even elves could sell her on them. Lance- never. They weren’t fit to be crumbled into chili. And you certainly wouldn’t eat them with a piece of cheese.

Nabisco Nilla Wafers did not meet Mom’s exacting standard so brand loyalty in the way we currently think of it was not at play. And yet the remnants of my memories surrounding these foods drive me toward to buy the brands she preferred. Or at least they did before I had to choose gluten-free brands.

I don’t just gravitate toward things my mother liked. I also gravitate toward familiar foods I ate as a child – fresh tomatoes, okra, corn, potatoes, lettuce, beef, ham, chicken, blackberries, huckleberries, apples, cornbread, and ginger snap cookies. I crave my grandmother’s beef and noodles. I love vinegar-based coleslaw like my mom made. Familiar binds me to tradition as well as food.

All of this leads me to think that carefully considering which foods we allow to become familiar to our children could be an effective way to set the stage for lifelong healthy eating. And if that happens, I feel like we can definitely say familiar is better!

Dream Big?

Is it always good to dream big? I would never be one to discourage anyone from pursuing their dreams. I’m a huge proponent of going after whatever you want. But I see a number of people who don’t make the first step toward any dream because they’ve dreamed so large the stakes feel too high.

Conventional wisdom is that you must be able to dream something to make it so. Maybe that’s true. But only dreaming something will never make it real. That may be overstating a little. There are flukes, coincidences, and fortuitous things that may dump a dream in your lap. But those rarely happen without some prior positioning on your part.

So, when do dreams become a stumbling block?

When they are too dazzling. Some dreams are so big and shiny they seem impossible. If we believe they aren’t possible, they won’t be. We will subconsciously thwart every practical step we could take toward making them so.

When they don’t align with our values. Sometimes we dream of doing something in order to earn someone else’s approval or acceptance. If you value time with family but follow the dream of landing a job that requires long hours you may feel too conflicted to fully enjoy reaching that goal.

When the dream is rigid. If you dream of having a diamond song (10 million sales) and you feel bad because you only reach gold (500,000 recordings) your dream may be too rigid. Being able to shift enough to embrace and enjoy many levels of success is key for a dream not to become a detriment.

When a dream requires equipment or time beyond your means. The larger the dream, the more training or equipment it may require. If that equipment is too far out of reach, you are shooting your dream in the foot before you ever start.

When it sounds good on the surface but feels bad underneath. Some dreams sound wonderful when we hear ourselves tell them to other people. And some dreams feel the same way. Others sound good but feel so threatening that we may freeze and be unable to pursue them.

When they won’t really improve our lives. I know a ton of people who dreamed of owning huge homes. They finally bought one about the time their kids all went to college. The larger home cost more to furnish, brought larger utility bills, higher insurance premiums, and more required maintenance. It also took longer to clean. This meant less time and money to travel or do fun things with the kids.

When they make us feel unworthy. I may dream of being the fastest runner on the track team. I can run every day. I can do everything my coach asks. I will never be the fastest. I have short legs and adequate athletic ability. If I focus on being the fastest, I will always come up short.

Does that mean I’m not a valuable team member? Not necessarily. Long races require stamina more than speed. That’s an area in which I might contribute. Pole vaulting requires timing and coordination. But if I remain focused on my dream of being the fastest, I may not see these as options. I may feel inadequate and unworthy of my place on the team.

Perhaps I mention this because of the reaction I get when I tell my children I ran hurdles as a kid. I’m 5’1” now. I’ve always been short. The idea of me running hurdles sends them into fits of giggles every time it’s mentioned.

But I wasn’t a disaster. I could feel the rhythm of the run and it was no problem to clear the hurdles. I also ran cross-country. My times were much more competitive in that than in sprints which brings me to…

When they’re too specific. If I had dreamed of being a successful member of the track team, I achieved the dream. If I had dreamed of being the fastest on the track team, I failed. The only difference in the dreams is the specificity.

Dreaming is good. Believing that you can achieve is good. But dreaming big? That can go either way.