I’m currently trying to plan what I’m going to eat while I’m doing my upcoming long distance hike. One of the sticking points is how to get enough protein.
I don’t eat milk, so this cuts out many milk based protein powders. There are many vegan options, generally made of pea, soy, or rice protein, but when I think about the amount of processing needed to extract the protein from those legumes/grains, I don’t want to eat them. (Not to mention the colours, flavours, additives etc). And sure, I love nuts and legumes, but the actual eating of them (or too many of them) can quite easily upset my delicate flower of a digestive system. Also, they are quite heavy to carry.
So, how to get enough protein? In my normal life as well, I have this issue. I could just eat meat, but I’m less and less inclined toward this option. Partly because I feel sad thinking about killing an animal, and partly because I feel sad about what farming said animals is doing to our earth. (Also in a hiking context, jerky is often full of preservatives and sugar, as well as being super expensive!) So, the idea of eating bugs has come up on varied occasions, and I’ve been starting to get interested in them for a while. I caught up with a friend recently who is also getting interested in bugs, and after talking excitedly about the concept I started looking into it a little more. I was surprised to see how many new bug-based foods are popping up. Protein bars, chips (crisps), generally made of crickets over other bugs.
There are also specialty foods available to buy, like chocolate covered spiders (the thought of this makes me want to vomit and shiver at the same time) as well as high class bugs used in certain restaurants. Crickets though, they are big news. And, it turns out, big protein. 70% protein, in fact. Also a great source of calcium. And did I mention the sustainable aspects? Much less water, less land needed, less processing equipment, less methane, less blood and guts
So I found only a couple of places that sell cricket powder/flour online in Aus, and they were both fuck-off expensive. About $90 a kg! Which is prohibitively expensive, in my book, for something you are planning to eat more than a gram of at a time. I widened my search and found some much more affordable options based out of Thailand. Now, does buying an overseas cricket powder cancel out all the environmental benefits of eating the crickets versus meat in the first place? I don’t know, I haven’t done the maths. Possibly.
I got all excited and posted on facebook, ‘who wants to buy some cricket powder with me and share the shipping cost?!’ After preparing myself for being inundated with enthusiastic comments of similarly forward thinking sustainable people like myself, I was surprised to only get one comment. From my friend with whom I’d had the cricket conversation before all this started. Hmmpf. Ok, fine. So instead of going and buying up a couple of kgs, I just got a sample of 100g. And I am glad I did.
Attempt number one
I got the sample from the first company after a week or two. Opened the little foil sachet up and was first up surprised at the colour. I saw some pics online of the powder, and was expecting pale sort of beige colour. But this was more dark green/brown. Then I gave it a sniff and, ergh, it was not good. I’d seen it described as a mild, nutty flavour. I would not under any circumstances describe this as such. I would more put it along the lines of meaty, mealy, organic, animal mulch scent.
I thought, maybe it’s just the smell. Maybe it’s like gelatin, which is an animal product, which smells gross in the packet, and when you dissolve it in hot water, but once it cools down it doesn’t smell much like animal.
So I made some pancakes. I made them the way I often make a savoury pancake for myself; eggs, zucchini, a touch of rice milk, salt. And two heaped teaspoons of cricket powder. I fried up the first few little guys in coconut oil. I could smell the mealy meaty smell wafting up from the pan. Gross. I tasted them. Gross. They tasted like they smelled. I thought fuck, I’m not wasting all this pancake mix. How do I hide it? So I added a bunch of cacao powder and some rice malt syrup. Chocolate pancakes. Yum!
Not yum. Chocolate animal flavoured pancakes. I am a generally somewhat frugal and non-wasteful person by nature (Food waste! Sustainability! $$!) so I thought shit, I have to eat all this. I cooked up the rest of the batter, in little pancake blobs. I was eating it as I was cooking it, to try and make it disappear quicker. This was not a stack of pancakes I wanted to sit down and savour. However, I still ended up with a small stack of them. I forced them down, sitting outside on the balcony. By the end, I was literally holding my nose while I stuffed them in my mouth, and * almost * got to the point of retching. It was FUCKING TERRIBLE. But I was like shit, $40 a kg, I have to eat this! (Food waste! People starving! Precious cacao!)
I was pretty disappointed. I texted my boyfriend later in the day saying, ‘I tried out the cricket powder. It was not good’. While writing him this text, the thought of it actually made me feel sick. It was like when you smell a bad smell, and then its almost like that smell gets stuck in your nose? I totally had cricket pancakes stuck in my nose all day.
I wanted to give up there and then, but I had already ordered a second sample from a different company to compare. I was not waiting with bated breath.
Attempt number two
When it arrived, I cautiously opened the package. Pale beige. Good start. Gave it a sniff, and while there was a very very slight animal-y kind of undertone, I’d say the main scent was more like malt. So I was willing to try again. This time I made a pan-cooked quick bread, using some spare gluten free sourdough starter I’ve been fermenting, a bit of almond meal, a splash of rice milk and a teaspoon of cricket powder. I’m pleased to say it was a success. No gross flavour, it blended in well with the other ingredients, and I had a slightly higher protein content to my bread. The amount of protein in one teaspoon though? Pretty negligible. I want to try and increase it to the recommended serving size of TWO TABLESPOONS but I’m afraid of wasting a whole bunch of food if it turned into a repeat of attempt number one.
I’m also planning to try out attempt number three – the ‘protein bar’. I’m thinking coconut oil, nuts/seeds, cacao powder/butter, chia seeds, and cricket. Oh and maybe some rice malt syrup, but not much, as I’m trying to condition my body to run more off fat and less off carbs, so Im not relying on a constant carb intake while Im doing my upcoming long distance hike in a couple of months time.
Does anyone know of a good way to eat crickets?? Also if you have ideas of what I can do with the leftover sample number 1 powder…please let me know…