An Homage to the Anteaters

Op/Ed by Blue Delliquanti

Have you ever added grasshoppers to your taco? Or sprinkled mealworms onto your curry?  What about topped off your omelet with fresh bee larvae?

No? All the same, I bet this isn’t the first time you’ve heard someone talk about eating bugs—outside of a science fiction movie, that is.

As a queer cartoonist my world revolves around telling stories with comics, but I’ve long been fascinated by entomophagy—the consumption of insects, a common practice in several cultures around the world. I’ve spent afternoons baking cricket cookies, I’ve taken a trip to an escargot farm, and last year I completed a graphic novel about the topic with my friend, acclaimed food writer and critic Soleil Ho. With “Meal,” we spun my culinary interest and Soleil’s professional experience into a fictional restaurant romance—a story about a young lesbian moving to a new town in the hopes of securing her dream job at a hotly anticipated eatery.

When we discussed the project with others, however, those who don’t immediately react with revulsion would mention the same talking points:

“I’ve seen cricket powder and protein bars marketed as health food, but I’ve never eaten a whole bug!”

“I’ve heard that eating insects is more environmentally sustainable than chicken, pork, or beef.”

“We’ll all be eating them one day when [INSERT APOCALYPTIC PREDICTION]!”

Soleil and I found these refrains very interesting because they follow a well-known pattern in the food world. When a new, obscure, or hyper-regional dish achieves popularity in mainstream culture, it becomes saddled with a narrative that is frequently beyond the control of the people who introduced the dish in the first place. As a food writer, Soleil was familiar with this pattern—she’s seen it happen with pho, poke, and many other dishes that surged in popularity outside their original culture and were capitalized on by restaurateurs who never faced the complex experience of growing up with those dishes before they were “cool.”

This is the story we realized we wanted to tell in “Meal”—a fictional homage to the real people whose parents eat tarantulas and who enjoyed ant tostadas before they became a fad. We wished to use the medium of comics to convey the delight of preparing a dish, savoring its flavors, and developing an appreciation for its more unusual ingredients and the people who help us understand just how tasty bugs can be.

 

Meal” by Blue Delliquanti with Soleil Ho is available from Iron Circus Comics.

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