Crawling skin. Gagging. Kafkaesque horror. Disgust.
How many times have you seen a video about eating insects that made you squirm?
Lived and experiential food videos, as contrasted with recipe videos from Tasty or Bon Appetit, offer us the chance to try something without actually trying it. When we see people eating bugs or traveling to distant places, we don’t necessarily have to practice that travel or that eating. Maybe more important, as viewers of the video and not eaters of the food or visitors to the location, we don’t have to practice decorum. A short look at the comments reflects this, as conversations dance around disgust (Rozin et al., 2008). The function of disgust as a physiological reaction against something, and as a cultural reaction to separate the self from something, allows viewers to consume the concept without actually eating bugs. Staying separate is the key.
Entomophagy is the term typically associated with bug eating, especially in Western contexts. As a matter of social practice, something along the lines of two billion people practice entomophagy as a regular part of their diets globally (Klein, 2019). As the global population increases, multiple organizations in the United States are focusing their attention on sanitizing the concept of bug eating through industrializing processes and language, while maintaining some distance through Orientalism (Yen, 2009). A look at the landing page for Cricket Flours, a company that produces and distributes cricket-related food products including cricket flour, protein powder and baking mixes, demonstrates this. The text reads, “Clean. Sustainable. Protein.” The connected image displays two women, ostensibly a mother and daughter, doing yoga poses over a vista.
Eating whole cricket is one thing, where a flour or powder or mix made from ground and roasted cricket is far, far more acceptable. Even healthy. Industrialization reflects the chance to take something done by billions and make it more palatable, less disgusting, more digestible, more white (Yen, 2009). Keeping the actual bug eating distant, even by calling it entomophagy or limiting it to travel videos, lets English-speaking audiences eat their bugs and still get the chance to be grossed out.
Cricket Flour. (n.d.). Retrieved February 7, 2019, from https://www.cricketflours.com/
Huis, A. V., Itterbeeck, J. V., Klunder, H., Mertens, E., Halloran, A., Muir, G., & Vantomme, P. (2013). Edible insects: future prospects for food and feed security. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Rozin, P., Haidt, J., & McCauley, C. R. (2008). Disgust.
Wallace, D. F. (2004, August). Consider the Lobster and Other Essays. Gourmet, 50-64.
Yen, A. L. (2009). Edible insects: Traditional knowledge or western phobia?. Entomological Research, 39(5), 289-298.