When Seattle’s David George Gordon has his ants over for dinner, he’s not having a family reunion.
Gordon is the author of several natural history books, including a guide to slugs. But the book that has given him the most notoriety is “The Eat-A-Bug Cookbook.”
“That’s the one that’s got legs,” Gordon quips.
The book, first published in 1989, was updated and reprinted in 2013. It has chapters such as “Tantalizing Termites (The Other White Meat)” and recipes such as “Three Bee Salad” and “White Chocolate and Wax Worm Cookie.”
He also offers advice (always cook your insects, because sometimes they have bugs) and the best accompaniments for your insect dining. (Pinot Gris is the wine of choice, in case you were wondering.)
A 2008 conference on insect eating and 2013’s United Nations report on the subject gave the cuisine a shot in the arm.
“The interest went through the roof,” Gordon said. “In 1998, eating insects was a novelty. I like to think I was ahead of my time.”
Gordon likes to point out that we in the Western world are in the minority when it comes to insect-eating.
“We’re the weirdos because we don’t eat bugs,” he said. He also notes that John the Baptist lived on locusts and honey. Gordon calls him “the world’s most famous bug eater.”
Some foods in the West would be considered strange in other cultures, Gordon said. “Lobsters, raw oysters, chicken eggs. When you think about it, it’s pretty weird.”
Gordon gives lectures and insect-cooking demonstrations all over the country, including at the Burke Museum in Seattle.
“I bring people up from the audience to help prepare the dishes and taste them. I’m training the next generation of bug chefs.”
He says three kinds of people come to his cooking demos. The first are there for a freak show. The second are in the I’ll-try-anything-once crowd. (“All of California is like that,” he notes.)
The final group are the folks who get up at 4 a.m., forage their breakfast, fill their water bottles with kombucha, and can’t wait to eat insects to save the planet.
Gordon likes the flavor of insects, but he also has environmental reasons for their promotion: “The way we are raising food currently cannot sustain the world’s population over the next 40 or 50 years.” Compared with cattle, insects convert a much higher percentage of food into body mass. They also use less water.
He also notes that insects are high in amino acids, particularly lysine. The ancient Aztecs prized ears of corn with worms over ones without, Gordon said.
He does lament that crickets and grasshoppers are pretty much all the insects available to eat locally. He says America is still in its insect-eating infancy.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Gordon is not a picky eater. But even he has limits.
“I draw the line at calves liver. Never liked it as a kid — or now.”